In this episode of The Real Estate Sessions, Bill Risser sits down with an experienced broker and real estate owner, Cole Slate. Cole is the owner of Slate Real Estate in St. John’s Country, Jacksonville, Florida. He is a strong business development professional with a Bachelor’s degree focused on family, youth, and community sciences from the University of Florida. To hear more, tune in, and find inspiration in Cole’s wisdom and experience in becoming a well-established broker.
Cole Slate, Broker/Owner, Slate Real Estate
Thank you so much for tuning in and for telling a friend. I can’t wait to talk with Cole Slate. Cole is the Broker Owner of Slate Real Estate up in the St John’s County area, right outside Jacksonville, Florida. I met Cole at the Jacksonville bar camp, now renamed the One Coast REBarCamp. He has an amazing operation. Cole is a native Northeast Floridian. He loves where he lives and shows how he works with his community with charity and giving back in the world of real estate. He is an amazing guy. I am excited to get his story so let’s get this thing started.
Cole, welcome to the show.
Bill, thanks for having me.
It is well long overdue. You are doing some cool things up in the Jacksonville area. I want to talk about all those things, but first, I want to talk about Jacksonville in particular. You are a native of Northeast Florida. I have been to your office. How far away did you grow up from your office? How far away was the home where you grew up?
From when I was born until eleven years old, I was literally in the ZIP code across the street from my office. From eleven years old until now, minus my years in Gainesville, University of Florida, I have lived in the same ZIP code. You are probably looking at a max fifteen-minute radius from everything.
You are the epitome of “real estate is local.”
It is a lot of our marketing stuff. If you hear a lot of people say hyper-local, our whole outlook is a more hyper community. You will hear me use that term a lot in regards to what we do and how we give back and things like that.
Now I live in St. Petersburg. We will call that West Central Florida. Northeast Florida is different than what we have down here. South Florida is completely different from everybody. Tell me a little bit about Northeast Florida. Why is it cool? What is neat about it? Are you tired of being called South Georgia?
Again, being a native, obviously, I am biased. I will be honest. It ruffles my feathers whenever I hear someone say something negative about the Jacksonville area, Northeast Florida. When speaking to people who do not live here or even those that are considering moving here or things like that, Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville area, is the best of all worlds.
We have ocean, inner coastal, river, the suburbs, the historic area, downtown, and an NFL team. It is cheating a little bit because landmass-wise, we are the largest city in the country. We have a lot of areas to have all this great stuff, but in the 30-minute drive, you can get to all of those things. We have the airport. Where else do you have all of those different types of environments, atmospheres, and resources? Nowhere that I can think of, but again, biased native opinion.
You also have the ability to get to the mountains if you want. That is a big stretch for the rest of Florida. Unless you are in the Panhandle, the Northeast, and the Northside, you are not getting to the mountains for hours from where I live.
It is not too far for a drive. I do not leave town much but I see people going to the mountains for weekend trips. I see it all the time on my social media feed.
You mentioned you are a Gator. We got to talk about it or Sean Carpenter will have my head. I do not know if there is a bigger fan than him. It might be you, but let’s talk about that. First of all, the University of Florida. I will continue my poll of Gators. I have to ask you this question because if you answer the same way that most people answer, it is going to continue this mind-blowing experience for me. What is your least favorite SCC school? You got to pick one.
If I have to pick one, I would say Georgia because of the rivalry and things like that, but Sean Carpenter might have my head is that I do not get too deep into the rivalries. For Rivalry weekend, I will be totally die-hard against this other school because they are playing Florida and I hope Florida kicks their ass and all of the Southern stuff, but I am one of those fans. Everyone has a reason to root for their school. They are raised a particular way and attend school.Be the interviewer. Make sure that you are most comfortable with the environment, the culture, and the leadership of the companies you are interviewing. Click To Tweet
They grew up around that city, the state, or whatever it is. I will be as big of a trash talker as anyone else for that particular weekend because that is the fun of it. I do not get too deep into it. SCC and my house are fun. I am a University of Florida alum. My beautiful wife, Laura, is an Auburn alum. She is in the other division. She is SCC West. She is orange and blue still, just the wrong orange and blue.
