Believe, achieve, sell

Success: Elaine Northrop, the No. 1 sales associate among 72,000 Coldwell Banker agents, uses visualization to move an extraordinary amount of real estate.

March 05, 2000|By Brian Simpson | Brian Simpson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Left hand, the one with the big diamond, spins the wheel. Right hand holds the cell phone. Elaine Northrop is backing out of the parking lot of her Ellicott City real estate office and taking care of business.

Bright sun bounces off the cream interior of her Lincoln Town Car, Presidential Edition, creating a glow. Shes wearing big sunglasses.

Northrop likes the glow, and last week in Las Vegas she made the spotlight, being named by Coldwell Banker Real Estate Inc., as No. 1 producing sales associate in its 72,000-agent network. Its the third time in less than 10 years that Northrop and her team have been awarded the honor. No other agent has been a three-time winner.

Last year, she and her team sold $97 million worth of real estate, including 322 homes and 53 lots. The average house price was $264,000. The average sales price last year for a home in Howard County -- her primary territory -- was $206,022.

Shes up against people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Connecticut, Montgomery County, said Patrick J. Kane, vice president for Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc., Obviously, its very prestigious for us to have Elaine with our company.

Northrop was surprised and absolutely delighted by the award, saying it was more meaningful because she had to sell about five times [to] 10 times the homes that her national and international competition -- with average per house sale of $3 million to $5 million -- had to sell.

Northrop has spent 27 years perfecting her sales technique, building a sales support team around her, dominating the expensive-homes market in Howard County, and buffing that successful aura.

There are the 80-hour workweeks, the flamboyant home ads for real estate magazines (each with its own story and a title like A Honey for the Money, Happy Hideaway, and Tara), the moving van (a rolling advertisement plastered with her name and photograph), the use of the new team approach to selling real estate, and her powerfully persistent personality have paid off.

Another reason for Northrops stellar numbers: a mental process called creative visualization, in which she first imagines a successful outcome and then works relentlessly toward it.

If you conceive and believe it, you can achieve it, she said. I spent my whole life [doing] creative visualization. My husband, I know I created him. He came straight out of my dreams. I have the house of my dreams. I saw it in my mind first. My children, a boy and a girl, turned out beautifully. I even created my dog.

Her attitude and level of success separate her from other real estate agents, said Joan Pittroff, sales manager at Coldwell Banker Gremplers Ellicott City office, where the Northrop team contributed more than a third of the offices $232 million in sales last year. Ive never seen anyone that works the way she does, Pittroff said. Shes dedicated, smart, tenacious. Shes visionary.

Pat Hiban, who heads the Pat Hiban Real Estate Group for Re/Max Advantage and is one of Northrops Howard County competitors, calls her an amazing woman.

He said one of Northrops key successes is in building name recognition. If youve lived in Howard County more than five years, you know who she is, Hiban said. Shes a public figure." Hiban was the lone real estate agent of several contacted who talked openly about Northrop and her style. There is little doubt over the years that her success has helped her produce an ego and maybe has spawned a streak of jealousy among her peers.

I think that certainly theres some of that [jealousy] going around, she said. I invite any of them to do what I do: work 80 hours a week. Its easy to sit back and say either that Im lucky or whatever else they might say, but they dont want to do it, to spend the money and expend the effort, etc; its a lot more than luck in maintaining this type of record.

I would say that I have a healthy ego; I dont think I have big overblown ego; I know what I can do and what Im capable of and because I believe it, I go out and create it.

Practicing wishcraft

It was late afternoon, and Elaine Northrop was wheeling the Lincoln (with personalized LIST IT license plates) toward Cattail Creek Country Club, to show a $799,000 five-bedroom. We put a sign on the back of the house, as well as the front, she said, explaining that it backs onto a golf course. Golfers are potential customers.

As she pulled up to the house, the clients, a young couple, were waiting. She glossed over her tardiness as she raved about the house and neighborhood. When the key didnt work on the front door, she entered through the garage and told the couple to wait out front. Im building up the suspense for you to get in the house, she said.

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