Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bob Parks feels pain of downturn

Bob Parks has been in the real estate business more than 30 years, but he has never seen a housing recession this bad.
Bob Parks Realty has gone from having about 600 employees and agents three years ago to 465 today, with most of the losses being real estate agents falling by the wayside. Parks also closed an office in his home city, Murfreesboro, leaving him with nine locations in Middle Tennessee.

As dramatic and painful as the downturn has been, Parks is still one of the largest real estate companies in the Nashville area. His operation includes a commercial and land development business, a property management division and an auction business. He has managed to develop some of the most exclusive neighborhoods: from Hampton Reserve in Brentwood to Princeton Hills in Franklin.

His ParkTrust development lists some 20 developments in Williamson, Rutherford, Davidson and Sumner counties still trying to sell homes.

Parks said he and his various entities that include other investors — such as John Harney — have some 200 to 250 developed lots that haven't been sold. But no banks have foreclosed on his properties at this point.

Not surprisingly, Parks counts among his mistakes developing too many lots; and creating too much office space for brokers. His corporate headquarters in Cool Springs includes 20,000 square feet of space for brokers, but he thinks the future is in smaller offices that are more accessible to pedestrians and walk-in clients.

Still Parks remains upbeat.

The sales market has turned around, with five consecutive months of year-over-year home sales increases. Parks says he has contracts to sell lots to several builders now.

He said he has invested about $100,000 within the last year on technology to help make his brokers more efficient in sales. Among them: an application that lets homebuyers download pictures and information on their mobile phones while driving by a home they like.

"I have a career that I absolutely love,'' Parks said. "I have no desire or intention to retire. This will pass. We'll get through it. We had a great 15 years with no downtown."

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