A Realtor reflects: Market is ‘going in the right direction’
By: Rachel Bernstein (Baltimore Business Journal Staff)
Even in a down economy, Creig Northrop’s name and face remain ubiquitous in local real estate, appearing in all the usual advertising platforms and some new ones, including a sponsorship of a new youth soccer complex in Ellicott City.
Northrop runs four offices in Howard, Carroll and Montgomery counties and has been in the business for more than 20 years. Northrop, 42, learned from his mother, also a real estate agent, while working for her in the 1990s, taking cues from her traditional style while also developing his own marketing ideas.
After selling 838 homes in 2007, Northop’s team sold 757 homes in deals totaling $415.5 million in 2008. This year, the group looks to surpass those numbers. He chatted with the Baltimore Business Journal on a variety of topics, including the success of the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit — part of the federal government’s efforts to revive sputtering home sales and the economy — and what his dream home is missing.
On fluctuations in the real estate market … Ultimately, what I see, real estate is going in the right direction, which means [homes are] selling. I think we’re on a good timetable selling properties. That’s the positive end of it. It’ll be another year to see [home value] appreciation, any noticeable appreciation. But for the first time, in the past 30 days, inventory’s been down, which certainly helps raise prices, having that limited inventory.
One of the things that helped for the past 60-day surge was the first-time homebuyer tax credit. It’s been a real plus. And what happens after that, the person that sells that townhome ends up buying a single-family [home], then a mid-range house, then high-end. It helps the whole economy. That market eases up, prices become reasonable, so first-time buyers right now are seeing a very heated-up market. And if you were debating on selling, now’s the time.
On what the first-time homebuyer tax credit has meant for business … I’ll quantify to give you a sense of it. We’ve sold over the past three to four months over 300 homes. Ultimately, what that tells you, sales prices are lower and [sales have] been the best for a couple years, since 2005. Things are selling again, but it’s not about raising the values yet, they’ve been stabilizing.
On curb appeal and other selling strengths … In the first ten seconds, a potential buyer’s going to determine whether they’ll buy [a house] or not. I certainly spot location right away. Then appearance from the front — whether the door needs to be painted, if it’s cracked in the foundation. You’re going to look for other things when you see it going in and if it’s worth the full price on a first impression.
How it sits on the lot, too, and any determining factors, resale values. We just had a client buy a single-family for under $400,000, at a 4.5 percent interest rate, and the seller paid all closing costs. He got the $8,000 tax credit, so it was a great buy. It’s building equity for the future. And after 2011, you’ll see a lot more appreciation [in home values].
On marketing to the three classes of buyer … In total, we’ve got 60 employees, 40 full-time agents, 20 administrative employees, who work on creating virtual tours [of homes online], marketing, our Web site.
The way I see it, there are three sets of buyers: old school, new school and eco-boomers.
A lot of them don’t know how to use the Internet in the first set, and my mom falls in that class. She doesn’t know how to turn the VCR on. So news and print are still valid for them. It’s still important.
In the second set, it’s about having good Internet presence, so we drive everything back to our [Web] site. For the eco-boomers, they don’t leave messages, they’re about texting. All of the information comes right to your phone when you send a text to us.
On the down economy … It’s affected everyone, not just sellers. In terms of real estate, it divided who was professional. Some who were in it as a hobby, or part-time, got out. Sellers have become more aware of values. So now they’re pricing property correctly.
On what his dream home is missing … Your dream home changes over time, as you go through different ages. If I had to say something I still want in a house, it’d be a tennis court. To be able to have it right in my backyard.