Turning a Lemon into Lemonade — 616 REALTY Agent Ben Colter
Oftentimes, something good comes from something bad; that is true for real estate agent Ben Colter. A less than idyllic experience while purchasing his first home in 2002 inspired him to get his real estate license and turn a ‘lemon’ into lemonade for himself and 616 REALTY.
“I felt like he was being dishonest.” After becoming an agent, Ben realized that what had happened was less about being dishonest and more about a lack of communication. “He just didn’t explain it to me.” Ben knew he could and would do better.
As an agent, Ben made his start at Greenridge of Lowell. “It was a great company. I learned a lot about how the business works.” In the early years, Colter continued to bartend at the Last Chance Saloon in Grand Rapids and Uccello’s. “I was only making a few real estate deals a year, helping mostly my friends and family.”
He also got a lot of experience from his days in construction. “When I first got into it, I was a handyman. My good buddy was buying and flipping houses. I would go to foreclosures and do estimates for these guys in Detroit.” While he left the installation of doors behind and now chooses to instead “unlock doors,” Ben hasn’t strayed too far from his construction roots and currently holds a contractor license in addition to his agent license.
A Belly-to-Belly agent
For the past 10 years, Ben’s career has focused solely on real estate. His business relies exclusively on referrals and repeat clients. “I am not a common realtor. I am what the industry calls, an old-fashioned, belly-to-belly Realtor. Nowadays, the highest-producing agents advertise on Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. All of us old-fashioned Realtors are getting replaced by CRMs, by Zillow, by Realtor.com, even Rocket Mortgages.” That isn’t stopping Ben from doing things as he believes they should be done by the referral of and return of satisfied customers.
He also takes pride in the fact that he wears most of the hats in his business. He is the admin, accountant, and agent. “Throughout every transaction, every single email is sent by me, every phone call is made by me. Every deal I close is a previous client or a referral. It is the dinosaur way of conducting real estate.” Ben Colter wouldn’t have it any other way. He likes knowing everything going on with each client in every transaction. “In this business, you are only as good as your last deal. We live debt-free. We don’t finance anything. I only need to close one deal a month.” That allows Ben to provide his clients with the best real estate experience possible, which means they are sure to come back.
Another reason his business is flourishing (making the list of Top 10 agents last month) is that traditional work ethic. “I look at it this way, I worked every single day last month. It was hard to find a day that I didn’t work. I haven’t been taking any weekends or evenings off. I am up in front of the computer by 6:00 a.m. All my clients have to do is reach out to me.” He adds, “The best time to access me is 24/7. I do all my admin in the morning. I don’t have someone doing that for me. I love this job.”
Connections to the right people
Another reason for Ben’s success is his connections to the people his clients need. “For decades, I have been building relationships with different vendors and professionals that the client needs throughout the real estate transaction. If someone has a tax question, I can offer them an economical CPA or lawyer. If they need an inspection… I know just the person. I refuse to get a kickback. It is so I can offer the best to my clients, and they know I will hold them accountable for what they do for my client.”
Ben’s most significant connection though is his wife. “She is good at listening to folks. She goes along with me on listing appointments. While I am doing what I do as a Realtor, she notices every cosmetic detail. She takes notes. We do our walkthrough, and together, we develop a comprehensive plan for my clients, and we determine how to put the best foot forward and put a little lipstick on it.” Together, they help their clients accomplish their goals.
Another attribute that makes Ben good at what he does is his ability to stay calm.
“I have seen everything that could happen in real estate. I have been through all of it. I don’t knee-jerk. I never get too excited. If something terrible happens, I collect all the information I can, see our options, and then present the options to my client. I provide the best experience with the cards we are dealt.“Ben Colter
“I have been at 616 REALTY for about three years.” His previous brokerage, “Midwest” sold the company. “I liked that 616 REALTY was a smaller boutique, agent-centric agency. I didn’t want a big conglomerate where I was just a cog in a wheel. Scot (616 REALTY’s Founder/Broker) is always there. He is great. The staff in the office are wonderful and helpful. I am very happy. The slogan for 616 is right: ‘Work with Real.’ “
Advice for first-time home-buyers
“Be patient. I have no problem showing houses. I sold a house to someone last month; we shopped for over three years together. I also highly recommend that they set up a phantom maximum mortgage payment and make that payment monthly while shopping for a house. It makes for a nice little cushion, emergency fund, or even a new furniture allowance once they find their new home.”
Advice for sellers
Fortunately, “there is probably only one house for every 60 buyers,” so most home buyers realistically don’t have to do anything. But, Ben also knows that little fixes can yield huge rewards. “When I get ready to list a house, there is an extensive inspection of the current condition. We evaluate everything we find and offer options to the seller on how to best bring the home to market. Then, I bring in my trusted handyman and painters to help if needed.”
Even though there isn’t such a thing as ‘after hours’ for Ben, when he isn’t working with clients, he is busy helping others turn lemons into lemonade. He and his wife are active with many nonprofits in West Michigan, including Bikes and Trikes. The group helps people in the area struck with financial hardship or personal tragedy. Ben also sits on the GRAR’s nonprofit, Realtors Property Crisis Fund, as the Vice Chair. The group is also dedicated to helping families who have been hit hard by fires, weather, or other misfortunes.
If you need a realtor, one who knows how to adapt and turn problems into positives, who knows his way around construction, and who will be there for you 24/7 throughout your home buying or selling journey, then Ben Colter is the agent for you. Contact 616 REALTY today and get started on your future.