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Know Your Market

Buying and selling season is upon us. To help you navigate and understand the region’s real estate space, we sat down with two different sources. Both have unique stories that reveal an even more unique situation here in the Northern Red River Valley. We certainly talked buying and selling trends, and the myths of house flipping. But, we went further as well, reliving a cross-country recruitment trip that involved New York Yankees baseball, Warren Buffet’s company and what still matters to buyers, sellers and realtors in the online era.

Recruited For Real Estate

When Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices first started recruiting teams from around the country to join their new division, a small group from Grand Forks was on the list. First, a group including Katie and Mike Marcotte, Josh Steinke and Jodi Danzl simply received phone calls. Following that, they were flown to New York city for a recruitment pitch that included high-end dinners, a Yankees game and specialized presentations that were tailored to the Grand Forks team. As Mike Marcotte recalls it, the presentations were informative, but odd. “The presentations were all about their management style and the people behind everything,” he says. “We expected it to be more about markets and other things.”

The Warren Buffett-led global entity was getting into the real estate industry, Mike explains, and they wanted potential partners and franchisees they were trying to work with, to understand who they would be partnering with. The Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices team had good reason to invest time and expensive baseball tickets into the small team from Northeast North Dakota. Two years after taking over the Century 21 brokerage, the team vaulted from the No. 87 (out of 89) real estate firms in the region to No. 6. In that same time, the Marcottes, along with Jodi Danzl and Josh Steinke, grew their agent team from 5 to 34. “We always had a vision for what we wanted to accomplish and how we thought we could grow,” Katie says. After hearing the pitch from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the Grand Forks team had to also explore other pitches and take time to travel the country and meet with other real estate brands.

Knowing what they now know, choosing Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices seems like the obvious choice all along. The company has brought an extreme level of technology. Every paper process associated with real estate dealings are now be done from a phone or tablet. Overnight, the company’s Grand Forks signage, branding and store-front was changed out. Having that type of attention and effort from such a large brand name has made the entire team feel secure in their visions for expansion in this region and beyond, Danzl says. “They are all about being number one. No one is going to outspend Warren Buffet,” says Steinke.

Marcotte says Berkshire chose her and her team because they knew what it could do for the new real estate name in a strong market.

Making Sense Of The Market

According to the new GF Berkshire team, the real estate market in the region is unique. “We don’t have large fluctuations in prices like the bigger markets have,” Katie says. Because of the region’s stability, real estate is a super investment, Danzl says. And, as someone that has invested in other markets across the country, she knows firsthand.

While the market is different from years past when buyers had a week (or sometimes hours) or less to make an offer after viewing a home, prices for most residential real estate have remained steady. “Investing in real estate in this area is one of the best types of investments you can make,” Danzl says, noting that the same couldn’t be said for other regions.

Mike says Berkshire started a home division a few years ago because, as they told him, real estate is one of the best investments anyone can make.

To help buyers or sellers understand the unique market of the region, the Grand Forks team has published a book geared to buyers, sellers and even for-sale-by-owners. In addition to the book, they are rolling out a new website that will give new market intelligence to anyone looking at real estate. The information is superior to that of a popular real estate website, they say, which uses faulty information and paints an inaccurate picture of a home.

Investing In The Team

“You thrive in a place that is positive,” Danzl says. In their headquarters kitchen, the team often shares breakfast cooking duties while talking shop. They follow a mantra linked to family, trying to let all of their team members know that they want to create a unique brokerage that people can grow in and from.

“We always want to feel like we are invested in each other,” Mike says.

Katie says they continually strive to tell the entire team that no client or deal is ever the same. They also try to take team trips and go through continuing training sessions together. Katie is proud to explain how the investment in her team has paid off. Since they started adding team members, no one has left for another brokerage. “What you learn in real estate school is not what you learn on the job,” she says.

Like true real estate aficionados, they all live and breathe the details and elements of a residential or commercial deal and how they can make a client happy. Sometimes they’ve fixed fences or painted houses for clients. Many times, they’ve spent hours educating clients on the possible, getting them to realize that what they originally wanted in a house may not be the thing they really want in the end.

They are proud to display such a well-known name on their signs, but, they aren’t even close to done. As one would imagine, they see potential in the region that many do, and many others don’t. They have deals in the works. They don’t consider their jobs work, which means they rarely stop working. Despite the new technology and the big name, they believe that in the end, what brings them—and their clients—happiness in buying or selling, is the person-to-person experience. The Berkshire recruitment team understood that when they flew the Grand Forks team out for a Yankees game and a nice meal. The Marcottes, Danzl and Steinke all understand the purpose of that meeting today as well. Now, both sides of the deal are happy, and growing.

Real Talk: Jessica Rice On Life As An Agent

Jessica Rice has followed real estate her entire life. As a kid, she considered open houses fun. Nine years into her career as an agent for Crary Real Estate, Rice has moved houses six times. For one of the moves, she had to move back into a house she’d just moved out of because a client wanted to buy the house she was moving into. She’s flipped multiple houses, helped to develop new construction projects and because of time spent living on a lake as a kid, she knows more than the average realtor regarding lake properties.

We sat down with Rice to talk buying and selling trends, expectations for listing times, secrets of flipping and why she’s so willing to go through what many consider a stressful part of buying or selling—moving.

The Early Days

After six years working in the banking industry, Rice told her boss she wanted to become an agent. “My boss told me I would hate it. I would have to work nights and weekends. I thought the opposite. Today I’m loving my career because I still have the same passion for it as I did when I started and chose real estate over banking,” she says. Her first sale was to a young couple, who Rice recalls, was referred to her by the bank she previously worked for.

Selling Lake Properties

Rice grew up at a lake home. That experience has helped her with clients looking at places in the surrounding region. “I can give background on how things have changed, and I understand the ins and outs and dos and don’ts of lake living.”

How Buyers Have Changed

Everything is online now, she says. Most people have narrowed down their preferred options to three to five properties before they get in touch with me. “Pictures are always deceiving. We always help buyers understand that and show them other properties.” Today, buyers seem to want everything in a house done.

“They want move-in ready homes. They want things updated.”

Sellers: Know This

In the current market, buyers are taking their time. Most houses may sit for 30 to 40 days. Rice says she recently had a house that sat for 38 days and then got three offers on the same day. “We have to coach our sellers to be more patient now. With more inventory on the market, buyers have more time to make a decision.”

Lessons In Flipping

You always go over budget, she says. Flipping a house isn’t as easy as it looks. Something that might take five minutes may take five hours. It is always worth it to spend more to do something right than to go cheap. When Rice works to flip a house, she employs the help of her parents (her dad is great at fixing things), and she and her mom paint and repair as well. On previous projects they’ve repaired siding, replaced windows and more. “It is exciting to see the transformation. We like to do it in one month, or two months max.”

The First 90

Within a minute-and-a-half, buyers will know whether the property they are in is the one for them, or whether it isn’t.

Perks Of The Job

“I love it when I find my clients the right place. It shows I’m listening to them.” G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here


From Issue 2, 2019


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