Greg Fisk—operating principal and broker at JPAR Maryland Living in Arnold, Maryland—is passionate about working with entrepreneurs to create businesses that give back. He’s also a huge proponent of education, ensuring that his agents have the resources, tools and information to inform the consumer as to the realities of today’s market. Fisk discussed all this and more with us during the NAR NXT, the REALTOR® Experience in Orlando, Florida, this past November. Here’s what he had to say about what he’s currently seeing in his local market as well as what real estate professionals must focus on in order to stay ahead of the shifting real estate landscape.
Paige Tepping: Please provide a brief overview of your history in the industry and how you ended up where you are today.
Greg Fisk: I began my real estate career in 2002 and have been with a couple of big-box franchises along the way, including Coldwell Banker and Keller Williams. In 2015 I got my broker’s license, and then in 2020, I saw a shift in the market, so I decided to sort of investigate what some of the transactional fee-based models looked like (100% commissions), and we landed on JPAR. We announced that we were going to open up the first week of March 2020, then the pandemic was announced a week later, so my wife said that my timing was impeccable!
PT: Tell me about some of the current trends you’re seeing in your local market.
GF: With interest rates taking a right turn and doubling over the past few months, it’s certainly been a unique set of challenges for our agents. But the good thing is that we’ve seen seller concessions come back, and we’re seeing home inspection repairs being made—so there’s a little normalization on the market as far as that goes. We’re still in a low inventory situation where we’re located in Maryland, but I think the new norm is probably going to be three to four months of inventory as opposed to five or six months of inventory for a balanced market.
PT: What are you doing to prepare your agents to stay ahead of the trends and find success as the market slows down a bit?
GF: One of the things we pride ourselves on is support and education, and it all really stems from education. We want to ensure that our agents have the resources, tools and information to inform the consumer. We’re seeing buydowns come back to the market (1/2 buydowns, loan assumptions), so it’s all about providing agents with as much education as possible, as well as the necessary resources, so that they in turn can provide that to the consumer.
PT: You’re passionate about working with entrepreneurs to create businesses that give back within the communities in which your agents live and work. Can you talk a little bit about this passion and some of the initiatives you’ve worked on over the years?
GF: Our office motto is ‘learn, earn and give,’ so community outreach is a big part of our mission and our driving force and overreach. Coming out of the past couple years of the pandemic, we’ve done multiple food pantry and food bank drives. Not only were we engaged with our local board of REALTORS®’ Harvest for the Hungry food drive this past November, but we also participated in a Stuff-a-Bus event that one of my agents initiated nearly 12 years ago when she was on my team. We basically take a big yellow school bus, park it out front of a local grocery store and fill it up. We then donate everything to My Brother’s Pantry, a local pantry that serves nine local churches in the area. As an office, we also get behind a Blankets for Baltimore drive for the homeless population of Baltimore that one of our agents spearheads every December. While community outreach is part of our mission statement, we’re always trying to foster an environment where we’re creating business leaders and entrepreneurs among our agents so that they’re given the tools and resources to be profitable. What our agents do with those profits is their individual mission, and we help support that.
PT: How receptive are your agents to all of the community outreach initiatives that you’re participating in?
GF: It doesn’t take much time at all to get our agents onboard, especially once they see what we’re doing. Leadership by example is something I’ve always believed in, so I’ve actively been a part of it. Throughout my real estate career, we’ve had relationships with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and in the past, we’ve done projects with the Oyster Recovery program, so everything from sustainable initiatives to the food banks as of late have been our main thrust initiative. The agents seem to really gravitate toward it, and I think it’s an energizer.
PT: You talked about the importance of education and what you’re doing in that respect to help your agents. Is there anything else you’re doing at JPAR Maryland that’s going to help your agents find success in today’s shifting market?
GF: The reason we landed on the JPAR model is really twofold. The agent-centric economic model was very important to us. It’s transaction-fee based and 100% commission, so we’re able to leave as much money with the agent as possible and, in turn, they’re allowed to do what they want, invest it how they want or even use it for their charitable outreach initiatives as well. JPAR was very much in alignment with what our vision and our culture of productivity and profitability was, so from an economic model, that’s been very important to us. And of course, our other value proposition is support and resources. I think support is our No. 1 driving value proposition, whether it’s supporting agents and what their business mission is or giving them those tools and resources to be successful. We truly believe in our suite of technology, our tech stack is second to none, so that kind of falls under those resources and tools to allow them to be profitable and productive. We’re giving our agents everything they need from a service, support, tools and resources standpoint—as well as a full-service brokerage—but doing it in a way from an economic model that is agent-centric.
PT: What are your top tips for real estate professionals as far as what they should be doing now to prepare for the future?
GF: It’s always good to evaluate what your business model looks like. That includes your budget, your expenses and your P&L statement. If there’s a market shift or slowdown on your revenue streams, you’ll want to red light/green light those expenses. Real estate is cyclical, so we’re always reevaluating what that looks like. I think the No. 1 thing that an agent can do is educate themselves, stay informed of where the market is going and what the market trends are. Education solves a lot of problems, and the greater your bandwidth, the more capable you are of solving the consumer’s problems. Ultimately, we’re in the business of problem solving, so the more we can educate ourselves and be in alignment with our affiliate vendor partners (lender, title) who also have that mindset, I think it’s going to set us up for success. There’s a lot of fear and misinformation out there, and the only way to combat that is to educate, communicate and lead. If we can educate ourselves and be in front of those market shifts, we’re going to be better prepared and in position to help the consumer.
PT: As we head toward the future, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges for the industry?
GF: I think it’s really that misinformation and fear. The news media has kind of changed in regard to how it delivers its messaging over the years, and I think a lot of the news media is fear-based today. Therefore, there’s misinformation out there, but as an industry, we can continue to be that guiding light by educating ourselves and staying in front of the changes, transitions and market shifts that are out there. By doing so, we can interject a little bit of confidence back into the consumer markets and be that stabilizing force.
PT: Any final thoughts?
GF: I’m so proud to be in this industry. We’re an incubator for entrepreneurs, and it’s a platform that gives agents a space to create their own businesses, go out there and take care of their families or whatever their mission might be. It’s been a blessing to be a part of that and see agents thrive and be successful and give back.