Hot Sellers: Four Realtors on Fire

Who’s the right Realtor for you? That’s impossible to say, as one size does not fit all. But it’s a bit easier to state who some of the area’s most successful Realtors are, at least in terms of the numbers.

The following are profiles of the region’s leading real estate sales agents based on 2016 sales, including: top agent, top team, sales growth leader and up and comer. How do they sell the volume they do? What’s been the biggest game changer? How is this year shaping up?


No. 1 Individual in 5-county region: Don Fedrigon, Re/Max of Elk Rapids

Total sales 2016: $77 million

For Don Fedrigon, the opportunity to help people find a home they love is an ongoing challenge, something he’s enjoyed for more than 35 years.

“It’s a fun business. There’s always something new,” said Fedrigon.

From his home base in Elk Rapids, where he owns the Re/Max franchise, Fedrigon works throughout the five-county region. “I’ve always been in Elk Rapids, and I’ve been with Re/Max since 1993,” he said. Fedrigon has sold properties as far north as the Upper Peninsula and downstate, as well, but said this area represents his home base, the area with which he is most familiar and where he can do his best work for his clients. “I do a fair amount of waterfront, a lot of residential and commercial.”

“There are changes every year” in the industry, he said, but none seem so far-reaching as the arrival of the internet and subsequent ease of acquiring particulars on properties for sale.

“Technology has been a big game-changer,” he said. “Everybody (has) access to information.” But Fedrigon believes there’s still a key role for local Realtors who know the area and can provide services that online portals can’t. “My position is that people should be well-informed. Zillow hasn’t been in your home,” he said. “I can help navigate inspections, financing, and negotiation. If they’re talking about a substantial investment, ultimately people seek someone with experience.”

Fedrigon said it’s important to make sure both the buyer and seller understand all the issues and are treated well throughout the process. That sense of fairness has helped him attract and retain clients.

“I’ve sold some houses three times. They (clients) come back to me because I’ve treated them fairly,” he said. “If you do the right things for people, good things happen.”


No. 1 Team: Mark Hagan, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors

Total sales 2016: $75 million

Mark Hagan said he realized early in his career that hiring his own staff in addition to the support provided by his broker would allow him to create more sales. “I thought early on I could work better with help,” he said.

Today he has five sales agents who work with him and five employees. “I have different people do different things. I have two world-class photographers. I have a full-time sign person to check signs, clean them and replace them if they look rough.”

Hagan has seen the ups and downs in the industry since he began selling real estate in 1989. With the latest upswing following the recession, he’s finally putting to use another one of his skills.

“I got my builder license after starting in real estate,” he said, but it wasn’t until this year that he really got involved in the construction industry, as demand outstripped supply. Now he and Matt Myers have formed Hagan Construction.

“I work with many builders, but they’re so busy we just needed more inventory. I refer 20-25 and we’ll do four or five ourselves.”

Hagan’s sales hit a high-water mark in 2015, then topped that amount last year. This year is shaping up to be at least as good if not better. “I’m off to a really good start after two record years,” he said. “We’re seeing a big boom.” That said, Hagan noted there are certain segments where there is still a significant inventory. “Vacant property – we had a whole bunch of subdivisions. Now they’re selling.”

Hagan said the downturn didn’t hurt him as much as it might have some others. “When the market got really tough, people sought us out. There was not as much business, but we had a larger market share.” Nevertheless, it’s clear he prefers a strong economy. “It’s more fun as a Realtor when it’s a seller’s market,” he said.

Hagan agreed with Fedrigon that changes in technology have changed the way the business works. “When I started we used books, not computers. Most leads came from the phone numbers on our signs.” Now potential buyers can find out more about the homes they are looking at online than they could from those old MLS books. “More information is good. I like to have all the data before I make a decision. Technology helps.”


A Sales Growth Leader: Linda Dean, Real Estate One, Bellaire

Total sales 2016: $3,195,810

Increase over 2015: 209 percent

While many Realtors saw and continue to see sales increasing as the economy improves, few saw the kind of success Dean had last year. She ascribes most of that to the people she’s met and worked with over the years deciding the time was right to buy or sell. “I had a good sphere (of contacts) and ended up selling a lot toward the end of the year,” she said.

She also said the recovery has led to an uptick in waterfront sales. “I had people from Florida who wanted to be on Elk Lake. One on Intermediate Lake, two or three on Lake Bellaire. Most of it was just people I’d known.”

Given her 25 years in the industry, she knows a lot of people. She had a leg up when she started, given her lifelong connection to the area and the fact she’d worked in the family business. “I was born and raised in Bellaire, and my family had a large commercial building company for 40 years,” she said.

When Dean’s father decided to retire she decided to transition to real estate, as she already knew about homes and knew many of the homeowners.

“I thought I couldn’t do nothing. It (real estate) related to what I knew.” Given that and Dean’s knowledge of the area and both the year-round and summer residents, real estate seemed a natural fit.

Much of her father’s company’s work was at and around Shanty Creek Resort. “Shanty was a big plus. I lived at Shanty for many years. Torch Lake, Lake Bellaire – we had a cottage.” Many buyers in that area look more toward recreational opportunities than a downtown lifestyle. “People want a little room or waterfront. We tend to be resort-oriented,” she said.

The downturn in second homes during the recession means there was a pent-up demand once things turned around. “Coming out of the horrible economic downturn, they (people) were afraid to do anything,” she said. As things improved, more people decided to try to sell, and more buyers appeared, giving the market its hugely-needed boost.

Dean also cites the area’s relative proximity to the region’s population centers. “It’s not too far from Petoskey, Gaylord or Traverse City. People want to be 45 minutes to shopping, and we’ve got that here,” she said.


Up and Comer: Lilly Clark, Century 21 Northland

Total sales (Feb. 2016-March 2017): $1,005,900

Many people transition from another sales position to real estate. Not so for Clark, however. Prior to her real estate career, she was working in fundraising at Goodwill.

So, why real estate? “I’ve been in real estate about a year, but I had been thinking about going into real estate for some time,” said Clark. “I decided after having a baby I’d want to be able to be with him. This is perfect because of the flexibility.”

It also appeals to her entrepreneurial spirit. “I can do my own thing,” she said. She’s proven she can do her own thing well; Century 21 broker/co-owner Brad Platt said she has been a surprising out-of-the-gate success. “She’s only been in the business for a year and already has over $1 million in closed sales,” said Platt. “She took our training platforms very seriously and is naturally very good with people. She’s hard working and detail-oriented, and her clients love her work.”

Clark shares in her clients’ exhilaration when they purchase a home. “I enjoy working with people and helping people find their next piece of paradise,” she said. “It’s exciting for me to see the excitement on their faces. That’s especially true for first-time home buyers.”

Among the firsts Clark has celebrated in her short real estate career are getting her license, her first client and her first sale. “I had a listing on Cherry Bend Road, a nice couple’s family home. The husband had grown up in the house. It had been in the family for many years. It was under contract in two days.” Clark said she had to be reminded that not all deals would be that easy. She’s had seven deals thus far, and anticipated two more would close by the end of April.

Clark said she found the most difficult task as a new agent was getting clients to list their homes for sale with her. “It’s definitely tough. If you want to do well, you need to work with sellers. Right now the market is so tight. Everybody has buyers, with nothing to buy.”

Clark credited the staff and leadership of her office with the ease and success of her transition. “For any new Realtor, to have the support is huge. There is a ton to learn. I knew that I would need guidance. We have three brokers and if at any time I have questions, they always get back to me,” she said.