Witman to take GBBR reins President to stress creating high profile for Baltimore group

'We can make a difference'

Realtor will also work on lowering state's high closing costs

October 18, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

As Marc Witman prepares to take over as president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, the region's existing-home sales are robust and its economic picture continues to be bright.

But there are always concerns. Concerns about an aging membership. Concerns about Maryland's high closing costs. Concerns about creating more productive partnerships with other organizations that will help give the GBBR a higher profile.

Witman, an associate broker with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. and the GBBR's Realtor of the Year, will officially take over Oct. 27 after being elected at last week's 12th annual GBBR convention. The 10-year real estate veteran knows that he has a lot to do.

"The theme of my presidency is a power through partnerships," Witman said. "The most important thing on my list is we are the champion of private property rights. We are the champion of people who want to buy and sell real estate, and we must be active in the legislative arena. To be certain that what legislation and regulation is passed has an eye toward not making this [real estate] process any more difficult."

High closing costs

He's making the high closing costs in Maryland one of his "pet issues."

Witman said closing costs in Maryland run approximately 6 percent of a home's purchase price.

"I don't know what the answer is, but I want to get the right people looking at it and I want them looking at it not as a special-interest issue, but as an economic issue for the region," Witman said. "I may fail. But they are going to know that I was there."

Witman succeeds Gilbert D. Marsiglia, who presided over a board that was coming off an unsettling year of internal strife.

"Gil dealt with a lot of the internal crises that the board was going through," said Joseph T. Landers III, a member of the Baltimore City Council from 1983 to 1991, who was hired as executive vice president by the GBBR last year.

"There were some transition years where the board was losing membership, but that seems to have been turned around and the board seems to have gotten its internal management in order. So, Gil started focusing on the board externally, trying to make a difference in the community to raise the whole profile of the board," Landers added.

'Continuity of leadership'

Said Marsiglia: "I took the board in a direction that it had never been in. I took the board in a political direction. I took them in a civic direction. I took them in a charitable direction. These were all arenas that we had not been in before.

"Now [we have] a continuity of leadership that believe in where we are going and are on the same boat. Marc will try to follow up with the things that we started and do them even better."

Said Witman: "Partnerships can move mountains, and I think we can make a difference."

Witman also noted that the GBBR was "one of the best-kept secrets not only to the community, but to our membership." He said since he joined the board in 1988, membership has dropped from approximately 5,000 members to 2,727.

The decline was due in part to a change several years ago when dues-paying Realtors were allowed to join a board of their choice. Before that change, the GBBR had a captive membership, since any Realtor who did transactions in the city and Baltimore County had to belong to the GBBR. The drop also can be attributed to the decline in membership of part-time agents.

Professional standard

Though there is a smaller membership, Witman sees a more professional standard being maintained that will benefit the consumer.

"It's good for buyers and sellers, because the agents that are in this business are more professional," he said. "There are fewer of them, each one of them is doing more business -- what I say is if you had to have surgery, would you want someone to do that surgery once or twice a year or someone who does it once or twice a week.

"You are dealing now with a more professional level of agent."

What concerns Witman is a membership that is aging.

"The thing that I think you will see happen, is that the industry will start to think about where is it going to get the young blood," Witman said.

"Go to a lunch of the Real Estate Million Dollar Association [an honorary organization for top producers], it's an older group -- and I put myself in that category. I'm 48, and where am I going to be in 10 years? And where are the people in that [organization] going to be in 10 years? It's going to be a diminishing number. The industry has to get out and recruit from the younger group."

'Intense' style

In taking over, Witman's style, according to Landers, may be more sedate than Marsiglia's.

"Gil is very intense, task-oriented and results-focused," Landers said. "He approached the board like he approached his own business.

"I don't think [Witman] style-wise is as intense personality-wise, [but] I don't think he is any less bottom-line oriented or task-oriented. You don't serve on the committees he's served on, be involved in the state organization and sell $10 million worth of real estate in a year without being bottom-line oriented and focused on tasks. He's going to be key on building partnerships.

"Gil helped to get started," Landers said, "but Marc wants to take it to another level."

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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