BUSINESS PROFILE

Thomas has plans as president of Realtors association


Gary Thomas is the new 2014 president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 at 5:06 p.m.

The ranks of local Realtors plummeted by almost half from a high of 1,400 when the real estate market crashed, but Gary Thomas said that over the past year more people started joining the profession and attending training sessions.

Facts

Gary L. Thomas

Age: 66
Occupation: Broker/owner of RE/MAX Professionals in Gainesville, Lake City, Live Oak
Personal: Married, four children, three grandchildren
Pets: Chihuahua
Favorite book: The Bible
Last book read: "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper
Playing in his car: Il Divo
Hobbies: Reading, hiking, exercise, travel
Education: Bachelor of science in economics and master's in business management, University of Florida

The Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors now has 761 Realtor members and 156 affiliate business partners.

"It's starting to increase, which tells us it's real estate coming back," said Thomas, the 2014 president of the local Realtors association.

His own brokerage faced a similar fate. After buying RE/MAX franchises in Gainesville and Lake City in 2000, Thomas, 66, bought offices and recruited agents over a six-year period, growing to 115 agents and five offices.

"For six years, I ramped up. For six years now, I've kind of ramped down," he said.

RE/MAX Professionals is back to two "very solid" offices with 16 agents in Gainesville and 10 in Lake City, Thomas said, plus a small office in Live Oak.

In addition to serving as broker, Thomas also sells and lists properties in partnership with his son, Jeremy.

Florida and Gainesville are poised to have a good year for real estate, he said. State government expects a budget surplus, the unemployment rate is down and mortgage interest rates are still low. Locally, he sees the innovation economy bringing more jobs.

Lack of housing inventory could be a problem, however.

"Until we see an overall increase in consumer confidence, we're going to see builders not build and young buyers not buy," he said. "If somehow optimism could come back, I believe the economy could go through the roof again."

Thomas said his goals for GACAR are to increase member participation, share more information between committees and increase Realtor professionalism.

The organization gets involved in politics at the local, state and national levels through its RPAC — or Realtors Political Action Committee. Thomas said that includes fighting to keep the mortgage interest tax deduction on the national level and fighting against flood insurance rate increases on the state level.

"The average property owner does not have a clue what the RPAC is doing for him having to do with homeowners' and property rights," Thomas said.

Thomas got into real estate in 1995 after a "prior life" managing boat manufacturing plants.

He grew up in Jacksonville and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Florida. After a couple years in the Navy, he returned to UF and earned a master's in business administration.

He worked for Desco Marine in St. Augustine, became plant manager for Irwin Yachts in St. Petersburg and then spent eight years as plant manager for Hunter Marine in Alachua before going into real estate.

"I was in my mid-40s and I said, ‘You know. I need to do something different'," Thomas said.

"I had always been kind of a real estate junky. I had rental properties. My mother always said, ‘Own real estate. You can't lose.' Of course she didn't live through these last seven years."

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