Go North, Young Man

Real estate broker Will Northern builds Near Southside boutique firm.

When Will Northern hung his own shingle five years ago as an independent real estate broker, “people kind of chuckled at me,” he remembers, chuckling now at the memory.

Then, it was he, two agents, and his mother - working part-time, working at nights, pitching in with her finance and accounting background. Today, Northern is up to 18 agents, having just added two, and his Near Southside firm is into residential and commercial real estate. And this spring, Northern Realty Group added a residential property management service to its portfolio of services.

The firm has stood on its own since he founded it, Northern says. “It has not had a cash infusion, and we’re very proud of it,” he said recently in an interview at his West Magnolia Avenue offices.

You’ll find Northern most often plying his trade in the city’s urban villages, putting his background of residential and commercial sales in the interior city, property assemblage, and volunteer service (he’s a member of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission) to work.

Northern got his real estate license seven years ago. He’d been a landman and was laid off. Starting in residential at Brants, “things started going well for me when I started reaching out to my old oil and gas clients,” he says.

Northern sold 68 lots in Stop Six in southeast Fort Worth to a developer. Then he flipped a house for a client. “I got to play general contractor.” Not everything worked out as well as it could have. Northern tried to acquire 13 properties in southwest Fort Worth. “I got nine of the 13 under contract,” then the holdouts killed the entire deal, he says. “But it was the experience that taught me how to do an assemblage.”

Northern then got his broker’s license and went out on his own. “At first, I had friends hang their licenses with me who were new to the business,” he said.

His mother came on board fulltime in the firm’s second year. “I was able to prove it could generate enough money to support us both,” he said. The firm’s first office was in an executive suite in a building on Hemphill Street. More recently, it’s moved into the West Magnolia digs.

Northern refined the business as it went along, improving the graphic design in its brochures, yard signs, and website.

He entered commercial four years ago with the sale of a medical office tower at 8th Avenue and West Magnolia. He secured the listings for, and sold, several East Lancaster Avenue properties for their owner. Besides taking classes to learn the commercial side, “I’ve been very fortunate to have kind friends in the industry to ask questions to,” Northern says.

Last year was a big one for the firm. Northern landed Scott Blakewell, his firm’s first commercial agent besides himself and now has three, having added Michael Karol. Northern’s insight into the city has landed the company business, he says. “We do commercial real estate very well,” he says. “We focus on urban villages and bring our knowledge to get incentives and investors.”

Northern added residential property management after being approached by Rebecca Robinson, a property manager. “I did not see that coming,” he says. The property management unit under Robinson now has 27 properties, including two mixed-use multifamily. “We do not do commercial property management – yet,” Northern says.

Northern’s agents don’t pay the franchise fees charged by large firms, “so we put more money in the pockets of our agents,” he says.

These days, Northern is seeking experienced agents who have booked a minimum $2 million in sales annually. Northern said he doesn’t want the firm to get too big. His goal: 25 agents. “I want to keep the small boutique feel,” he says.