EDITOR NOTE: The Daily Press will be featuring a series of articles on local businesses, highlighting their history and what makes them unique. The series will run on a regular basis in the Daily Press.
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ESCANABA — In 1993, five local real estate agents got together to found a new company in the Upper Peninsula. Starr Romps, Greta Aronson, Renee Beauchamp and Bill Ross approached Bill Marmalick, who became the managing broker for their new business — Premier Real Estate.
“The other four people worked for another office in town. And they came to me because at that time, I was the only one that had a broker’s licence,” Marmalick explained.
In the State of Michigan, a real estate broker’s license is required to oversee or employ real estate salespersons (agents).
Real estate agents — who have already obtained a real estate salesperson license — can become brokers after three years of experience, additional coursework, sponsorship by another broker and passing exams.
When Premier began with its five equal partners, it occupied the south half of the building it does today, which is located at 118 N. 22nd St. in Escanaba. Over the course of the years, it expanded and now fills the whole building.
“And over a period of time, we took on other sales associates,” said Marmalick, stating that they had 13 agents at one point.
“Some of the original partners moved away, some of them retired. Unfortunately, one of them passed away. Until I was the last original partner left,” said Marmalick.
He was the sole owner until such time as he began to hanker for something akin to retirement. He said there was only one person he considered selling to.
Lori Rymkos has worked for Premier Real Estate since 2000. She was first licensed in 1997 and began at Alpine Realty in Gladstone.
“I was looking for a house, actually,” said Rymkos of her foray into the industry.
Rymkos explained that Elizabeth Evensen of Alpine Realty was showing her homes — but also ended up talking Rymkos into doing the same thing. Evensen said that she’d be good at it and offered to train her.
Matter-of-factly, Rymkos said, “I was going to buy a house and ended up getting my license.”
She explained that for a real estate agent, there is a variety of tasks they may do in a given day.
“Showing houses and listing homes and measuring and pictures and paperwork and closings and going to the bank,” she listed. “I mean, every day is different, but those are all stuff we do every day.”
One role of a real estate agent is to help a seller properly price their property based on market knowledge. Another important part they play is that of a middleman between seller and buyer during negotiations, which makes it easier for each party to voice their concerns.
There are seven agents with Premier, and they alternate days in the office. Rymkos said there are morning and afternoon shifts, and the agent whose job it is to take floor calls and get leads rotates through the week.
In 2016, Marmalick was ready to release ownership of Premier Real Estate. He had (and still has) another business doing appraisals, which allows him to work on his own schedule. He said he’s found a way to “semi-retire” while still remaining in real estate.
“I had a lot of people that were interested in buying this office, but she was the only one that I even considered,” said Marmalick, with a nod and a smile towards Rymkos. “I knew she could do it. And I was right.”
He added, “Lori was gracious enough to give me an office, and so I stayed and I helped her out.”
Marmalick remains an agent and associate broker with Premier.
Licensed in the State of Michigan to sell residential and commercial properties, Rymkos said that Premier mainly sticks to listings in Delta, Marquette, Dickinson and Menominee counties.
In Delta County, they currently have 85 residential listings, 20 of which are in Escanaba.
Both Marmalick and Rymkos said that the biggest changes they’ve witnessed in the industry have been technological, which Marmalick said has “eliminated hardships.” Forms used to be filled out by hand and passed off to a secretary for typing; now, designated computer programs make short work. Pictures are taken on phones, whereas Marmalick remembers using 35 mm film and spending $100 a week getting photographs developed.
Both brokers reported that more people are buying homes to use them as vacation rentals.
When asked whether trends tend to come and go in regards to what prospective property owners are looking for, Rymkos said, “Every buyer is different.”