Desiree Kotze is a longtime Ponte Vedra resident who is a new realtor with RE/MAX Specialists PV. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Kotze has a fascinating story that she was happy to share with the Recorder.
Can you please tell us about your background?
I received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Stellenbosch University, one of South Africa’s oldest universities that is known for its idyllic wine lands. After university, a recruitment company hired me as a headhunter, and many years later, I started my own recruitment company named Plus Personnel. When our twins (Mica and Amoré) were born, I closed my business and went back to work as a recruiter.
My husband and I planned in 1991 to “owner build” a 5,550 square foot house in Plattekloof for our family. I designed the house, we started building in 1992 and a few weeks later, we found out my husband had cancer. My husband went through a few operations and chemo treatments that made him very ill. I had no choice but to see the whole process of owner builder through, since we stood to lose everything if I did not. Today the house “Desiree” built is one of the busiest bed and breakfasts in Plattekloof.
In 1996, my husband, who recovered from his illness, was recruited on an H1B visa as a computer contractor to work on Y2K projects in the United States. We lived in Atlanta and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, our first two years, and then we found our home in Ponte Vedra Beach when my husband was sent to Jacksonville. I soon started volunteering through our church and local schools. I was on the founding PTO for Ponte Vedra High School as the volunteer coordinator. At Nease High School, I served as the teacher appreciation coordinator for the IB program teaching staff.
One day, a friend asked me to be a substitute teacher for her at Episcopal Preschool, and I stayed for six years. Eventually, I left to volunteer as the director of the children’s and youth ministry at the International Community Bible Study Group, also known as CBS (Ponte Vedra Branch).
What inspired you to become a realtor?
Like my other jobs, people would ask me or tell me I can do something, and I would try it. That is exactly how I became a realtor. A number of people told me I would be a great realtor, and I thought, “Why not?”
I have literally lived through every possible scenario regarding realty: renting locally and abroad, building locally and abroad and buying existing homes locally and abroad. Experience alone qualified me to have great empathy and understanding for what my clients need and the emotions they are experiencing. Or so I thought. Most people do not realize that being a realtor requires education and staying on top of the constant changes in the industry.
What’s the most rewarding part about your job?
The most rewarding part is meeting people from all walks of life. I love holding open houses for that very reason. Listening to stories and hearing what the homebuyers value is very educational.
I also enjoy seeing the joy on clients’ face when you find them that buyer who loves the seller’s house as much as the seller does. The day you close on a listing is pretty awesome too.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Real estate is much more technology driven today, and it is very competitive in a relatively small market like the Beaches.
To stand out, you need to use all of the tools: Facebook, websites, monthly newsletters, blogging and more. Many realtors do what they call “buying leads” from places such as Zillow or Realtor.com. Those leads are very expensive, and if you are a relatively new realtor, you cannot afford to employ people to run your Facebook page or manage and build your website. So, you have to rely on your sphere of influence, including the friends and family members you hope will refer you, because they value your integrity and hard work.
How would you characterize the state of the real estate market in Ponte Vedra?
The single family housing market and rentals went fast during the spring and summer. I want to stick my neck out and say that if you listed a house in 2017 from February through August in Ponte Vedra Beach, Nocatee, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune and Atlantic Beach, your realtor most likely had an offer on that house within 21 days.
On the buyer’s side, if you were looking for a resale or soon ready to move in new construction, the pickings were slim, and you had to know exactly what you needed and move fast when you found it.
In Nocatee alone, more than 100 homes went under contract from July to September. I have recently read that resales have dropped in September by a small percentage, but the market is still very ripe for selling and buying. It is really a good time to list in October for November with out-of-town visitors coming for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra Beach?
I LOVE living in Ponte Vedra Beach and have lived here for 20 years! Ponte Vedra really has everything to offer for everyone (except a night life for the young adults, which makes it an awesome place to raise teenagers).
I love that nobody in Ponte Vedra or Nocatee is really from here. If you do meet someone who grew up here, they are unpretentious, and they have the best stories to tell you of the days when Ponte Vedra was only an island with no AC or even power.
Ponte Vedra is like a little secret (or so it used to be) oasis in North Florida. It’s a place where you go to Starbucks and the nail salon, and everyone knows you and you know everyone, even if you haven't been to their homes.
We even have the best medical care here, with Mayo Clinic and Baptist Medical in our backyard. Not to mention, there are great colleges and schools.