Photo: Left to right
By: Kimberly Redmond
When Christopher John Kruk, Richard Tillman, Jr. and Frank Anderson opened RE/MAX Town & Valley more than a decade ago, they did so with the mission of finding people the perfect place to call home.
“It’s a great profession,” said Tillman. “You’re helping people – whether it’s first time homebuyers, like a family looking for a bigger house, or an older couple looking to downsize. It’s a very rewarding business.”
With more than 50 agents spread across three offices – Hackettstown, Rockaway and Hope – the firm is primarily focused on northern New Jersey, but regularly handles sales as far south as Trenton, as far east as Bergen and Hudson counties and in Pennsylvania.
“We’re pretty spread out and diverse,” Tillman said.
That means, agents are working with buyers who may be seeking a spread out, ranch-style home in Warren County or a family looking to purchase a newly-built house in the eastern part of the state with an easy commute into New York City.
“It’s totally different markets,” he added.
In addition to commercial, residential and vacant properties sales, RE/MAX Town & Valley also handles property management and rentals, as well as has affiliation with a mortgage company, title company and insurance company.
But, shortly after the agency opened its doors, agents were faced with a huge challenge – the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Though home sales had been declining since 2006 and there were fears of a recession, the housing bubble hadn’t yet burst.
“We opened in Fall 2008,” Tillman said, “A month later, Wall Street crashed hard, and from 2009 to 2012, it was a struggle – even for very good, seasoned agents.”
The Garden State’s residential market headed downhill fast, with lagging sales, skyrocketing unemployment rates and less mortgage lending,
“As one of the owners, it was our job to keep agents thinking positively, talking positively and acting positively, instead of getting caught up in the negative vibe,” he said. “There was no magic pill – the market had to correct itself and the banking industry had to correct itself.”
The firm’s agents “fought through” and “had to battle every day,” Tillman recalled. “We give them a lot of credit – they kept their heads down, kept smiling and plowed through.”
Home prices in the Garden State are slowly but steadily recovering, though. Job gains, low mortgage rates and consumer confidence have helped boost home sales, though it’s still nowhere near the pre-housing bubble peaks of the mid-2000s.
Industry professionals are predicting that New Jersey’s housing market will continue to grow over the next few years. More millennials are expected to begin to start families and look for first-time homes, while many Baby Boomers will look to downsize from larger houses to smaller places.
One of the biggest misconceptions right now, Tillman said, is that “the housing market is horrible.”
“If something is priced reasonably well, in decent condition and in a decent location, it gets activity and moves. If it doesn’t meet one of those pieces of criteria, it sits.”
“The last three or four years, it’s been busy in certain areas. The farther east you go, values have increased. In Warren County, it’s slower and a smaller increase, but it’s going up,” Tillman said.
For more information, contact RE/MAX Town & Valley in Hackettstown at 908-852-1333, in Hope at 908-459-9888 or in Rockaway at 973-625-0450.