The Wilkins Team sells family

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Emily L. Wilkins, director of marketing, and her father, Burt Wilkins, owner of the Wilkins Team at Goldcoast Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City. OCEAN CITY — