2006-06-01 / News

Different business model works for Island Realty owners

By Donna K. Drago

Ginny Prichett, left, and Carol Hopkins, share customers, friendship, and ownership of Island Realty. Photo by Donna Drago Ginny Prichett, left, and Carol Hopkins, share customers, friendship, and ownership of Island Realty. Photo by Donna Drago It's not enough to be a good sales person to work for Island Realty in Jamestown. The business model that co-owners Carol Hopkins and Ginny Prichett have created is focused as much on what the agents can do for the community as it is on how the community contributes to their success.

"First, you have to live in Jamestown" to work for the company that was purchased by the partners in 2000, said Hopkins, adding, "We encourage everyone to become involved" in the town. "But," she stressed, "it's not about getting involved just to sell more houses." The difference at Island Realty is that "we want our people to be passionate about what they do," the partners said.

"They have to love it," said Prichett.

The 12 agents at Island Realty have fingers in virtually every pie in Jamestown.

Prichett and Hopkins started listing the ways they all help, finishing each others sentences and happily talking over each other to add one more good deed to the list.

Hopkins has been a volunteer choreographer and member of the board of the Jamestown Community Theatre. Prichett is active in the Friends of the Fire Department and JEMS group, she said, adding that she is also a Hospice volunteer for VNS, which serves Jamestown residents.

Bobby Bailey is a volunteer firefighter "and came to us as one already," Prichett said. John McCauley is on the board of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce. We have agents who are members of the Jamestown Historical Society, the Conanicut Yacht Club, and Jamestown Yacht Club.

Marion Clarke was a longtime member of the town's Board of Canvassers, Prichett said. Agents coach youth sports, help in school activities, and get involved everywhere they can, Hopkins said.

Prichett said she started volunteering at the Beavertail Lighthouse and has learned a lot about "what gets people excited about coming to Jamestown."

"I like to find out why they come here," Prichett added.

The two partners agreed that what they do "is good for the community and good for us."

Hopkins said that buying a house is one of the biggest transactions a family can make, and that "most choose people they know and trust" rather than picking an agent out of the telephone book.

"People see us and know we're ethical," Hopkins said.

Recently, Hopkins and Prichett, like many savvy business people, thought they wanted to expand the company and add a new office in Narragansett. They started the process, rented an office, hired five agents and were off to a successful start. Then, they realized that having to spend time in Narragansett "was taking us away from Jamestown," and they made the decision to close the office there.

"We just let it go," Prichett said, adding "Jamestown's just too great."

The partners said that what sets them apart and makes them "unusual" in the real estate business is the whole team's willingness to share business and give each other leads.

Hopkins described how she and Prichett became partners, when they both worked for Conanicut Real Estate and had younger children. "I was offered the listing on 13 lots in East Passage," Hopkins said, which she admitted she was thrilled about, but she soon realized that she would have to give up a lot of her kids' activities to take on the job of selling the lots. "So I called Ginny and asked if she would take half" of the listings. Since then, the two have worked out vacation schedules so that they are never both away from the island at the same time, and they continue to cover each other's backs whenever the need arises.

"Our agents do that too," Hopkins said.

When they hire new agents, they spend as much time asking about their values as they do about their real estate experience, Hopkins said, noting that there have been many times when they have chosen not to hire someone because "they just weren't a good fit" for the model they are trying to uphold.

Neither Hopkins nor Prichett take on new listings "unless we've worked with them before," because, as Hopkins pointed out, "we want our agents to be as successful as we are."

The partners said they have had a tremendous first half of 2006 thus far, and have listings for 22 single-family houses, three condos, and three lots. They have sold 14 homes, and there are another nine under contract.

Buyers are very savvy right now, Prichett said, and many know exactly what they are looking for and how much they are willing to spend.

"We have a buyers list" of people we call when the right house at the right price comes on the market.

"If houses are well priced," they are selling quickly, Hopkins said. But some houses have stayed on the market for many months because people did not make adjustments in their pricing when the market leveled off in recent months.

"But buyers are still buying," the two agreed.

For information about properties in Jamestown, call Island Realty at 423-2200 or visit www.islandrealtyri.com.

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