Updated: 2 days ago
Having been Whit's Director of Marketing for several years, I recently decided to get my real estate license in order to fully understand the ins and outs of the business and I wanted to learn from the best – Whit Harvey.
I've spent lot of time hanging out with Whit and his wife Joanne lately. They are part of my social pod. He has a great sense of humor, loves to dance (we had a small dance party in the rain), golf, cook (his brussels sprouts are amazing), play with his dogs and hang out with his new grandson.
Every time get together I find out new things about him, like the fact the he likes to ride horses – fast, and that once he and a friend were picked up hitchhiking by Hunter S. Thompson. Not only has he led and continues to lead a fascinating life, he truly knows his business.
A couple of years ago, a long-time client of Whit Harvey’s suggested him to a young man who was looking for a buyer’s agent. The young man’s response was, “Whit Harvey? Isn’t he old?”
Whit laughed about it. “I guess because I’ve been in the business for so long – 32 years – people think I am an old man. But I started selling houses with Jim Piper when I as only in my twenties.”
This is an interview I did with him a back in 2016, where we talked real estate, why he's been so successful at it, and how the business is changing.
So Whit, you’ve been doing this job for 32 years. Do you ever get tired of it?
No. I never get tired of it. I love being around people, I really do. I love sharing stories with them, finding out about their families, their jobs and their goals – I am a very good listener. I appreciate the fact that a client trusts me with one of the most important decisions they will make in their lives – where they will live. It’s not just about the house, it is about the community where they will raise their children and make a life.
Was real estate a career you planned?
No. When I was in college, my father was the president of T. Rowe Price. I think everyone expected me to go into the finance world, but I had other ideas. I graduated with a business degree, and took several art classes along the way. I found that those increased my appreciation for architecture and gave me an aesthetic sense that is very helpful when it comes to staging.
I was out with some friends, talking about starting the MBA program at Loyola here in Maryland and looking for a place to live when a young woman overheard and told me that her father needed a house sitter and would I be interested? Her father was Sherlock “Shockey” Gillet.
I drove out to his place and was greeted at the door by Jim Piper, of Piper and Company. The house was on the market and they needed someone to maintain a presence there, while taking good care of it and have everything “showing-ready” at any moment.
I ended up living there for two years, and during that time Jim suggested that I take real estate courses along with my business courses at Loyola. He thought I might be good at it.
As it turns out, yes! I passed the real estate exam before I even finished the courses, and Jim hired me right away.
I started out on floor duty, which the company called “Opportunity Time”, which meant that I was answering the phones when someone called about a listing. The person who answered the phone had the “opportunity” to work with whoever was on the line.
How did you do?
I made $27,000 my first year as a kid on the floor. Doesn’t sound like much now, but back then, for a guy in his twenties it was great! I was selling homes to my friends who were working at T. Rowe and Alex. Brown, and they were all jealous that I was making more money than they were! I was Piper and Company’s Rookie of the Year.
What is one of the biggest changes you have seen in the business since you started?
Back then interest rates were 19%, so THAT has certainly changed. Also the way we market. Before digital cameras and publishing software, we took pictures of the homes ourselves, had them developed – hoping they were good – and glue-sticking them into the layout for the printer. Now we have digital photos taken by a professional photographer and our in-house designer produces all of our listing brochures.
The way people search for homes now is completely different from when I started. 90 percent of buyers begin their search online through sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. They do a lot of the research before they even call an agent to show them around. We do a lot of online advertising through social media sites, including Baltimore Fishbowl, Facebook, and our own website. These ads can be much more timely than print ads that may be out of date by the time they come to publication.
Do you think online home searches will eventually replace the need for a buyer’s agent?
I don’t think so. You can only learn so much from searching online. The agents in our office really get to know their buyers – and they know the neighborhoods. We can help them find exactly what they are looking for by narrowing down the choices based on our knowledge of them and the areas they are looking.
There are benefits to working with someone who has been in the business as long as you have. Can you tell me what some of them are?
I understand the process of buying and selling a house, of course. I can guide new buyer’s and I always make sure that everything goes smoothly. But beyond that, I know Baltimore. I’ve lived here all my life, I have intimate knowledge of the neighborhoods, and I keep abreast of what is happening in them.
I also have a vast amount of knowledge about the construction business. I have worked with builders throughout the area, and helped develop areas like Laurelford. I have a posse of builders that I can recommend to buyers, and have assisted many clients who were building homes.
What makes you a good agent?
I believe that you need to take care of people the best that you can. Always take the high road, and always remember that your client is depending on you to be the calm cool head in a potentially stressful situation as they make one of the most important decisions in their lives.
I also believe that working with a good people is the key to long-term success. I am lucky to be part of a team of highly-skilled agents with incredible back-office support, and our good relationships with title companies, mortgage lenders and contractors is a valuable resource for our clients.
Do you feel old?
No way. I still feel like a kid at heart. If you get old and stuffy – shame on you! I’m working now with the children of clients that I had when I was younger, and I love it. There is nothing else I would rather be doing.