Dave Parks and his sister Judie Parks co-own Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Parks & Weisberg Realtors, the firm their mother once owned. Therein lie some interesting stories about life, opportunity, decisions, responsibilities and relationships.
By Steve Kaufman
Photos by Kathryn Harrington
The name on the company stationery is Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Parks & Weisberg Realtors. “It’s the longest name in real estate,” joked co-owner Dave Parks.
And if that were the only thing to distinguish this realty and property management firm in that highly competitive business, it might make for some good conversation at industry functions.
But this is also a 65-year-old Louisville institution that has grown exponentially since Dave and his sister, Judie Parks, bought it 10 years ago.
“We’ve expanded our property management business by 100 percent,” said Dave, “and grown our agent base by 100 percent.”
The successes and growth have not gone unnoticed. Dave was named 2018 Realtor of the Year by the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors (GLAR). Judie Parks won the award in 2016.
The firm’s reputation is so strong that when a real estate company was going to exit the Louisville market, the owners came to Dave and said, “We admire what you do. We’d like you to be our new company.”
“They gave us their book of business,” he recalled.
His mother, Pat Parks, became an owner of the then-36-year-old company in 1988 – joining Frank and Ron Weisberg in what became Parks & Weisberg, a Prudential Financial franchisee. “She became nationally known for her agent-training programs,” said Dave, and she was the first president from this area elected to the National Women’s Council of Realtors.
“She still comes into the office regularly to do coaching and mentoring,” Dave said of his mother.
When Prudential was getting out of the real estate business and cutting loose its franchisees, it convinced Warren Buffet to get Berkshire Hathaway, his multinational conglomerate, into residential real estate franchising. Parks & Weisberg was one of the first companies invited to be part of that.
Despite his family background in the business – in addition to his mother, his father was a builder and property manager – and that he managed a 40-unit apartment complex when he was 19, Dave didn’t set his course for real estate. After graduating from St. Xavier High School in 1980, he joined the Marine Corps, which sent him to Ohio State University for a degree in business.
But Dave also spent a third of his military career in recruiting command, “so I learned how to train salespeople and to run a sales organization. With the combination of military experience and leadership experience, it was a natural thing for me to use that skill set in the real estate business after I retired from the Corps in 2001.”
‘No’ to P&G, ‘Yes’ to Louisville
Dave’s first instinct was to try joining Procter & Gamble’s brand management program at the company’s Cincinnati headquarters. But on the very brink of that interview, he had lunch with a senior partner at Procter.
“He told me, ‘You’re about to get this job if you want it. But you’re 39, you spent 20 years in the Marines, you know how to lead people. Wouldn’t you rather be in business for yourself?’”
The answer, it turned out, was “yes,” and Dave was soon on I-71 South back to Louisville – with his wife Jennie and daughters Kate (then 3-and-a-half) and Jessica (then 6 months old) – “to learn the real estate business from the ground up.”
Learn, he did. He joined his mother’s firm and went to work. “Like most new real estate agents, I went out knocking on doors, prospecting, holding open houses,” he recalled. “I’ve closed more than 1,000 homes since 2001 and I’ve sold about $200 million worth of real estate in all the various sectors of the business – residential, commercial, rental.”
Since buying the company outright in 2008, Judie and Dave have also expanded their lines of business. “We own some investment properties and manage about 1,000 doors in the city – of which about 250 are single-family, and the balance are multi-family and homeowners’ association doors [condominiums, subdivisions]. We do business with rental properties, owned properties and some commercial properties, mainly in the three counties in Southern Indiana [Clark, Floyd and Harrison] and the three Kentucky counties [Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt] that constitute the Louisville Greater Metropolitan Area.”
The Better You
But Dave eventually decided his most valuable day-to-day role would be about the training and grooming of people: “the skill set I mastered in the Marines.”
He explained that doubling the firm’s agent base and improving its performance has been one of the major keys to growth.
“Our business model is that we are a human development company in the business of helping people grow as humans,” he said. “Our basic philosophy is that we try to make you better with us than you’d be without us.”
Also, he said, “Because of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchise system, we now have a lot of back-end tools that make it more efficient for agents to grow their sales skills, prospecting skills and ability to follow up with their clients.”
That was one of the reasons the Parks siblings jumped at the chance to affiliate with Irvine, California-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
While Dave has focused on training, mentoring and operations, Judie has become the principal broker of the firm. The Speed School graduate and former computer engineer for Ford Motor Company also heads corporate relocation and referral services for the office.
“She’s the rock upon which we establish our values as a team,” said her brother.
Both of them have won Berkshire Hathaway HomeService’s Legend Award, two of only three Kentuckians to have everwon it.
The firm is operating in a strong rental market. As bad as the homeowners’ market was in the recessionary years, 2008 through 2011, it resulted in people having to sell their homes at a loss to keep from going more deeply underwater, or losing their homes altogether, or renting them out just to keep the mortgages paid for.
“Roughly 3,000 homes were lost or abandoned in this city,” Dave said. “Those people had to live somewhere, so they became renters. And the rental market across the United States, but especially here, became very strong.”
The recession also had another effect on the rental market. The older of the millennials were coming out of college as the recession hit, had trouble finding good jobs and were renting rather than buying homes – or living with their parents.
“They also often grew up with their houses in jeopardy or actually lost,” said Dave, “so they didn’t associate the safety net that homes traditionally have had. Even if they could afford to buy, they weren’t culturally inclined to do it.”
And, of course, mortgage lending tightened up in those recessionary years and funding for condominium development dried up. “It became a supply-and-demand proposition,” said Dave. “Right now, the demand for rentals is tremendously high in areas like Germantown, the Highlands and St. Matthews. In these high-demand areas, if a rental house hits the market, it’s likely to go in a matter of days. And the prices are higher there.
“We even have rental properties in Glenview,” he said. “And Norton Commons has become one of the most expensive places to rent in Jefferson County.”
Parks and Recreation
Dave, who still believes that real estate is the best, safest and most reliable wealth-building vehicle there is – even despite the short-term effects of the recession – lives in the Lime Kiln Road area with his wife and daughters.
Kate, graduated from Assumption High School and is now a junior at the University of Kentucky studying business and accounting. Jessica is currently at Assumption with plans to attend UK and study business.
So the family bleeds blue? “Yes,” said Dave, “but we’re also season ticket-holders at Louisville’s football and men’s and women’s basketball, so we’re all in for the whole state.”
Parks met Jenny through mutual friends when the Marine was home from Japan one summer in the mid-80s. They spent about two hours together, he related, and then he went back to Japan for a year.
“I came home the following summer and we were engaged 28 days later,” he recalled. “That was 32 years ago. I know a good thing when I find it.”
Which is a good business plan as well. V