I sat down with our newly appointed President and CEO, Philip A. White, to ask him a few questions about his real estate career and advice for agents today.
Q: You have been in the real estate industry for over 30 years. Did you always know this was the career for you?
Not really, I started my career as an investment banker in Atlanta, Georgia. I was working at a very good bank there called Trust Company Bank, now SunTrust. I liked it very much and thought it was what I wanted to do.
Before my time at the bank, though, I had spent some time in London, on a study aboard program through my university. While in London, a friend introduced me to his sister, who worked in the French Impressionist department at Sotheby’s auction house in London. She invited me to attend an auction and I became fascinated with the art world. It was one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen.
In light of my new found interest, I decided to write a research paper for school on Josiah Wedgwood, the English potter and founder of the Wedgwood china company. A friend read the paper and thought it was so well written that I should try to have it published. When I returned to the United States, I submitted my paper to the magazine, Southern Accents who to my surprise, decided to publish it as an article.
After the article was published, the editors at Southern Accents asked me to write a quarterly Art column for the magazine. My knowledge of Art was limited, so I called Sotheby’s and other auction houses and told them I was a journalist. They sent me all their catalogues which I used for research. I would select a category to write about, say Old Masters Paintings, and then research it using their catalogues and other sources. Mind you, this was before Google so there was a heavy amount of research involved. It forced me to not only learn about the art auction business, but afforded me the opportunity to gain an appreciation for meeting a publishing deadline as well.
It wasn’t until later, on a trip to New York City when I read an article about the new COO of Sotheby’s International Realty, who was a banker himself, that I thought I could combine my banking experience with the Sotheby’s brand. I called an executive at Sotheby’s and told him I was a journalist interested in interviewing him in person for an article. He obliged, but when I arrived in his office I revealed that my real motive was not to write an article, but rather that I wanted to open a Sotheby’s International Realty office in Atlanta. The meeting lasted 2 hours and at the end, he did not allow me to open the office, but I was offered a job with Sotheby’s Real Estate division in New York City. After working several years with Sotheby’s International Realty in various positions, I did eventually open the first Sotheby’s International Realty office in Atlanta.
Q: What was the most memorable sale of your career as a real estate broker?
There are numerous sales that I remember throughout my career, but the two that prominently stand out are the sales of Holly Tree Plantation in Kingstree, South Carolina and an Atlanta residence situated across from the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.
Though I had been a listing agent for several months, Holly Tree Plantation was my first sale representing the buyer. I had arranged for a helicopter to take my client to view several plantation properties throughout the state of South Carolina. On the morning of the trip, my client called to tell me he wasn’t feeling well and that maybe we should go out another day. I had already paid for the rental and there was no refund policy so I asked my sister, who was pregnant, to borrow some anti-nausea pills. Needless to say, I coaxed my client onto the helicopter and we had a successful trip which resulted in him purchasing Holly Tree Plantation for $1.25 million.
My other most memorable sale was the listing and sale of a residence which was located in a prominent location in Atlanta. It was directly across from the Georgia Governor’s Mansion and had been listed with several other brokers, but hadn’t resulted in a sale. It was a hard property to sell, but I used some creative marketing techniques including arranging for the home to be the next Decorators’ Show House. I had several showings, but no offers until New Years Eve day. Being that it was a holiday, I was the only broker in my office when a gentleman called requesting to see the property that day. I agreed and we wrote up an offer that day. The sale garnered a lot of notoriety and was the highest priced sale in Atlanta at the time.
Q: What advice do you have for agents in the industry today?
There are three pieces of advice that are paramount: build your sphere of influence, be the ultimate local resource for your clients by knowing your market and provide valuable service to your current and prospective clients.
Q: What is one activity that you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy playing golf and squash and spending time with my family.