Bill Poole has spent 40 years in Huntsville commercial real estate
By Anna Claire Vollers | email@example.com
Name: Bill Poole
Company: Bill Poole Realty
How long have you been a Realtor? “40 years, in Huntsville, Ala.”
Tell us about yourself.
“I’m single (a widower) with one child, Scarlett. She and her husband Steve Qualls are my partners.
Favorite local lunch spot?
“Blue Plate Café. I also like Mezza Luna and Dallas Mill Deli – best hamburgers in town.”
If you weren’t a Realtor, what might you be doing?
What are some of the positives and negatives about our current real estate market?
“For a while, the commercial market was soft because the banks just didn’t want to loan money. They didn’t want to loan any money on land, or anything on commercial buildings unless they were at least 51 percent occupied by the owner. And then they wanted 25 or 30 percent down, which is not good leverage.
“But lately the banks are more willing to make loans. It has gotten better. We’re getting more calls, making more sales. We’re very fortunate on two or three things that we’ve been involved in – we listed the Council Court property, co-brokered it; we sold East Clinton school; sold Lincoln school – and we’ve got some others for sale for the School Board. Steve, my son in law and partner, has done a lot of things in the past two years that have made all the difference in the world for us, locating Dollar General sites in Alabama for Broadway Group.
“For general leasing and selling commercial buildings, there hasn’t been that much but we’re getting a few more calls now. I’m encouraged about that, as long as the politics keep working.”
How have you seen the real estate market in Huntsville change over the 40 years you’ve been in business?
“When I got started, we had loose-leaf MLS binders. Now everything has gone electronic. Electronic communication is one of the biggest changes. In our business, people interested in commercial property usually go to the local MLS or Loopnet and use that as a place to search for property. Signage is still a big thing on properties. In residential I can’t tell you much about it, but they have so much information people can get themselves now.
“What this has done has brought down a lot of the operation costs of a real estate company. The cost of Loopnet is nothing. Another thing is that there is so much information available. I used to spend so much time in the tax assessor’s office and probate judge’s office. Now you get all the information online, right at your desk. There’s no telling how much I paid in parking fines. I was in the tax assessor’s office so much, there was a drawer I sort of claimed and kept drawing and writing materials, stuff that I would need. I was there so much, I was almost like a fixture.
“By the same token, when all that cost was brought down, we were able to charge less commission because we didn’t have a lot of expenses, so that has made a difference. And of course the price of properties has tended to stay steady or go up depending on inflation.”
What, if any, predictions or forecasts might you make about what lies ahead for our local real estate market in the next year or two?
“I think our fate lies in Washington, D.C. We’re so tied to government dollars here. There must be 75 or 80 different agencies on Redstone Arsenal. If the budget for defense and the budget for space exploration continue at any reasonable rate, we should have a pretty steady economy. As far as how long, I don’t know. It all depends on how Congress and the administration want to keep funding the projects here.”
Do you have any wishes for ongoing commercial development in Huntsville?
“I see, not a growing demand but a slowly moving demand, for commercial workspaces – either offices or warehousing. I don’t see anything in retail of real significance unless it’s some of these places that people want to come here, like Trader Joe’s, which won’t happen unless they finally decide there’s enough market to do it. They can go out and do all the surveys they want. You’ve got to have a demand. I can take a property and bring the market to it, if there is a market for it.
“There may be some more development to cater to an aging population. There are a great bulk of people who came here in the early to late 60s and are at retirement age or close to it.
“You go into Southeast Huntsville, and starting in Blossomwood they are tearing down houses and building on those lots. People like the area, but the houses are too dated. I see more market for that.”
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