"Transitioning to Real Estate could have been much more difficult without the tremendous mentors in my circle," says Charter One Realty Agent, Paul De La Torre, who entered the real estate business 12 years ago, after a successful career as a Senior VP of Sales in the IT industry.
Drawing upon the skills that he honed in the IT Industry and the contacts he served in the credit unions - Paul has achieved tremendous success in real estate in a short amount of time.
Paul talks about making the leap from IT to real estate, the lessons that have kept him successful, and tips for buyers that are critical to the success of transitioning to the Lowcountry.
Charter One Realty: When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in real estate?
Paul De La Torre: My initial interest came by way of some of my family members in Tampa, where I am from, who were either in the business themselves or who were investors in Real Estate. My grandfather was a very astute investor in properties as was my aunt Cynthia. My interest in Real Estate really hit the summit with my wife's family, who were all in Real Estate in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area. My father in law ran developments in several states, while my mother in law, brother in law and sister in law were all in the profession here in Bluffton/Hilton Head. They shared their knowledge about the market, which peaked my curiosity with every conversation, for which I am so grateful.
Charter One Realty: Tell us about your start in the business. How did the first year go?
Paul De La Torre: Transitioning to Real Estate, from a Senior VP of Sales position in the IT industry, could have been much more difficult had I not had tremendous mentors in my circle. I started my career with a long-established brokerage in Tampa under a fantastic broker, Mario Polo. He and I spoke every day for the first six months of that initial year, and he shared his lifelong experience with me. Those conversations were invaluable. My first sale was a small condo, which ended up turning into a huge lead source. The buyer's sister was a Realtor affiliated with a credit union lead source, to which she introduced me. My background in IT was in servicing credit unions, so that partnership, coupled with my background turned into immediate successes given how many opportunities they sent me....all from providing great service that initial client. It was also a quick study on Real Estate given that I was exposed to a rapid-fire amount of clients. I ended up being one of the top producers for our firm in my first year, then the top producer for the next couple of years. I was also very fortunate to have represented one of the largest credit unions in the southeast as their listing agent in just my second year in the business. That turned into hundreds of sales over a nearly six-year period and dozens of production awards from our firm.
Charter One Realty: What’s kept you in the business after your initial success?
Paul De La Torre: Having grown up in family business (my family owned a couple of restaurants in Tampa), I learned at a very young age that all we have in life is our word. It is paramount to do what you say you are going to do, get back to your clients in a timely manner, and to provide them the best customer service. Without these focal points as your foundation, you will mitigate your own successes. You also have to work hard! Another lesson that has kept me successful in the business is how much effort I put into truly understanding my client's needs. Those initial client meetings/conversations, coupled with really digesting client feedback, has aided me in being on the same page with my clients. Without fully understanding your client's needs/wants, you will never truly be successful in this business.
Charter One Realty: What’s one common mistake you see prospective buyers make?
Paul De La Torre: One common mistake that my buyer prospects make is putting homes before communities. With so many online vehicles for prospects to search for homes, they often do not fully understand the communities where these homes are located. Given that we have a myriad of different communities, with a wide array of amenity offerings, price ranges, and dues structures, it is important to find the right community first. In my initial client interview, I ask about the activities they enjoy doing in their downtime, as well as the particulars about the home they have in mind because that information helps me navigate the Real Estate waters in our area. You will often hear me say, "Once we find the right community, we will find the right house".
Charter One Realty: How has technology changed the industry, and what does it mean for buyers?
Paul De La Torre: Technology has completed changed the way we practice Real Estate, especially in our area where many communities are gated, and seldom are there any for sale signs out and about. With nearly 87% of the buyers looking online before reaching out to a Realtor, I would say technology plays an integral part in the process. Two significant technologies that have really helped are electronic signature capability and video calling. Since we have so many clients from outside our local area, we are able to provide electronic documents for signings and we are able to do video calls for our clients to aid in virtual showings if they cannot be here. These tools have drastically changed how we do Real Estate today. From an environmental benefit, electronic signatures had vastly reduced the amount of paper needed for transactions today.
