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Real Estate evolves in the Boro
Two veteran agents look back from a historical perspective
bettyandsamphotoWeb
Sam DiPolito, left, and Betty Minnick look at house plans of a home for sale in Statesboro. - photo by JENNY LYNN ANDERSON/Special

            (Note: The following is the first of two articles looking back at how the real estate industry changed through the years in Statesboro and Bulloch County. The next article will appear in next week’s Business Monday section.)          

            When Sam DiPolito began his real estate career and joined Prudential Realty in 1986, there were six residential real estate firms in Statesboro and only a handful of full-time realtors. 

            A new, four-bedroom, 2-bath home with 2,200 square feet listed for $85,000. Prestigious homes in Woodlawn Terrace topped out the market at a little over $100,000. As families parked their $7,000 Pontiacs in the garage, they favored mauve, teal and grey for their home décor.  

            Mothers shopped at Piggly Wiggly for bargains such as two loaves of old fashioned bread for 99 cents while Hoot Brinson’s IGA offered Claxton Leg Quarters for 39 cents a pound. Oh, and gasoline cost 89 cents a gallon.

            “During this time a $70,000 home sale was a big sale for a realtor,” DiPolitio said.  “Statesboro was a viable market and there was a fair amount of real estate activity going on with 15,300 people living in the city and additional 38,500 living in the county.”

            As the great technology revolution of the latter part of the 1980s occurred, the process of buying and selling real estate was altered.  Before the advent of computers, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) was not only firmly planted on every realtor’s desk in the city, but also published as a tabloid section by the Statesboro Herald. 

            Statesboro realtors relied heavily on GSC Business Professor John Budack who also taught real estate courses in the continuing education department. For the real estate community, he was indispensable because he took all the pictures of houses and made Xerox copies of the new listings for the MLS. 

            “As prices changed or a sale occurred, John would distribute these revised sheets that we kept in a three-ring binder.  We’d rip out the sold homes and he replenished it with new listings,” DiPolitio said.  “There were no fax machines, no cell phones, no high glossy publications.”.

            “The technology changed some things, but when you get down to it, the process of finding a buyer, making a professional connection with them, representing them and taking them to find a property is still the same,” DiPolitio said. “After they have refined their search on the Internet you still need to put them in your car and take them around and look at properties.”

            Betty Minick, co-owner of ERA Landmark Realty, recalled the days before the MLS and Internet, as well.

            “When Jimmy Lanier hired me and other realtors, he taught us how to go outside a house, pull a tape, measure it and square it off on graph paper to figure out the square feet,” Minnick said. “Next, we would go to the courthouse to get the deed and the plat and then we came back to the office to figure out the price of the house. There were no comps or MLS and she depended on Jimmy as an appraiser for his extensive knowledge of the market. 

            In the early 80s, all the realty companies in town were independent except for Johnny Cobb’s Century 21.  Each real estate office in town had its own sales contract and every agreement was differently arranged. 

“We would laboriously pore over every contract to make sure we would not miss any details,” Minnick said.    

            Luckily for the realtors in the late 1980s, a state contract was adopted by the Georgia Association of Realtors which helped simplify the process. 

            When Minnick and Carma Smith bought the Electronic Realty Associates (ERA) franchise in 1989, they chose this company because it was the first real estate franchise to tout the technological advances of the “moving machine” and training classes for new agents. 

            “Originally it was an old, ancient looking fax-like device in this cage,” Minnick said.  “It rolled the paper out, all the while making this terrible noise. But you could call any ERA office in the United States and they could send you what they had on the market via this machine. This was revolutionary because we knew our listings could be seen in Atlanta and other cities.”

            One interesting note from both realtors is their keen recollection of the high interest rates of part of the 80s. 

“It was horrific,” DiPolitio said. “Rates were 16 percent in the beginning and they went up to 22 percent.” 

Everything was adjustable and at one point it had no cap. Then there were caps from 2 to 6 percent and could jump at any time. 

“It was almost impossible to figure out how people would qualify for loans during this time,” Minnick said.  

She recalled agonizing about whether or not the real estate market would ever see 10 percent rates again.

            But the interest rates came down and the market changed. 

Next week, Minnick and DiPolito take us behind the scenes at a look at how residents of Bulloch County rode the real estate wave of the 90s.