Meet Stephen Merkle, Side’s Managing Broker for Ohio & Kentucky

Stephen Merkle grew up in the real estate industry — quite literally. As the son of a broker, he began working in his father’s office when he was just seven years old. He even took his first real estate exam just weeks after graduation from high school.

After selling real estate through college and getting his broker’s license in 1991, Stephen — who goes by Steve — has been active in local and state industry organizations, previously serving as president of the Akron Area Board of REALTORS®, the Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors, president of the local MLS, and as a trustee and executive committee member of the Ohio REALTORS®.

We caught up with Steve to learn more about his background and how it has influenced his career success.

Could you walk us through your background in real estate?

I grew up in the real estate industry. I’m going to use an old joke — I’m a S.O.B.: a “son of a broker.” To me, real estate is a lifestyle — it touched every aspect of my life when I was growing up.

My dad founded Merkle Realty in 1964. I started out filing at the office, then got my salesperson’s license in 1988 a month after I graduated from high school and sold real estate while attending the University of Akron. 

I found I really love the compliance side of the transaction, making sure all those little forms along the way don’t get lost. So in 1991, I got my broker’s license. Since then, I’ve had my feet on the street, where I’ve been bringing buyers and sellers together for over 33 years. 

You’ve been very involved in organized real estate throughout your career. Why do you think it’s important to get involved? 

My dad instilled in me that you have to be active in the organizations that control your destiny. 

If you’re not playing an active role, you’re not an instrument of change. You don’t have any reason to complain about the changes that affect you or your business if you’re not at the table when those decisions are being made.

My dad was the past president of our local association. It was my goal to follow in his footsteps. It was truly ingrained in me. You’ve got to be active. You’ve got to make a difference. You’ve got to give back.

What are some of the trends you’re observing right now in the Ohio and Kentucky markets? 

We’re still seeing a lot of people moving to the suburbs. In the last year, we’re seeing more people relocating out of urban areas than moving into them. People want more access to land — and a home office. Most of the new construction built nowadays has lower levels specifically designed for home office space.

But at the same time, we’re also seeing an uptick in the urban cores of cities like Cleveland and Akron. Those areas were experiencing something of a renaissance, pre-pandemic, and that pattern has started back up again slowly. 

What are some of the big challenges that agents in Ohio and Kentucky are facing right now? 

Inventory. That’s the biggest challenge at all price points. In my 33 years in real estate, I’ve never seen anything like this. At the beginning of 2020, NAR came out saying this low-inventory market could persist for another 10 or 15 years. I’ve never seen a seller’s market last this long. And both buyer’s and seller’s agents are struggling with this.

What are you most excited for during your first year at Side? 

I’m excited about bringing a systemized process to the real estate industry in Ohio and Kentucky, helping our partners streamline their systems so they can be wildly successful, no matter the market. I love that at Side, the partner can concentrate on sales, which they enjoy and are good at — and there’s this whole team that can back them up on all the other details, which would otherwise drag the partner down.

That’s what really gets me out of bed in the morning. I get up with purpose. I feel needed, motivated, and excited. I’m glad to be part of a team that’s going to bring that kind of professional model to the states of Ohio and Kentucky. 

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