2017-08-16 / Business News

It’s in the genes

Real estate agents and offspring working together
BY DAN MEARNS
Florida Weekly Correspondent


Denny Grimes and daughter Morgan of Denny Grimes & Co. in Fort Myers. 
VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY Denny Grimes and daughter Morgan of Denny Grimes & Co. in Fort Myers. VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY When it comes to real estate, the apple sometimes doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Of course, the same could be said of any career path. Many children brought up in an environment where they can observe and absorb their parents’ skills may eventually enter the same industry.

Real estate is unique, however, in that each agent has to make his or her own way, accepting the challenges and hard work their parents face every day.

The Grimes: Daddy’s little helper

Morgan Grimes got her real estate license as a Christmas present for her father, Denny Grimes — who happens to be president of Denny Grimes & Co. in Fort Myers. She had been his “No. 1 helper” since childhood, and was working for him as a sales associate when she made the big commitment.

“I did it so he would have no worries if something happened to him,” she said. “I wanted him to know his business would be carried on.”


Emily K. Bua, left, and daughter Tade of the Bua-Bell Group. 
COURTESY PHOTO Emily K. Bua, left, and daughter Tade of the Bua-Bell Group. COURTESY PHOTO Ms. Grimes was there when her father started it all. When she was no more than 9, she gave out logoed plastic cups when Mr. Grimes first opened Gateway Realty in 1998.

“I always remember being by my dad’s side,” she said.

Mr. Grimes has been selling homes in Southwest Florida area for more than 30 years. He holds numerous real estate designations and earned an MBA in marketing. His team has sold more than a half-billion dollars in residential real estate, with annual production as high as $150 million.

He is the annual keynote speaker for the Fort Myers News-Press Market Watch, one of the largest real estate programs in the country, with between 1,000 and 2,000 attendees each year. He also has a regular TV segment “Real Estate Matters” and is writing a book on real estate success axioms.


James D. York, seated, with son Michael and daughter Morgan of York Real Estate Group. 
VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY James D. York, seated, with son Michael and daughter Morgan of York Real Estate Group. VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY Born and raised in Fort Myers, Ms. Grimes was fresh out of college when she joined the firm in 2009. Although she enjoyed what she did as a child, she was not ready for the intricacies of real estate.

“I had no idea what was involved,” she said. “Frankly, I thought it was boring until I realized the potential I had with the business. That’s when I fell in love with it.”

Back then, she was one of only a handful of Gateway agents getting their licenses at Larson Educational Services.

“Our little team was ready to go,” she said, “but we faced the worst market ever.”

Ms. Grimes thus continued her education with short sales and foreclosures.


Shannon Moore of The Green Lion. 
DONNA VALENTI / FLORIDA WEEKLY Shannon Moore of The Green Lion. DONNA VALENTI / FLORIDA WEEKLY “We really had nowhere to go but up from there,” she said.

And up they went. From July 2014 to July 2015, Ms. Grimes sold 43 homes for a total of more than $8 million. In July of 2015, she became a broker associate and opened a new branch office called the “Sales & Information Center” in Gateway, which is part of the Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Denny Grimes & Co. now employs 11 agents and is nationally known. A video on the company website (www.dennygrimes.com) features Barbara Corcoran of “Shark Tank.”

The Yorks: No pressure, just passion

The York family has been involved in real estate and home building in one way or another for generations. Before moving to Florida in 1996, James D. York owned and managed his own construction company in Pennsylvania. His brother was a Realtor and several nephews were in landscaping and architecture.

In Naples, Mr. York founded the York Real Estate Group, one of the area’s leading firms for many years. He is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Florida Association of Realtors and the Naples Board of Realtors. He writes a weekly real estate column in the Naples Daily News and gives educational lectures and seminars to the general public on current topics in real estate.

With such family influences, it’s no sur- prise Mr. York’s son, Michael, and daughter, Morgan, developed what Michael called “a passion” for real estate. But the father never pressured the kids to follow him into the business, as Michael recalls him saying, “Always do something that you love, and work hard at it.”

The siblings received an education in real estate at their father’s side. Michael recalled sitting at his father’s open houses, handing out his dad’s business cards.

“While I was in college,” Morgan said, “he suggested I get my real estate license, which I worked on over the weekends. He mentored me throughout that time, and I did as much learning as I could.”

Morgan graduated with a degree in business management in 2014 and went straight into the firm. Having been a resident of Naples since she was 6 years old, Morgan is considered an expert on the area who offers her clients a unique perspective that others cannot. She brings energy and excitement to the York team, as well as creative marketing techniques and technology driven concepts.

“I love it,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

With Michael in his 30s and Morgan in her late 20s both working full time in real estate, they’re bucking a trend.

“A lot of agents in their 20s, 30s and even their 40s have other jobs outside of real estate,” Michael said. “It’s a sign of our success that we don’t have to.”

Michael York joined the York Real Estate Group after returning to Naples from Columbus, Ga., where he enjoyed success in the construction distribution industry overseeing a multi-million-dollar region.

The York family’s primarily territory is Naples and Bonita Springs, where Michael said the industry is going strong right now.

“Things are absolutely growing,” he said, “but you have to realize the market is very price-sensitive. With all the information available online, people are more educated now. But if the property is priced right, the buyer and seller will be both be satisfied.”