One more thought about the SCC. Unlike any other place I have been in the country, it is SCC first for a lot of people in the SCC. It is such a dominant football conference that even if Auburn or Tennessee is playing for the national championship, you as an SCC guy are going to root for them because it represents your conference. I am telling you, if you see USC or UCLA, if one of those two is playing for the national championship, the other school is rooting for them to lose. The last thing they want is that school to win. It is interesting. It is different here.
It is because we want to keep up that superior reputation as a football conference. SCC is an NFL factory. How did the SCC stack up in the first round of the NFL draft?
Five Georgia defensive players went in the first round. That tells you everything you need to know.
Even talking about Adam Hutchinson and everything, being a Jaguar fan as well, who knows where that top pick will have been better invested in the SCC player and Trayvon Walker or Adam Hutchinson, but my devil’s advocacy against Adam Hutchinson was he was missing an action against Georgia. Time will tell.
We will get to real estate now. Was real estate even a blip on the radar for you?
No. I have no idea. I always grew up with the idea that I was going to work for my family business. My dad owns a company. He is an economic development consultant. I went through college, figuring that I was going to do that. I did not walk. I graduated, but I did not physically go to graduation. Two weeks after my last final exam, I was in my dad’s office working. I gave it a shot for a few months, but it was not me. This plan, I had to work in the family business for the rest of my life and take over, was cut to about 3 or 4 months when I learned that it was not going to be something that I enjoy doing for the rest of my life.
From there, I got into mortgages. The reason I did that is it was a similar atmosphere. I was in a call center. In my dad’s office, I was making cold calls and doing research. Some of my best friends worked in this mortgage call center. I was like, “Even if the job sucks, I will be with some of my buddies so it will be cool.” That only lasted 6 or 7 months because of the same type of thing. I am sitting in a cubicle 40 to 50 hours a week on a headset taking mortgage applications. That is not my personality. I did not enjoy doing it. After that, I got into teaching and coaching basketball. I did that for a school year and then decided to get into real estate.
I was in the title business for twenty years and as a lender, you have realtor partners that are superior and superb. You probably worked with some realtors who struggled. How is that?
My short stint in mortgages was great because I learned and I got trained by EverBank at that time. Now it is US Bank. They had some of the best training programs that I know of. Only being in it for 6 or 7 months, I learned enough to now when I decided to get into real estate a year later after mortgages to be dangerous, to know enough about the mortgage situation and process that even when I got my real estate license when I turned 25 years old, it still added to this knowledge as for me being a resource for home buyers and sellers
It is the number one thing a realtor is. You are a resource. When you are good at what you do, you are helping, educating, and taking care of people. The more you know, the better off you are. I love that. You worked for a few different models like KW and Yellowfin, which is a Florida regional. We have them down here. EXIT Realty is another national brand. Talk about that. You worked your way through some good learning opportunities.
Whenever I get decided to get into real estate, I was super young, but I had just turned 25 years old. I would never buy a house before, but I was renting from my parents. When I decided to get in, we had a close family friend that was working at the Jacksonville KW office that, fortunately and luckily for me, made an awesome introduction to, in my opinion, the top team lead in Jacksonville and Christina Welch. I started off in a good situation. There is still stuff that I am implementing now that I learned from Christina. She and I talk or text every week or two still. Encountering that, I was young and inexperienced, and I did not know that it was best for me to interview the brokers and the brokerage.
Let’s be honest. Unfortunately, a vast majority of these models are going to hire anyone that has a pulse. I went in with the mindset of, “I hope they want me.” I am not talking in regards to Christina anymore. I had to interview separately for her because she had a lot of people trying to join her team. Luckily, I was the one that she chose, but in regards to a brokerage level, thank God that I was blessed and as lucky as I did.
