San Luis Obispo, California – Now in his 70’s, Charles Richardson can lay claim to two rare feats: He has spent nearly a half-century in the real estate industry, and he still plays basketball regularly.
Richardson is founder of Richardson Properties, a company with 46 agents in San Luis Obispo, CA, and 105 more in Manhattan Beach, CA. And the former college hoops player still plays basketball with a group of guys as old as 80, although Richardson allows that he plays a strictly below-the rim style these days.
“I can barely touch the net,” Richardson jokes. “It’s a good day when we walk out of the gym and nobody got hurt.”
Richardson spoke to Real Estate Broker’s Insider about his career and his business philosophy.
My dad was a maintenance contractor, so he put me to work from fourth grade through high school.
That was tough work. I decided I didn’t want to stick with that, but I learned a lot about construction and real estate. I played basketball at a junior college. In 1968, I got drafted. They were taking everybody. I served in the Army in Vietnam. I was in artillery, and I was in the jungle for 13 months. You grow up fast. We were in Cambodia when nobody was supposed to be in Cambodia. Then I went back to school and got an associate’s degree. And then I went into real estate in Southern California.
We do a lot of development.
By that I mean we match up the dirt with the buyers of the dirt and create a win-win situation. We also do a lot of new-home sales. That’s outside the box. You don’t see the typical residential brokerage doing what we do.
The challenge is getting projects approved.
It’s just unbelievable that it takes so long to get something approved – in an area that wants and needs housing. We’re working on one project that took seven years to get approved. Absolutely ridiculous. The process is cumbersome. It’s expensive. There are just so many hoops you have to jump through in California that you don’t have in other states, and as a result, we don’t have the housing we need.
I had an opportunity to buy into an escrow company and I didn’t.
I was doing so well at what I was doing that I decided not to do it. Those really would have been lucrative. Hindsight is 20-20.
I learned team spirit from basketball.
I tell people, “I’m your point guard. I’m here to dish the ball.” Our goal is win-win situations. We want buyers and sellers to walk away happy, rather than feeling like they got taken advantage of.
I started in the business in 1971, and it’s changed a lot of the years.
One of the biggest advances has been the speed of information. It used to be that you’d get information three to four weeks after a property became available. A book would come out each month with all the listings. This meant things didn’t sell as fast, but if you were looking you could see the yard sign and track the agent down.
Technology was moving at 30 mph.
Then, a few years ago, it was 45 or 50 mph. Now it’s moving at 90 mph, and it’s a challenge to keep up. Technology has been a huge disruptor. We didn’t have cell phones in the early years. It was a fun market, but it wasn’t as fast. I remember when the fax machine was invented, and soon enough, our whole office was full of fax paper. Pagers came out next and they were extremely useful. Then came cell phones, which changed everything. These were enormous back then. I had one in a backpack that I carried around. We advertised the listings in newspapers and magazines, which was a much slower process than email. Today you can get the word out to thousands of people instantly.
In the 1970s, getting access to the experts often involved driving to a seminar in a different city and spending the night.
It required a lot more time and money than today, but I still went to every one I could. This certainly made a difference for me over the years, but it took a long time to build up my training. I would say the top 25 percent of Realtors in the business were making the money because they spent the time and effort getting to those seminars. Nowadays, you can sit at home with a coffee and access seminars at a time that’s convenient for you, so most agents are better trained. However, there’s almost too much information, which presents different challenges.
Agent and broker relationships are more broker-centric than in the past.
This has one in ebbs and flows over the years, but with tech today, we’re running a company in Manhattan Beach with 100 agents with just 3,500 to 4,000 square feet. You don’t have the real estate you used to as people can work from anywhere and spend time out meeting people. There are also more opportunities to align with national companies to expand your reach and recognition now, which may mean that more of the smaller firms are going to get run out of business – which isn’t a good thing. We’re also seeing more and more big Realtors buying up boutique Realtors. Lost of people have groups or teams, their own transaction coordinator, someone who does escrow, ads, listings, etc. You didn’t used to see that. That’s definitely been a good change in the industry.
Paperwork is another thing that takes more time.
I still have my first file on the first house I ever sold, which was in Torrance, CA. It was one page. Now we have 12-page contracts. Paperwork and disclosures have gone up as fast as the house prices.
Originally published in Real Estate Broker’s Insider.