Harlingen real estate broker to take top role in state association

Oct. 6—HARLINGEN — For just the third time in 103 years, the chair of the influential Texas Association of Realtors will be held by a Valley resident.

Real estate broker Marcus Phipps of Harlingen Homes will assume the new role on Dec. 1, becoming the first Valley Realtor to hold the position since H.W. Bahnman in 1966.

"Property ownership, the buying process, anything legislative or regulatory or tax-wise having to do with private property ownership," Phipps said. "At Texas Realtors our primary legislative goal is to protect and enhance the rights and enjoyment of private property ownership, so a lot of our legislative issues work around that having to do with taxes, flood insurance, insurance in general, homeowners associations."

The Texas Realtors trade association is a powerful lobbying force in the state, with a membership of 150,000 and an annual budget of $26 million to $27 million.

Phipps is currently chair-elect. He began his association with Texas Realtors after serving as a regional vice-president from 2015-18 and then was elected to the leadership team as an officer in 2020.

One of the issues that sparked his interest in influencing legislation about private property is the curious border-only legislation commonly known as the Colonia Law. It sets limits on where and how much property can be sold by an owner without going through an expensive subdivision process.

The law passed in the 1990s is in effect for land within 50 miles of the border, and its intent was to ensure new residential developments would have adequate water and sewer services, utility connections, and ultimately discourage the growth of substandard developments.

What is does in practice is make it illegal for someone to sell a piece of property inside city limits of less than five acres or outside city limits of less than 10 acres without going through a costly subdivision process.

"Say, for example, grandma passes away, has four grandchildren and says, 'I'm going to give each of my grandkids five acres' and she just splits her land into four- or five-acre tracts without going through the subdivision process," Phipps said. "She gave each of her kids a $20,000 headache because they can't sell the property. It's illegal."

"She could have sold the 20 outright, but she can't sell the fives at all, because that would have to be subdivided and if the kids don't do it together, again it's 20,000 bucks apiece just to subdivide those five acres so it's legal to sell the property," he said.

Phipps said revising this law and how it is interpreted will be one of his priorities as chairman of the Texas Realtors' board.

Recent interest rate increases have slowed the home-buying market nationally but Phipps is bullish on the Texas market.

"From what we can tell, and what our economists all tell us, there are no crashes on the horizon, especially for Texas," he said.

Interest rates, he added, are temporary "and people realize that."

"It does impact their ability to buy, it will decrease their buying power if you will, because as the price goes up their ability to borrow goes down," he said. "There's some long-term effect there but you can re-finance when rates come down. I bought my first house at 8.5 so we're still in the sixes."

Phipps says he is often asked how he managed to rise within the Texas Association of Realtors and come to play such a prominent role.

"We're the largest and most powerful trade association in the State of Texas, Texas Realtors," he said. "What I tell people is find something you're passionate about, and serve it. And when you're given a role, fulfill that role to the best of your ability and do everything you can to be the best at what you have.

"And new opportunities will arrive."