Country Rockers

A sense of humor and a deep work ethic keep this company humming

Century 21 Farm and Forest Realty Inc. on U.S. 5 in Derby occupies the end unit of a shopping plaza that’s also home to other businesses, including an attorney and a credit union. Immediately next door to Farm and Forest is a hair salon, and as one enters the front door of the Century 21 unit, it’s possible to catch a faint whiff of expensive shampoo.

The unit occupied by the agency once housed a fitness club. Although the treadmills are long gone, the racquetball court downstairs has been converted into a meeting room, and former workout spaces have become a honeycomb of offices. It is here that father-and-son duo Daniel and Nicholas Maclure show that although the space has dropped its free weights, it’s still hard work and persistence that brings business in the door.

Perhaps that’s why Farm and Forest Realty has maintained its status as the number one Realtor in Orleans County for several years. Under the guidance of the Maclures, with Dan as principal broker and Nicholas as broker and assisting with management duties, the agency choreographs 17 agents (14 of them under a single roof), somehow gracefully dodging internal turf wars, and all the while staying ahead of the market slump.

As the name suggests, Century 21 Farm and Forest Realty does deal in agricultural properties and land and timber tracts, but its listings of properties contains more diversity, and includes everything from residential to waterfront property; commercial real estate sales to rentals. Rather, the name reflects Dan’s focus when he started Farm and Forest Realty back in ’93. It clearly marks the professional trail he traveled in order to arrive at the doorstep of his own agency.

After Dan graduated from Lake Region Union High School in 1972, he worked as a builder. His father’s unexpected illness and death in ’76 brought him back to the family dairy farm. Being the nearest at hand, Dan took up the yoke and ran the farm until circumstances forced him to sell in 1984. (The Irasburg farm is now known as the Nelson Farm).

Knowing he needed to do something, Dan thought real estate seemed like an interesting pursuit and earned his real estate license, eventually working for several agencies and selling modular homes from Canada. In the early ’90s, he started having second thoughts about whether real estate was really for him, and spent a year in logging. “After logging for a year,” he says with a wry grin, “I thought real estate was really the place I wanted to be.”

In October 1993, after discussing it with his wife, Ellen, Dan bought a house in the village of Orleans and started Farm and Forest Realty. Over the next couple of years, things snowballed: Agents approached him asking for work and several deals led him to acquire Fletcher Potter Realty in ’95; Memphremagog Realty in ’96; and Century 21 Select Realty North in ’99. The last acquisition marked Dan’s decision to bring the Farm and Forestry Realty name under the umbrella of the Century 21 franchise.

“It was a good move to get into a franchise,” says Dan, explaining that doing so provided the company with invaluable guidance from both corporate and the agents newly acquired through the deal.

Because of these acquisitions, Maclure had three offices open simultaneously. “It just seemed to be too much duplication,” says Maclure. One by one he closed the other offices and brought all of his agents together at the location once home to Memphremagog Realty, near Community Bank in Derby. The firm now has one other office in East Burke, which is managed by broker Annette Dalley. In addition to the 17 agents, the company employs three others: Tamara Pare, office manager; Jennifer LeBlanc, receptionist; and Ellen Maclure, Dan’s wife, who fills in around the office when needed.

In the fall of 2000, he worked out a deal to lease the entire shopping plaza down the road with an option to buy after a year. He set to work immediately, renovating the former fitness club in order to move the agency to a larger space. The plan was to make the move in January, but the day after Christmas, a fire ravaged their offices. “We walked out with an old box, which happened to have our escrow checkbook and a few odds and ends,” says Dan. “That was it. It was a total loss.”

This forced a move to the new offices a month before planned; renovations were finished, but the office was still unfurnished. A number of backups helped them get running again, but they had to begin the arduous task of rebuilding their documents and obtaining original signed documents. “That was time-consuming,” says Dan, “... and character building.” It took four months before operations were running smoothly.

Around the time of the fire, Nicholas became involved in the business. For Nicholas, obviously, real estate had been a part of growing up, and he recounts fond memories of spending Sundays going to showings with his father. During his senior spring semester at Lake Region Union High School, with basketball and soccer seasons over, it seemed natural to double up on his studies in order to pass the test for his real estate license. He wasn’t certain he wanted to do it for a living, but he figured it would be an ideal summer job while he pursued a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Vermont. He passed the real estate test, but in his senior year at UVM, as he was poised to graduate, Nicholas decided real estate was destined to be more than a summer gig.

Before making the commitment, he and a friend traveled west and divided the next year between Colorado and Alaska. Upon returning to Vermont, he joined the agency full time and began studying for his broker’s license. His timing was impeccable; just as Nicholas passed his exam in 2006, the agent who was helping Dan with management moved on to a solo venture. This year, he joined his parents as co-owner of the agency.

Nick has earned a number of accolades, including Realtor of the Year for Orleans County, and first and second places for sales volume for Century 21 in Vermont. His father jumps to point out he, himself, was in his 40s before earning Realtor of the Year for the county.

Nicholas’ assuming co-ownership has allowed Dan more time to spend with Ellen, now a retired teacher. “I’m still principal broker, but he’s there more than I am.” In addition to Nick, Dan and Ellen have a daughter, Emily, who also sold real estate for the firm at one time.

When he’s not at the agency, Dan enjoys outdoor activities like hunting and snowmobiling. He also raises grass-fed beefalo, which means he’s up at 5 every morning at his farm in Barton to check on them before heading to work at the agency. Alhough he’s up early, Dan says that Nicholas is always there first and is always last to leave — the sort of schedule Dan used to keep.

Nicholas puts in long hours but still finds time to enjoy all that Vermont’s outdoors has to offer, and is an avid outdoorsman like his father. He particularly enjoys hiking, kayaking, and skiing. He also buys and restores old cars and currently owns a ’67 Mustang and a ’55 Ford in addition to his newer vehicles.

Perhaps it’s Nicholas’s long hours and Dan’s years of experience that keep the agency’s numerous brokers and agents in harmonious synchronicity, bringing the diverse array of talents and expertise together under a single roof. It might explain why they’ve weathered the housing market slump.

“It’s a hard market right now,” says Dan, “If you don’t do things differently than you have in the past, you’re probably going to sink. We’re not seeing the high-end stuff like we did back a few years ago, so we’re working hard and selling more smaller stuff to make up, but the bottom line is we’re hanging in there.” Things are looking up, with increased sales of 25 percent over last year and over $20 million in real estate moved by late August.

Client Gaetan Delabruere, co-owner of Gates Electric in Newport, speaks highly of the firm, specifically of his experiences with Nicholas. Delabruere and his wife were on the fence about selling their house for several years, and made the decision this summer to finally sell.

They have worked with Nick throughout the process, and Delabruere has nothing but high praise for him. “Nicholas was very good, very through,” says Delabruere. “The whole process, from the offering to the counter-offering, Nick really did a fantastic job and gave us some really good advice”

Dan says that buyers from out of state are often surprised by prices in the Vermont market, because they expect the same sort of markdowns that they’re seeing back in their own states. “They see a property for a hundred thousand and they expect to buy it for fifty thousand, because that’s how it is in California. They’re blown away that it’s not like that,” says Dan, although most buyers are quick to understand, he says, when he takes the time to explain how Vermont operates.

“Everything takes time in Vermont. I used to hate it, but it has probably also has helped prevent us from being in the same situation that other states are in with over-speculation and so on. As much as you may hate it sometimes, you learn to love it at others.” •