TAMPA — Rumor has it that after 59 years as a real estate agent and a career that includes creating a subdivision and negotiating a land deal for a mall, 92-year-old Jeanne Coyle Sargent is considering retiring this year.
“The rumor is true,” Coyle Sargent said. She then added with a laugh, “Maybe. I want to retire. But maybe it will be next year so I can retire after 60 years. I’d like to make it to 60.”
So, 2022 will be her last year in real estate?
“Maybe,” Coyle Sargent said with another laugh.
Coyle Sargent has been considering walking away from the business since she was 65.
Every year, she tells herself this is her final year. And, every year, she decides to work another year.
“I’ll probably retire before her,” said daughter Gina Coyle, 61, who has been working with her mother since 1993. “This is mom’s love. This is like her baby.”
Coyle Sargent is “pretty sure” she is the area’s oldest real estate agent. “Everyone else who started around the same time as I did has died. How long will I do this for? For as long as I can move.”
Initially, real estate was a temporary fix for her family’s financial problems.
It was 1962. The oldest of her four kids was 12, the youngest was 2 and her first husband, the late Dan Coyle, had health issues.
“I figured out that we needed $2,500 for us just to live,” Coyle Sargent said. “Someone suggested I get into real estate. I sold six houses pretty quickly and realized I was good at it.”
Coyle Sargent couldn’t remember her first sale, but the Tampa Bay Times found her first real estate ad.
Published April 28, 1963, the ad is for a “spacious older home in Plant High area.” The home had three bedrooms, a “large living room” and a detached playroom.
“Homes like that were selling for $10,000 back then,” she said. “You could get it for $500 down. Today, it might cost more than a million.”
She spent her early years working for other firms before branching out on her own in the early 1970s and forming Coyle Realty, which she still runs out of 3216 W. Bay to Bay Blvd.
Due to the gas crisis, it was a tough time to start a company, she said. Clients canceled appointments because a home was too far a drive. Coyle Sargent regularly walked miles to show off a house.
She recalls spending months that e year showing dozens of houses to one client. When Coyle Sargent found the “perfect one,” she said, “the buyer told me that it was everything she’d ever wanted in a house. But she said she just didn’t like it. It was then I decided I needed to get into commercial real estate too. That’s more about numbers.”
One of the first commercial properties Coyle Sargent took on was Harbour Island in 1974, when it was a phosphate loading terminal. Another agent closed that deal before she could, and the island was later redeveloped into a downtown gated community.
But, within the next few years, Coyle Sargent’s realty company began closing major deals.
In 1976, according to Tampa Bay Times archives, she helped create Carrollwood’s Lake Ellen Beach Park subdivision. The Eckhart family owned nine homes on one piece of property. They hired Coyle Sargent to sell the land. She suggested breaking it into nine parcels.
It was such a unique process back then, the Times reported, the county had to “walk” Coyle Sargent through the “first of its kind” process of a real estate agent forming a planned development with a homeowner’s association.
In 1979, her company negotiated the sale of Graves Dairy to Federated Department Stores Inc. That land was turned into the Brandon Town Center, now the Westfield Brandon.
A few years later, her company closed the deal on a dairy that developers used for much of the Summerfield Crossings community, but she could not recall specifics.
“Those areas have changed a lot,” Coyle Sargent said. “They went from cows to traffic.”
Her largest commission was one of her more recent commercial sales.
In 2019, Coyle Sargent said, she sold a Tampa warehouse property for around $3 million. She would not disclose the address or seller.
“She absolutely came alive during that deal,” her daughter said. “But it was never about the money she earned. It was about making the money for the client.”
That client, Coyle Sargent said, is now “semi-retired.”
And that, she said, is why she keeps putting off her retirement.
“How else will I have the opportunity to experience that type of joy?” Coyle Sargent said. “There is so much happiness and excitement when I find someone their first home or help someone sell a property that leads to retirement. When you love what you do and can still do it, it’s hard to give it up.”
Correction: Jeanne Coyle Sargent wants to make it to 60 years in real estate. The story has been updated because it had the wrong number.