New Directions: A local realtor follows his compass
For most of his life, Eric Larson’s navigational compass has pointed due north.
Born and raised in Bellingham, Larson spent more than 20 seasons working in the commercial fishing industry in Alaska alongside members of his family before transitioning into a career as a real estate agent.
While he’d loved the independence, competition for the catch, friendships and experiences that took place on the ocean during the months he fished for salmon, cod, crab and halibut, he says the time eventually came when he was ready for a new adventure—and a new commitment—on land. He’d worked with other fishermen who had made successful transitions to realtors at the Muljat Group, so he knew it was an obtainable goal.
Once he overcame the stigma of being a “salesman,” he says he realized the hard work he’d put into his previous profession would serve him well in his current one. And it has.
“The two industries share more in common than you would think,” Larson says, pointing to seasonality and the fact that each achievement is also dependent upon the effort applied to it.
“I have always known if I show up, consistently, to be prepared that my chance for success will increase,” he says. “I realized that you can be successful by being yourself, working hard and being honest.”
That edict has served him well in the years he’s been helping community members in Whatcom County buy or sell their homes and businesses. And it doesn’t hurt that he enjoys his job. One of his favorite parts about being a realtor is that he’s able to be a small piece of people’s life stories, whether they’re new to town, looking for a larger house for a growing family, downsizing or leaving the area.
“I love making them happy,” Larson says. “Happy to move in or move on.”
Almost 20 years after after first becoming a realtor, Larson is once again seeking a new direction. After many years with Coldwell Banker Bain, he recently made the move to Compass, a national real estate brokerage company that opened its first office in Whatcom County in Fairhaven in mid-December.
Located in the historic Waldron Building on 12th Street, Compass is now home to 11 brokers who have come together from different brokerages in the area to open the new space—including Derek and Erika Buse, Krista Kenner, Zach Harrison, Ken Harrison, Ann Wark, Rom Hirss, Galen Hirss, Michelle Harrington, and Anne Cantrell.
Although Larson wasn’t part of the group that initially contemplated joining the fastest-growing brokerage in the region this time last year, he’s enthusiastic about his current involvement in a company known for pairing the industry’s top talent with technology to make the search and sell experience intelligent and seamless.
“The culture, the vision of Compass, the agents that started this office, I respected tremendously,” he says. “The philosophy is that high-quality agents with great support, tools and cutting-edge technology are central to the real estate transaction, opposed to some real estate models that seek to diminish the role of the realtor.”
With a mission to “help everyone find their place in the world,” Compass was founded in New York City in 2012 by Ori Ollon and Robert Refkin and has since expanded to more than 100 cities across the United States—currently making it the third-largest brokerage in the country.
In the years Compass has grown exponentially, so too has the real estate market in Bellingham and Whatcom County. Larson points out there are more realtors than ever, making the field an increasingly competitive one.
“One of the challenges to this industry is the low barriers to entry, so the flow of agents into and out of the industry depending on the market is easy, which lends itself to a wide variety of experience and professionalism,” he says. “Currently there are more than 1,000 agents licensed in Whatcom County. The old axiom is true that 20 percent do 80 percent of the business.”
While some realtors might be put off by these numbers, Larson isn’t. Thanks to his historic knowledge of the area and his longtime involvement in the community, he’s got an edge.
“The relationships that I have help,” he allows, “but it still comes down to hard work, professionalism and integrity which creates your reputation.”
Whatever Larson is doing is working, and people are paying attention. He was voted Best Real Estate Agent in Cascadia Weekly’s Best of Bellingham issue last fall, and is starting the new year excited about his future with Compass and the collaborative spirit he’s found with his fellow realtors.
And since the new office was designed to be a hub in the Bellingham community for inspiration on all things related to the home, others should take notice, too. In addition to having a library of home design and architecture books and publications, the space has an open-concept floor plan with a stage ideal for hosting parties and events, with the intention of becoming a community gathering spot.
Larson is looking forward to finding out what the future holds for Compass, but isn’t losing sight of the choices he’s made in his life that led him to enter the real estate market in the first place.
While the unique bonds he found in the fishing community were different than what he discovered as a realtor, the concept of always being ready to help was intact. And when it comes to those making one of the biggest decisions of their lives—buying or selling a home—Larson has always been eager to assist them with their goals.
“Sometimes it is a financial decision, job, family makeup change, upsizing, downsizing, etc.,” he says, “but beyond that, home needs to make you happy, first. It is such a large investment, and we spend so much time in our homes, you really want to feel good when you pull into the driveway.”
WHAT: Compass Real Estate
WHERE: 1318 12th St.