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2013-12-12

Gail Stone Realty celebrates 15 years

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The holiday season offers plenty of reasons to celebrate, but Gail Stone Realty had an extra special event to mark this year. The Main Street real estate agency marked its 15th year in business in Bandera with a festive champagne and cider open house during Shoppers Jubilee, Friday, Dec. 6.
"We wanted to show our appreciation and gratitude to our associates and customers," said owner Gail Stone. "You don't do this [stay in business] without the support of a lot of other people."
Stone earned her real estate agent's license in 1982 while working in another office. By 1998 she had earned her broker's license and opened her own business.
For a while, she had an office in the strip center on Highway 16 South, but "the 2002 flood invited me to relocate!"
The timing was perfect, as Geri and David Valdez decided to move Pipe Creek Realty to their Pipe Creek location. They offered Stone an opportunity to acquire the offices at 334 Main and she has been there for 10 years. One of Stone's best marketing tools is the front display window full of photos and information about her listings.
"It's been a great location. The visibility is excellent," said Stone. "Many of our clients say that is why they listed with us."
Although many real estate agents have moved toward doing business almost exclusively online, Stone believes having a physical presence continues to pay off for her. A lot of clients still like to talk to a live person, whether on the phone or face to face.
For a time, Stone worked solo, but as her business picked up she realized she needed assistance. "I found I was losing business because I had to turn people away."
Stone had met Harriet Hearne in college and the two had become friends. "She's a professional organizer, so I asked her to come in and get me organized," said Stone. Hearne was so good with customers, that it didn't take long before Stone told Hearne to "go get your license and come to work. She's a good friend and a great asset to the business."
While Stone likes the feeling of a small, warm and friendly office that epitomizes "the small town way," she also sees the need to grow. "We're almost to that point again," she said, "where we have more business than we can handle. The challenge is to expand our presence but still stay hands-on with our customers. I'm developing an agent-centric business model that I believe will allow us to do that"
In addition to the sidewalk window, Stone advertises her properties through print ads, an excellent and well-maintained website and all the online real estate services.
She also maintains a good working relationship with the other real estate brokerages in the county. "We're all competitors, but to succeed, we all need to cooperate," she said.
Hearne said that the real estate market picked up last year with more inventory coming on the market. "Bandera's always been a unique market," she said. They are seeing a demand for properties suited for multiple uses. "People want to buy a property where they can live, say on weekends, maybe use it as a B&B when they're not here, and then retire here later."
During her years in the real estate business in Bandera County, Stone has gone through four major downturns. "Somehow we've always survived," she said, "and that's only because of all the people we're so appreciative of; those who bought from us, let us sell their homes, let us manage their property, referred us to family and friends. There are people who took the time to help us with our clients, worked late to finalize a transaction. We're grateful to all of them."
Hearne added, "If we succeed, it's because we have the best customers in the world."
I suspect that the hard-working duo have the best customers because their own warm and friendly natures draw like-minded people to do business with them.
Asked if she had any advice to new business owners, Stone thought for a moment and replied, "Just keep your head down and work hard."
If you're in the market for a piece of property, have property you're thinking of selling or have property you need professionally managed, call Gail Stone Realty at 830-796-4640, stop by the office at 334 Main Street, or check out the website at www.gailstonerealty.com.