- Profile on Gerry Fitzpatrick.
- Fitzpatrick is the owner of RE/MAX Southeast.
- The former mechanic lovingly builds hot rods.
Gerry Fitzpatrick married soon after graduating from George Washington High School in southeast Denver and immediately went to work.
“I stared working in gas stations and garages as a mechanic,” said Fitzpatrick, the owner of RE/MAX Southeast for close to three decades.
In 1968, his father died and his mother gave him his life insurance proceeds of $5,000.
“I used that to buy a gas station at Leetsdale and Holly. It was at 520 S. Holly St.,” he said.
But he did more than get his hands dirty by changing spark plugs and rebuilding carburetors.
“I started my own business and ran it for the next 12 years,” he said. “At one point, I had 35 people working for me.”
Then, he developed Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo, along with fluctuating hear loss and a ringing in the ears.
“It can be really bad for some people, but it was not really too bad for me, although at times I could not get up and get down and would get dizzy, but that is another whole story,” he said.
However, one thing was clear: he couldn’t continue working as a mechanic with the disease.
“I didn’t have a college degree, so I was wondering what I could do,” said Fitzpatrick who says he is not joking when he says he probably was voted the least likely to succeed in high school.
After weighing his options, he got his real estate license and went to work for Bill Moore, owner of Moore and Co. in 1978.
“I sold my first homes in Seven Hills (in Aurora) for $52,000,” he said. “It is probably worth $300,000 today.”
It was an auspicious time to launch a real estate career.
“I got into real estate right when interest rates ran over 10 percent and then I rode them up to 17.5 percent in 1981, when I ran into my into my first recession,” Fitzpatrick said.
“I survived that one and all of the other ones that have followed,” he said, including the recent Great Recession.
“Selling homes now is a lot more fun than it was three or four years go,” he said.
Being a mechanic and a Realtor are not as far off as you might think.
“There really are a lot of similarities between selling real estate and being a mechanic,” Fitzpatrick said.
“I collect and work on hot rods and street rods. You might spend months, or even years, finding the right part and putting together a ca. When you put the key in the ignition and it start ups, you have this huge thrill and sense of accomplishment,” he explained.
“I feel the same way about putting buyers and sellers together,” Fitzpatrick said.
However, after being his own boss for many years, he discovered he didn’t like being an employee at a company.
“I left Bill Moore after only about a year,” he said.
He joined the new kid on the real estate block, Denver-based RE/MAX, which revolutionized the idea of brokers keeping 100 percent of their commissions in exchange for paying a monthly desk fee.
“I went to work for Dick Peterson at RE/MAX East,” which was one of the first RE/MAX franchises sold by the company’s co-founder Dave Liniger.
After a couple of years at RE/MAX East, he was invited to be a 20 percent owner of RE/MAX 3000, which became RE/MAX Southeast.
He started taking a bigger piece of the company and in 1986 he bought out his partner and became the sole owner.
“We started out with 17 agents and now we have 92,” Fitzpatrick said.
RE/MAX Southeast is about as big as he wants it to be.
“Honestly, I don’t really want to grow it,” he said. “I think the sweet spot if to have 90 to 110 agents. I know as a business owner you can sometimes grow your company and end up being less profitable. I think this is my sweet spot and I am very comfortable with an office of this size.”
On Aug. 15, he is moving the company a few blocks from its current home to 7,600 square feet at 7555 E. Hampden Ave. in the Tamarac shopping center, across from Whole Foods.
“This is the only Class A office building on Hampden and I want to upgrade the image of my company,” he said.
“We are on going to be on the ground floor and is is going to be a cafe-style office. Instead of a coffee pot and a microwave in a dingy cafeteria space at the back of the building, it is going to be very open and comfortable. it’s going to be like having a Starbucks in the office.”
He’s investing in new digs at a time when some might question whether a sticks and bricks office is even required.
With technology, he said that 65 percent to 75 percent of agents don’t need a physical office, because it so easy to be “virtual.”
“But you still need physical space from time to time and it’s nice to have really good looking space where agents can work or bring clients to,” he said.
In 1987, his company was the first RE/MAX office in Colorado to top $100 million in sales, he said. Last year, his firm had about $590 million in gross sales, he said.
He estimates since he took over in 1986, his firm has sold about $1.75 billion in homes.
While Fitzgerald continues to sell homes, he didn’t contribute that much to the company’s bottom line in 2013, despite last year being a
a record year for home sales in the Denver area.
He estimated he sold $3.5 million in homes in 2013. In the first half of this year, he already has sold about $4.5 million.
The reason his sales pace was relatively cool in a hot market was because in 2013 he was busy giving back to his industry.
For much of last year, he was the vice chairman and chairman of Metrolist, as well as the chairman of Metrolist’s rules and regulation committee.
“A lot of my other duties just came together and I didn’t have a lot of times to sell homes,” he said.
Through the years, he also has taken leadership roles at the Denver Metro Association of Realtors and the Colorado Association of Realtors.
In 2012, he was chosen as the Broker/Manager of the Year by DMAR.
That meant a lot to him.
“It was one of the true highlights of my career and a real honor, because it was my peers that gave me that award,” he said.
And while he still gets the same thrill of selling homes as he did when he started his career more than 36 years ago, these days he also is getting a huge amount of satisfaction by sharing his years of knowledge with people just entering the profession.
“I’m still a producing owner, but the last two or three years I have been really focusing a lot of my attention on helping young real estate agents grow their business and help them navigate increasingly complex compliance issues.
“I’ve find mentoring agents to be a lot of fun and very rewarding. I feel really blessed to have had such a wonderful career in real estate and I want people entering the profession to enjoy it as much as I have.”Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.