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September 4, 2018

A year in, real estate firm grows from two to seven agents

Courtesy / Marcia MacDonald
Courtesy / Marcia MacDonald
From left, David Zempter, Ellen Nixon, Jennifer Walker, Erinn Stearns, Dana Berenson and Seth Driggin are six of the seven agents who make up the growing residential real estate firm 207 Prime Properties in Ogunquit.

Jennifer Walker of Ogunquit founded 207 Prime Properties in January 2017, soon added another agent, and recently added five more agents to her residential real estate firm. The new hires will enable the firm to expand its reach into greater Portland, southern Maine and Seacoast region of New Hampshire.

According to a news release, Walker provides service to Ogunquit, York and Kittery and Erinn Stearns to Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel.

Walker's recent hires are Dana Berenson, serving Greater Portland; Seth Driggin, serving the southern Maine coast; Ellen Nixon, serving Wells; David Zempter working the Seacoast area in and around Portsmouth, N.H.; and Dominick Romano.

The firm specializes in luxury homes and waterfront and investment properties.

Reached by phone, Walker told Mainebiz that for 2017 she and Stearns accomplished $7.5 million worth of business.Through late August, the two have already reached $10 million this year.

Those figures represent the sale of 10 to 15 properties since January 2017, she said.

"I go for quality more than quantity," she said. "I don't want to sell a thousand houses per year. I'd rather sell five really nice homes than 25 modest homes. But it's not that I won't take a smaller home."

Currently, her listings range from $250,000 to $5 million.

"Most of my listings are between $600,000 and $1.3 million," she said. "That seems to be my sweet spot."

Walker said that, for herself, she prefers to stick to her territory of Ogunquit, York and Kittery. So she expects her additional hires will open new territories.

"We'll all have our own niche," she said.

Walker grew up in Massachusetts but has spent summers in Maine since she was three. After college, she moved to New York City to pursue a career, mostly in television production, with additional gigs like owning a yoga studio and doing real estate work.

Achieving a ‘work-life balance’

Walker moved to Maine seven years ago and went to work for Keller Williams Realty in 2012. She opened her own firm after receiving the necessary licenses, and says that she didn't have to recruit her agents.

"I started doing pretty well," she said. "I was talking with my friends, and they said, 'OK, we want what you have.' I said, 'Get your real estate license and come work with me,'" she said. "I haven't been recruiting at all. Ellen was a friend of Erinn's. I worked for Seth at Keller Williams. I met Dominick paddleboarding. It's been very organic. They see how much fun we have and how well we've been doing and they just join us."

The fun aspect has to do with her work philosophy.

"I don't want to be totally consumed by business," she said. "I want to have a work-life balance. I believe you shouldn't be working 24/7. You should have fun. You should be able to go out on your paddleboard and spend time with your family. That said, we do provide quality service for our clients. But I think we do better when we take care of ourselves. That's what I'm hoping to impart to my new agents."

Online listings are changing the agent’s role

The agents work from their home offices, rather than a central company office, and that's part of the company philosophy, too, she said.

"I've found that having an office doesn't service or suit most people, or at least those who are working for me," she said. "I don't want to be a babysitter. And in terms of the old way of doing real estate brokerage, where people come to the office looking for listings, that doesn't work anymore."

Most people these days find listings online, she said.

So what does that mean for the agent's role?

"I think technology assists us, as opposed to supplants us," she said. "I feel it's great when the customer knows a little bit about what's going on. Then we can educate them the rest of the way. As opposed to, if we have to start from scratch, which is more of a challenge. I'd rather have an educated consumer. Then I come in and can help with negotiation, which technology can't do. And I bring an eye toward what you can do with the property, how you an augment it to get the most for your money."

Walker attracts clients mostly through online advertising, as well as many referrals. The residential market is tight, she said.

"The biggest problem is musical chairs," she said. "No one wants to sell their house until they know they can land somewhere. I have a bunch of people who would sell if they knew they could land somewhere. People are having problems both buying and renting houses. That uncertainty creates stasis in the market, which is a shame."

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