- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

It’s “Internet day” at Creig Northrop’s office in Clarksville, Md., where the top-selling real estate agent is reviewing the ads he posts on the region’s newspaper Web pages.

“The market’s starting to pick back up,” Mr. Northrop tells two ad salesmen sitting with him in his conference room.

After a discussion about the need for the Realtor and his employees to proof ad copy before it is posted on the Internet, the ad salesmen leave.

It was one more meeting in a daily schedule filled with meetings for Mr. Northrop, whom Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. named as its top salesman nationwide for 2005. He and his 52 employees sold $407 million worth of homes last year in Maryland.

Real estate has been a lifestyle for the 38-year-old as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been doing this business for 20 years,” he said.

He began working in real estate for his mother, an agent, selling empty lots from a trailer parked in Ellicott City to people who wanted to build their own houses.

“I remember playing the Nintendo games, waiting for clients,” said Mr. Northrop, whose 6-foot-7-inch frame fills a doorway.

He graduated from the University of Maryland four years later with a degree in business and psychology.

Along the way to a multimillion-dollar business, he developed business strategies that he says differentiate him from other Realtors.

One of them was a “staging” program in which “the Northrop team” advises home sellers on how to fix up their properties to maximize sale prices. Typical advice includes dying stains out of carpets, rearranging furniture or painting exteriors.

Mr. Northrop says he was the first to design “virtual tours” of homes on the Internet. By clicking on room icons, viewers can take a tour of a home without leaving their computer screens.

He said “Internet day” was a typical day as he maneuvered between meetings.

After awakening about 6 a.m., he checked the home listings he placed in newspapers and the Internet.

Shortly after arriving at the office, he held a brief staff meeting to plan the day’s agenda. Meetings with ad salesmen kept him busy until about 1 p.m.

Next, he traveled to a site to look at two homes a contractor was building to determine whether the Realtor could sell them.

The meeting with the builders was followed by calls to about 20 homeowners to update them on any progress in selling their properties.

Later, he toured a home with a potential seller to figure out what work would be needed and to prepare the paperwork.

The last business of the day was a dinner with a former client.

“I love the end of the day when I can say, ‘Congratulations, you just sold your house,’ ” Mr. Northrop said.

Last year, his company sold 736 homes from their offices in Clarksville, Columbia, Eldersburg and Frederick.

Although most of the sales are routine, he can tell stories about odd or tragic ends to real estate transactions.

One of them was the client whose husky dog climbed all over him as he tried to write out the paperwork for a sale.

The client watched without intervening, forcing Mr. Northrop to give up and tell her, “Not now,” as tried to free himself to leave.

Other times, homeowners lose their jobs or face income losses from divorce but wait too long to sell and avoid foreclosure.

“Then it’s too late,” Mr. Northrop said. “My goal is to help them before it gets to that point.”

He speculated that more homeowners would face foreclosure as a result of no-interest loans that banks have been offering. The borrowers pay only interest on their loans for the first few years, then the principal kicks in, adding significantly to their monthly housing bills.

“It’s just crazy banks taking so much risk,” he said.

Mr. Northrop lives in Ellicott City with his wife, Carla, and their four children.

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