There are many real estate offices that dot our region. But have you ever thought about what it takes to not just start, but to also run a real estate firm? This month we caught up with David Bain of Bain Real Estate, based out of Kent and Sharon, CT.
When did you start your real estate career?
When I was in graduate school in New York City I looked all over the Tri-state area for land in the country. Finally I found a beautiful piece of land in Sharon, CT, and spent my summers building a house and two barns, making pastures, raising sheep, goats and chickens along with six children. It was a little difficult to get to in the ‘60s and ‘70s with no interstate, but in those days there was still a passenger train with one car, once a day, that made it to Kent.
After nine years of teaching English in private schools, I decided to switch careers and moved permanently to the northwest corner. I had never thought about real estate as a new career. But my insurance agent, who was a real estate presence in Kent, was persistent and talked me into trying it. My very first sale was selling Cloudwalk, a country estate, to Diane Von Furstenberg. What an incredible lady and incredible property. My commission on that first sale was more than I made teaching for an entire year. It was the beginning of a long career.
Did your experience as a teacher help you in anyway?
Getting students to like Moby Dick needed a good bit of salesmanship and that translated easily to teaching clients about real estate. And as a real estate agent you’re in constant contact with people – just like in a classroom.
When did you start your own firm?
I started with Devoe Real Estate and Insurance and about nine years later set up my own firm. The folks who gave me my start were very supportive and wished me and my company Bain Real Estate well.
When I started there was very little competition. But as the Northwest Corner became more of a destination for New Yorkers, better qualified, professional agents joined the business. Some who started with me went on to start other firms (Paul Dooley, Baxter and Gibson, Pepper Scholl, Ira Goldspeil to mention a few) as I had done myself.
How has Kent changed in the last 45 years?
Kent has always appealed to second homeowners and the population in the last 100 years hasn’t changed much. But the percentage of second homeowners has significantly increased, making it harder for young locals to find a place to settle – a problem we continually try to solve. As a small step in this direction, I established a chapter of Habitat for Humanity and directed the building of six homes in the area.
As a result of this population change, a wonderful, diverse mix of city and town’s people, there are more cultural events, more restaurants, and art galleries. There is also a strong urge to protect the open space that keeps the town rural. I had a 30+-year experience helping to run Weantinoge Heritage, the Northwest Corner’s oldest and largest land trust, and personally helped to preserve over 4,000 acres.
Many people must approach you about joining your firm as an agent. How do you decide whether they would succeed?
When we are approached by someone wanting to be an agent, my partner, and son-in-law, Chris Garrity and I, both sit down and talk with them. We look to see how comfortable they are communicating with all kinds of people – both weekenders and local clients. We decide whether they would be trainable, to learn the many ins and outs of the business, and, most importantly, whether they could become professionals caring as much for the process as for the rewards. A real estate broker deals not only with a client’s major asset, but a whole realm of personal needs a client faces when buying or selling an asset.
How do you market your firm’s services?
Before the internet we spent over a $100,000 a year on print advertising in the New York Times. Now we only advertise in local newspapers and a few magazines and focus our efforts online. We were among the first to have a website, and had early computers, before Apples were developed back in the early 1980s. We use direct mailing, yearly market updates for specific neighborhoods in the three towns where we have offices, and we continue to stress our market knowledge and our service.
What is the story behind the sale of the Cornwall Castle?
Construction of the stone castle and outbuildings was completed in 1922. The original owners referred to it as a Château, but everyone around here knows it as The Cornwall Castle. I originally listed it in 2013 at the optimistic price of $8,850,000. You can see the video I did when the house was put up for sale at https://vimeo.com/131991592. At that price, at that time, the castle sat on the market with maybe a dozen lookers who found the price too high. Eventually the owner lost it to Chase Bank. They lowered the listing price to $1,950,000 and sold it for $1,600,000 with 275 acres. Chase is now working with a consortium of land trusts to transfer ownership of 700 acres to the State of Connecticut. This acreage will be protected forever and nicely fits with other protected lands. Chase has been very good to work with and shared the goal of protecting these wonderful old woodland acres.
Is there anything you don’t like about being a realtor?
Actually I like everything about it. I love solving problems, walking land, looking and showing homes both large and small, keeping my own schedule, working for myself, and interacting with people. It’s a good lifestyle. •
To learn more about David Bain and Bain Real Estate, you can visit them online at www.bainrealestate.com.