The BP Effect – A Realtor’s Tale

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by December 2, 2010 • 9 comments

The BP Effect series is brought to you by attorneys Reich & Binstock and Seeger Weiss LLP, which are helping businesses in Panama City Beach recover losses sustained directly and indirectly from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. They can help your business too,

In this series, we’ve talked about a variety of ways this past summer’s oil spill impacted a variety of industries, but this week we’re going to embark on a two article “mini-series” on the oil spill’s relationship with the local real estate industry.

Living in a tourism-driven market, there are a few things that serve as the base that Panama City Beach really relies on.  The primary being the vacation rental and service industry, and the other being the real estate industry.  Without sales, we would have nothing to rent; without the rental companies, we’d have no one to manage the homes and condos; and without the rental companies, we’d have no one to convince the stressed out work-force of America that our white beaches are perfect for relaxing their toes and keeping them sane.

Today’s story is about Karen Smith.  She’s the new broker and owner of the well known Panama City Beach real estate company, Beachy Beach.  I say “new” owner, despite her being affiliated with it for years, because she IS the new owner.  She bought it from the founder earlier this year when she saw an opportunity and was growing faster than a field of Daisies after a spring rain shower, until the BP well exploded late April this year.  You may also know her from The Beach Show, which I founded in early 2009 with her – it’s the only Internet TV Show all about Real Estate in Panama City Beach.

“I had over twenty closings from January through April alone this year,” Karen told me this morning after showing me her board that had the last names of everyone of her customers, organized by month on her dry-erase board.  She was rocking, I mean really rocking.  She said she was pacing to have the best summer she’d ever had in over 15 years in the real estate business.

“We leased our new office the day before the oil spill happened,” Karen said.  Their location is right on Panama City Beach Parkway (Back Beach Road for us locals) on the far west end of Panama City Beach.  Tastefully decorated with high-end furniture and a very beachy atmosphere, her office is perfect for her customers to lounge comfortably while they work through the nuances of buying or selling real estate.

Looking at her board, she had less than 5 closings all summer long – May, June, July and August.  With the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport marketing efforts coupled with Southwest Airlines’ marketing genius behind the trigger, Panama City Beach was finally on the map, and with the audience that we truly wanted here – family vacationers.  Based on her estimations from her spring sales pace, Karen speculates that she should have done at least double during the summer what she did in January through April.  But she closed 4.

It’s remarkable, she was telling me, that since they “fixed” the oil spill, it’s like the faucet has been turned back on, gradually since September.  She’s set to finish off the year with a bang with just under 20 closings.  She said this will still be the best year she’s ever had and she’s grateful for all her customers that have been patient through this whole mess.

This was a “Realtor’s” tale, next we’re going to talk about what happened with the real estate industry as a whole in Panama City Beach in summer 2010.

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1 Cathy December 2, 2010 at 8:43 pm

The key word you mentioned was in the last paragraph……. “Patient”.
Yes, things were a mess but, not so in PCB. In others beaches far up the coast yes…… things did get messy. But, as far as PCB they did not… it was the “threat” of what could be that terrified vacationers & prospective property buyers away for a while.
They will return as they always do…….. Just think of it this way, IF there had been a huge hurricane comming toward PCB, vacationers and anyone who may have been considering purchasing would have left. If the hurricane had hit PCB it would have been the same results & possibly worse.
But, with the news updates leading views to almost panic…… thus resulted in many not spending their vacations in PCB or many coming down to purchase condos etc.
As you say…… slowly things are coming back to normal as they always do.
Most people have already forgotten “The BP Effect” and are looking towards next years planing of vacations etc.
Good Luck in 2011 ….. Cathy/Tennessee

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2 Jason Koertge December 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Cathy, you’re absolutely right. Buyers stopped buying over the summer because they were worried about long-term effects. When they stopped the leakage into the Gulf, the long-term risk went away, and people realized the beautiful beaches in Panama City Beach were just as pristine as ever, business started picking back up.

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3 Lorenzo Faciane December 3, 2010 at 1:22 am

Since the spill I’ve traveled to lower cities in Louisiana and seen first hand what they are currently dealing with in result of the oil spill. From what I’ve seen down there Panama City Beach should be counting their blessings.

Luckily most businesses here in PCB got the opportunity to see a turn around once people realized that our beaches were still as pretty as ever.

Since the spill I’ve been conversing with several out of state associates that are planning to do some condo shopping this upcoming season here in PCB, so I started questioning everyone about why the sudden interest in the area.

Every single person I asked that question to responded with almost the same answer. Since, the oil spill the spot light has been shining very hard on PCB and drew a ton of attention to the area causing people to see how much potential this city has. Seems to me that PCB might just bounce back ten times harder than ever before.

Lorenzo Faciane

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4 Jason Koertge December 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

You can bet we ARE counting our blessings. We were very fortunate. At one point, there was a fairly sizable slick less than 10 miles from our beaches, but it never made it to shore.

I’ve seen good bounce back in some industries, but we’ll really see recovery next spring. I think next year will be better than ever.

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5 Cathy December 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

There were many many “blessings” as I see it for PCB this past summer…. just think: no really bad storms and no hurricans. Just think if this would have happened while the oil slick being 10 miles out from the beaches…. What could have happened?
You know in our life we worry about many (could have been) things. I’ve always heard that the things we worry most about never come to pass. This surly being true this time as the oil never made it to Panama’s beautiful beach.
I am so grateful and I know all of the residents of PCB are also.
My only wish is that this terrible “accident” never happened but, it did & we have to deal with it the very best we can.
Along with our blessings comes forward the bright New Year 2011, just around the corner and the promise of another enjoyable vacation year, beautiful summer, tourism, land/condo/home purchases for PCB.
My hope is for a wonderful year ahead, where we can put all this “effect” talk and worry behind us. It’s time for a fresh New Year!
Take care, Cathy/Tennessee

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6 karen Smith December 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

You are so correct that it was the threat of what could be and not the actual event that had people running scared. I was very fortunate in that although the months surrounding the spill were treacherous for a bit we picked right back up after the oil spill was capped. Thankfully we are still on track for our best year ever with over 45 closings during the year and only 4 during the oil scare months. The funny thing is I did not really realize it until I looked back because we were too busy working…. not much time for whining.
I have always been of the belief that you just keep looking for the blessings in the situation and there were many many to be found.

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7 Angie Thompson December 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Interesting article. The thing that struck me most after reading is that I am Karen Smith’s Facebook friend so I see her status updates daily. I would have never known business was down for her because she ALWAYS has something positive to say. And she absolutely must be PCB’s biggest cheerleader. It’s business people like Karen who will not only survive but will actually thrive and prosper because they look for the upside. Every day. Panama City Beach is lucky to have the delightful staff of Beachy Beach. If they can shoulder through a troubling summer with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts, imagine what a joy it would be to do business with them.

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8 Sol Williams December 7, 2010 at 11:48 am

Sol Williams

What an upbeat article! I agree the only reason for Karen’s slow summer was the oil spill. My wife Sharon Williams, with Miller & Associates, had a similar experience with the slow summer sales but has seen a rise in the number of sales this fall. Karen is such an upbeat person and does a fantastic job of representing Panama City Beach and all real estate firms. Congratulations on your success and may God continue to bless you in the future.

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