Pandemic pivot: Florida lockdown unlocked real estate market


Catina and Robert Jones plan to expand their Icon Realty group to South Florida after travel restrictions kept them there during the first months of the pandemic. (VScourtesy of Icon Realty Group)

Stuck in Florida for three months at the start of the pandemic, it didn’t take long for Catina and Robert Jones to start hearing from customers wanting to do what they just did – buy a vacation home in the Sunshine State.

The married realtors had bought a condo in Fort Lauderdale just weeks before the pandemic arrived, and they were forced to stay for a while. Travel restrictions have canceled return flights to Richmond.

Although they were not initially licensed to sell real estate in Florida, the owners of Rocketts Landing-based Icon Realty Group decided to go into hiding and make the most of their time there.

“We started to generate so much interest and referrals that we had to refer the company to other local agents,” Catina said in a recent interview. “We said we really need to look at this and see it as an opportunity.”

Catina is now licensed and actively selling in South Florida, while Robert is in the process of obtaining a license. The couple divide their time between Richmond and Fort Lauderdale, where they have purchased a new second home and are suspending their licenses at the local office of Compass, a national brokerage house headquartered in New York City.

Catina said their work in Florida allows them to experience the market and lay the groundwork for what she believes could become an expansion of their business.

“We are giving ourselves a chance to learn the market, learn the buyers and sellers here and see if there is an opportunity to expand,” she said on a call from their home. in Florida.

“We have several Richmond residents who have contacted us who are interested in purchasing a second home or vacation home in the area. This is really what we are looking for: to present ourselves as a coastal connection, ”said Catina. “We don’t immediately know if it will turn into a second Icon location, but we are hopeful.”

Icon Realty Group is located in a 2,200 square foot space in Rocketts Landing at 210 Rocketts Way. (BizSense File)

Since swapping a condo in Fort Lauderdale for a house near Parkland, Catina has said that she and Robert have been going back and forth every two weeks, working on residential and commercial real estate transactions in Florida while continuing. to manage their respective sides of Icon Realty.

Robert runs the Icon Commercial division, which they added after the couple married and became business partners.

Since starting the brokerage in 2016, Catina has guided Icon from five or six initial agents to its current staff of around 50. After an 800 square foot storefront in Church Hill, she moved the business to a more large area of ​​2,200 square meters. space on foot at Rocketts Landing, where he remains based at 210 Rocketts Way.

She said the addition of Robert and the business division took Icon in new directions and the company has had a good year despite COVID. Specific sales figures and registration numbers have not been provided.

“I was great with a smaller brokerage concept, boutique brokerage, because we run it more as a team and we all worked together to make our business work,” said Catina. “When Robert and I became husband, wife and business partners, he brought a new vision of growth to the table. “

The section of 36 houses called North Hills at Armstrong Residence will be built near an apartment building under construction, visible in the distance. (BizSense File)

On the residential side, the Richmond office recently added a few dozen additional listings to its workload. The brokerage begins selling a section of 36 homes to Armstrong Renaissance, the massive redevelopment of the former Armstrong High School site along North 31st Street in the city’s East End.

Called North Hills to Armstrong Renaissance, the section of townhouses and detached houses for sale holds special significance to Catina, whose father was an Armstrong graduate. Three- and four-bedroom homes will cost between $ 225,000 and $ 350,000, with eight of them reserved for first-time homebuyers who are eligible to receive up to $ 15,000 in down payment assistance. .

“As we market this community, we also continue to celebrate its history,” she said. “We don’t want people to forget what was there before and why it was there.”


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