Strength in a Volatile Market
Nov 19, 2014 10:13AM
By Erica Shames
Becky Hodrick-Shaible, Kevin and Bill Hodrick, and James Shaible. Photo by Jeffrey B. Roth.
by Jeffrey B. Roth
In the 1960s, Veteran’s Administration home loans, and loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, opened up the real estate market to people previously unable to finance their own home. It was within this landscape, in 1965, that William Hodrick Sr., a former teacher and football coach, founded Hodrick Realty in Williamsport. The industry continued to evolve. In the 1970s, mortgage interest rates climbed to 16 to 18 percent. Periods of booms and busts occurred.
“When I first got into the business buyers had a choice of going to the bank and putting 25 percent down or going to the savings and loan and accessing an interest rate that was a quarter of a point better,” said Bill Hodrick Jr., president. “The interest rate was 7 ½ or 7 ¼ percent.”
During the intervening years, the real estate industry matured. The Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Commission, MGIC, came online and allowed people to buy a house with only 10 percent down, Bill said.
“That really opened up the market to a whole group of buyers who weren’t able to purchase a home before,” Bill said.
Where We Are
The real estate market bottomed out about eight years ago, and has since recovered. The real estate market regionally stayed strong, when compared to the rest of the country. Part of the reason, Bill explained, is the number of major universities and medical facilities in the area which are less affected by upswings and downturns in the national economy.
“We always said we had little ripples in our market, not huge peaks and valleys,” Bill said.
In the northern market, represented by Williamsport and Lock Haven, the market was propped up by the start-up of the gas exploration and drilling industry.
“As a result, we had a lot more new businesses coming in, which more than offset the slowdown in markets in other areas,” Bill said.
Working in real estate was not Bill’s first choice. “My dad told me to get a real estate license while I was in college. I had no desire to come back to Williamsport or get into real estate,” he shared.
After passing the real estate examination, Bill tossed his license into a desk drawer, never expecting to put his newly attained skill set to use.
“After I graduated from Notre Dame and came back to Williamsport, I started working in another capacity and worked for my dad part-time,” Bill said. “I found that I really loved the real estate business and began working full-time. And I never looked back.”
A True Family Business
The team—including Bill; his son Kevin, senior vice president; Becky Hodrick-Shaible, Bill’s daughter and communications and marketing coordinator; Becky’s spouse, Jim Shaible, a realtor—has successfully navigated the sea of potential hazards posed when families work together.
The secret to family harmony is mutual respect and trust, Bill said. Even when they are not working, the conversation often centers on the family business. While disagreements occur, the confidence all of the Hodricks have in each other’s expertise and skills provides a sense of unity of purpose.
“The biggest challenge is that you can never get away from it,” Bill said. “The toughest thing is to try to separate family time from business time.”
With its headquarters in Williamsport, the firm has branch offices in Lock Haven, Lewisburg and Danville. Bill said the company’s longevity is remarkable since less than 10-percent of real estate firms endure for more than 50 years.
The advent of the Internet drastically changed the industry and the mode of presenting listings to potential clients. Incorporating new technology was a gradual process, Bill said.
“We were no longer the guardians of the information about what was for sale,” Bill said. “That information is all over the Internet on dozens of Web sites today.”
While competition exists between rival real estate firms, the level and quality of that competition is not as intense or cutthroat as it is in other types of businesses, Bill said. Instead, there is a higher level of cooperation between real estate firms. It is common for one company to refer customers to another company with a listing that meets the needs and desires of that buyer.
“We have to work together to accomplish the goal of selling the properties,” said Bill. “We can’t afford to damage our relationships with our competitors; tomorrow we may need each other.”
As the communications and technology manager, Becky’s career satisfaction is linked to adopting new technologies and providing new tools to assist agents in the field.
“Communications, the need for instant information, responsiveness time, those are the things that are the hallmarks of our company today,” Bill said. “These are the things our customers are looking for.”
Kevin said placing the interests of the client first is a priority for the firm. “Doing what is in the customer's best interest, even ahead of the company’s interest, is a paramount to success,” he said.
Jim is a boots-on-the-ground realtor who works in the front lines of the company. Being able to turn over the keys to a home to a new owner is an experience of which he will never tire.
“It is a very neat moment when people say ‘this is it. This is the house I want,’” Jim said. “You experience their joy.”
In September, Hodrick Prudential joined Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, a corporation owned by Warren Buffet. The move is intended to expand and improve services the company’s 47 real estate agents are able to offer clientele.
The Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network also associates the firm with an international brand, noted Bill. Its Global Network Platform is designed to “make real estate transactions faster and more efficient for our clients, saving them time and money. Our mobile app puts a powerful search tool in the hands of the customer,” he explained.
Ultimately, though, the satisfaction associated with being part of a business started by his father is paramount. “The majority of real estate companies never make it to a third generation,” Bill added. “I’m sure my dad is smiling when he looks down and sees what he started 50 years ago.”
Jeffrey B. Roth is a correspondent for Thomson-Reuters and writes for magazines in Pennsylvania and Maryland; his work has appeared in The New York Times, CBS Philadelphia and CBS Baltimore and in various national publications.