Find out how Florida real estate broker Jim Whatley turned a lucky coincidence and a can-do attitude into a thriving real estate brokerage.
In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
Specializing in real estate in the competitive Florida market surrounding Fort Walton Beach, Jim Whatley has learned that knowledge is power.
Understanding the market, the homes he sells and how to find the right expert in any circumstance has helped him and his company, Uber Realty, create happy clients and positive outcomes.
How long have you been in the business?
I got into the business in late 2006 just as the market started to go down. At that point in Florida, you only had to have your license for one year before you could test and get your broker license, so that is what I did.
I had to come up with a name. At that time I had heard a word that had always intrigued me: uber. It’s a German word that means “an outstanding example of something; the ultimate.” I had seen it used to talk about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as the “uber rich.”
When I get my broker license my wife, Donna, asked me what I was going to name the business. “Uber Realty, of course,” I replied. I then bought the domain, you guessed it, uber.com.
I bid on the URL in an auction and got it for $500. Uber ended up paying me $10,000 for it a few years later.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I want to continue selling houses. I love it, hate it and can’t get enough of it. I have become addicted to it, like a drug. When I go through a slower period I go through withdrawals.
I would eventually like to split my time between here and Colorado and sell homes out there, also.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
This is one tough business, especially if you want to disrupt the status quo. Find mentors in each part of the business. Ask a lot of questions, and learn everything there is to know about houses.
How did you learn it?
When selling a townhouse that was on pilings, the first contract fell through because there was water under the house. We got it under contract a second time. I was there with the home inspector, and he walked around the back. I told him I would catch up to him.
When I came around the corner he said, “You have water under the house, and I know where it is coming from.” It turned out that the waste line wasn’t properly connected.
I called the seller, HOA president, HOA management company and the buyer agent. No one really had a clue what to do. I finally came up with the idea to call the Health Department. That worked — they told us exactly what we needed to do in order to have the area cleaned and sanitized.
The contaminated soil was scraped and hauled off. It was tested and sprayed with a second application of neutralizing agent. Then a dressing of fresh uncontaminated soil was applied, and we got an all-clear from the health department.
The end result was that we sold the townhouse, everyone was happy, and we ended up building a good working relationship with the buyer agents.
What advice would you give to new agents?
You have to learn when you are competing against agents to get business, [and you] need to switch gears when you are doing business with the agents.
Always do what you say you will do and more. Be the Realtor that you would hire. Sell every home like it is yours.
Always look at your mistakes as learning opportunities. Have fun, and always do the right thing, even if you don’t make money; if you always do the right thing, the fun and the money will come.
Are you an agent with a story everyone can learn something from? Reach out to us (contributors@Inman.com). We look forward to featuring more of our best agents and brokers in a future edition of “Lesson learned.”