By all expectations this should be a sad day, a memory of a painful failure, a tragedy out of our control, a reminder of cruel times. It is instead a memorable and very special day for which we will always be grateful.
THE IDES OF MARCH IN 2007 were exciting and euphoric. Months of wondering, hoping, even dreaming were giving birth to a new chapter of our lives and a baby business. There had been dark days behind us, wondering what was next and how we stay alive. I spent about 6 weeks at Christmas in San Diego helping my Mom work on her house. This was really a cover for the anxiety that filled my mind. Being alone was what I was really seeking.
The Birth of a Vision
In the background, a vision had been slowly developing from a seed. Joni, my wife, and our daughter Amy (both in real estate), were the impetus behind the form and design of this novel vision. We soon found a few agents who were looking for a better land and they joined the vision. Ten years ago today we returned from Salem with all the documentation that Bella Casa Real Estate Group was for real.
Celebrations became the norm of our fresh start and we hosted many community activities and participated in endless business networking events. We became the second tenants in a new building known because of the Immediate Care Center and its copper roof. Joni fashioned our suite from a gravel floor in a building still under construction, to a gorgeous 3800 sq ft of welcoming beauty, private agent offices, and more like art gallery of local artists than a traditional real estate office. The agents that braved the cold and came with us were pioneers of a new and different business model for real estate.
Most of us did not need a brokerage, certainly not the traditional kind where agents are worker-bees for the hive. We designed a brokerage which would exist solely for the agent’s benefit and for the good of our clients. We called this upside-down model a Professional Cooperative. We each shared our money only for what helped us all do better in the marketplace. Each agent would keep more of the commission money to craft one’s own real estate business to suit their designs and goals. My personal agenda was to work with brokers who did not need Bella Casa but saw the superior value of working together. Our core values began with independent and autonomous brokers yoked with like-minded colleagues.
The Death of a Vision
Between late 2006 and summer of 2007 we managed to spend an enormous amount of money!!! It was the last weekend of July 2007 when a major national mortgage company shuttered all its offices between Friday evening Monday morning. This was the shot heard round the world. Monday morning we got an education about the quaking ‘sub-prime mortgage’ threat. Though mostly a threat in the large markets of California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, we all felt the shock waves and panic spread like a tsunami. Oregon, not as guilty, declined modestly in the next year.
September, one year later, the financial sector melted down, crashing the housing sector, and sending the economy off a cliff. Fear and suffering spread to everyone in the nation and began to radiate to through the world. By late 2008 we felt the gloom of death- we were condemned!
Forever, these will always be the ‘dark years’ and yes, we have been scarred for life. The imagery that fits best to me is that we went through a famine of epic proportions. We worked three times harder and longer than ever in our lives (and I already was a work-a-holic). To survive we could not think about what we were experiencing or we would go crazy. We got up every morning and did what was right, and what we should be doing, and at the end of the day we tried not to complain about how difficult, frustrating, and impossible life was. We watched our industry shrink and we suffered with our clients as they lost homes to foreclosure and short sales. We persevered to help them move and we helped buyers to buy smart during these years. We started Bella Casa Property Management, not because of a business plan, but solely to help our sellers rent homes that would not sell. These were years of suffering and terror, not just for us, but for our clients. It was painful to watch.
Portland turned the corner in 2012 and we all know the intensity and craziness of that run-up in their markets- the fastest recovery and the highest rate of appreciation in the USA for years. In our rural area, we lagged by 3 years! We stopped the bleeding in 2013, turned the corner in 2014, and enjoyed our first ‘normal’ and positive markets here in 2015 and 2016. Even now, our rural properties are still buyers’ markets, but more balanced now to be sure. Seven years of famine; we hope will be followed now with seven years of plenty.
The Seven Years of Plenty???
We are celebrating today because by the grace of God we are alive and are thriving. We could have gone bankrupt but chose to take it day by day instead. Through the famine years we piled high a load of debt, but in the past two years we have been paying it off quickly. We never once missed a payment or were late on a payment for lack of funds. In spite of impossible realities, our business has grown from nothing to posting the highest sales numbers for all of Yamhill County. In 2012 we opened a modest 700sf suite in downtown Newberg (something we planned for 2008 before the crash). In 2015 we were able to achieve a large and visible office building (former Underground Coffee) as people enter Newberg and Yamhill County.
Our real estate brokers have been amazing in their perseverance and patient endurance. They proved they are consummate professionals in practice and in character. Most of us are still working together. They operated with class and adapted to changing conditions. I have obtained the dream of working with many of the very best in the industry. I hold each of them in high regard, and yes, they are independent and autonomous, but we all work together.
The brokerage statistic I am most pleased with is this is not the sales figures. It is this: We have worked with about 60 agents in the past 10 years. Some have moved away from the area, and some have quit real estate altogether. In an industry characterized by ‘brokerage musical chairs’ every year, we can only identify 5 agents in 10 years who have left us to go to a competing brokerage. That is amazing and astonishing validation that we are what we claimed to be, and we do what we say we will do.
I can also say that in spite of the pressures of the years and the threats to us, we have never compromised our promises to our clients. We have never backed off our high standards of the finest service. This means we also are pleased to express a hearty thanksgiving to all our clients and friends who trusted us, and by doing so, gave us the opportunity to be successful!
Randy McCreith, Principal Broker Direct: 503-310-9147 email@example.com