If we can achieve authenticity and full transparency across all levels of the association, we will have more unity. I am a unifier and a bridge builder.
Marcus Phipps will let you know when he feels as if he’s made it in real estate.
Real estate has supported his family since 1997. He has owned his own firm since 2005 and now has 11 agents. He’s volunteered extensively in the local and state REALTOR® associations. At the Shaping Texas Conference in September, Phipps was sworn in as the 2023 Texas REALTORS® Chairman.
While Phipps has built a successful business and earned the respect of peers, he takes nothing for granted. “Real estate is such a meaningful career for me, but after 26 years in the business, I still cannot answer the question of if I’ve made it. There’s always somewhere else to go.”
If anything, real estate has been another avenue for Phipps to help others. Other people’s success is truly what motivates him. “I never seek to be the largest producer in town or in my company,” he says. “I get a whole lot more joy out of writing really nice commission checks for my agents than I do from receiving one of my own. Helping others achieve greatness has been part of my fuel for all the years I’ve been in business.”
He wants members to know they can call him with questions or to seek advice. “You’ll learn I’m not a hard person to talk with,” he says. “I’m very easy to find.”
Taking the Stage
One of Marcus Phipps’s great passions is performing musicals onstage.
He is active in the Harlingen Community Theater. He first got involved in the early 1990s during productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Carousel.
He stepped away from the theater for many years. Phipps got back into it when his kids auditioned for The Sound of Music and he ended up being cast as Captain Von Trapp. “I had my first interview for Texas REALTORS® regional vice president over the phone because I was in final rehearsals,” he says.
His favorite role was Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. “That role was such a fit for me personally, but it also stretched me and challenged me, especially on memory work.” Phipps completely identified with the character, a man who loves his family and community and tries to lead his people.
Phipps enjoyed playing Harold Hill in The Music Man. His mother always wanted him to play the role, which he found physically challenging. The song “Ya Got Trouble” is especially fast paced, non-stop, and challenging to sing.
He also played The Baker in Into the Woods; he loved the songs in that one. The one role he’s never played but always wanted to is Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.
From music to home sales
Back in 1995, Phipps was the youth and music pastor for a church in Harlingen. He considered getting into the music business and weighed the demands of that career against his responsibilities to his family. “I decided I did not want to be the father of an infant and a husband of only three years and pursuing a Christian recording career,” he says.
A conversation with a friend about real estate turned into Phipps selling properties to supplement his church income. “After about a year, the church asked me to go part-time, and my real estate career was thriving, so I just flip-flopped careers.”
Phipps has almost exclusively sold houses in his career. The first property he ever sold was a roughly 1,500 square foot house on five acres. The deal closed for $90,000 on his third wedding anniversary. “I subsequently sold that same client a larger house. I sold that house and then sold them another larger house. Finally, I sold that house when they ultimately left the area. I have always worked by referral and have been a client-for-life kind of guy,” he continues.
Phipps started working for a company in Brownsville and built the company’s presence in Harlingen. “From almost day one, I was effectively a manager,” he says.
Phipps started his own company, Harlingen Homes, in March 2005. It focused on residential sales, but started managing properties in 2008-09 during the Great Recession. Today, Harlingen Homes manages about 50 homes.
His advice to new agents is to work your databases and connections. Tell your networks that you are a real estate professional, then tell them again and again. Get referrals and grow your spheres of influence. “It’s always about your client and never about you,” he says.
Phipps only works with referrals and repeat business. “I don’t take any incoming calls. I give those to my agents,” he says. “The website drives a lot of business, and those go to my agents, too.”
Phipps remains an educator at heart. His strategy for generating tomorrow’s business is being a great agent for the client he is working with today. “My goal for every transaction is for my clients to know what’s happening at all times and completely understand what they’re doing and why. They know what the outcome of those actions are going to be.”
The leadership journey in any role is 100% about the 112 members of your local association, or the 2,000 members of your region, or the 155,000 members of Texas REALTORS . It is not about the one person looking at you in the mirror every morning.
A sense of duty and responsibility
Phipps started volunteering with his local board, the Harlingen Board of REALTORS®, out of a sense of duty and responsibility to the association. Phipps joined the MLS Committee. “This was the era of books. I served on the MLS Committee when we transitioned from a book-based system to an online system,” he says.
He served on several other local committees, too, including professional standards, public relations, RPAC, and government affairs. He joined the board of directors and later became president of the association.
