Local Realtor Harolyn Holmes counts herself blessed to be involved in a profession that she not only loves, but one that allows her the flexibility to spend time with her family while reaping the inner self-fulfillment of her hard work.
Holmes is a Realtor with Hot Springs Realty who has been named Platinum level for each of the six years she has been with them, with a sales volume of $5 million-plus. At one time, a schoolteacher and high school principal, the real estate business came naturally to Holmes as she would spend her summers helping out in her mother's real estate company, Glenda Locke & Associates, in Pine Bluff where she grew up.
After some 30 years in education, Holmes was ready for the next chapter in her life, which was not retirement.
"I like the flexible hours," she said of working in real estate. "After living 'by a bell' in education, this was refreshing. I like it in a resort town. I love meeting people, I love working with people, and I wanted something to do that I wasn't on a pay scale. I made what I worked for. The harder I worked, the more money I make. So that was refreshing."
As one who would assume to be out on the lake as anywhere, Holmes fell in love with Hot Springs right at 22 years ago when her family moved to the Spa City from Pine Bluff.
Now with two grown daughters, of whom she said she is extremely proud, it is her three grandsons whom she notes as the "loves of my life." Holmes' younger daughter, Julie, lives in Little Rock and has her grandsons, Grayson, 9, and Wesley, 7, while her oldest daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Jimmy, live in Ponte Vedra, Fla., with her oldest grandson, Maddox, 15. When not boating, fishing, going to a Razorback game, or just hanging out with her family, Holmes also loves to paint and restore furniture.
When asked what she loves most about Hot Springs, she doesn't hesitate when declaring the lake.
"I live on Lake Hamilton," she said. "I own my own party barge and I like going up and down the lake. I like entertaining, and when you live on the lake, you've always got company."
Holmes says she absolutely loves her work as well and is by no means ready to slow down just yet.
"I love it here," she said. "I love Hot Springs Realty. I don't want to work for anybody else. We have a close-knit family. Our broker, Robert Foust, is phenomenal, and I worked my way to this office, which I'm proud to have. But yeah, it's a good place to work."
The housing market in Hot Springs has been very busy, she said, which is a good thing for Realtors because, "If a house goes on the market, it sells." However, the other side to that is that it sometimes makes it difficult for buyers. Holmes gave a recent example.
"For instance, I've got a horse veterinarian who comes for the race meet," she said. "He's rented and we've been looking for two years now for something for him to buy. Well, he's only here during race season, so if something comes on the market, he can't get here before it's sold. And he's ready to buy. He has made a couple of offers -- full price -- and, of course, he got outbid. But the downside to this good thing is if you're not in town when something goes on the market, you don't have a chance. I've worked with him and he doesn't want to rent anymore, and he has the money, and we cannot make it happen."
What Holmes learned working in the family business during the 1980s did not exactly help her today, she noted, because everything has changed so much.
"I remember making many trips to the courthouse and going office to office to get keys to show property," she said. "And now we've got the lockbox and we've got, you know, everything online right there. The square footage -- we don't have to go measure it. We don't have go to the courthouse -- we can just look it up. So since the '80s to now, just like everything else, it has drastically changed."
Also among the changes is inflated pricing. Holmes explains if it's priced even close, it's going to sell -- and usually for a higher price. Something new to the real estate business is what's called an "escalation clause." This is a contract in which a buyer is allowed to increase their offer if a seller receives a higher offer. Holmes said she recently wrote one up.
"It was $5,000 over listed price and we had an escalation clause, which said buyer will pay five grand over highest offer, not to exceed ... and had a cap on it," she said. "That is totally new. Just because you offer full price or five grand over doesn't mean you're getting the home. So we put that escalation clause in there if the buyer's willing to do it. And, of course, they have to see proof that there was another offer. But it just gives them a better chance of getting the house because they've upped it five (grand) -- I've even seen 10 grand -- above their offer with a cap, not to exceed, say $650k, or whatever the price may be. But that is totally new and I'm seeing that more. I mean, a full price offer, anymore, doesn't necessarily get you the house."
When asked if any particular areas of Hot Springs seem to be selling more than others currently, Holmes notes the Park Avenue area. She said there's a lot of renovation happening there and, while the lake area is always a hot market, Park Avenue is an area really seeing some growth and refurbishing.
Asked what she encourages buyers and sellers to do in this current market, Holmes says for buyers to be preapproved and know that the property is probably not going to last long. Regarding sellers, she said right now it is a seller's market and that one can just name their price and hope it appraises.
"Something else I've noticed is a lot of people buying second homes now more than ever because they're not traveling as much," she said. "They're not doing these $10,000 vacations to Hawaii or wherever. We have a lot of people coming here and investing in a second home opposed to normally what would be their annual vacation. The VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) market has been very hot because we are a resort. I've even seen some people. ... We've had people come in here back during the hurricane and a lot of people from Louisiana coming in here wanting the magazines and wanting to relocate because they came here to get away from that and they want to stay. So that's neat. You know, we have a lot of walk-ins because our location is great. The English Muffin, people visiting or people staying over here at The DoubleTree, so we get quite a bit of walk-ins and everybody has a different story, but everybody's looking for a home."
One of the best aspects of being a Realtor, for Holmes, is the opportunity it affords for meeting new people. In fact, many of her closest friends have come as a result of helping them buy a new home. Asked where many of the outside buyers move in from, she said many move to Hot Springs from the west coast.
"We have a lot of people from the California area because they think our stuff is cheap," she said. "You know. I recently sold to a couple and it was an internet lead. If we have phone duty, we get internet leads. And so I always follow up and I met the couple. We've become best friends. They bought a $450,000 lake lot from me, just built a home, moved in. And, you know, I've made a lot of friends from people moving from out, in."
Buying a place on the lake, the couple wanted to see the lot from the lake itself.
"Something else that's nice -- and me living on the lake -- these particular people said, 'I wish we could see that lake lot from the lake,'" she said. "I said, 'Let's do it.' So I put them on the barge and we go. So that's neat and we've just become good, good friends. We've gone to dinner; I've introduced them to my circle of friends and they'll be lifetime friends. They were ready to get out of California."
Hot Springs, Holmes said, is becoming much more than a summer resort town or place to see the horse races. With the casino, festivals and other various activities happening around town, there is a lot more to offer. Now when people visit, that visit could end with them moving to the Spa City. Realizing that, Holmes doesn't see herself slowing down -- not just yet, anyway.
"I said a couple months ago I was going to slow down and I had six things under contract in a week's time," she said. "There's no slowing down. I'm not wired that way. You know, I stay busy. I turned 66 in June and most of my friends are retired, mostly from education, but I'm just driven. You know, so, it's been a great fit for me."