Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 5:33 p.m.
As a youth, Craig Wilburn would have seemed an unlikely candidate for a profession based on building relationships.
"I had a speech impediment growing up," said Wilburn, a vice president at Bosshardt Realty Services. "I was very shy. I didn't want to talk to anybody I didn't know."
Today he is the voice of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors as its 2012 president and a top producer in the local market.
A pivotal moment came when he reluctantly accepted a job as a waiter. He needed work because of a problem with his transcripts while trying to transfer from the University of Rochester in New York to the University of Florida.
He applied at a new Cracker Barrel in Melbourne, near his parents' home.
"I wanted to be a busboy because all the black folks were in the back," he said.
But the only job available was waiting tables. Wilburn said he left the restaurant and sat in his car thinking over his situation. He went back in to accept the job.
Waiting tables forced him to get over his shyness, and he was named the top waiter.
"I was starting to develop what I'm doing now," he said.
An interest in exercise led him to massage school. The owner of the school got a job with the new Florida Marlins and brought her students with her as trainers.
Wilburn wanted more training and finally was able to come to school in Gainesville — at the Florida School of Massage, where he earned his sports massage certification. He also got a job at another new Cracker Barrel as the lead trainer and waiter.
While on the job, someone suggested he contact Gainesville Health & Fitness. He went to work there as a trainer and started the center's massage program.
After Wilburn developed tendonitis, owner Joe Cirulli trained him to sell memberships.
Wilburn would then go into corporate sales for Alltel, where he said he was part of the company's No. 1 sales team during his four years there.
From there he went into real estate. He spent his first six months learning the business and the market before trying to make a sale. Then he went into full prospecting mode, calling on contacts he made through GHFC and Alltel, attending open houses and calling owners trying to sell their own homes. He accepted low-priced homes nobody else wanted, knowing the sellers would tell their friends and would upgrade in later years.
In his first full year in the business, he sold 55 homes. Within a couple of years, he didn't have time to prospect from all the referrals sent his way. Wilburn set up Team Dynamo — a team of six Realtors — to be responsive to a growing clientele.
Wilburn's top priority for his year as president of the Realtors' Association is to make the public aware of Realtors' local knowledge needed to navigate a challenging market.
With all the national and state real estate information available on the Internet, he said it is easy for anyone to give the appearance of being a professional.
He compared that to knowing the national temperature.
"It has nothing to do with the local market," he said.
His other priorities are to improve networking among Realtors and to connect Realtors to associate members who provide home services such as plumbing or lawn care so they can provide referrals to their clients.
Wilburn said he sees signs that the local housing market is stabilizing. Though home values are still declining, he said the rate of decline has slowed and a lot of homes at the lower end — $150,000 and lower — have seen significant sales.
"It's a trickle-up effect," he said. "When you start seeing excessive movement on the low end, that's when you start recognizing stabilization is probably on the way because we're moving that inventory quickly."