Realtors see company growth over transitioning housing market


BENNINGTON -- Since opening as a RE/MAX affiliate on Northside Drive in 2008, Maple Leaf Realty has grown to be more than an independent realty office.

Indeed, it has a distinct place in the business community.

Maple Leaf's owners Troy Richardson and Kathy Sollien and their affiliated Realtors work with property owners to lease and manage properties, and oversee the sales of many of the commercial and residential properties in town.

Richardson and Sollien have headed the various parts of the multi-faceted realty business model since they founded Maple Leaf.

"That's really what helped us: Because when residential sales are down, some of those business lines generate a steady income," Richardson said. "We built a very good business around some of those other businesses that are not necessarily conventional real estate."

After moving to the 210 South Street office complex and starting a second location in Sunderland, the realty agency now contracts with 14 full-time Realtors in Bennington County and nearby New York.

The Maple Leaf owners said the economy has shown a trickle down effect on real estate. They have nine current commercial listings on Main Street alone.

"It's not just real estate; it's not just economic development; it's not just banks: We are all pulling together to try and make this happen," Richardson said.

Commercial and retail jobs in Bennington are starting to replace some of the industrial and warehouse jobs.

Richardson manages the office's commercial clients.

He said that until now, the commercial real estate has been stagnant. The town's business sector has taken on initiatives to seek out niche markets that would complement the businesses already in town to fill large empty buildings.

"We are really starting to see more commercial business happen. Typically, we see commercial lag behind residential," he said. "When businesses start to invest, move, grow or build: That's when we really start to see the economy change."

Sollien is the office's principal broker. She said she had witnessed a flux in the residential real estate market since the start of the recession.

According to the town's 2014 draft housing study, residential listings over $300,000 have an increased demand.

"It tells me, anyway, that people are pulling their money out of wherever they have it invested, to buy second homes or primary residences."

Nevertheless, the middle-class residential real estate market is oversaturated with listings, according to Sollien.

She said there is a sign of a turnaround.

Richardson said there is a large pool of available houses in Bennington, and that the people looking to buy homes spend a longer amount of time contemplating their options.

"When you have too many things to choose from, you cannot decide," which Richardson said of residential properties, is often a very emotional experience for the buyers. "That's the problem we are in: There are plenty of buyers out there, they just can't make a decision."

Each of Maple Leaf's Realtors establishes their own business base, helping clients through repeat business and referral.

Maple Leaf has sponsored many local community events, and its Realtors pride themselves on being a part of a "full-service, full-time agency."

Richardson is also a Vermont Realtors prelicensing instructor, and extends his knowledge to the Maple Leaf team.

Find Maple Leaf, its listings or its agents online at

Contact Tom Momberg at Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.


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