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Celebrating National Homeownership Month: An Interview with Real Estate Expert Brandon Nelson

June 1, 2023

June is National Homeownership Month. Being in the business of building and remodeling dream homes, we’re well aware of how meaningful homeownership really is. In the spirit of this celebration, we were pleased to be able to contribute to a recent Redfin article aimed at helping homeowners make the best use of their garage space, and we were absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to interview one of our favorite local realtors, Brandon Nelson. Here’s what Brandon had to say…


Tera: Being that June is National Homeownership Month, what can you tell us about the current state of Bellingham’s real estate market? Do we have more reason to celebrate opportunities for homeownership, less, or a bit of a mixed bag?

Brandon: It’s no secret that it has become more expensive and more difficult to become a homeowner in Bellingham. That said, it’s something that should move higher and higher on anyone’s list of goals to accomplish sooner rather than later. In Bellingham there is a massive gap between median income and median home price. It’s over 10X. And the inventory is near historic lows – it was lower only last year; it’s come up a tiny bit as interest rates rose and sales volume slowed a tiny bit. So getting into homeownership is not something you just wake up one day and decide you’re going to do it – or that you deserve it and therefore it should be easy for you. If you’re new to it, if you haven’t bought before and you don’t have a nest egg or solid six figure salary, it’s going to take some time and some planning, but YOU CAN DO IT! There are first time home buyer programs – including one we have at BNP Realtors, called A Hand Up Home, that pairs buyers with investment money from a Socially Responsible Investment fund, to cut the mortgage amount in half and requires zero down payment. We are super excited about this program and what it will do to help more people escape renting and get into the largest wealth-building asset class in the world: Real estate ownership. 

Tera: What sort of advice do you give to your clients to help take the stress out of the homebuying process and make it as enjoyable as possible?

Brandon: First and foremost, understand that buying a home isn’t a single action. It’s a process. And when done at its highest level, its most efficient pace, and in the most stress-free way, it takes a bit of time. The best thing a buyer can do to reduce stress is to start early. Come and meet with us at BNP Realtors. Bring your list of questions and concerns if you have them, but don’t worry if you don’t. We’d like to start the conversation early with you so we can head off the fears about “bidding wars”, missing something that might have been “The One”, or buying a house with something (major) wrong with it. We are selling over 200 homes a year at BNP Realtors and have year after year. We have the buying process completely dialed, we have all the relationships with the supporting businesses (there can be as many as 15!) that can be involved in the purchase, and we will walk you through it from first call to move-in and beyond. Then, once you’re no longer a buyer and now you’re an “owner”, we stay with you for the duration of your ownership. When you need repairs, maintenance, remodel advice, whatever it may be, we want to be your first call. 

“The best thing a buyer can do to reduce stress is to start early.”

Tera: At Highline, our clients are typically past the entry-level home purchase and are ready for the perfect space – something custom that feels uniquely theirs. It can be a bit of a process for individuals in this situation to decide if they want to buy and remodel or build new. I imagine your team gets people wondering this very same thing. How do you help people work through this so they can find the solution that best suits them?

Brandon: Absolutely, we meet people who fit that description quite frequently. Someone who is set on building or doing a transformative remodel has usually spent a ton of time exploring existing houses (and they’ve lived in a number of them) and have decided that they want to put their own full creativity into their home. We ask some filtering questions to make sure they know clearly just how long the process can take, and how much it can cost. The remodeling cost conversation can be somewhat moderate and reasonable, depending on the scope of work any given house might require. But the “buy a vacant lot and build a custom dream home” conversation always triggers this disclosure from us: “If you have any time or budgetary constraints, then building in Whatcom County is probably not for you.” If that doesn’t scare them off, we keep talking. I would say that 80% of the buyers who are open to either a major remodel or building new end up going the remodel route. With an existing home, the proverbial ball has already moved so far up the field compared to breaking new ground on a full build, it’s easier to purchase, it’s easier to permit, there is vastly less site feasibility required, and that makes it the better option for most people. 

“…80% of the buyers who are open to either a major remodel or building new end up going the remodel route.”

Tera: We’ve had folks call us very excited because they are planning to make an offer on a property that they think will be an easy flip and good investment opportunity. One of our values is to be transparent and honest. It’s not uncommon for us to be a complete buzzkill when we tell them the renovation they have in mind could cost far more than they have the budget for. I can’t say we ever get those sort of calls from individuals working with realtors on your team. Why is that? What work does your team do to help your clients set realistic expectations when they look at a property with the intent to renovate it?

