You have to get away to come back.
When Gail and I left Fort Myers, Florida last week it was 92 degrees, It was struggle think about packing jackets and sweaters. But we were heading on a “great adventure”. I was convening with a bunch my high school class mates at a 40 year (ugh) reunion in New Jersey and then Gail and I were headed up to the Catskills for some much needed rest and relaxation.
We had a blast. The weather was crisp and cool, fall leaves were everywhere, and the trips down memory lane made us appreciate life. Before I tell you about the trip let me tell you what is going in here in South West Florida (and perhaps why we needed a break).
The Market America Realty Group of companies is growing. Market America Realty Lehigh Acres just moved into 3600 square feet of new offices and added a sales trainer and a 90 day boot camp for new agents. We have opened up a new office in Punta Gorda and have been looking at office space in Naples and Cape Coral. We have tentatively selected space near Gulf Coast hospital in South Fort Myers and are working on lease details. Orlando is on the horizon for new space and we have been visiting sites in Sarasota to expand up there.
The Commercial Division of Market America Realty, led by Nils Richter from our REO division has closed on a number of large properties lately and has begun to dominate the downtown Fort Myers commercial arena – in both leasing and sales. The division is working throughout the State of Florida with national tenants and asset managers liquidating commercial properties. We just closed on a city block on route 41 in Fort Myers for Race Trac Gas Stations
The Asset Management Division is now handling over 100 properties in pre list for various banks and funds. The REO pipeline has slowed quite a bit but is expected to be refilled over the next few months as banks release their foreclosure files.
We have added new offices downtown for MA-Rentals – headed by Julia Shultz and will have over 100 properties managed by the end of the year. The rental market is getting very large in Florida and we invested in the infrastructure and software for MA-Rentals to be a large profit center for us. Consistent with the business model throughout the company – we are on the cutting edge of the internet tools for servicing this market and I expect big growth here.
The MA-Elite division of luxury homes (currently defined as One Million Dollars and above) has a new marketing program and identity. The higher end of the market, while still depressed, is starting to see some action and I want to position the company to be able to dedicate marketing dollars to this lucrative area. Since we do so much in the foreclosure arena I also wanted to differentiate the luxury brand from the rest of our brand.
The retail side of our business, what you might call the NORMAL segment of the business, is where our technology and business model has excelled. Our simple philosophy of building inventory, taking care of long term customers and agents, and supplying them with the tools needed to success is what is fueling our growth. Lead generation, building tight packages, shear persistence and tenacity also haven’t hurt.
The question you should have is not how is this happening but why am I encouraging it? Very clearly: I believe in the recovery or our real estate market and in the recovery of our economy and I am investing in that conviction. Come grow with us! Whether you area an agent, and investor, or are looking to sell or buy a home in Florida – market America Realty is an exciting place to be.
My conviction had validation in the trip Gail and I had to New Jersey and Upstate New York. Everywhere I went people wanted to know about our market – reputed to be ground zero of the housing bubble. Northerners have been delaying their retirement and second home purchases, tightening their wallets, and sitting on the side lines. But folks, I never heard a southerner say, “When I retire, I’m gonna move up North!” But this past week I did hear northerners say they were coming down.
We will be ready when they get here.
OK – back to our trip up north.
On the first day Gail and went up to Harrington Park. I grew up at 291 Parkway, In this Zillow picture, you can’t even see the house for the trees. The current owners were gracious enough to give us a tour. It seems the house shrunk in the last 40 years since I lived there. It used to be huge. Gail and walked the neighborhood; past the Harrington Park School, the library, the church, and to the downtown shops. Houses are in the $500,000 to over a few million range. ( Mom and Dad sold their house for $55,000 and the recent buyer paid $562,000). Other than a few new homes where old ones used to be, the only changes I noted where bigger trees and smaller everything else (I was 17 when I left and everything except the trees were bigger in my memory).
After this pleasant trip down memory lane we went for lunch in Closter NJ. Closter is where we all shopped when I was young. Picture the downtown of Mayberry: Shoe store, clothes shop, five and dime, etc. For a ten cents I could take the bus for the five minute ride from Harrington Park and get a slice of pizza at Rudy’s in Closter for a quarter. Now it seemed that every other shop was Korean. Gail and had a spectacular Korean lunch on the main street – but I did not see anything that I could recognize. The bank where my father worked on the corner was now a dentist office. The show store was a nail salon. I felt sort of betrayed after the pleasant walk in Harrington Park. This was not home!
The reunion party was great fun. I will tell you this: it was the kids that I knew from kindergarten on up that I remembered the best and enjoyed seeing the most. The Sunday after the party Gail and I headed for the Catskills.
It was High Season in the Catskills – many tourists in town for the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck and it is the height of the fall colors. We were fortunate to have reservations in the Olde Rhinebeck Inn, not cheap, but we felt it was worth it. Rhinebeck is just minutes from Hyde Park, home of the CIA – Culinary Institute of America . I love to cook and eat – and this was a treat for me. It also meant that all the restaurants in the area were top notch. Hyde Park is also has FDR’s home and museum as well as one of the Vanderbilt Mansions the Hudson. Gail and I took walks in the woods, read, ate, drank, and just generally relaxed. The only rain we had was the last day.
We flew out of Newark Airport – and I must day I do not miss the traffic, congestion and the cacophony and confusion of the area around the airport.
When we got home to Fort Myers the colors where only Green and Blue but temp was the same here as it was in New Jersey and New York– 60 degrees. And our season is just beginning. The weather will be like this through Easter.
I love this area. It was good to get away – but it’s great to live in Southwest Florida.