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Leadership in Action 6 of 12
Jim Napier leads a real-estate company founded by his father, Oscar (now 91) in 1958. Napier, a former president of the Richmond Association of Realtors (RAR), received the Spirit of Giving Award in November from the Association of Fundraising Professionals for his work with multiple nonprofits, including the Faison School for Autism and the Massey Cancer Center. He also serves as the chairman of the Partnership for Housing Affordability.
Q: What are your golden rules of real estate?
A: Treat people the way you want to be treated. And no commission is ever worth compromising your standards, your ethics. The name on the sign is my father's name and I need to be sure that I do honor to him for the business he created.
Q: So, how did we end up with our current saturated market?
A: What got us here from a national perspective was nothing more than greed. The mortgage industry crafted exotic products, making it easier for folks to get into homes who shouldn't have gotten them at that time in their lives, and then came the packaging [and sale] of those mortgage-backed securities. … Everybody was chasing the deal, and we as an industry got caught up in it as well. That artificial demand couldn't be sustained. Now, we find ourselves in a long period of correction.
Q: What else could be done to improve the scenario?
A: I think the $8,000 tax credit should be applied to all buyers of primary residences. Back in the mid-1970s, everyone was able to get a $2,000 credit, which is the equivalent of $12,000 today. Rates are very, very good. Prices have come down, but the problem is that people have to feel comfortable and secure before they want to take on a move. … If people are selling, it's a price war and beauty contest. You better have everything ship-shape and be aggressive on your price.
Q: How did you get involved with Massey?
A: My mom was a cancer survivor, and we had an employee in the late 1990s, Vern Boschen, who was five years older than I was and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died within three-and-a-half months. That had a profound impact on me, that anyone would be taken out that quickly by a disease. I asked the staff that instead of having an annual awards banquet with plaques in January, that we make some donations in their names to Massey. That turned into an annual staff silent auction for Massey.
Q: Who were the most influential people in your life as you were growing up, besides your parents growing up?
A: A few people stand out for me. Mr. Talbert, my seventh-grade teacher, at Thompson Middle School. As I was getting my legs under me, he was patient, nurturing, holding me accountable for my work, trying to get me to focus. It was a vulnerable time. I was struggling a bit in my subjects. He saw my potential. Another was Ed Witthoefft, my junior varsity basketball coach at Huguenot. Both these men saw something there that I didn't recognize and were willing to work with me.
Q: How about today? Who inspires you?
A: In our region, I get inspiration from Becky Massey [a fellow Massey Cancer Center advisory board member], and Bobbie and Jim Ukrop. As businessmen, he and Bobbie are so heavily engaged in the community. They roll their sleeves up and get involved. Also Arthur Shaheen (now known as Joyner Fine Properties) was a mentor for me, sharing his knowledge and exchanging ideas.
Q: Your daughter says that you are a "crazy concert-goer."
A: I do go to concerts like a crazy man … Merlefest in North Carolina, shows at the National, Innsbrook After Hours, Charlottesville to see the Dead. I just love live music, the artists. It gives me great balance. And I found a way to marry it with Massey.
A: Music for Massey. We will hold our fifth annual concert on June 11 at the Science Museum. I work with Gary Gerloff, Patrick McCarty and Tim Timberlake at putting it together every year.
Q: You've been very involved with the Greater Richmond Chamber and RAR over the years. What is your greatest wish for the region?
A: There needs to be stronger regional cooperation, not just lip service. As budgets shrink, we need to look at transportation and affordable housing. We have an affordability issue here. A house price shouldn't be more than 2.5 times your income. Now, on average, it's at 3.3 times.