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In 2008, Dava Davin said goodbye to her career in the pharmaceutical industry and embarked on a new journey into Maine real estate.
Four years later, she founded her own franchise, Portside Real Estate Group. The company had $40 million in sales during its first year of existence and has since grown into one of the top 10 residential real estate companies in the state with office locations up and down the coast of Maine.
Davin credits the company’s growth to a business philosophy centered on face-to-face company service and to launching at an opportune time. Portside rode positive market forces throughout most of their first decade to get to a place where, in 2023, they’re on track to produce their best year on record during one of real estate’s toughest years, according to Davin.
Davin, who will be appearing at Inman Connect New York in January on a panel on how indie brokerages can recruit competitively, sat down with Inman ahead of the event to speak about her journey to self-fulfillment through real estate, her nonprofit and why she does not recommend launching your own company.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
You started a second career in real estate after working in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years. What was it like making that transition?
I think for me it was really about finding myself, my true passions, and being able to unleash my full potential.
And you were able to do that by launching a career in real estate?
I think so. Especially going on to open a company and whatnot, I think being able to be fully myself all the time versus having that persona of like going to work and then you have your work persona, whereas when you are a Realtor or a business owner you can just kind of be who you are all the time. I think that was huge for me to be able to kind of navigate life in my own my own way, my own path.
You founded your own company four years after you started your real estate career. What drove you to take that leap?
I was just feeling like I wasn’t fully finding that right place working at a different brokerage and then looking at other brokerages to make a switch, I just couldn’t find something that was speaking to me and doing brokerage the way that I truly wanted to. So it didn’t leave me a lot of choice other than to take a stab at it on my own and create a culture that is collaborative and safe, where people can drop their armor at the door.
Tell me about your nonprofit.
That’s a big part of who we are. The privilege that we have of selling homes helps us to, in turn, give back to the communities that we serve, so we started a nonprofit that ties into that.
The simplest version is we just take 1 percent of top-line revenue, company and agents, and then we sweep that to the side at the end of every month. We have a board of agents that read through grants and they have to vote unanimously and the ones that fit our mission, those are funded. So throughout the course of the year, we can fund upwards of 50 grants that are somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000. And then, since we cover the majority of Maine, we break it down by county so we can track the percentage of dollars that were earned in each county and make sure that that money is being funneled back to those communities.
The second part of our foundation is we do events [to which] agents can invite their sphere of influence, and every event has a beneficiary so that money is raising money and awareness for nonprofits. It’s sort of a win-win; the agents get to invite their sphere, have human-to-human connection, while we’re giving back to our community.
What has the market in Maine looked like this past year?
We are still an inbound state, so definitely have plenty of buyers moving to Maine to escape climate change or political views or are just looking for a slower pace. That being said, on the flip side, we have the same inventory problems as the rest of the country; that has pushed our prices, which are continuing to grow. Overall units and volume are down about 12 percent for units and 20 percent for volume for the state, but I’m proud to say we bucked that trend and we’ll have our best year ever here at Portside.
What are your expectations for 2024?
I think for for us here in northern New England, we are going to see a little bit of easing. I do think we’ll have a very robust spring; we’re a cyclical market based on our weather patterns, so definitely anticipating a hot spring again with multiple bids and such. I think we’ll have more transactions than last year with interest rates settling in and people just having life changes and forcing them to move. It’s only so long you can continue to live with your divorced spouse. I don’t think it’s going to be dramatic. I don’t think we’re going to see COVID years but I do think we’re going to see a better year in 2024 than we did in 2023.
Do you have any advice for agents who might be interested in starting their own independent brokerage?
Don’t do it [laughs]. I mean, I founded my company in 2012 and I was really fortunate to ride the wave of a growing real estate economy, and now we’re just in a different environment and I do feel like there is an advantage to having scale. So now we’re the No. 1 independent brokerage in Maine. but we’re really the No. 2 brokerage [overall.] It’s much different to be able to have that status and brand awareness when we’re going after listings versus someone who’s just starting out, and it takes a really long time.