‘Demanding, Crazy’: Realtors chime in on today’s intense market

The real estate market is hot and so are a number of area Realtors. The region has long held appeal to vacationers and second home-owners, a condition which was exacerbated by the pandemic. Home prices were seen as undervalued by those from large metropolitan areas, and many opted to work remotely from an area where they could feel safe and enjoy the region’s natural and cultural amenities.

Add the area’s appeal as a retirement haven and an already-slim supply of workforce housing and you’ve got a recipe for an explosion in home sales and escalating prices … which helped many area real estate agents see career years in 2021 and 2022.

Kari King, Century 21 Northland

She didn’t start out there, but it could be that King didn’t necessarily have a lot of choice about where she’d end up. After all, she grew up immersed in the real estate business.

“I’m second generation. My dad was a broker for more than 30 years,” said King, whose sister is also a Realtor in Grand Rapids.

Not that she jumped right into it – she was a sporting goods product and sales manager for 13 years and traveled a lot.

“I needed a change in my career,” she said about the jump to real estate.

Now King works as a team with her father, concentrating on the Benzie County area where she grew up, as well as southern Leelanau County, northern Manistee County and some of Grand Traverse County. She said the area’s appeal as a vacation spot drives a lot of their business.

“There’s a lot of second-home clientele,” she said.

King said despite her general familiarity with the business, when she made it a career, she found she had a lot to learn.

“There was a lot more than I realized growing up,” she said. “It’s just different than perception.”

While she has always called Frankfort her hometown, she knows that for many if not most buyers, the region is an adopted home.

“My favorite part is … learning about what brought them to northern Michigan,” she said.


Linda Schaub, Real Estate One

She and her husband Greg owned a health club, but after a few years Schaub said she was finding herself losing interest.

“I was getting bored,” she admitted.

So she took a chance on a new career.

“I started with the idea I’d try it (real estate sales),” she said. “I had relationships with all the people at the health club, and it is a lot about relationships.”

Consider the transition a success. Schaub has been now been in real estate full-time since 1999.

She said the advent of COVID-19 put a damper on what was a busy market – at first.

“When the pandemic hit the market was on an incline,” she said. The thought was that would crush the market, but it rebounded in a way no one had anticipated.

“It happened so fast. My business from the pandemic through this last year tripled,” Schaub said.

Over the course of her nearly two-decade career, in which she was joined by her husband in 2006, she says she has seen ups and downs in the market.

“The buyers had their moment, now it’s a seller’s market and time,” she said.

And if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s just how appealing this area is to buyers, from the cultural amenities to the waters all around to the air quality. She also said she appreciates hearing that from her clients coming to the area, as it is easy to overlook when you live here.

“You never really appreciate it enough,” she said.


Jules Yates, RE/MAX Bayshore

For Jules Yates, getting into the family business was an easy step.

“I got into it right out of high school. My dad was a real estate developer,” he said.

After getting his feet wet in the business in his native Saginaw, he moved to Traverse City in 1992. He gradually moved from land development in the direction of residential sales. When the real estate bubble burst and the country moved into the Great Recession, he set his sights on the changing market, working on foreclosures and short sales.

As the market rebounded, he found more opportunities, and when the pandemic struck, he began working with a sudden influx of people who had considered moving north later in their lives but suddenly saw an opportunity. The option of working remotely or retiring early meant that homes suddenly started selling rapidly, driving prices up and leading to a shrinking inventory.

The lack of homes for sale presents challenges for both buyers and sellers.

“I average around 15 to 30 listings. Right now I have zero. The listings I’ve taken have all sold so fast,” Yates said.

He said today’s market puts locals hoping to sell and then move at a “huge” disadvantage.

“People used to buy homes subject to the sale of their house. In effect people were trading houses, and the inventory stayed relatively constant. Now there are cash offers, no contingencies – it puts local people at a huge disadvantage,” he said.

He said it’s more important than ever to listen to clients, both on the buying and selling side.

“You have to figure out what the client is trying to accomplish,” he said.

For every seller who wants to get the top price as soon as possible, there are those who want to be more discreet.

“Some want to slow down; they don’t want people tromping through their house,” he said.


Jerry Snowden, Snowden Companies

Snowden started in commercial real estate in 1989, shortly after he’d graduated from college.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he admitted.

After meeting with a representative of a commercial real estate firm in the Detroit area, he found his niche. He said if you work hard and like people, “you’ll do well.”

Snowden specialized as an office broker in the northwest suburbs of Detroit, and was so successful he opened his own company just two years later.

“I then started a property management company, then started developing buildings from the ground up,” Snowden said.

But he tired of the big city lifestyle. In 1999 he opened an office in Traverse City, driving back and forth for five years, before permanently moving north.

“The demand for commercial space in and around Traverse City has been relatively steady and continues to increase,” Snowden said.

He was involved in the Radio Centre I project, which ultimately led to the construction of the two downtown parking decks, as well as purchasing and developing the Chase Building.

But he’s clear that the commercial side is not without risks.

“You don’t have to look much further than the Cherryland Mall or Grand Traverse Mall to see commercial real estate is a risky business,” he noted.

Like the residential market, commercial real estate is subject to up and down cycles. The two often work in tandem, as both the Great Recession and the economic recovery demonstrated. However, he said he’s never seen the commercial sector experience the same explosive growth the residential sector has – what he calls “a feeding frenzy” – with multiple offers driving prices ever higher. But again, the uptick in the economy which helped drive residential real estate has seen his business take off as well, with the last two years being his best ever.

He said one advantage of the commercial side of the business is that real estate transactions typically occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Residential real estate agents must work at the whim of their clients, who often want to showcase or tour homes after their working hours, often at night or on weekends.

While he said there are many differences between residential and commercial real estate sales and development, in a smaller city such as Traverse City both are based on relationships.

“People know each other from church, Rotary, sailing. Downstate the market is so large, it’s a lot more of business to business,” he said.


Pam Klumpp, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors

One might not see the parallels in working in fundraising for a parochial school with real estate sales. Pam Klumpp sees it differently, crediting her eight years in development at Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools and a previous background in sales with her success as a Realtor.

“I’ve always liked being a matchmaker,” she said.

Klumpp said the business is all about relationships, and that was similar to her previous work.

“I’ve always enjoyed connecting people, whether with other people or a service or goods they may be interested in. It’s similar to what it was like at Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools – you’re reaching into their wallet,” she said. “At the end of the day it’s all about relationships and trust.”

Though just in her fourth year, Klumpp said there’s been a sea of change in that time – or more than one.

“It’s amazing how the industry has changed in four years. Then (in her first year), if you had a good, fair offer, you could count on going under contract. Now it’s multiple offers. Don’t take anything for granted until you walk away,” she said.

She said as a longtime Old Mission Peninsula resident, that’s an area of expertise, but like many others she is happy to work with clients most anywhere in the area.

“I’ve lived on Old Mission for 26 years,” she said. “That’s where I do most of my business because I know it so well.”

She said the volatility of the market makes it a challenge for her and her clients.

“It’s demanding; crazy,” she said. “A balancing act.”