INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Realtors Association of Indian River County is finally operating out of its new 8,000-square-foot home, bolstering members’ position that Indian River County is a great place to buy real estate.
“When we decided to go ahead with the project, we wanted to show that we put our money where our mouth is,” said Lauren Connolly of Custom Real Estate Services and a past president of the Association. “We thought it was important to show that we too were buying real estate in Indian River County.”
The Association moved out of its cramped offices in downtown Vero and into its state of the art building at 3250 67th Street in central Indian River County this past January.
“We had been in the previous space for over 30 years, since the 1970s, and we definitely had outgrown that,” Connolly said.
Association members had been working on the project since 2003 when it formed a committee to look into purchasing the land and then in 2005 formed a working group to help design and oversee construction of the building.
“We are located on 67th Street which is in just about the geographic center of the county,” Connolly noted. “It is easily accessible for not only our beachside members, but for Sebastian members and those out west because we serve the entire Indian River County area.”
The new facility is wireless and since one of its main functions is to serve as the educational hub for Realtors, it has greatly expanded and modernized its classroom space.
“The location was centralized so it is more accessible and it is also larger, more modern with more state of the art features,” said Michael Thorpe of Treasure Coast Sotheby’s, who served with Connolly on the building committee. “We think it will make it much more productive for Realtors.”
Productivity had become an issue in the old building which had become too small and forced staff to farm out its educational classes to other venues to service its swelling numbers.
Connolly said current membership is at about 1,000 Realtors, but back in the boom times it peaked at around 1,500.
Because Realtors must renew their licenses every two years and are required to take continuing education classes in the interim, the lack of space was becoming a problem.
“As an Association we have a variety of different types of members and as a trade organization our goal to our members is service,” Connolly said. “One of the major services we offer is education. The new facility offers a classroom that is large enough so the room could be divided in half with a portable wall or it can be opened up to hold a class for over 100 people.”
Making the education component of the Realtors’ new home more accessible and modern was essential to members.
Realtors are expected to stay on top of changes not only in the law, but in the marketplace.
On top of that, many find in order to better serve clients they need specialized education, the so-called alphabet soup of designations that appear after many Realtors’ names.
To become a real estate agent in the first place takes 63 hours of class study, plus passing the state exam.
If the agent wants to go further and become a broker (essentially be the person responsible that a transaction is handled properly) that takes an additional 72 hours of classroom study and pass another state exam.
The Association offers those courses through a third-party state qualified vendor. To join the National Association of Realtors and thus the Indian River County chapter, agents must go through an orientation process and promise to abide by the organization’s strict code of ethics.
While all that work makes you qualified to become involved in real estate transactions, it doesn’t necessarily make you a productive real estate agent.
“Most of the schooling teaches you how to get your license, but it doesn’t actually teach you how to sell and list real estate,” Connolly said. “That is where our organization comes in. We assist our members with classes like how to present and how to prepare a contract, how to market yourself, how to market your property – the actual practical implementation of real estate sales.”
While education is clearly one of the most important missions of the organization, there is also networking opportunities.
Real estate agents exist in a somewhat difficult nexus of being competitors for business opportunities, but many times colleagues in bringing buyers and sellers together.
“If I meet with other Realtors through the Realtors Association, it makes for a much nicer transaction,” Connolly said. “I know this other person, we have made contact. We are friendly competitors, but we realize we have to work with each other. I think that is why so many of our members are engaged with the Association, as a small community you want to know what is going on.”
Money for the land and the building came out of yearly dues members pay and other income from some of the third-party classes the Association sponsors.
There was no extra assessment or influx of cash required to purchase the land or pay for construction.
“We have been very careful stewards of the members’ money,” Connolly said.
Commercial Realtor Terry Torres, who was also a member of the building committee, said the Association was such good stewards it made sense to expand as more agents joined the Association when real estate was a hot commodity.
“As the membership expanded (between 2001 and 2006), so did our revenue,” Torres said. “We always had adequate reserves, but when that started to expand beyond what was needed for a catastrophic event, we thought a good use for that money would be to build a new facility that could accommodate all our members.”
Torres adds the new building and facilities should provide adequate services for members now and in the coming years as the real estate market in Indian River County continues to recover.
“It is going to serve our needs well into the future,” he said. “I don’t see any need for expenditures in the next 10 years to accommodate our Realtors.”