Roland Campbell never thought about going into real estate before buying his first home in Northeast Baltimore.
But the nightmare that came with his new house drove him into the business.
First, the former owner never delivered on the washing machine and clothes drier he promised to leave in the house. Then, Mr. Campbell had plumbing problems that required him to replace the water main leading to his house.
The final indignity came when a bird flapped its way into his house through a hole in the roof that had developed over a drop ceiling.
"In short, I got into this business after getting beat on my first house," said Mr. Campbell, a Baltimore Polytechnic graduate.
Now, just over a decade after the sad experience of his first home, Mr. Campbell is president of Roland Campbell and Associates, a real estate brokerage and contracting firm.
The firm was formed in 1988 and incorporated the following year. He paired the real estate firm with a contracting company left from his late father to form an outfit that last year handled more than $5 million in home sales.
With only six agents, Mr. Campbell's firm is a small one. But, he says, his company's size often works to the benefit of customers who receive personal attention from his agents.
"I think that a lot of times people don't know enough about us," he said. "People often look at us as a smaller company, and they think a bigger company can do more for them. But we may have 50 properties listed at any one time and we can concentrate more on our customers and give them more personal service."
Mr. Campbell advertises extensively on cable television to spread the word about his company. He says his goal is to break into markets that he has yet to penetrate.
For instance, he says, his firm lists very few homes being sold by white homeowners.
He says that should change as those homeowners learn more about him. "We don't get the opportunity because of preconceived notions," he says.
Likewise, he says, even black customers sometimes frown on doing business with him, mainly because they know little about the firm.
That, too, will change as people learn more about the company, Mr. Campbell predicts.