Post-Tornado Construction Fuels Growth for Real Estate Firm

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Drive through the neighborhoods of Frolich Meadows and Leonhardts Cherry Hill on the Oklahoma City metro's east side and passersby may quickly notice the dozens of new homes under construction.

After a tornado devastated the area nearly four years ago, home construction is still booming along the zigzag path of the twister's destruction. Growing as well has been consumer demand for homes in the area, which has one real estate company reporting a sharp rise in year-over-year sales.

"This is an area where the tornado was at its widest, and it took many, many homes out at a time," said Deborah Villanueva, a real estate agent for Century 21 Gold Team Realty.

Century 21 Gold Team Realty's focus on new construction in an area ravaged by the tornado has paid off for the fledgling firm, the real estate agents said. Not only has the company played a part in the rapid rebuilding of a devastated area, something that offers its own intangible rewards, but the company has witnessed a rapid rise in its own business and staff.

In 1999, the value of homes sold by the real estate company totaled about $500,000. By 2000, that number had grown to $2.1 million and to $4.5 million in 2001.

In 2002, the dollar value of homes sold by Century 21 Gold Team Realty reached $8.5 million, an 88 percent rise from the prior year.

"We've doubled our production each year," Harold Reece, managing broker for the office, said.

Through the first quarter of this year, Reece said, the real estate office is on track to break its performance goals and the year-ago sales level. In the first three months of the year, the company recorded $1.9 million in home sales during what is traditionally the slowest period for sales. Reece said he is targeting $25 million in sales by the end of the year.

For the small real estate office, the tornado had a more direct impact on their business. The office, which opened in February 1999, was destroyed by the same tornado that hit area neighborhoods. The staff relocated to another office space and immediately began marking available lots in the tornado-affected neighborhoods.

Villanueva said she remembers the real estate office's first listing, a tiny 500-square-foot, one-bedroom house. Since then, the real estate office has rapidly grown and today lists a much larger number of homes, including many valued at $300,000 to $400,000 apiece, she said.

As if to remind the brokers and staff of their focus on individual customers no matter the size of their home, the company keeps a picture of their first listing - the 500-square-foot home - on the wall of the office.

"It's there to remind us of where we came from," Villanueva said.

Currently, 14 homes are under construction or have been completed by builders who used Century 21 Gold Team Realty to locate buyers. …