The Bua-Bell Group: Passing down a work ethic

Tade Bua-Bell grew up in Pittsburg watching her mother, Emily K. Bua, raise four children as a single mom while laboring as a real estate agent and continuing her education. Tade was along among her siblings in wanting to work with her mother, and she remembers stuffing envelopes and doing other menial tasks at a very young age.

In the seventh grade, Tade began holding open houses for her mother and discovered she enjoyed “getting dressed up and playing hostess.”

Tade eventually worked as an agent in Pittsburg while attending college. Emily, meanwhile, moved to Florida in 1993 and immediately became one of the top agents in the Naples market.

Emily began her real estate career in 1977. She spent seven years as a regional manager for Coldwell Banker and also managed two major U.S. corporate relocation departments. She earned a bachelor’s degree in in political science and history, and a master’s in education, both from the University of Pittsburgh.

Upon arriving in Naples in 1993, she quickly joined the top 1 percent of all agents in Naples. She earned a GRI designation as a graduate of the Realtor Institute and has served on the ethics committee of the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

Tade graduated with a marketing major in 2006 and came home a year later to join her mother at Coldwell Banker as part of the Bua-Bell Group. The team is now associated with John R. Wood Properties, one of the largest real estate brokerages in Florida.

“Obviously, my mother set a pretty high bar on how a good agent is supposed to work and be successful,” Tade said. “She was persistent and determined, a work ethic she demonstrated raising four kids on her own.”

Tade’s enthusiasm, technological expertise and negotiation skills have enabled the pair to maintain the success and lofty standards Emily set years ago.

“We love it,” Tade said. “We’ve been very fortunate. We normally do about 90 percent of the business in this area.”

Tade’s son is a senior in high school. She is encouraging him to follow her and Emily into the family, but doesn’t know if he will.

“Three generations would be nice,” she said.

The Moore-Tufano connection: Persistence pays off

Not all of the mother-daughter combinations realize long-term success. Roxanne and Shannon Moore worked together successfully at daughter Shannon’s Green Lion Realty in Port Charlotte for several years

“We got our licenses on the same day,” Shannon recalled, but they had what Shannon termed “a falling out” — and Roxanne left for another broker.

“There were some personal problems, not business-related,” Shannon said. “It’s hard to work with family sometimes.”

It was a different story with Shannon’s own daughter, Willow Tufano, a brilliant child suffering with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Shannon mentored Willow as best she could, but the young girl kept having problems at school.

“She was a prodigy and attended Pine View School for the Gifted (in Venice),” Shannon said. “When she was in the seventh grade, I decided she needed to be home-schooled.”

Around that time, Shannon was pregnant with her third child and completing her studies to be a real estate agent. The baby, born in July 2004, was a week old when Shannon got her license on July 30. Two weeks later, Hurricane Charley hit.

“I wondered if I had made a good choice,” Shannon said. “How do you sell a house that’s in shambles?”

Nevertheless, Shannon persisted. She took her baby and went around town surveying the devastation.

“You’ve got to do what it takes,” she said. “I started working with investors, many of whom I still work with today, who were interested in buying distressed homes and rehabbing them.”

Shannon thought she might as well bring Willow in to help out.

“Since you’re in school, your math class is measuring tile and your speech class is talking to contractors,” Shannon told her daughter.

Shannon also had Willow talking to potential renters and dealing with the utility companies. The teenager quickly hit on the idea of selling items taken from the damaged homes and splitting the returns with her mom.

“The first one was a North Port house that had to be cleaned out,” Shannon said. “Nobody wanted the stuff, so she sold on Craig’s list and made about $800.”

Willow picked up more “stuff” from damaged houses and also began purchasing items at garage sales and Goodwill — all to resale. She had saved $6,000 when she discovered a Port Charlotte home in disrepair priced at $16,000 and determined to own it.

“You think they’ll take $12,000?” she asked her mom, suggesting that they each put up $6,000 to buy the house, then split the profits when they sold it.

Shannon’s husband objected, but she and Willow persisted. Willow said she would give up her half of the rent to pay for repairs, then continue giving it up until she returned her mom’s $6,000 initial investment. She had to make all the calls and take care of the property until she sold it, which she did. And then she did it again.

“A 14-year-old kid flipped two houses,” Shannon said. “Amazing.”

Shannon was not the only one impressed. An area National Public Radio station ran a story on Willow that was picked up by media outlets nationally. She became known as “the youngest landlord in America,” appearing on the “Ellen” TV show, CNN, Fox News and 185 local news broadcasts.

Now 19, Willow lives on Manhattan’s East Side with a girlfriend. She works part time at Urban Outfitters, but still makes most of her money buying and reselling inexpensive goods at a considerable profit.

“She knows what she can sell and knows her audience,” Shannon said.

Shannon, meanwhile, has become something of an entrepreneur. Green Lion Realty, now with 22 agents, serves clients from Sarasota to Cape Coral. She has expanded with opening two marketing companies under the title Out of the Box Owl, one dealing exclusively with social media marketing.

Shannon clearly enjoys using animal imagery in advertising. She said she chose the name Green Lion because green symbolizes “good luck and prosperity,” while a lion is “bold and strong.” The owl refers to “wisdom, teaching and ideas.”

Her book “Out of the Box Owl: Not Your Basic Pitch Marketing!” is available at Amazon, Goodreads and other outlets. Her Facebook page “Real Estate Marketing: Out of the Box Owl” has 31,000 followers, and her website www.outoftheboxowl.com promises “simple online strategies” to attract buyers and sellers including a four-week course priced at $297 with a money-back guarantee. ¦

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