What started as a side job is now the second-largest real

MADRID — Philip L. Paige was the deputy administrator for St. Lawrence County when he got his real estate license as a side hustle.

“But the side hustle started paying more than my full-time job,” he said, so he quit to pursue real estate full time.

Now he owns NoCo Homestead, the second-largest broker in the county in only its first full year of operation.

“I started the company because I wanted to bring technology and innovation to the real-estate market,” Mr. Paige said.

When he was selling houses before he started his business, he said he was the youngest broker in the local market by nearly 40 years, and knew he could take advantage of certain technologies not used by his competitors.

“These are people who got into digital signatures kicking and screaming, and now my business is doing digital targeting, live video walk-throughs, and other things that were not done prior to our company,” he said.

Mr. Paige started his company in March 2020. Looking back, that might not have seemed like the best time to start a business, but he said his company’s use of technology gave them an edge over competitors during the pandemic when all work proceeded over a computer screen.

“When it came time to select a broker during the pandemic, I had a built-in advantage,” he said. “The timing of that — though at least initially it wanted to cause a heart attack for me — was in retrospect very lucky.”

He said his company uses digital microtargeting to push listings well beyond the local market.

“Buyers who live in other states can see our listings online,” he said. “Chances are, if that listing had been represented by a different company in this area, they would never get to see it.”

This has accelerated the success of his company.

“Last year, I believe we finished as the second-largest broker in our first full year in business,” he said. “And we’re on track this year to blow our number from last year out of the water.”

He said NoCo Homestead now employs seven real estate brokers, to whom he attributes most of the company’s success.

“They’re working directly with clients, whereas I have a lot more managerial work to do now,” Mr. Paige said. “They’re the boots on the ground, and I’m the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain keeping the ship afloat.”

Mr. Paige spoke about the steep housing market nationwide and how the local market has been affected.

“Broadly speaking,” he said, “our area is in a permanent recession, so we don’t tend to get the big swings.”

Although the north country market is hotter than he’s ever seen it, he said it hasn’t risen as high as it has nationally.

“I don’t see it as a bubble, and I don’t have a huge amount of anxiety about the real-estate market,” he said.

What does worry him is the lack of new housing in the county. That’s why, in the next five to 10 years, he wants NoCo Homestead to get more involved in the development of modern housing.

“The Canton-Potsdam market, which is the core of the county market, has a really old housing stock,” he said. “When we have people from out of the area moving in, that can be a deterrent.”

He said when the price of raw materials goes down and the risk reduces, he could see NoCo Homestead creating a subdivision that works with contractors to bring more new builds to the market.

Until then, Mr. Paige enjoys the work he does with his team to preserve existing architecture.

“My niche is old homes and buildings, so part of my role is convincing people these buildings are worth saving, and our communities are worth investing in,” he said. “I get to be a cheerleader and ambassador.”

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