Entire books have been written on how to be successful in real estate, but all thatâ€™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 youâ€™re doing, respect your clients, be honest.
Dick Harper started it, getting his brokerâ€™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. â€œWe had a gift shop and tackle shop and we were tired of just sitting at home and reading the Virginian Pilot at night,â€ Dick recalls. â€œWe saw there was a wood carving course at Kitty Hawk school but when we got there it was full. So Linda asked, â€˜What else do you have?â€™ And they said, â€œA real estate class.â€™ We stayed and enjoyed it and we went up to Raleigh and took the brokerâ€™s test.â€
In any conversation with the couple, itâ€™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. â€œThey (buyers) tend to rationalize their purchase by saying this is an investment,â€ Linda says. â€œAnd I say to them â€˜if this is truly an investment, you might want to put your money in an apartment building.â€™ But the fact is, they donâ€™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.â€
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. â€œThis is my third downturn Iâ€™ve lived through,â€ Dick says. â€œI guess this is your second,â€ he continues nodding to Linda. â€œThe marketâ€™s still slow. In our area the market is recovering somewhat.â€
â€œWe are seeing a lot more sales, but prices have not started to climb yet,â€ Linda adds.
Yet that downturn has brought some sanity back to the market. â€œThe gold standard for years was if you could gross 10% each year of the purchase price, you had a good property,â€ Linda notes. â€œWe 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.â€
â€œWhen their return was two or three per cent on their investment all we could say was, â€˜Isnâ€™t it pretty,â€™â€ Dick recollects.
During those years when property values on the Outer Banks soared, the couple was doing something unique for realtors. â€œIn 2003 and 2004 I advised a lot of people this is not the time to buy that prices have just going through the roof,â€ Linda says. â€œNow Iâ€™m giving listings back saying â€˜donâ€™t sell unless you absolutely must,â€™â€
It is an underlying honesty that has served the couple well as they have built their business and reputation. â€œMost of our business comes from referrals and from past clients and their friends and now their children,â€ Dick observes.
â€œItâ€™s gratifying. Thatâ€™s the kind of business that makes you feel good,â€ Linda says.