For J. Lennox Scott, real estate is the ultimate platform to express oneself in life.
The industry incorporates "entrepreneurship, creativity, being involved with the community," he said.
"We look at a higher purpose, living our lives as a contribution to our clients, to our community, to our team members. (It means) being your best in business and in life."
As a kid, J. Lennox Scott painted ‘for sale’ and ‘open house’ signs and did yard work around real estate offices and for-sale homes. In high school, he worked at a title company. He got his real estate license at 18 and graduated with a business degree from the University of Washington.
After graduation, he worked in land sales for a year before his father, W. Lennox Scott, passed away unexpectedly and the younger Scott inherited the company.
John L. Scott had 18 offices and 230 agents at the time. Scott was 22 and immediately went into the company’s management team.
"I grew with the company," he said.
In 1980, at age 25, Scott became the company’s president and in 2002, chairman and CEO. Under his tenure, the company has expanded to 130 offices and more than 3,200 sales associates in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
According to the latest Real Trends rankings, John L. Scott Real Estate was the 14th largest brokerage in the country based on 2010 sales volume of $3.4 billion, and the 21st largest brokerage based on closed transaction sides.
The company is known for embracing new technology. Scott is credited with coining the phrase, "We (real estate professionals) can ‘out-dot-com the dot-com-ers" in the early 2000s. In 2002, Inman News named John L. Scott Real Estate the winner of an Innovator Award for "Most Innovative Real Estate Company."
Scott said he strives to instill a culture of excellence and a supportive environment in the company.
"You can have a joy of work and that’s an environment we want to create," he said.
"It’s helping each individual for their success, coaching them and training. Excellence takes hard work and continual learning."
The professional pride of the company’s agents also shows clients that they care, he added.
"The greatest compliment you can receive is a referral. Eighty percent of our business is referral business from people we know. I guess that’s how you know when you’re doing things right," he said.
John L.Scott Real Estate is now in its 80th year and Scott has helmed the company for nearly half of that time. Like his father and grandfather, Scott has gone through his share of economic downturns.
"We’ve all been through recessions — this is my fifth one," he said.
What his predecessors did not have to deal with, however, is tight lending regulations after a severe housing bust, he added.
As a member of the National Association of Realtors’ real estate services advisory board and a NAR director, Scott says it is the association’s responsibility to educate federal policymakers about making home financing less restrictive.
He especially objects any policies that would place more burdens on homebuyers. This includes lowering of the jumbo conforming loan limit from $729,750 to $625,500, scheduled to take place Oct. 1, and a potential 20 percent downpayment requirement on "qualified residential mortgages" (QRMs).
Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, loan originators will be required to retain at least a 5 percent interest in mortgage securitization pools unless the underlying loans are QRM, meaning they meet a yet-to-be-determined national standard for low risk. The possibility of including downpayment requirements in that standard has drawn the ire of a number of interest groups and a significant proportion of Congress.
"They should not create onerous downpayment requirements for QRM. The downpayment was never the problem of the housing (crisis), it was the lax lending standards … that caused the problem," Scott said.