Even now, I encourage every new agent that I talk to, “You be the interviewer. You make sure that you are most comfortable with the environment, the culture, and the leadership of these companies that you are interviewing.” There are some that are out there being picky like we are with my new firm. You be the interviewer and make sure that you are going to love where you are with the culture and the leadership and be most comfortable and confident in your new business.
You are at EXIT and the bug bites you. It happens to a lot of good agents where they go, “I can do this. I want to build something. I want it to be good.” As you do strike out on your own, what was your vision? What did Slate Real Estate look like before it was Slate Real Estate?
I loved my time, all of it at EXIT Real Estate Gallery. The leadership there with Sonny Downey, Ray Rivera, and Nancy Soriano. I could not have been in a better situation, but I was there. My team and I were there for five years and we were the top producers all five years. I am the furthest from a content person. If I am at a firm for five years, our team is the top producer for five years. Am I cool with that? Am I content? Am I going to keep doing that for the rest of my career?
What is next? What is progress? Is it making a bigger team? We had a small team of 5 or 6 people, which is fun, but as I was around longer, as I got involved more in our association, more at the state, got to know more people like you and Carp, and got out more, I got that itch to want to start something from scratch. There were a lot of small motivators behind that. Zero of them was anything negative towards EXIT. It was my tongue for what is next.
Many of the small motivators were you look at these big companies. We could go to whatever big company, EXIT, Keller, whatever it is. Maybe I love being associated with 10% to 20% of the other agents that are there, and I do not necessarily love the way that the other 80% of agents are portraying their business or how they are handling themselves and things like that. Something that was attractive to me was starting a brand, a reputation from scratch and doing it, and choosing agents to join us that I felt mirrored our qualities, goals, and the impact that we want to have, not only on the industry.
Forget the industry and the community. It is like something we talked about a little bit ago. Being that resource, we already have such a great reputation in the community with all the appreciation events that we do and everything we do to give back. I want to create that same reputation within our industry. That is what my goals are with this new company and new brand.
Let’s help some agents who are in that same place you were when you decided to strike out on your own. What have been, for you, the biggest challenges?
What should have been the biggest challenges are the initial investments. That looks different for everybody. The level of uncertainty when you decide, “I am going to leave this company of 500 agents and I want to get a start on my own. I am going to take on all these extra costs, overhead, and liability. I am going to take on more employees that I am going to have to pay. I have to pay for errors, admission, and rent now.” You mentioned our office. We built out this amazing office that was out of my pocket.
It is a lot of risks but what you have to be comfortable with, and I have said this a million times before, is the best investment that you make is the investment you make in yourself because you create the outcome. Even though it was scarier than hell doing all this, I also know that no one is going to put in the time and effort that I am going to to make sure that those goals and vision comes to fruition.
If you are going to gamble, gamble on yourself. We were talking about that before. That is fantastic. Let’s chat about the market for a little bit. Obviously, I do not have to ask what the market looks like in the last few years. Everybody was blown away by June of 2020. Everyone was like, “This is the last thing I expected.” You have gone through this incredible run like everyone else has. Even though short-term, like next fall or Q4, Q1 in 2021, because that is traditionally the slow time, beginning of the year, which it was not here this 2022. What do you think about that? I know you have to think that way.
I have a few different opinions in regard to that. First, we are always taught to read the forecast, the statistics, the history, what is going on, what the experts are saying, and things like that. In our market, in particular, I am not putting a lot of weight on it. Here is the reason. Number one, all of these forecasts and what experts are saying and things like that, they have not been through a pandemic before.
They do not know what is going on. They can go back as many years as they want. People keep throwing around the words bubble and recession. That is not happening. Even if it does, we do not have a history on this. We are the first of this occurrence to happen. Number two, lucky for us, you and I are in Florida and DeSantis has kept us open.
