Rob Cole-Dempcy’s career has taken some twists and turns in just the last decade, including a stint in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and three years working under former U.S. Ambassador to Finland Marilyn Ware.
But the job he’s enjoyed most is the one he stepped into in 2009. Real estate is the family business, and Cole-Dempcy’s mother, Judy Dempcy, was one of the metro-east’s most popular and successful brokers. He became the face of Judy Dempcy Homes in August 2011 after her sudden death.
Cole-Dempcy said entering the real estate business when he did means he’s never seen a good housing market, but that’s changing this year.
Q. How did you become the “front man” of the family business?
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A. “When my mom passed in August, I was really just thrown into it. It’s one of those situations you couldn’t really prepare for. We just had to hit the ground running. Our staff here is amazing. We only closed for one day. Since my mom passed, every year our production has increased. It’s not because we increased staff. It’s just really hard work.”
Q. What was it like taking over for someone as well-known and well-liked as your mother?
A. “Everywhere you say her name, it’s like it’s plated in gold. Our entire life revolved around her work. It’s a family business. It was a challenge, but I think we’ve done a wonderful job. It’s tough. I sit at her desk every day, I’m reminded of her every day.”
Q. What difficulties did you face in the years following the recession?
A. “I’ve never seen a good housing market. I wasn’t here for the 2004-2008 time frame where things were wonderful, when you put a sign in a yard and the house sells and everybody’s really happy. I saw decline the whole time. So that’s probably been the better time for me to come in because you have to work so much harder.”
Q. There are signs of life now in the housing market and in the economy in general. What have you noticed?
A. “Our inventories are extremely low. That means buyers are going out there, they’re buying homes, and people aren’t putting homes on the market fast enough. We need to see our inventory increase to have a healthy market. But home price are slowly starting to rise. We’re starting to see baby steps. And there are more realistic buyers.”
Q. What’s the future look like for real estate the metro-east?
A. “I wish we all had a crystal ball. But all signs are pointing to this year is going to be a very healthy year. It could change a little bit depending on who wins the presidential election. We’re in a good market because we have the two hospitals coming in, we have the air force base, we have the potential of getting the National Geospatial Agency contract. If we have those bigger industries immediately in our area, plus St. Louis to help us, I think our particular area is going to be a good place to invest.”
Q. Any advice for young, first-time home buyers?
A. “I say, let’s not read everything online. Talk to a local lender you can actually get in front of who will help you. Don’t go to the 1-800 numbers because you’re just a number. You’re in a stack along with everyone else in the cubicle. I do think it’s a good time to buy and invest because we have good industries around us that’s going to be here for a while. Stay within your means. Rely on your real estate professionals and your lenders.”
Q. What’s been your favorite part of working in the family business?
A. “Closing is always fun because everybody gets paid, everybody gets keys, that’s great. But it’s three weeks down the road and they call you and say how happy they are. My mom was so caring. We’d go on vacation and she’d buy something little for somebody’s baby that was coming in seven months. That person had confidence in her, told my mom before they told their parents that they were pregnant. That was neat to see that. I try to take bits and pieces of it. I can’t re-create her so I try to fill the shoes as best as I can.”
Job: Broker, Judy Dempcy Homes, 901 W. U.S. 50 in O’Fallon
Outlook: With the housing market showing signs of health, it’s a good time to invest in the metro-east.