Realtor Patrick Ginn finds his niche in high-end home sales

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
photo

Enter Patrick Ginn's latest $1.9 million real estate listing, and the Vancouver home's asking price needs no explanation.

Unobstructed living-room views explain everything, as scenes of the Columbia River beckon through a remodeled kitchen and main-floor master bedroom. A daylight basement continues to highlight the view, preserved by sellers who had the foresight to acquire a lot between the river and their tidy, 1970s-style home. Ginn, who specializes in high-end sales, knows he has a winner.

"There's a feeling you get when you walk into a home. It just feels right," said Ginn, a Vancouver broker who, at age 32, is breaking sales records.

Ginn's focus on some of Clark County's most coveted homes has helped him become the county's top-selling broker in home sales for the second year in a row. In the past 12 months, he's sold 185 houses for a total $76 million, including $55.5 million in sales so far this year. Ginn also gained national recognition this year as one of the country's top 100 Realtors by Denver-based RealTrends magazine.

His success is proof that buyers are back in Clark County's high-end housing market, a fact also reflected by the local industry's sense of growing optimism. But Ginn's is a new face among the area's top real estate brokers who are dealing with a different market in today's recovering economy than the one that existed prior to the industry collapse six years ago.

While others scramble to find their place in the changing market, Realtors such as Ginn are doing things a new way. The business he now calls Ginn Realty Group, which operates under The Hasson Company banner, was founded on Ginn's good timing, intellect and head for numbers. As a newcomer in a profession filled with seasoned veterans, Ginn's future looks bright as he positions himself for Clark County's next housing upswing. It's not just that he's a consummate salesman. Ginn launched his way to success with an idea that few others in his industry had thought of: the solution to a shortage of houses to satisfy demand, he realized, was to figure out a way to build more houses.

Market calculations

photoSome of Realtor Patrick Ginn's recent sales.

Ginn's introduction to the business came after his career path took a Y turn. Ginn, who received his online bachelor's degree in finance from Golden Gate University, had originally planned to follow in the footsteps of his father, a Bay-area CPA. But the younger Ginn soon discovered his job preparing taxes at a small Hazel Dell firm, Abacus Accounting, "wasn't fun and wasn't rewarding."

By then, his head for math had opened the door to a new career.

"A couple of my accounting clients were in real estate and they said, '(accounting) is not for you,'" Ginn said.

He studied for his real estate license and broke away from accounting on April 15, 2005, to work as a "transaction coordinator" for a group of real estate agents at Re/Max Equity Group in Vancouver.

Still, Ginn recognized the element of risk in the career move, as he left the sensible world of accounting for the unpredictable real estate market. Like so many in real estate, Ginn had no idea the market was headed for collapse.

"I just wanted to make a decent income and not have to go crawling home to mom and dad," Ginn said.

He estimated the Re/Max group closed between 60 and 70 transactions a month as local home sales peaked.

"My role was behind the scenes, making sure the deals went through," he said. "It enabled me to learn each part of the process."

As the market started to spiral, Ginn, who had just started to build his reputation for high-end sales, recognized a sliver of demand.

He had buyers who wanted the luxury market when supply — and prices — were low. Retiring and downsizing baby boomers continued to hunt for a certain style of new house, often with a view. But there were not enough of those houses to go around.

photoSome of Realtor Patrick Ginn's recent sales.

"They were looking for a master (bedroom) on the main (floor) and a switch from formal living to the great-room concept," Ginn said. "They wanted a three-car garage, energy efficiency and all top-quality finishings."

In 2008, he turned to homebuilder Jeff Creagan of Vancouver-based Bella Villa Homes to fill the niche. Ginn found investors to buy a handful of bank-owned lots and build a $400,000 model home.

"Most people thought we were crazy to build it on spec (without a buyer)," Ginn said. "The next year (2009), we started getting interest and sold 20 homes."

The number grew to 50 homes sold, then to 70 in 2012. It has since leveled off, said Ginn.

His background in finance helped as he built net profit for his investors, Bella Villa and his own business. He continued to connect investors with bank-owned lots in upscale areas such as Felida and Camas, and continued to market the specific style to baby boomer buyers.

The market segment and the trend aren't new, said Tracy Doriot, a Washougal-based custom homebuilder who said baby boomers with cash are his primary market. But Ginn realized how to cash in even during the recession.

"Obviously, he (Ginn) is well-connected and has a good business strategy," said Doriot, who hasn't met Ginn.

Profitable niche

Other industry leaders tersely refused to talk about Ginn, who today is working with three different builders.

Ginn has added Axiom Luxury Homes and Tuscany Homes to his custom homebuilding affiliates and continues to make his bread and butter by selling homes priced at $750,000 and above. That niche can net him a tidy profit, with an average 3 percent per-transaction commission, said Ginn, who plows a good portion of revenue back into his business.

Ginn is well-positioned for more success. The high-end niche has gradually gained strength since the housing bubble burst in late 2007. Luxury home sales in Clark County rose 72 percent in the 12 months ending in July, with 57 sales of houses priced at $700,000 and above, compared to 33 houses sold in the price range in the same period a year earlier, according to Portland-based RMLS.

photoSome of Realtor Patrick Ginn's recent sales.

The price of luxury homes also has steadily risen, according to Ginn. He prefers to work with sellers of existing homes who now hope for investment returns.

He credits his five-employee team for much of his recent recognition. The group exchanged its old name, Patrick Ginn Real Estate, for Ginn Realty Group. The difference, Ginn said, is the new name assures high-end clients they'll be working with a team of professionals.

The group includes a full-time digital marketing assistant to create digital videos and fliers marketing the company and its listings. Ginn Realty Group also relies on a social media strategy and features its listings on popular social media and Web platforms, such as Trulia, a popular listings site.

"Real estate is generally a very individualized business, and now it's kind of shifting," Ginn said.

As for potential buyers, Ginn said they cite job stability and an improving stock market for their newfound confidence.

"Without a question, there is demand for high-end homes in Clark County," said Ginn.


Cami Joner: 360-735-4532, cami.joner@columbian.