Everyone has been flocking here from all over the country. On some level, this demand is not going anywhere anytime soon. With the interest rates up, perhaps the purchasing power of these people who were joining us in our amazing State of Florida may be their purchase price be down. Thanks to interest rates going up.
Everyone’s circumstances have changed. We have everyone coming to Florida. So much of my business, which myself and everyone at our firm, is all organic word of mouth type business. Historically, I have always usually been a local-to-local move. Even a lot of those personal circumstances have changed because these families are already here, but mom and dad, who were working in Downtown Jacksonville both work from home now.
Their son, little Timmy, does not go to school anymore. They are virtual. Their little three-bedroom, two-bath house now needs five bedrooms and an office. Not only everyone who is migrating here, but also the local-to-local circumstances are changing as well. Going back to the statistics, some of my colleagues and I were talking about what we have seen going on in the past few weeks.The best investment you make is your investment in yourself because you create the outcome. Click To Tweet
Stats through our association, MLS, and even some stats at Florida Realtors has not been released yet for April 2022. What we are seeing is a slowdown in borrower and mortgage applications. We are seeing what is now longer than usual properties staying on the market, even stuff that is priced appropriately with the closed calculations because that is how we are pricing properties. At the end of the day, a worst-case scenario in this market is a buyer who needs a sufficient appraisal.
Even properly listing these properties, we could see one that only gets one offer and then a comparable property that hits the market the following week that we think is priced way too high all of a sudden gets multiple offers interest. What is going on right now is that, with regards to the active residential listings on our MLS, we are up 40%.
We had approximately 1,900 active listings in the Jacksonville area MLS. Before you and I got off, we were at approximately 2,600, which is approximately 40%. To paint a picture for you, a balanced market in our MLS is approximately 10,000 active residential listings. We are still ungodly low during this crazy inventory shortage, but historically what we have seen in the past with how low the inventory has been, we are starting to see listings creep up.
Is it a good thing?
That might be a whole other episode. Let’s get back to 3 or 4 months of inventory. I hate to sound bad, but when I got my license, there were approximately 5,000 realtors in NFAR, Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. Now, we are around approximately 11,000. Needless to say, a lot of these agents, on the other side, are not necessarily a joy to work with. Maybe this inventory growth will get us back to some colleagues that are more serious about our profession and more of a joy to work with. A lot of different takes and impacts that this growth of inventory I feel on hope is going to have.
You mentioned the interest rates. They are going to go up and Inflation is an issue. The Feds are going to do what they can to try to do what they can. I heard a couple of lenders talk about the fact that we have been spoiled by incredibly low-interest rates for a super long time, unprecedented. Rates are creeping up at 5%.
It is still so low. It is still free money.
Historically, incredibly low. Every person’s situation is unique. That is what you and your lender partners figure out. Interest rates could be 7%, but for this group of people and the circumstances their life is in, it is an excellent thing. It is going to work great. That is part of what you have to do.
Everyone has gotten spoiled. My wife and I were lucky when we built our house and walked in. We have been in the house that we built for a few years. We walked in without buying any points down to 2.5. I am going to die in that house.
You said you like Northeast Florida. We know you are not leaving. That is good.
I am not going anywhere. It was straight luck. That being said, a lot of people have different opinions and everything about what is going on right now. Calling 5% a high-interest rate is not high. There has been so much higher, but we have gotten spoiled. There are a lot of people, particularly in our area in St John’s County, with regards to counties and our ZIP code, in particular, 32259, is one of the fastest-growing ZIP codes in the country.
I will hear people talk about how upset they are that their son and daughter-in-law can’t buy their first home in our area. My response to that is back when I bought my first home. I was not looking in areas that I could not afford. The interest rates have been a big tease. These values have gone up so quickly. It was a tease that they could purchase a home here a few years ago and they can’t now, which I understand that part of it. At the end of the day, you got to purchase and shop where you can afford it.
That is why you need a good realtor. We were at REBarCamp together again for the 3rd or 4th time. It is a lot of fun.
