ANNA MARIA – Duncan Real Estate owner Darcie Duncan celebrated her company’s 20th anniversary last week.
In addition to being her birthday, Tuesday, July 13, marked 20 years since the energetic redhead purchased her office building at 310 Pine Ave. in Anna Maria.
“I incorporated in the spring, but I bought the building on my birthday: July 13, 2001. I use today as my actual date. It makes you feel official when you own the dirt,” Duncan said when interviewed at her office on her birthday.
“When I bought this building, nobody wanted to touch Pine Avenue. I knew someday this street would blossom and I knew I could not open a business without owning the dirt. I got my mortgage at a spring training game, shaking hands with the mortgage holder. I bought the building on a handshake,” she said.
At the time, Duncan already had 11 years of experience as a real estate broker.
“The industry was at a pivotal point and changing with technology and the Internet. I felt I needed to go out on my own because I was ready to change with it. I’ve sold real estate on the Island for 31 years now,” she said.
Duncan Real Estate has 20 employees, but it started as a solo act.
“I was all by myself, then I had one person come in and help and I grew from there. I had the front office and that was it.”
Duncan has learned a lot in 20 years.
“Learning to surround myself with the right people really helped my career. I had to learn about leadership and how to embrace that. I learned to treat people how I would want to be treated. You have to be a good listener and be available for your team. You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. My team is awesome and I love them. I have good managers that help me manage. We work together and we collaborate. The culture of my company is teamwork,” Duncan said.
“My customers make me better too. My company is built on those relationships. I’m doing generational business and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on. I’ve also had a wonderful support system of friends and colleagues and mentors throughout my life.”
Duncan has also learned the importance of getting away from work: “I love to go fishing. That’s my passion. I love to get together with friends and get out on my boat. That’s my happy place. I’m starting to travel more by RV and seeing more of the country.”
Duncan has watched the Anna Maria Island real estate market evolve.
“Back when I started, the houses were not as upscale. The demands of the buyer 20 years ago are totally different than today. Back then, a 3,000-square-foot house was incredible. Today, that’s the average size for new construction. Twenty years ago, they were just ground-level block houses. Over the years we’ve seen that change because of FEMA and other factors.
“Things were simpler and more basic back then. Now it’s all the bells and whistles – the pool, high-end kitchens, home offices and yoga and wellness spaces. You just didn’t have that 20 years ago,” Duncan said.
Yet, today’s homebuyers still have a lot in common with buyers from the past.
“The buyer here on the Island still comes here for the laid-back lifestyle – and that hasn’t changed all that much, even though the price has gone up. They still want to go fishing, go to the beach, catch a sunset and visit our local establishments.”
The vacation rental industry has also changed.
“In 2001, the Island wasn’t as developed and vacation rentals weren’t weekly rentals. They were monthly rentals and snowbirds. In the summer, it was our in-state people coming to their summer homes. The vacation rental industry was nothing like it is today, and we didn’t have half as many homes to rent,” Duncan said.
Regarding the current market, Duncan said, “It’s the best it’s ever been. As far as sales, we’re on track for a record-breaking year. With rentals, we’re seeing it slow a little as normal for August through October, but it’s still busier than past years and our winter bookings are looking strong.” When asked about her success, Duncan said, “There is no secret. It’s hard work. You get up every day and you do the best you can. When something knocks you down, you get up and find a different way to deal with it. I never thought I would be sitting here today saying my company is 20 years old. I’m really proud, and I’m proud of my team.
“Honesty and integrity are big for me. You can’t write a check for that. That’s how I live, that’s how I conduct my business and that’s the culture we’ve built with this company. I also believe in my community. I live in the community I work in. I give back to my community and my community’s given back to me. I was raised on this Island and this Island’s special and important to me.”
Looking ahead, Duncan said, “I could see myself being in the business 20 years from now. To say I had 50 years under my belt would be spectacular – and learning that life/work balance will help me obtain that.”