Brandon: The seed of that philosophy comes from my own background as a builder and then a home inspector. It was always shocking to me when a first time buyer would show up for an inspection summary and would say, “I hope you didn’t find anything, because I told my Realtor I don’t want  to have any repairs to make!” And the house would literally be a tear-down. The Realtor must have been blind, or just didn’t care. It’s partly what inspired me to become a Realtor myself, because I saw the need to be a better advisor for people. Then, when we grew and formed BNP Realtors, from the start it was a matter of approaching the business from a relational standpoint versus a transactional one. We get paid when a sale closes, but our service and the longevity of our business is in getting the call from our client 7 or 10 years later saying that now they’re ready to sell. We keep that very top of mind right from the start of working with our clients. How we advise them on their selection of home, their expectations, the feasibility process, and then the advice and referrals we offer during their ownership is the foundation that our firm is built on. Also, our Realtors have all been through multiple remodel projects on their own properties, some have built from the ground up, and have advised and even general contracted the process many times. We frequently say, “the sooner we can course-correct a client’s expectations, the smoother the whole process will go.” 

Tera: We know community giving is extremely important to Brandon Nelson Partners Realtors. In fact, I think it’s fair to say you have helped inspire Highline’s community giving program. Can you tell our readers more about your efforts in this regard and why investing in our local community continues to be a priority for BNPR?

Brandon: Well I am very humbled by your kind words. Thank you! The financial and volunteer support that BNP has been able to give has only been possible because of the clients who buy and sell with us, and those – like Highline – that refer us new business. I can’t imagine any scenario where we don’t reciprocate that support by investing to help the community. I also want to live and raise kids in a community where businesses give back, show up to volunteer, make meaningful donations and contributions to the quality of life here. That, to me, is symbolic of a healthy, vibrant, growing community made up of strong people, strong kids, and strong businesses. 

Brandon preparing the bouys for the Lake Whatcom Triathalon. BNP Realtors has been the presenting sponsor of this local event for years as part of their ongoing commitment to community giving.


Tera: I know another area we have similar perspectives on is the importance of doing right by our employees and investing in building a strong team. How important would you say it is to have the right people on the BNPR and to treat them well in order to be able to also do right by your clients and help make their dream homes a reality?

Brandon: I’ve watched a lot of businesses, real estate companies and teams included, that hire the lowest-cost, least experienced people who will take the job, and then struggle with low morale and high turnover. If that was a requirement of business leadership, I would have no interest. Instead, we built BNP on the philosophy that, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time around”. So I say, Choose those people very carefully, and pay them handsomely. Our Realtors will work until 1 a.m. when necessary. They will fill all the gaps in a transaction even if it’s not “their job.” Our Realtors at BNP are who I would want my mom or dad to work with if they were buying or selling here, 100%. 

BNP Realtors’ new office space on Lakeway Drive in Bellingham, WA – a commercial remodel done right.



Tera: Recently, your team moved into a new building. Congrats! What has that been like? How does it feel to have a new work home, so to speak?

Brandon: Thank you! We are CRAZY in love with our new space. First, the location is about as central and convenient as any we could have hoped for. 1100 Lakeway Dr. is a block from I-5 access, a hundred yards from Whole Foods, across the street from the City pool and Civic Stadium. Second, the building has the quality and aesthetics that help establish our brand, both outside and in – thanks to Highline leading the interior remodel! We live for that first impression comment when a new client walks through the door and says, “OK, NICE PLACE!” Third, the quality of actual workspace for our team members is unlike anything we could have imagined. So much natural light, so much space, all the modern amenities and features. We’re in real estate office nirvana here. Oh, and the 30,000+ cars a day driving right past us doesn’t hurt either.

“…the [BNP Realtors] building has the quality and aesthetics that help establish our brand, both outside and in – thanks to Highline leading the interior remodel!”

Smart design of an office space can elevate workforce morale and productivity. BNP Realtors has got it figured out!


Tera: Thank you for taking the time to connect with us. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share in the spirit of National Homeownership Month?

Brandon: Real estate ownership in any location is one of the most disproportionately lucrative and tax-advantaged investments a person can make. Bellingham real estate in particular is even better, because of the quality of life here and, to be clear, because of the low supply. We are never going to see sprawling suburbs anywhere near Bellingham, and that alone will keep values high and growing well beyond just one lifetime. Make it a goal to own real estate here. If you already own your home, start thinking of an investment property. Regardless of where you think you might be on that path, reach out to us at BNP Realtors and we’ll talk about next steps. 

Back to the Recently at Highline

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