Not just the actual one but we are doing Orlando together.
That is coming up. We are going to be down there so that is going to be a lot of fun. You work with an incredible charity. The One Coast Bar Camp up in Jacksonville worked with this charity. I want you to tell me what you told me there, how you got involved with this group, and what they do. Let’s share the love a little bit.
Best Buddies International is an international nonprofit organization that promotes inclusion for individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities through social and professional opportunities. I got involved with kids with special needs back when I was in second grade. My mom was a school teacher. I was at school a whole lot more than I wanted to be back then.
When she had planning hour and we were getting there before everyone and leaving after everyone, I would go to the ESE wing of the school, the Exceptional Student Education wing of the school. I would help the kids get off the bus, read to them, and stuff like that. It is something that I informally got involved with back when I was young. When I got to my freshman year at Bartram Trail High School, it was cool to see that there was now a formal opportunity to be involved with Best Buddies.
I got involved when I was fourteen years old. It was the end of my freshman year, I believe. I became president of the club in my junior and senior year. During senior year, we became the second-largest high school chapter in the state, which is cool. Everyone always asks why I get involved. I can’t sit here and say, “I got involved with Best Buddies because of XYZ.” Similar to a lot of scenarios that I have heard, my mom was told while she was pregnant with me that I was supposed to have such bad down syndrome that she needed to abort the pregnancy. I am not sitting here and saying that that is why I am involved with charities and causes like this. Is it maybe subconscious in the back of my mind or something? Maybe.
To sit back and think that it could be me on the other side of Best Buddies’ mission is something I keep in mind. I did not know at Bar Camp that I was going to be speaking about charity. When they had me go up after that video, you put up the video of Kayla and her daughter, Skylar, who is involved in the program. I am like, “You all are going to have me crying up here.” They had me talk about this in front of a thousand of my industry peers. I was like, “What are you all trying to do to me?”
It was great. I am glad we are talking about the event that we were promoting, the Best Buddies Friendship Walk. That was Saturday, April 30th, 2022. They raised over $120,000 for that fundraiser, which is amazing. It is amazing raising that much money for anything. I am biased towards my favorite cause in Best Buddies.
You were able to bring this to a thousand realtors, which helped build that number up higher. Why else should agents get to a Bar Camp? Hopefully, there is an REBarCamp somewhere near them. Why should they go?
I tell everyone REBarCamp is by far my favorite event every year because not only is it the networking, but it is the sharing and education. The unconference is how I have seen it marketed before because this is not your formal sit down, take notes, bring your laptop, shut up, and listen type event. You come and go.
You are literally picking the topics that the facilitators are leading the discussion. You come and go as you please. You go sit in one of the breakouts and it is not going the way that you anticipated. Go to another one. It is very informal and has a lot of sharing. People bring up why share with the “competition.” I have given my business plan to plenty of people.
The reason that I am cool with doing that is because I will give you my business plan. I will give you every template I have. I will tell you everything that I do. All my marketing, all my events, the whole nine yards. Your personality, your circle of contacts, and the way that you approach everything are way different than how I do it. We are different people and in different locations. We have different relationships. Sharing is caring. Everything that we are all sharing and taking in and all the training that we are doing, there is enough business out there for everybody. I do not see anything wrong with helping each other out, even if we are “competition,” which I do not think we are.
When people say, “People joke about competition.” When I give my response, “I do not have competition. It is not coming from an egotistical place. It is coming from a different world. As much as we would like to beg people to interview and work with the best realtor you know, people are going to do business where they know, like, and trust. Whether that person is closing 100 sides a year or maybe 10 a year, so why not share, help, and spread the wealth?
Speaking of sharing, I need you to answer the final question that I ask every guest on the show and that is, what one piece of advice would you give a new agent getting started?
