Capitalism, Part II: Real Estate - Martha Turner
Capitalism, led only by faith and freedom, has deep roots in America's history. It is the economic system that built the greatest nation on earth, yet today it is under assault. For those who choose achievement over government dependence, it is important to go to ground zero in today's economy: Houston, Texas. Why Houston? A global city, Houston's economy ranks #1 as the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and tops New York as America's most ethnically diverse. Nationwide, as companies flounder in a down economy, insight is gleaned from three of Houston's top business leaders. Through them, the primacy of American Capitalism is on full display.
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MARTHA TURNER — REAL ESTATE
The American Dream of homeownership is under attack, claims the National Board of Realtors. At the core of American capitalism is the quest to own a home as part of the American dream. When government coerced banks and mortgage lenders to give loans to buyers who had no means of paying them back, real estate brokers got caught in the downdraft. Today, a shaky economy and depressed housing markets nationwide have many brokers struggling.
Seeing the head winds, Houston realtor Martha Turner, of Martha Turner Properties, got busy. In a daring move, Turner radically changed her company's sales strategy. She personally stepped before TV cameras and used a locally-aired commercial to get the word out. Known in Houston for selling high-end properties, Turner opened the flood-gates by letting Houston homeowners know that the expertise of Houston's number one independent real estate company was there for them. With a natural charm and steadfast sincerity, Turner told viewers, "We want to be your Realtor." To weather the storm of a depressed real estate market, Turner declared that Martha Turner Properties would now broker sales on homes ranging in price from $20 million to $20 thousand. It worked. Turner's company rode out what could have been a difficult period with ingenuity. The phones started ringing and business remained stable for Turner's company while many realtors abandoned the market. In 2011, Martha Turner Properties topped $1.3 billion by selling homes ranging from over $8 million to $15,000. It was a record year.
Turner understands the free market. With high-end clients financially strapped, mid-range listings kept Turner and company selling in a weak market. Today, CultureMap-Houston's Ralph Bivens reports economist Ted Jones' 2012 forecast: "We have eaten through the inventory. In the next 18 to 20 months, home prices will go up significantly. We have the highest home prices in the history of Houston, Texas. The market is back." As a significant economic indicator, real estate sales lead to purchases of furnishings, appliances, flooring, insulation, carpentry, gardening and so forth. Consumers spend, jobs are created and the economy grows. Free enterprise flourishes. Free-market capitalism succeeds.
Houston's good news, however, is not widespread nationwide. A rocky national economy still creates uncertainty as banks remain reluctant to make loans as jobs are being lost. Even so, the siren call of low interest rates has so-called "smart money" using cash to again buy commercial and residential property. Turner wisely credits Houston's business environment as her silent, yet robust partner. With Turner setting the pace, others followed. For 2012, American Express ranks Houston as the top city for women-owned businesses based on revenue. At its core, Houston is driven by the principles of capitalism, free enterprise and its renowned generosity to charitable causes. Even so, Turner is aware that increased regulations and higher taxes by Washington can eventually stymy growth. "Starting in business today, I don't think people know how much regulations and taxes are involved and how much they are increasing every year," she says. "Costs are going up just trying to keep track and file responses to the government. There are restrictions on what I can do for my employees. Without high taxes, we would have more to share."
While incentive drives Martha Turner, fair play guides her. It was in a small, east Texas town where young Martha made her first sale in her family's dry goods and hardware store. Then, came college. A former teacher, she entered the Houston real estate market in 1981 when interest rates were soaring and agents were bailing. Her entrepreneurial spirit unshaken, she said, "That's okay. I'll be the only one selling houses." She set up shop in a borrowed office that she cleaned and swept daily, took out a loan, and advertised. Turner says the mainstays of her company are excellence backed by hard work and a win-win outcome for all parties involved. Turner's profound belief is that all people are equal. Though devout in her personal faith, her employees are of many -- including Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Through her outreach, Turner serves Houston's homeless, hospices, mentally disabled, and medical foundations among numerous other charities.
Martha Turner's advice to the government is to privatize where possible, incentivize people to be self-reliant, lower taxes, cut regulations and step out of the way of faith and free enterprise. Through hard work and a giving heart, a young east Texas girl travelled the road to success under the fairest economic system in the world -- capitalism. Martha Turner wants the same equal opportunities for all young Americans. Apprehensive about what the economy bodes for their future, she says with concern, "The worst thing that can happen is not to know your own potential." Ever the optimist, she then smiles with words of encouragement to her grandchildren's generation, "Dream the dream. Don't let what is happening in the country today get in your way. There will always be room for young entrepreneurs." She should know. It was, after all, a young Martha Turner who found the road to success through capitalism, free enterprise and a charitable heart.
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Next in series: Capitalism, Part III: Charities - George Strake
Related articles: Capitalism, Part I: Retail - Jim McIngvale
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Sharon Sebastian (www.DarwinsRacists.com) is an author, writer, and contributor to various forms of media including cultural and political broadcasts, print, and online websites. In addition to the heated global debate on creation vs. evolution, her second book, Darwin's Racists - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, highlights the impact of Social Darwinism's Marxist/Socialist underpinnings on the culture, the faith and current policy out of Washington.