All in the family: Realty business all relative for local company’s founder

When longtime real estate agent Nancy Arthur decided to start her own real estate company in 2007, she wanted to create something lasting.

“I’ve been in real estate for 25 years, and just wanted to have something of my own to pass on to my kids and grandkids,” she said.

When Arthur, 61, opened Advantage Real Estate, her daughter, 42-year-old Desni Crock, had already been a licensed real estate agent for five years. Arthur’s youngest son, 29-year-old Justin Arthur, was just getting involved in the profession. But when oldest son J.J. Bichard, 42, decided to get his real estate license less than a year ago, it came as somewhat of a shock.

“When J.J. took an interest, that just completely surprised me,” said Nancy.

In fact, Bichard himself had never been interested in his mother’s line of work before.

“I really didn’t have an opinion on it when I was younger. I told myself I’d never get into it,” he said.

But about a year ago, Bichard, a commercial accounts and Internet accounts manager for The Working Man Store, decided he wanted to throw his hat in the real estate ring as well.

“I think J.J. just got tried of us sitting around the dinner table and talking about it,” joked Crock.

Having all three of Nancy’s children involved in the family business means the family has plenty of opportunities to support one another both in business and in everyday life.

For example, the business is much less competitive than a typical real estate office, where agents are often competing against one another for sales.

“Here there is no competition, we trust everyone,” said Crock.

That includes a handful of agents who are not related to Nancy, but are still considered family, she said.

“We all help each other out. I call it tag team real estate,” she said.

The cooperative atmosphere provides a lot of flexibility. For example, if Crock needs to show a house without daughters Bridget, 7, and Anna, 4, the girls can stay with “me-maw.” In fact, all four of Nancy’s grandchildren have their own “office” in the back and sometimes like to help out.

“Bridget tries to answer the phone sometimes. Anna is our greeter. She’ll run out and give people a big hug,” said Crock.

Though the girls are much too young to be hammering out a career path, Justin recalls growing up in much the same way.

“I’ve been around real estate my entire life. I was going to showings and open houses when I was 6 and 7 years old. I learned a lot about it and went with it,” he said.

The flexibility of the family-owned business has also proven a blessing as the family combated some tough medical issues.

When Crock’s daughter Bridget was diagnosed with a rare childhood chest tumor known as pleuropulmonary blastoma in October 2008, she had to spend much less time at work. Bridget is now cancer-free and doing well, but being able to be so involved in her treatment would have been much harder in a typical office environment.

However, not everything about working with family makes things easier, added Crock.

“There are standards that the state of Ohio has for you and there are standards that the National Association of Realtors has for you, and then there are mom’s standards, which are much higher,” she said, with a laugh.

Nancy may have rigid standards, but she certainly is not disappointed in her three children’s performance.

“I like watching them work through a problem and seeing how much they care about the people they are working with,” she said.

Those people are part of a community to which Nancy feels a very strong connection.

For every home sold, the company makes a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, which aids wounded servicemen and women. Bichard, who also volunteers for the Devola Fire Department, participates in many Wounded Warrior events.

Justin Arthur is a member of the Marietta Noon Lions Club. Nancy is heavily involved in Washington County Homebuilders. Crock is a founding member of BrAva, an area childhood cancer awareness group. She is also active in Relay for Life, The Zonta Club of Marietta, and Road to Recovery.

“I think when you live in a community and take from it, you should give back to it,” said Nancy.