I had the pleasure of meeting Eben Moran at the Naples Board of Realtors seminar on Global Marketing where he was a fellow panelist. I was initially struck by his youth, as he is an active Board member of the Naples Board of Realtors. However, it became quickly obvious that he possesses a positive confidence and maturity beyond his 33 years, as well as a quick smile and wit to match. I was immediately intrigued to hear Mr. Moran’s story.
Within minutes we established a bond, as we are both from Atlanta, a rarity in these parts. Eben explained to me how he first got his start in real estate working for Jenny Pruitt, a formidable business woman who built a multi-million dollar brokerage company and a legend in Atlanta real estate.
I could see why he was selected to be the youngest ever board member on the Naples Board of Realtors. Eben represents the new breed of realtors taking the forefront of the industry after the recent ruin of the economic downturn.
Real estate, perhaps more than most industries, has fundamentally changed in the past 10 years, with an ever increasing pace of change within the past 5 years. The emergence of technology and readily available information has changed the way buyers and sellers approach the process and certainly the way realtors do business.
Recognizing the new realty of the real estate industry, Eben and a few partners are in fact launching a new boutique brokerage firm, Selling Southwest Florida, with offices on Fifth Avenue in downtown Naples.
What motivated you to open your own firm?
Moran: My partners and I felt the need for a new type of brokerage firm in Naples, with a fresh, more modern approach that was technology focused. We wanted to get away from the franchise model as well as some of the rigidity of some of the larger firms. We wanted to be more flexible for agents, with an international and luxury market focus.
So technology is a big part of your business model?
Moran: Yes. We definitely wanted to have technology be an integral part of our business, to create a completely paperless mobile atmosphere. Today in real estate you can operate from almost anywhere in the world, except when showing properties. We want to allow our agents to be completely mobile, to obtain contracts, get signatures and complete transactions on site. Some firms are approaching this level, but none are quite there yet. We are also interested in giving our agents an edge through the use of social media.
What are the emerging trends you foresee in the industry? Do you think realtors will become less important as technology evolves?
Moran: I think brokers and agents are actually becoming more important. For awhile there were some concerns with the agents’ role, with all of the Trulias and Zillows coming in. With all of the information being accessible to our clients that traditionally was only available through a licensed professional, there was real concern about these positions being marginalized. But I have found that the more information a client has access to, the more questions they have, and the more they rely on our expertise.
What I do see happening in the near future is that the traditional office model is going to change. I think you are going to see smaller offices. I think our administrative side is going to shrink. Through the use of technology, agents are going to be more mobile and are not going to need as much of a traditional office. I also think we are going to see agents from any location joining a firm because they are interested in a specific area. This is just going to broaden our reach.
You began your career in Atlanta, why did you select Naples for the next phase of your career?
Moran: I moved to Naples after the recent collapse of the markets. After doing research, I realized that Naples was the first area in the region to take a dip, and predicted that it would also be the first area to rebound. I saw an excellent opportunity to move to paradise while at the same time expand my business when the market came back.
I saw the area to be on the cusp of a generational change, baby boomers were starting to move in as well as a certain number of generation X. These groups are definitely more tech focused, but all groups have an appreciation for the Naples area being beautiful with low crime and good schools.
Naples has also been historically a secondary home ownership market, whereas now it is attracting a younger buyer interested in living here year-round. It really is a fantastic place to raise a family. It just made sense for me, professionally and personally. It presented numerous economic opportunities for rapid business growth as well as providing me with a location where I felt comfortable raising a family when and if that opportunity presents itself.
How do you envision Naples changing in the foreseeable future?
Moran: I see the Naples area really starting to grow more. We are starting to see more year-round residents. We of course will continue to be predominantly a second-home community, but we are beginning to see couples with children moving in, as well as large corporations. Summers are even beginning to be more active. We are also seeing more single family homes being purchased, not only by young families, but also by the baby-boomer generation, where they are being very family-centric. They are interested in having homes where the entire extended family can come and visit. A more of a year-round market is starting to emerge.
What are some of your favorite things to do for fun in the Naples area?
Moran: In Naples we really have some great choices. We have the Mercado, a work/play concept started about seven years ago. We have some fantastic night-life spots, such as Blue Martini, where they have live bands come in and we have a world class symphony, which I really enjoy. They also have a fantastic opera series every year. You don’t have to leave Naples too often to find certain things that you are looking for. I spend some time downtown as well, going to different restaurants. There is a great locally owned wine bar on Fifth Avenue that I love to go to called Avenue Wine Cafe. It was started by some local guys who wanted to have somewhere they could go after work, where they could enjoy some fine wines and craft beers, as well as cigars. They also feature great local artists on the walls.
And, we are only an hour and a half from Miami, two hours from Tampa, so if you want international travel, or concerts, or that true nightlife experience, it is a quick trip.
By Jules Lewis Gibson
Photography by Robert Maves Jr