Bonnie Strickland Shares Her Secret Real Estate Sauce

After years of buying, selling and investing in homes and properties in the St. Petersburg area, Bonnie Strickland formed Strickland Property Group in St. Petersburg.

Raised in a family of brokers, investors, contractors, and architects, she developed an appreciation and an understanding of the real estate industry early in her life.

Since 2010, her career volume has been $567 million, with $147 million in 2018, alone.

She spoke with TBBW about her experience in the real estate industry and why she loves life in the Tampa Bay area.

Let’s talk about how you came to be in this industry. Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg. Growing up, I was lucky to have a strong, successful entrepreneurial businesswoman as a role model. My mother was a real estate broker and had her own company. She was also one of the first women residential builders in St. Petersburg. I grew up watching her passion for real estate and her passion for helping people buy and sell real estate. I have the same passion to serve my clients with honesty and integrity in a community that I was born and raised in.

You were able to stay afloat of the recession. What was that period like for you? What did you do differently than your competitors?

I was originally licensed in 1987. Even though we had no cellphones or computers—and interest rates were 18 percent—I still had a passion for real estate. It was hard, but I loved it. When I had my first child, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and help my husband start his construction business. When the recession hit and the worst housing crash came to be, my youngest went to college and I really wanted to get back into real estate full time.

I started out slow and began by buying some short sales and foreclosures. I bought in neighborhoods I knew instinctively would come back over time. Networking is key. People I know in the community started approaching me to help them sell their homes because they saw my hard work and my dedication to bring property values back up and my genuine care factor for real estate and our community. When I got so busy and successful that I had to turn people down, I started to build a team and trained them to serve our clients the same way I had been doing. We were under a national franchise and grew to the top in four years.

I opened my own brokerage in January 2015 on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg. Our business continued to grow and thrive under our own brand. It’s hard to believe that I actually started my real estate career in the middle of the recession. When other new agents complain that this is a hard industry, I laugh because I not only started in a recession but we had that horrible BP oil spill at the same time. Perseverance is key.

Talk about the decision to partner with Douglas Elliman. How did it come about?

I never thought about selling, but other franchises approached [and] I always turned them down. I was introduced to Douglas Elliman through a co-worker who watched them be very successful on the east coast of Florida and other places across the country. After many discussions, they indicated they would let me continue to run the company with the honesty and integrity and care factor that I started it with. We both felt that this could be a win-win to expand their very successful brand to the west coast of Florida. As third-largest real estate firm in the country, they could have opened an office anywhere but they chose St. Petersburg and our firm. They said, “We know where our clients want to go and we need to be there to be ready to serve them. The Tampa Bay area is where they want to go.” And here we are now, working together since February.

You mentioned you love St. Pete. Why?

I could write a book on why I love St. Pete. I have watched it change from a retirement community to an amazing vibrant city with everything you could want. It is a fabulous community of people, both locals and people who have moved here from all over the world. It is such an honor to live and work here. I have also been a big proponent of bridging the bay. I love that we have a water ferry and can travel between both Tampa and St. Petersburg. I also love how our art community is thriving here and am very excited about our new pier.

What keeps you up at night in your industry?

When things you cannot control cause problems. It is a very competitive business and I have seen other agents do crazy things for the commission check. I trained my agents to always have the “care factor” come first and not to worry about the commission check. If our clients feel we care, they will trust us. If they trust you, they will refer you, which is why 99 percent of our business has been repeat and referral. I’ve even had clients leave me in their will, saying, “if something happens to me and the family needs to sell the home, call Bonnie and her team.”

The best advice I ever received was to remember it might take 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to lose it, so we always do the right thing no matter what. 

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