Many people with deep roots in the Golden Isles have chosen real estate as their profession, and who can blame them? They know the lay of the land better, understand local family connections and can give superior recommendations about almost everything a potential buyer needs to know when moving to the Golden Isles. Sellers benefit from their knowledge for the same reasons. We talked with a few Realtors – most of whom have lived in the Golden Isles for a lifetime – and found out a little about them and the local real estate market.
Rebecca Gould Strother, of Duckworth Properties, has a story in the Golden Isles that began more than 200 years ago, when around 1800, James Gould decided to call the island home. Now married to Gordon “Bug” Strother, the couple has two Jack Russell terriers who are “spoiled rotten,” and a horse named Trusty Strother has had since she was 16.
“My husband and I have both lived in the Golden Isles our entire lives,” she said. “My husband’s side of the family originated here around the 1920s, (and) still operate one of the oldest stores that is still in business on St. Simons Island – JC Strother Co.”
A graduate of Glynn Academy, Strother attended several years at the local college in Brunswick before going to Ocala, Fla., to an International Study Center to study natural horsemanship.
“I was able to learn and ride with students from all over the world,” she said.
A friend helped her make the decision to pursue a career in real estate.
“I grew up being friends with Hannah Melton, who is LeAnn Duckworth’s daughter,” Strother said. “For many years, LeAnn had asked me to go and get my real estate license so that I could work with her; she felt like I had the personality and drive for the business.”
It turns out Duckworth was right.
“When I finally decided to … get my real estate license in 2014, I hit the ground running and joined the brokerage,” said Strother, adding that she worked directly under Duckworth as her licensed assistant for several years. “That provided me with such a great foundation for my career and provided me with so much knowledge that cannot be attained from just acquiring a real estate license.”
Her goals for 2021 are to continue her success.
The real estate market has shifted over the course of the past year, with people realizing they have the ability to work from anywhere.
“So why not live somewhere with rich local history and beauty,” she asked. “The Golden Isles offers a location convenient to Jacksonville and Savannah, and is a great jumping-off spot for being able to take day trips to other islands like Little St. Simons Island, Cumberland Island, Sapelo Island, and so many more.“
As far as recreational activities, Strother says real estate is not an “off-the-clock” kind of job.
“I’ve negotiated deals for people while on the back of a horse, in a beach chair and even in a dear stand,” she said. “I love to spend as much time out of the office with my horse, and thrive being outdoors, but real estate is a seven-day-a-week job, and being available for my clients is very important.”
Strother said she has many wonderful childhood memories of growing up locally from which to choose.
“One of my favorite memories from growing up here in the Golden Isles would have to be horseback riding lessons at Sea Island Stables with my grandmother watching from the side,” she said. “The sound of your instructor giving you directions over the speaker and riding in between massive oak trees in the ring will always be a special memory.
“Every time I pass by the land that was preserved by the St. Simons Land Trust, it makes me smile and appreciate how things used to be.”
A native of Elberton, Al Brown, of Al Brown Co., and his wife Gayle, who were high school sweethearts at Elberton High School, have been married 49 years, and have two daughters, Anna, who lives in Dallas, and Jordan, who lives on St. Simons Island. The Browns have also called St. Simons Island home for 49 years.
Brown said that Anna and her husband, George, have produced the “world’s greatest grandson,” Parker, who is 3. Jordan, he said, is one of his fishing buddies.
Brown attended Greenville College on a basketball scholarship, but transferred to the University of Georgia, where he graduated (1972) with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in real estate.
Although he had obtained his real estate license in 1971 while still at Georgia, it was more out of curiosity and furthering his knowledge of the profession.
“My primary interest was real estate finance,” he said. “My career started with First National Bank of Brunswick. I was a mortgage loan officer for the bank when John A. Kaufman and Ped Drawdy took me to lunch and encouraged me to go into real estate.”
Kaufman and Drawdy told Brown he could be a “real success” in selling real estate, and so his career began with Parker-Kaufman on Altama Avenue, selling in Brunswick.
“I borrowed $200 each week before I started making sales, which took me six long months,” Brown said. “Many of the houses I sold were under $20,000. My mortgage banking experience was a real asset for me, giving me knowledge of all aspects of real estate and an edge that my competition did not have.”
Although he’s been in the real estate business for a half-century, Brown shows no signs of slowing down.
“I want to continue to improve my knowledge and execution of all aspects of real estate to best serve my clients.”
Interestingly, Brown doesn’t encourage everyone to live in the Golden Isles.
“The chamber of commerce won’t like my answer, but in reality, the Golden Isles are not for everybody,” he said. “I encourage my buying clients to fully explore the area, compare it to other areas they are considering and make an informed decision. If you don’t absolutely love it here, it’s not the place for you.
As an aside, he continued, “I’m really not much of a salesman, but I’m a good communicator and I’m a pretty good mind reader, both excellent skills in this business. Obviously, Gayle and I love it here.”
Despite how busy his career keeps him, Brown finds time to enjoy life. His favorite off-the-clock pursuits include bass fishing, golfing with Gayle, playing drums in church and teaching Sunday school. He’s also currently writing a book. (Maybe we’ll have more on that later).