This is always my favorite question that people ask me. I just turned 25 in 2022 when I got in the business. Come September 2022 will be ten years that I have had my license. I have done pretty well in my ten years by 35. There are two things that I emphasize to everybody. Number one, at the minimum, treat real estate like a 9:00 to 5:00. Even if you are working from home, even if you do not have an appointment you know of yet that day, get up, get out of bed, get dressed like you are going to work, shower, be ready to go, be sitting in front of your computer, whatever it is you need to do. There is always stuff that realtors or anyone in our industry can be doing.
Our job has never been done. Whether it is working on your database, touches, follow-ups, marketing, brand awareness, networking events, education, or whatever it is, there is always stuff that we can be doing. At a minimum, we can be putting in 40 hours a week, 9:00 to 5:00 at an absolute minimum. Whenever a colleague reaches out to me wanting to, “Cole, my business is not where I would like it to be. Let’s talk. Let’s go to lunch.”At the end of the day, you got to purchase and shop where you can afford it. Click To Tweet
I love doing that stuff because I can talk shop all day long. My first question is, “Are you busting your ass 40 hours a week?” If your answer is no, review, then hesitate. I am like, “You have nothing to complain about. Until you are doing the type of stuff that you should not be doing 40 hours a week, then that is on you.”
Treat it like 9:00 to 5:00, even though a lot of people get in the business. I laugh when I see the memes that are out there that say, “In real estate, I love being able to make my own schedule. Am I putting in 80 or 90 hours this week?” It is something like that which is 100% relatable. I do always fall back to what I tell all of my agents every week. Every week I send everyone at my firm a weekly email regarding upcoming events or opportunities. I follow it up with a Facebook Live or reviewing that content because everyone’s personalities are different.
The first thing I always say is, “I hope your weekend was your ideal combination of friends, family, relaxation, and production. At the end of the day, everyone has different goals when they get into real estate. If you are not hitting these goals because you are not putting in 40 hours a week, or you are not hitting your goals because you are not taking advantage of the support that is provided for you, that is a different conversation.”
My other thing, and you know me well enough that I maxed this out is to embrace yourself. Be yourself when you are looking at all these real estate agents on social media and TV. What is the media doing to our industry and our profession? I can’t even talk about that. Do not fall into that mold. Embrace yourself, be yourself, and be different.
People do not necessarily want to work with someone who’s the same as everybody else. Going back to what we talked about earlier, people are going to do business with who they know, like, and trust. I show up to work every day in branded polo, shorts, and flip-flops. Maybe somebody’s stylish shown up to work in a tux every day. I do not know. If it fits your personality and who you are, be who you are and embrace yourself because that is what people want to work with.
They want to work with the real you, not the fake you. Be that and think about how your business can revolve around that. For me, it was getting involved with the Jacksonville Gator Club. I was on the board of directors for that. My wife and I are big foodies. We are in a few, not necessarily clubs, but we go to different foodie events. Embrace yourself because that is what people want to work with.
Cole, if somebody wants to reach out to you, what is the best way for them to do that?
They can call or text my cell (904) 607-6830 or email me at Cole@Slate.RealEstate.
This has been awesome. I thank you so much for the time. I had a wonderful time visiting your office, sitting here, and meeting the staff you have put together. The space is amazing. If you are in the Jacksonville area, I do not know the name of that complex you are in, but you should say that. They should swing by and check you out.
We are in Durbin Park Pavilion. It is the new town center where Bartram Park meets Racetrack Road in Northwest St. John’s County. Our office is like a big hangout. I joke that it is like my man cave with a conference room. We got a bar and big screens everywhere. It is a good time. Please stop by and say hey anytime.
Cole, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.
Thanks for the opportunity.
- Slate Real Estate
- Best Buddies Friendship Walk
- Best Buddies International
About Cole Slate
Experienced Broker with a demonstrated history of working in the real estate industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Sales, Referral Networking, Management, and Buyer Representation. Strong business development professional with a Bachelor’s focused in Family, Youth and Community Sciences from University of Florida.