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Q&A | Clark Toole III

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  • | 11:00 a.m. October 9, 2015
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Clark Toole III
President of Florida for Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT and Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, Sarasota

Agents: 5,100
Offices: 86

2014 (includes Coldwell Banker United in the Panhandle, which it acquired earlier this year)
Total sales volume: $12.7 billion
Closed units: 43,350

Total sales volume: $11.35 billion
Closed units: 39,787

From a single $760,000 deal four decades ago, Clark Toole III has built a real estate career that finds him running Florida operations of the state's most active residential brokerage.

That brokerage, Coldwell Banker Residential Estate Inc., was named the top brokerage in Florida in closed transactions and sales volume for 2014, according to the REALTrends 500 annual ranking report.

The Business Observer spoke with Toole recently about market trends, management and why he believes the next real estate crash won't be a repeat of 2006. Here are excerpts of the conversation:

What is driving the quick improvement in the residential market?
You've got population. [Florida] just passed 20 million people. Unemployment has been shrinking. Tourism is at record-breaking levels...I'm pretty optimistic about the market.

If we do return to those earlier pricing and sales levels, what's to prevent another residential real estate collapse?
Real estate does cycle, but the 2006 crash was a lot of different things.

Today there is more equity in housing. Lots of cash sales. Lending practices are also stiffer. It's much harder to do a deal with no money down. It was really the lending practices last time that deepened the recession.

What are institutional buyers, such as Blackstone, doing in residential real estate now that prices have risen and foreclosures are rarer?
Some institutional buyers are still in the marketplace, but the model they were buying into isn't what it once was. Many have done well for themselves, and I've heard some have notched up their price points a little to go after a little more expensive property.

You took this job at the start of a major real estate collapse. How has that experience changed your management approach?
I think it made me a little wiser. During the downturn you couldn't control the price range, you just had to go back to the basics of sales: contacting people, learning what to say, practicing your presentation and knowing as much as you could about the market so you could explain it to the consumer.

Fast-forward seven or eight years later, and it's somewhat the same thing. Every year there's a new puzzle. Know your people, the market and your presentation.

With such a large, varied state, what do you use to help you make decisions?
In managing a business, I have access to a lot of facts and figures. I choose to focus on units opened. The reason I focus on units opened or listed, not percentage of increase or average sales price, is those other two are hard to manage. Units opened is a derivative of how many contacts or listings an associate makes. A sale can fall through for a lot of reasons. You have to find a measure that you can tie to setting goals.


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