David Banks, who founded RE/MAX By the Bay in Portland 20 years ago, sold more than $109 million worth of real estate last year, believed to be the first time an individual has eclipsed the $100 million mark in residential real estate sales in Maine in a year. Banks first worked at Shaw’s supermarkets, starting as a bagger and working his way up to management, where he became the grocery company’s senior real estate analyst, determining where to build the chain’s stores in New England. He also sold residential real estate part time, and in 1993 he resigned to go into residential real estate full time, opening his own firm the next year. RE/MAX By the Bay has 13 employees and offices in Portland and Portsmouth, N.H.
Q: Was it difficult to shift from buying and selling commercial real estate to residential?
A: It’s totally different. For Shaw’s, I was looking at demographics and doing analytical work and looking where the business (for the stores) would come from, but on the residential side, it’s looking at individual needs. I really enjoy the residential side.
Q: Last year was a record-setting busy year for you.
A: I was involved in 243 transactions last year. I wake up every morning and say, “How in the heck did I do that?” I have a fantastic support team. My son, Michael, is my director of operations and runs the offices, so I can just concentrate on listing and selling real estate. I also have two buyers’ agents and four administrative support people and a full-time marketing person and two listing coordinators, so it’s really supported by my team. I have a coordinator who is with me probably 90 percent of the day, and when I get out from my appointments, I know what my priorities are and I can put my priorities in play for my clients.
Q: What’s your role?
A: I do all the pricing and negotiations for all my clients, and my team members will help after a sale is negotiated – they will keep all the paperwork together, schedule all the inspections and keep the process going. I go to almost all the closings myself. When I meet with clients, I will basically say that a specialty I have is the negotiation part, so they rely on me for the strategy and negotiations and pricing.
Q: Do you work with buyers at all?
A: I have two buyers’ agents who only work with buyers, but I am there as a consultant for the buyers’ agents, and if the buyer wants or needs my expertise, I am there. There are also some buyers who are past clients who I work with.
Q: After the bursting of the housing bubble, what are the strongest parts of the real estate market?
A: One of the things that we have seen is there’s been some good demand in the new home market because there have been so few new home developments. Even with the market soft, people were still driven to new development. The demand was still there (during the recession), and in today’s market there’s a lot of interest because there was such a long time period when new homes were not being built.
Q: Was the development of new homes a big victim of the recession and pullback by lenders?
A: The risk out there from the banking standpoint was to individual builders. It was viewed as high-risk, but the developers that went out on a limb and did new housing were very successful.
Q: What is the current state of the market overall?
A: We definitely over the last five years saw the market decline and market values decline, but nowhere near the levels of the Las Vegas, Florida or California markets. We were very fortunate in the Portland area, we never had the dramatic drops of 30 percent or 40 percent of market values. There’s been an adjustment in the last few years, but the market is now very stable.
It’s really changing now because the inventory is very limited. If anybody is thinking about selling a house, now is the time, because the inventory is very tight. One issue is that people looking to sell a home are looking to upgrade or size down and they can’t find the property to adjust to, so they’re just staying in their homes. It’s amazing how the inventory has dropped off. And for them to upgrade or downgrade, they can’t find what they want, so they’re saying, “Why sell at this point?” Since the first of the year, we’re seeing inventory come on the market and then go off the market quickly.
Q: Can buyers get mortgages and take advantage of the rates remaining low?
A: It was never a major issue to get financing; the money has always been there as long as they have good credit. There are opportunities in the marketplace for people to do a low down payment and get into a home. When they were doing loans with no income verification and limited diligence, those are things that got hurt. With no income verification and no asset verification, it just didn’t make sense. Those days are over and hopefully won’t come back. A lot of people overextended themselves, but now the buyers that have good credit and even a down payment as little as 3 percent or 5 percent, those people can get financing.
Q: Some people speculate that the bursting of the bubble has cooled people’s interest in real estate and the goal of home ownership, especially for young adults. Are you seeing that?
A: I have seen a little bit of hesitance in buying a new home because they (first-time buyers) heard stories of how people lost money. We definitely have had people a little nervous in their first purchase, but I think there’s always the pride of owning your own home and knowing that, in the past, it’s been a very good investment. Everyone’s goal is that it will become a good investment. The days of it going up 20 and 30 percent in value, those were limited days, but when people step back and analyze paying into a mortgage instead of paying rent, and seeing some equity stack up, there’s a big bonus.
Q: How difficult is it to sell a home when the yard is buried under 3 or 4 feet of snow?
A: It definitely makes it difficult for people to visualize what a pool looks like, but they still figure it out. We rely a lot on pictures right now.
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: