Cloquet realtor’s career spans 40 years – and beyondCarlton County realtor Roger Maki marked his 40-year anniversary in the business a couple of weeks ago, but by all indications, he’s just hitting his stride.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton County realtor Roger Maki marked his 40-year anniversary in the business a couple of weeks ago, but by all indications, he’s just hitting his stride.
“Some 20 years ago, when I worked at ERA-DeLarosby,” commented Maki, “I said I hoped I could put in 50 years with the business. But now that I’ve reached 40, I’m thinking maybe I can do 60!”
Maki grew up about a half mile out of Esko, moving around to several different homes in the immediate area.
“We moved several times because my dad was a home builder and tended to sell the one we were living in!” Maki laughed.
His dad, Willard, grew up on a farm outside of Brookston.
“My grandfather died when my dad was 10 so he became the man of the house at that time,” explained Maki. “He only went through eight grades at school because he had to take care of business at home.”
Maki said when his dad took over running the farm, he had to learn how to fix things, so he learned a lot about electrical work, carpentry and plumbing.
“He had a Grade A dairy farm,” said Maki, “but as far back as 1948, he was something of a visionary because he determined there really was no future in farming around here. He decided to leave farming and go into carpentry work, so he bought 100 acres between Highway 61 and Himango Road just outside Esko and ended up becoming a union carpenter.”
In 1952, Maki’s dad built his first house along Highway 61 and then continued to develop that area.
“In that subdivision, there’s now Bruce Circle, named after my brother,” said Maki, “as well as Roger Drive, named after me, and Lois Lane, after our cousin who lived nearby.”
Maki’s dad worked extremely hard at his trade, and by the time he was in his early 40s he ended up having troubles with the circulation in his arms and shoulders from all the heavy work associated with carpentry in those days.
“He decided he’d better do something else before it killed him,” said Maki. “He had his carpentry experience, and he’d had a little sales experience, too, from selling milking machines, so he decided to go to school and get his real estate license.”
And so, Maki’s father started his own business, Willard’s Realty, in their family home in 1963.
“I was only 14 at the time, but because the business was in our home, I learned quite a bit about it and even helped him with a few things,” said Maki.
Following high school, Maki went to the University of Minnesota Duluth and got his teaching degree, doing his student teaching at Cloquet High School under social studies teacher Bill Kennedy and working six nights a week as a truck dispatcher in Esko from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
In the meantime, Maki continued to date his high school sweetheart, Peggy.
“She was two years behind me in school and lived on the other end of Esko,” he explained. “I had taken another girl to a dance, and Peggy was one of the majorettes running the concession stand that night. When I went to get some popcorn, there was something about our interaction that made me interested in her, and I was pretty much hooked on her after that!”
By the time Maki got through school with a degree in education, he discovered there weren’t many teaching jobs in the area and turned his sights to something else.
“Because I’d already learned a little about the real estate business, and since my dad had never hired anyone to help him out, I decided to give it a shot.”
Roger got his real estate license when he was 21 and joined his dad in the business as part of Willard’s Realty. That same year, he and Peggy were married.
After Roger and Willard worked together for nine years, Willard decided to retire. About that time, Neil Nemmers, who ran ERA-DeLarosby Realty in Cloquet, asked Roger if he would consider being the sales manager for his office. Maki accepted and worked in that position from 1979-80, after which he was promoted to general manager, serving in that capacity from 1980-87.
“We had as many as a dozen agents there during that time,” related Maki, “and it turned out to be good management training that really set me up for when I decided to go into business for myself in 1987.”
At that time, Maki bought a Realty World franchise, opening up an office in the TCF Bank building and later remodeling a building on the east end of Cloquet and moving there in 1990.
“We had as many as 16 agents and two secretaries working for us,” related Maki. “I brought our company from its startup in 1987 to become number one in the Cloquet area by 1991.”
Maki also worked as a certified appraiser for 25 years, some years doing as many as 300 appraisals in one year.
“Although I am not doing it any longer, the experience and training still helps me in going out to get listings,” he attested.
In 2001, Maki was approached by Regional Realty about selling out his business and merging with them, which he did. He worked for them for three and a half years before going out on his own once again and working out of his home for the next four years.
“Eventually I began feeling kind of bogged down by having to answer every phone call myself and doing all the advertising and all the computer work that has to be done for the multiple listing service on my own,” said Maki.
Last year, he started to look around at what possibilities might exist with other brokers and decided he wanted to go with RE/MAX, where he’s worked since March 2, 2009.
On Jan. 20, 2010, Maki observed his 40th year in real estate, to the very day, and he said he still remembers the first house he ever sold.
“It was a small house in the Carlton area that was in really poor condition,” he related. “I was pretty shocked when I showed it and the people said they wanted to buy it!”
Since that time, Maki said he has seen numerous changes in the real estate business.
“Back when I first started,” he stated, “we had a one-page listing agreement with no disclosures of any kind. Today, to list your house – depending on whether it’s in town or in the country – involves 16-23 pages’ worth of stuff just to get your house on the market. We used to have a one-page purchase agreement also, and now it varies from 12-16 pages plus the disclosures that have to be done by the sellers, so it might end up being something like 30 pages that the buyer and his agent are dealing with.”
Maki said cell phones and the Internet have changed real estate a great deal over the 40 years he’s been in business.
“I think the majority of most people these days start their home search on the Internet,” he said. “But it’s still true that a computer will not sell a house. Ultimately you still need people to facilitate the sale because it’s complicated and machines haven’t taken over for us yet.”
Maki said many other facets of the real estate business have changed for the better as well.
“When I first went into business with my father, the copy machine we had took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to copy one page!” he related. “And in 1980, when I was with ERA-DeLarosby Realty, we got one of the first fax machines in town. The Pine Knot did a story on it at the time, and I was quoted in it as saying, ‘And it only takes 6 minutes for one page to come through over the fax!’”
Lately, Maki said the real estate market nationwide has fallen on tough times. In 2006, he reported, there were 244 sales for all realtors in the immediate Cloquet area, and in 2007 that number dropped to 189. In 2008 it dropped to 162 sales, and last year it went back up to 185.
“We had a 12-13 percent increase last year over 2008, which was hopefully the bottom of what we’re going to see,” he commented, “but it’s still a long way from 244 to 162, which is something like a 33 percent drop. Prices have fallen, also, so that the average sale price last year was down to $114,270, though that’s a little bit skewed because of the number of the foreclosures that tend to be at the lower end of the price range.”
It appears that things might possibly be on the upswing, however. By the end of January 2010, Maki had one house sale pending and three new listings, which he said is “a good start, so I’m hopeful that things will be pretty good this year.”
Maki said he is not content to rest on his laurels, however.
“There have been a number of recessions over the past 40 years” he said, “but the two times that stand out in my mind are the current period that we’ve been going through as well as in 1980-1982. The big thing at that time was interest rates, which were up to 16, 17, and 18 percent in order to get a home loan. Most people could not do that, and it made it very difficult to sell houses.”
Maki said last year wasn’t quite as bad as the year before, largely because of the first-time home buyer credit.
“Without that, we wouldn’t have had as many home sales in 2009 as we did,” he explained. “There’s also a $6,500 credit for an existing home owner who has been in their home for at least five years and who signs on a new home by April 30.”
He said the fact that mortgage interest rates are currently hovering around 5 percent also makes home buying an especially appealing prospect.
One of the things that Maki said his dad stressed to him in the beginning of his real estate career was, “If you’re going to be around for a long time in the business, you have to treat people fairly, be honest and have integrity or you’re not going to make it.”
“For me, that’s always been very important,” summed up Maki. “Selling real estate kind of gets in your blood, and I’ve often said, ‘If it was easy, anybody could do it. But I didn’t want to have a job that just anyone could do. I like a challenge.’”