1. Business

Realtors use signature ways to stand out among thousands in Pinellas

Georgia Naruns, second from left, with Northstar Realty mingles during the monthly sundowner, a tradition that her mother, Peggy, hosts at Northstar.
Georgia Naruns, second from left, with Northstar Realty mingles during the monthly sundowner, a tradition that her mother, Peggy, hosts at Northstar.
Published Jan. 31, 2012

In real estate the rule, of course, is location, location, location. But here are a few other selling tools: violin music, a Segway, "sun­downers," and the Roe Boat. With more than 5,000 residential Realtors in Pinellas County, some have established signature ways to set themselves apart and be remembered by sellers, buyers and colleagues.

"I like to entertain," said Jeff Joyner with Jeff Joyner & Associates. "The more Realtors who like me, the more houses I'm going to sell."

Joyner is known for having splashy brokers open houses at luxury homes with antique cars and boat tours. Recently he hired a violinist from the Florida Orchestra for an open house at a 10,000-square-foot waterfront estate listed for $3.5 million.

"I'll start using him pretty regularly now. He was great," Joyner said. Global Marine also loaned him a 65-foot yacht and captain for the open house. "Anybody can sell a home. I'm trying to sell a lifestyle. If you can sell somebody a lifestyle, they're going to dig deeper."

Joyner isn't the only real estate agent who has developed a signature tactic.

The 'sundowner'

If it's the second Tuesday of the month, colleagues and clients know they can count on Peggy Naruns with Northstar Realty for an evening of networking and relaxing. That's when she hosts her "sundowner" at her Northstar office on Beach Drive.

Of course, you can't see the sun set from Beach Drive, but that doesn't seem to bother guests who eat her daughters' famous meatballs, cheese, fruit or homemade cookies with a glass of wine or cold water. At a recent sundowner the door was propped open so the breeze and about 40 guests could filter in and out.

While the event boosts her business, Naruns said she also does it to help local businesspeople network and enjoy themselves. It's open to anyone, not just sellers and buyers. Pamela Arbisi, fundraising director with the nonprofit First Tee golf program, was at the sundowner passing out invitations to an upcoming fundraiser.

"The strength of Northstar is that they're very personable," said Brian Daly, a neighbor of Naruns' who stopped by. He owns a home at Signature Place downtown but is considering buying a place at the beach.

Realtor about town

Tom Hallis, with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate on Beach Drive, said he wouldn't be noticed just walking through downtown like everyone else. But after six years of riding his Segway around, people know him as the Realtor with the Segway.

"I don't know how many times I go down Beach Drive and people holler out and say 'Hey Tom,' '' Hallis said. "The perception is I'm all over the place."

Hallis lives at Parkshore Plaza and specializes in downtown condo sales. He heard about a Realtor in Omaha who always traveled by Segway and decided to make it his signature mode of transportation. Signs for his business hang on either side. When he rides up to an appointment, clients are always intrigued. Although most people aren't likely to rush out and buy one along with their high-end condo, Hallis thinks it helps sell them on downtown St. Petersburg.

"It reinforces the lifestyle of downtown. You park your car and you can walk everywhere," he said. "Every once in a while a client will get brave enough and say 'Let me try it.' It's usually the women, not the men."

The 'Roe Boat'

Cliff Roe with Cliff Roe Realty in Seminole specializes in waterfront condos. He has a 32-foot cruiser he calls the Roe Boat to show clients properties.

"If I drive down the road and show them houses from the front, they don't get the full effect," he said in his common-sense Tennessee drawl. "A house on the water is not designed to look its best for the front. It's designed for the water."

So he pulls up to the back yard and enters the property from a dock so clients can picture themselves doing that once they own it.

"What you're doing is showing them a lifestyle. If they're not going out on a boat, they don't know what they're buying," Roe said. "I'll show them properties, then we go in and out of canals and through John's Pass."

Working the waves

Elizabeth Funk, another Northstar agent, often takes clients and colleagues out on cocktail cruises on her 42-foot boat. She has met with buyers visiting from out of town who aren't sure who to lock in as their Realtor. Once they go out on the boat with the beautiful view, good food and a drink, they decide to be clients before they get back on dry land.

"Just recently I was working with a new client (and her husband) who just moved here and thought they were just going to rent first," Funk said. "I took them out on the boat and showed them downtown and all the different neighborhoods. That weekend they signed a contract. They paid over appraisal."

Contact Katherine Snow Smith at (727) 893-8785 or