What 50 Years of Real Estate Experience Looks Like

ldhfish_640Entire books have been written on how to be successful in real estate, but all that’s really necessary is to sit down and talk to Linda and Dick Harper for half an hour and it all becomes very simple: love what you’re doing, respect your clients, be honest.

Dick Harper started it, getting his broker’s license in 1979. The whole thing was accidental–a happy accident but not a planned lifestyle choice.

In 1979 the Harpers owned a store and they were just looking for something to do. “We had a gift shop and tackle shop and we were tired of just sitting at home and reading the Virginian Pilot at night,” Dick recalls. “We saw there was a wood carving course at Kitty Hawk school but when we got there it was full. So Linda asked, ‘What else do you have?’ And they said, “A real estate class.’ We stayed and enjoyed it and we went up to Raleigh and took the broker’s test.”

In any conversation with the couple, it’s clear they know the market, know their business and are very professional, yet what has always motivated them been the personal connection–knowing their clients and being honest with them. “They (buyers) tend to rationalize their purchase by saying this is an investment,” Linda says. “And I say to them ‘if this is truly an investment, you might want to put your money in an apartment building.’ But the fact is, they don’t want just an investment. They want to have a place to bring their families and to have some good quality time with the people they love.”

Dick started in real estate first, selling for Outer Banks Limited–a realty company that was purchased by Resort Realty a number of years ago. A few years later, Linda joined her husband and now, with over 50 years of combined experience there is little the couple has not seen in the real estate market on the Outer Banks. “This is my third downturn I’ve lived through,” Dick says. “I guess this is your second,” he continues nodding to Linda. “The market’s still slow. In our area the market is recovering somewhat.”

“We are seeing a lot more sales, but prices have not started to climb yet,” Linda adds.

Yet that downturn has brought some sanity back to the market. “The gold standard for years was if you could gross 10% each year of the purchase price, you had a good property,” Linda notes. “We are seeing that in terms of properties that are available again. With prices where they are right now, people can really expect over the next five to ten years to have tremendous appreciation.”

“When their return was two or three per cent on their investment all we could say was, ‘Isn’t it pretty,’” Dick recollects.

During those years when property values on the Outer Banks soared, the couple was doing something unique for realtors. “In 2003 and 2004 I advised a lot of people this is not the time to buy that prices have just going through the roof,” Linda says. “Now I’m giving listings back saying ‘don’t sell unless you absolutely must,’”

It is an underlying honesty that has served the couple well as they have built their business and reputation. “Most of our business comes from referrals and from past clients and their friends and now their children,” Dick observes.

“It’s gratifying. That’s the kind of business that makes you feel good,” Linda says.