Volunteering is not a glamorous role, Phipps says. “I have learned that this is a very selfless position. Which is absolutely fine by me. That’s who I am. I don’t do things for myself; I do things for others. The leadership journey in any role is 100% about the 112 members of your local association, or the 2,000 members of your region, or the 155,000 members of Texas REALTORS®. It is not about the one person looking at you in the mirror every morning. It is not about me.”
He has served on the Texas REALTORS® Public Policy Land Use Committee, Budget Committee, Professional Standards Committee, and Political Involvement Committee and was a regional vice president for Region 11 for four years. “I made it a priority to physically visit each board at least once a year, if not more,” he adds. “I reached out to them and was an intentional resource and guide to the local associations.”
It was his work as a regional vice president that caught the attention of other Texas REALTORS® leaders, who convinced him to begin the leadership path.
Phipps encourages REALTORS® to volunteer on committees, adding that committees fail without the involvement of members from every region in Texas. Every member can bring a unique perspective to committees. “Everything we do revolves around the local association. The water needs and infrastructure needs are very different in East Texas than they are in West Texas.”
A Joyful Noise
Christian music has been a constant in Marcus Phipps’s life. Phipps grew up in the church; his father was a pastor.
As a vocal music education major at the University of Tulsa, he started working as a choir director at a church in Tulsa. After graduation, he moved to Harlingen and started working as a high school choir teacher. He also worked in church music.
The bulk of his music career was at First United Methodist in Harlingen as the traditional music director working with handbells and choir. He went from traditional to contemporary worship and back again.
He enjoys worship leading, playing keyboard, and singing in other churches. “It’s a whole lot of fun to do it with my family because my wife and kids are all musical as well. I have a bass player, a guitar player, a drummer, a sax player, and backup singers all built into my family,” he says.
Looking ahead to 2023
Phipps is task-driven and detail-oriented. He’s a planner by nature. His leadership style is to be in front as little as possible and to put others before himself. “It’s very much an input-driven leadership style,” he says. “I may be the one that’s got the reins in my hand, but the horses are going to pull us forward.”
In his installation speech, Phipps urged REALTORS® to be authentic and fully transparent in all their personal and professional dealings. “If we can achieve authenticity and full transparency across all levels of the association, we will have more unity. I am a unifier and a bridge builder,” he says.
Phipps says that in 2023, the state association will continue its focus on fair housing and tackling any obstacles preventing qualified Texans from buying homes.
Phipps also wants to focus on competency. “A lot of people have gotten into the industry and have only known a bull market,” he says. A REALTOR® must be knowledgeable about the local market; an agent cannot work in Brownsville and claim to be an expert in Abilene.
2023 is a legislative year. Phipps looks forward to a productive session with the help of his team, association staff, committee volunteers, and REALTORS® statewide. He has seen the value of REALTOR® engagement from many perspectives, including as chairman of the association’s Political Involvement Committee. “It’s always critical that REALTORS® are involved,” says Phipps. “There’s been so much legislation we’ve introduced and supported over the years to help our industry, our association, and all Texans, but equally important are the countless harmful proposals that we’ve defeated. I hope to see more members than ever in Austin March 22 for REALTOR® Day at the Texas Capitol.”
At Home with Marcus
Phipps remembers when he only planned to stay two or three years in Harlingen. Then he met his future wife, a fourth-generation resident.
One day, her father asked Phipps about his plans. Maybe grad school and a master’s degree in sacred music, he said. Perhaps teach or get a job at a large church in a metropolitan area.
“When will you be leaving?” her father replied, implying his little girl wasn’t going anywhere! Phipps and his wife married in 1993 and soon built their own home next door, “140 feet from where that conversation took place.”
Together, the couple has three sons, ages 26, 23, and 17. Phipps loves playing golf with his boys. His most recent accomplishment is only crying twice while officiating his son’s wedding. “Raising three men of God, with good character who love and respect their mother is a huge accomplishment to me,” he says.
I’m proud to have a legacy as a person that people can trust and respect.
The Journey So Far
Phipps is gratified by the work he’s done growing Harlingen Homes as a company that people respect. “I’m proud to have a legacy as a person that people can trust and respect,” he says.
He is happy with what he’s accomplished with the REALTOR® association so far, too. “I feel like I’ve done what I could to be a good leader for the members. I’ve helped to influence good things happening within the REALTOR® association. I give more time away in any given week than I ever spend working, and that’s OK with me,” he says. “I love what I do for the association just as much as I enjoy selling houses.”