Getting to Know Lancaster Real Estate Agents

by Owen Sechrist

Mary Tribble with Contact info

I recently got a call from Mary Tribble, a long time friend, and local real estate agent at Puffer Morris Real Estate in Lancaster, PA. I have a great relationship with Puffer Morris Real Estate, and Mary and Ric Tribble in particular have referred more remodeling clients to Ruby Construction than anyone. When Mary asked me if I knew of anyone looking to buy a home, and I didn't, I thought the least I could do was help you get to know some of Lancaster's best real estate agents!

Ric and Mary both grew up in Kansas in very different environments. Mary in the city of Topeka which is roughly twice the population of Lancaster City. She attended Washburn University, and graduated with a degree in history. Ric, on the other hand, grew up in rural Kansas small towns and attended Southeast Kansas where he obtained a degree in economics. Ric worked in management for AT&T Kansas and an oil company, but disliked office work and moved into sales.

Married in Kansas City, Missouri, they moved to Manhattan, Kansas and over the course of 13 years worked in the apparel business as well as trying their hand at owning and running two nouvelle cuisine restaurants, which Ric noted were ahead of their time. Deciding to venture into real estate development, they acquired a property known locally as "The Orchard" after it's owner passed away. With six bungalows finished they struggled to break even on the project. Mary noted with dry humor that their bad fortune may have had karmic underpinnings; "I think we developed this sacred orchard that belonged to a deceased owner and caught a wrath. She'd died a few years before but she just came back and got us." At the time mortgage interest rates had climbed to 17%, and Mary remarked "The timing couldn't have been worse, for ravaging the landscape that's what we got." The bungalow homes became very popular 25 years later and Ric noted the couple was "once again ahead of our time."

The centralized location of Lancaster to the mid-Atlantic region brought the couple to Lancaster as Ric continued his work in apparel sales. Mary noted that she had only heard of Lancaster through the movie "Witness", and expected Lancaster City to be like Intercourse. Luckily for these urban lifestyle lovers, Lancaster's tree lined streets and stunning architecture quickly won them over.

Mary got her real estate license when they moved to Lancaster and Ric obtained his shortly thereafter and they briefly worked in real estate. In 1996 Ric began baking bread using the kitchen facilities during off hours at what was then Fred & Mary's Coffee House at 323 West Lemon Street, while Mary manned a stand at Central Market under the moniker Ric's Bread. They quickly outgrew this arrangement and moved their baking into a space in a west side neighborhood. The bakery eventually outgrew it's Pine Street location and moved to it's current location on Queen Street, always continuing to sell hearty European style breads at Central Market.

Shortly after the bakery's move to Queen Street Ric became very ill due to a heart condition and underwent a successful transplant surgery. Ric and Mary were forced to sell the business and Ric was unable to work for a year. During this time Mary opened an antique shop at 339 West Orange Street. She notes that she had a very positive reaction to the store, but the interest in antiques has been steadily declining, and there just wasn't a strong enough demand for antiques to make the store viable. According to Mary antiques have a cyclical deman, and young people today are much more interested in buying new furnishings than buying antiques, much like during the 1950's.

Ric, and to a smaller degree Mary, were both affiliated with a local real estate firm when Mary was involved in a transaction with listing agent of Puffer Morris: Bill Puffer of Puffer. Afterward Bill's partner Nancy Morris called Mary to see if she would be interested in working for Puffer Morris. Of course both Mary and Ric were interested in working for them and they both continue to actively represent clients for Puffer Morris.

Puffer Morris, formerly Puffer & Puffer, has been helping Lancastrians buy and sell properties downtown as well as outside the city for well over 20 years. Specializing in downtown Lancaster properties as well as those in Lancaster Township, they have between them an unrivaled knowledge of every nook and cranny of Lancaster city and surrounding areas. These include fantastic residential blocks of which even many downtown natives are unaware. Many of their clients also purchase suburban property throughout Lancaster County, however, the agency focuses on listing properties inside the city and it's more immediate surroundings.

I asked Mary and Ric what everyone should know about being a real estate agent that they may not know, and Ric didn't even hesitate with his response: "The difference between a listing agent and a buyer's agent. That would be a great thing for people to learn because a listing agent is the one who actually has the listing for sale and the buyers would be better off to find a separate agent to represent them." Mary was quick to point out that both agents can be from the same office, just that you don't want a situation where you have one agent with two masters (the buyer

    and
the seller). Ric commented on the potential difficulty of maintaining objectivity: "Part of the discipline of our business is to represent our client correctly with fiduciary interest in their good will and financial affairs, which you can't really do with [a buyer and seller] represented by one agent." Ric and Mary often team up to represent a buyer and seller and insure each party is represented with no conflict of interest.

Ric noted that there are exceptions to this rule, and cited and instance where a very motivated buyer approached him about a property where he was the listing agent, and very much wanted Ric to represent him as the seller's agent as well. In a case like that Ric said he makes it very clear to the seller what is going on, and if the seller is in agreement he will proceed as both parties agent for an unusually simple transaction.

I couldn't help but ask them the ultimate "markety" question: "What type of person is your ideal client?" Mary didn't even batt an eyelid before responding "Cash", which elicited a good laugh from everyone. She went on to say she really enjoys working with all types people to facilitate transactions on all kinds of properties, from $50,000 city row homes to suburban mini-mansions. I did get her to confess that she especially enjoys showing really beautiful city homes with unique features. Ric said he feels and affinity for two story brick homes in the City, with three to four bedrooms, 2 baths and a garage; a difficult find downtown.

(and yes, I know "markety" isn't a real word.... yet.... )

Ric and mary both applaud all the positive changes in Lancaster City over the past few decades. Mary noted that the city is "so much busier and so much cleaner, more vibrant..." which Ric attributed in part to good city leadership, in particular he referenced Dennis Cox, the driving force behind the Gallery Row project on North Prince Street. They both agreed that the downtown is desperately in need of one or two large retailers to anchor the downtown shopping district, and cited something like a Whole Foods store as an example. Ric remarked that "We're so pro-city we're always thinking of ideas for [Lancaster]."

If I haven't given you a compelling enough reason to contact Mary and Ric the next time you're in need of a Lancaster Real Estate agent, I'll give you a few more. I recently spoke with one of their clients who purchased a home on Temple Avenue. She described them as having great integrity, and spoke of how she trusted their opinions of a property and how it would perform over time to fit her needs. She said they did a good job of helping to find properties within her budget, including "thinking outside the box."

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