Brown didn’t grow up in the Golden Isles, but his childhood memories are similar to those who did, because they include family, water and the outdoors.
“Growing up, my father worked for the City of Elberton, supporting a family of six,” Brown said. “We never took elaborate vacations, so we would go tent camping at Clark Hill Lake. That was the best time. I never saw Mama and Daddy so happy as when we were camping on this one special point … on Newford Creek in Lincoln County.”
More recently, and locally, Brown had an unforgettable birthday.
“On my 40th birthday in 1990, Gayle, Anna, Jordan and I celebrated by going to The Cloister for dinner that night,” Brown said. “President George H.W. Bush and Barbara were having dinner in the private dining room of the old hotel. As they were leaving, they came by our table and wished me a happy birthday. A sitting President of the United States! What an honor and thrill that was. I’ll never forget that.”
In addition to his work as a Realtor with Banker Real Estate, Victor Long has a lot happening. This long-time resident has been married to his “wonderful wife Whitney” since 1997, and is the dad to three sons and a daughter. The eldest is a junior at Yale, and he’s followed by his siblings – a junior, a sophomore and a freshman at Long’s alma mater, Glynn Academy.
“I have lived in the Golden Isles for 42 years, after my dad wanted to get back home to Georgia after living in Montana,” he said.
Long attended Glynn County public schools, including Burroughs-Molette, Glynn Middle and Glynn Academy, before pursuing his college education at University of Georgia.
He’s always had an interest in business.
“An entrepreneur at heart, I have owned a number of businesses, beginning in my early 20s,” he said. “I was behind a couple of start-ups in multiple industries – including banking and technology – all while dabbling in real estate and developing a neighborhood here on St. Simons – Wildlife Preserve. I decided to turn this part-time interest into a full-time profession.”
Long’s goals include continuing to use his local knowledge and connections to bring value to his clients, whether it’s finding the perfect home or lot, or a second home or investment/rental property.
The question, he said, should not be why people should buy real estate in the Golden Isles, but why not.
“It’s a perfect place to raise a family or retire, and it is still under-valued compared to other coastal market property values,” Long said.
When he’s not working, Long enjoys playing golf and going out fishing on his boat, but he admits that between work and active kids, he doesn’t get to do either as much as he would like.
Long values his childhood experiences here in the Golden Isles and has fond memories including baseball at Mallery Park, ice cream at Tastee-Freez (now Frosty’s), fishing and crabbing at the pier, swimming at the Casino and Beach Club, riding bikes all around the island.
“I feel blessed to be able to raise my children here, too, so they can have some of the same experiences I had growing up,” he said.
Brooke Sapp Carter, of Ansley Real Estate, has Glynn County roots that reach back several generations, and she has continued her family’s tradition of calling the Golden Isles home. Married to Jeff Carter, with two children, daughter Blake, 8, and son, Grant, 6, two dogs and two cats, she is always on the go.
With her parents and grandparents also being from the area, Carter is aware of the changes that have occurred throughout the years, but also understands what makes it attractive to people who are relocating from more populous areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the real estate market in a number of ways, she said.
“It’s caused people to re-evaluate where they want to live and raise a family,” she said.
Carter is a graduate of Glynn Academy, and after high school pursued a modeling career, and attended college later.
“I split it up between Brenau and Georgia State, and knocked it out really quickly. It was not the traditional college path,” she said.
Carter has always had an interest in real estate.
“I’ve always loved looking at homes, and I enjoy architecture and design and seeing what people can do with a space,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how one owner can transform a home into something different.”
Growing, up Carter said she witnessed her parents and grandparents buying, renovating and selling properties, so real estate is “kind of a natural thing” for her.
Her real estate career is exciting, she said.
“It’s been neat; I’ve had sweet clients and met some great people,” she said. “I’ve made new friendships.”
And, she’s super-busy. In fact, Carter’s office on St. Simons Island is so busy they’ve recently hired Mackay Cate, a another native Golden Islander, who is also a Realtor.
“He’s a great addition,” said Carter. “He’s just as passionate about our community as I am.”
Carter’s 2021 goals including continuing to create the best experience for her clients.
“I make it a priority to spend quality time with them and learn as much as I can about their family’s wants and needs, along with what they specifically value in a home,” she said. “This relationship-building step is so important, because it allows me to effectively communicate and better serve them in their home-buying or selling process.”
Carter says she will also be staying on top of trends in the local and active market, and will challenge herself to continue learning about current results-driven ways to market property.
When asked why people should consider buying real estate in the Golden Isles, Carter was quick to respond.
“Why would you not?” she asked. “Our unique, special community provides so much for a young family relocating here to those who are ready to retire and have a slower-paced lifestyle. The Golden Isles is here to embrace everyone with its beautiful natural surroundings and unlimited opportunities!”
Although work is time-consuming, Carter and her husband make family time a priority and spend much of their spare time outdoors bike riding, playing golf or enjoying the beach.
“We really never are bored, because there is so much to do,” she said.
Her children’s memories will hopefully mirror her own someday. Growing up, Carter said she enjoyed riding bikes with her friends, going to the “fudge place” in the Village and hanging out at Mallery Park.
“You could just get on your bike, and ride through all the neighborhoods, with all your friends,” she said.