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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 18, 2016 4 years ago

(Anti) Chain gang

Lasbury Tracy Realty has been working with buyers and sellers in Englewood for more than 60 years.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

Englewood, a town of about 16,000 people in south Sarasota County and north Charlotte County, is a lot of things to people — easy-going snowbird locale, an alternative to big cities and more.

One thing it's not: A place for national chains.

And that's just fine with Bart Tracy, since his real estate company doesn't adhere to the franchise model, the predominant way of doing business in residential real estate of late, particularly given technological disruptions in the industry. Tracy's counterintuitive approach resonates, both with clients and the firm's brokers.

“Englewood is not a franchise town,” says Tracy. “Our KFC went out of business; our Wendy's closed up.”

Tracy's great aunt founded Lasbury Tracy Realty in 1951, though the family has been local landowners for longer. Tracy's great-grandfather spent the winter at the Gasparilla Inn during its first year of operation in 1913. He fell in love with the area, sold off his New York interests and started to buy land in Englewood.

During the firm's early years, it mainly subdivided the family parcels and sold tracts. But over time it transitioned into a more traditional real estate brokerage. “I think people who like what Englewood has to offer like dealing with small, independent, family-owned firms,” says Tracy.

And with no corporate guidelines to follow, the company has the flexibility to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. “We can do whatever we feel necessary to make the transaction work for everybody involved,” says Tracy.

Tracy took over the business in the early 2000s from a cousin who ran it for 20 years. Though he'd had previous experience flipping houses and owning some of that family land — “It wasn't uncommon to be given a lot for Christmas in our family,” he says — he had to quickly get his real estate license before he took control.

“There's some pride in being able to keep the family enterprise running,” he says. “And we've actually expanded quite a bit since.”

The firm has grown from six agents to 20, many of whom have two to three decades of experience. It handles 150 transactions a year and has recovered from the housing slump, with sales currently on track with its 2003-2004 numbers. (Tracy declined to provide specific figures.)

Lasbury Tracy Realty deals mainly in more modest single-family home and condo properties, like the little cottages and bungalows within walking distance of Lemon Bay or downtown Englewood's Dearborn Street. Many clients are looking for something in the $150,000 price range.

“We do lots and lots of small transactions,” says Tracy. “We probably only do six transactions over half a million dollars a year.”

Many buyers come from the Midwest. For years they were purchasing second homes. But now that the real estate market overall has picked up, Tracy sees more folks shopping for full-time residences.

He hopes to boost the number of transactions per year and the average dollar value per transaction. “And I'd love to develop a relationship with a small local builder and have some new-home inventory to sell,” he says.

But he doesn't see the firm expanding to additional locations. Tracy is about five years out from retirement, with a 17-year-old son who could become the fifth generation of the family in the real estate business. Tracy, however, isn't sure what the business will look like in 2020 and beyond.

“What real estate agents bring to the transaction is local knowledge and a buffer between buyers and sellers,” he says. “That local knowledge is pretty much publicly available now if you take the time to find it. But I'm hoping you'll still need that buffer.”

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