They call him "the condo king."
That's because Thomas P. Murphy, an agent with Pardoe Real Estate ERA, is the top dog when it comes to selling small in the Washington area.
Murphy, who specializes in condominiums, cooperatives and town houses in the Foggy Bottom area, has been first in the Washington area in total real estate transactions for 10 years. This year his sales already top $20 million. And he has hit 153 units, his highest volume yet.
Murphy credits the hot market in the District to "the new mayor, the higher rents that make it more viable to purchase [condos and co-ops], the federal tax credit of $5,000 for first-time home buyers in the District and the improvement in the economy."
But the white-haired veteran, who declines to give his age, generates a lot of the heat himself, with an energetic, friendly approach and a savvy that colleagues say typified his two previous careers. Murphy came to real estate in 1982 after 15 years of teaching urban studies at the University of Missouri and the University of Maryland, and three years as head of the Federal Executive Institute, an elite polishing academy for the best and brightest career government employees.
He founded the University of Maryland's urban studies institute and has written 14 books on urban politics. "He has absolutely boundless energy, that goes without saying," said Vincent Marando, a Maryland government and politics professor who worked in Murphy's urban studies program in the late 1970s.
Murphy laughs about how his academic background and colleagues led him to what he refers to fondly as "my third campus," the Foggy Bottom condo market around George Washington University.
The first condo he tackled in 1982 was owned by his successor at the University of Maryland, Charles Levine. Murphy had repeatedly rejected Levine's attempt to hire him as a real estate agent because "I had no interest in selling condos. I kept telling him he was crazy: I was working with houses in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and a handful in Potomac at the time."
Murphy thought that Levine's condo was also in the suburbs. But he learned about the Foggy Bottom location one day when Levine dragged him to the building.
He sold the condo in two weeks, getting hooked on the property type and on the George Washington neighborhood's potential. "I decided I had found a new campus," he recalls.
And it doesn't hurt that he knows the university's president well: A young Stephen J. Trachtenberg authored a chapter in Murphy's 1973 gem, "Government Management Internships and Executive Development: Education for Change."
Says Trachtenberg of his former editor: "He owns this neighborhood, as far as I can tell. . . . He and his ads are everywhere you look."