Charter One Realty: If you weren't working in real estate, is there anything else you could see yourself doing?
Paul De La Torre: My wife and I hold a patent on a medical product, so I would try to do something in that space. She has also come up with some other ideas that could be good ventures in the future. That being said, I think continuing to get the chance to work with Heather, in any capacity, would be something I would love to do.
Charter One Realty: What advice do you have for buyers looking in the Lowcountry?
Paul De La Torre: I would tell any buyer looking in the Lowcountry to have a wish list for a community offering as well as the one for the home they are looking for, given how each community has its own set of amenity offerings. I would tell them to prioritize finding the community first, then the home piece will fall in to place. For example, are they looking for a golf focused community or a boating community? Age-restricted or non-age specific? This piece is critical to the success of transitioning to the Lowcountry.
Charter One Realty: Where are you from originally, and how did you come to live in the Lowcountry?
Paul De La Torre: I am a 3rd generation Tampa native and my entire family is still there. I was introduced to the Lowcountry by my amazing wife, Heather. She and her family moved here from Ohio in 1976. I first visited Hilton Head in 1998, when we came to see her family. On that visit, I had the opportunity to attend my first Heritage golf tournament as my father in law was the Superintendent of the Harbor Town course. I was floored at the beauty of the area on that initial visit. Over the next several years, and two kids, I began feeling the love for the area grow. Then, in 2014, as our son was transitioning to middle school, we decided to move here. That decision absolutely changed my life. The Lowcountry is a special place and I still wake up some days in disbelief that I lived in an area where people vacation. And, I can honestly say, southern hospitality is truly a living, breathing thing because the people in the Lowcountry are some of the kindest on the planet.
Charter One Realty: How would you describe the vibe in the Lowcountry?
Paul De La Torre: The vibe in the Lowcountry is a slower pace than many other areas from which people visit, but there is a beauty in that pace. There is also a small-town feel here that is evident by how so many strangers way, stop to say hello, ask you how your day is going, and they do it with purpose like they sincerely care. I have also seen in so many instances where perfect strangers lend a hand in need when someone in the area is down. I always heard about southern charm....it is real!
Charter One Realty: How have you seen the Lowcountry change — from both a personal and professional perspective — over the years?
Paul De La Torre: Over the last several years I have seen growth, both personal and professional. My sphere of dear people has absolutely grown as I have become close with several clients, developer relationships, school relationships, and just folks in our town. I have seen our Real Estate market grow a lot over the last several years, but with the growth, we have also seen more conveniences, especially in Bluffton. I am just proud to see that the charm is still present, and what is really great is that so many of my clients have become friends. The open arms environment is really prevalent in our area, which is such a blessing.
Charter One Realty: What are your favorite shops and restaurants in our community and why?
Paul De La Torre: I am going to make a blanket statement here that I love that we have so many local shops and restaurants, versus chains. You feel a greater sense of community when you are helping support a local business, especially when you see so many familiar faces when you are there. I make it a point to show my clients some of our favorite spots while touring them around our area....call me and I will share some of those with you!
Charter One Realty: What are some of your favorite aspects of life in the Lowcountry?
Paul De La Torre: One of my favorite things about living in the Lowcountry is that there is such a focus on preserving the beauty of the surroundings. I love that there are no street lights down the main road to Hilton Head as that mitigates light pollution. I love that there are very few tall store signs, in an effort to put nature first. I especially love the fact that most people are not from here, and that newcomers are welcomed with open arms as I was as a newcomer.
Charter One Realty: Do you have a personal motto or mantra that guides you?
Paul De La Torre: Be a light that shines on to others as so many have been a light that shines bright on my path.
Charter One Realty: Please complete the sentence: “Home wouldn’t be home without . . .”
Paul De La Torre: Home would not be home without Heather, our kids, and our dog Cooper. They bring so much light to my life and positive energy to our home every day! I am truly blessed.