The late Henry R. Stoudermire Sr. took over McMullan Realty Inc. in 1979 and, not too long after, his sons Henry Jr., Gary and Calvin all found their way into the family business. Henry Sr. developed a reputation around Cleveland as a consummate realtist, a minority real estate professional, and then, upon his retirement, turned the reins of the company over to Henry Jr.
Now a third generation real estate brokerage, McMullan Realty continues to play a significant role in building up Black communities across Northeast Ohio. Yet they’re also navigating the same forms of housing discrimination that plagued previous generations, including lack of access to loans for many Black homebuyers.
“It’s been real fun,” Henry Jr. said. “We have the same drive and ambition [as our father] of trying to help people. It’s rewarding to see first time buyers buy a house.”
He says it’s equally rewarding when their children come back to buy a house from him, when friends and relatives are referred to McMullan, or when they encounter someone who bought a house through their dad or got their start in real estate through him.
“Some of them have gone on to be appraisers, loan officers or started their own brokerage firm,” Henry Jr. said. “It’s a beautiful thing, a lasting legacy.”
A family affair
McMullan Realty has a staff of 14 people, with about half being members of the family.
Although he saw his father work in the business growing up, Henry Jr. didn’t decide he wanted in until his second year in college at Akron University. He got licensed during his first year.
“It was never forced on me, just something I decided to do,” he said. “And part of the motivation was, when I worked during the summer and sold some real estate. [My father] brought me a commission check and I said, ‘Woah, this is some pretty good money.’”
Henry Sr. told him, “You do some more real estate, you get some more money.”
Gary’s entrance in the business is similar to Henry Jr.’s. He remembers starting out doing some janitorial work around the houses. “Pop loved people and it rubbed off on us,” he said. At age 27, he decided to join the family business.
When he retires, Henry Jr. plans to turn the reins over to his sons, Henry III and Joshua, who like Henry Jr. and his brothers came into the business on their own.
Currently, in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, McMullan Realty is assisting builders with sales of new construction homes at E. 85th Street and Chester Avenue. Of this three phase development, Phase 1 includes five new homes ranging from $175-250,000.
“That makes it affordable,” Henry Jr. said. He also says two of the homes are under contract. “We have some happy families ready to move in.”
Henry Jr. says the low interest rates below three percent for these properties sweetens the deals. “It’s super dynamic,” he said. “It keeps their payment real low and, with Greater Circle Living giving funding to people who work at the [Cleveland] Clinic or the Art Museum, that’s just icing on the cake.”
He finds people from other Cleveland communities are coming to Ward 7.
Also, McMullan has been asked, by Cleveland’s Ward 1 Councilman Joe Jones, to assist with the sale of new construction in that neighborhood. There’s a plan for 22 to 45 houses in the Lee-Harvard community, all brand new with 15 year tax abatement, Henry Jr. said.
“[Children] can have a nice, safe place to live,”he said. “This is what we’re all about. We’re doing what we love to do, helping people get into homes.”
The city of Cleveland needs that, Henry Jr. continues, and not just for the west side. “The east side needs it as well. We’re glad to be a part of the revitalization.”
History in Cleveland
Councilman Joe Jones says Henry Stoudermire Jr. has served this neighborhood for a long time. “He’s always available,” Jones said. “I know he will look out for the best interest of those buying homes and renting. He’s good at doing that for us.”
McMullan Realty isn’t new to selling newly developed homes. Back in the early 1970s, they became the exclusive agent for the Cape Cod Estates, an Oakwood Village development where 152 new houses were built.
“McMullan Realty was responsible for building up much of Oakwood Village,” Henry Jr. said.
He explained that those homes went for $35k to $52k, and are now worth $250k to $300k. “It proves that people can live in a house, take care of it and it improves in value,” he said. “Oakwood Village is a testimony.”
Increasing access to homeownership
Part of Henry Jr.’s work today is to know what’s occurring and follow the trends in the real estate market. One issue he is aware of is the lack of mortgage services available for east side homeowners, in predominantly Black neighborhoods, with many properties valued under $50k.
According to a 2019 report by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC), “Housing Market Recovery in Cuyahoga County: Will Cleveland’s East Side Be Left Behind,” low median home sale prices, those below $50k in many communities, should present an opportunity for homeownership. However, access to mortgage loans at that level is low.
“Instead, distressed neighborhoods are becoming ‘cash markets’ where potential home buyers have to compete with cash investors who often convert properties to rentals which erodes the homeownership base of these communities,” writes Frank Ford, Senior Policy Advisory with the Thriving Communities Program at WRLC.
Henry Jr. said this issue definitely impacts the market and provided some explanation to why this problem exists.
“There are some big banks that are not willing to lend money in the city of Cleveland, to help our African American community,” he said. “That’s the issue.”
The above mentioned report also states, “African American borrowers are denied loans more often than white borrowers, even when they have equivalent income. In fact, African American borrowers are denied more often than white borrowers with significantly less income.”
“It’s unfortunate. It’s going back to what my father went through in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said Henry Jr. “It’s still a racial issue. It’s a common thing, not just in Cleveland but across the country.”
He said this makes way for out of town investors to buy up the properties. “I’m worried about what the city will look like in five to 10 years.”
The WRLC report recommends, “All local banks should be encouraged to customize loan programs and loan officer compensation to meet home purchase credit needs in communities that still have median home values at or below $50,000. Banks should invest sufficiently in marketing efforts to insure that homebuyers, realtors and realtists know about these programs. In order to avoid the problem of a small dollar mortgage (e.g. $40,000) being characterized as ‘high cost,’ banks should consider waiving fees to bring the total cost of the mortgage under the ‘high cost’ threshold.”
Henry Jr. pointed out homeowners in these communities must turn to mortgage companies where interest rates are higher, and that the homeownership is a key factor when it comes to building wealth in African American communities. “Statistics show that in the African American community, the largest asset we have is our homes,” he said. “So, if we don’t own, we don’t have any wealth. We don’t have anything to pass on to our children or our grandchildren.”
The Cleveland Realtist Association (CRA), a local chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), of which Henry Jr. is the board chairman, is launching an initiative titled, “House Before The Car,” to promote homeownership in the Black community.
“We have to change the mindset, have to change the priority,” he said. “We have to get people into homes and teach them how to pay it off quicker. That’s how you build wealth in the Black community.”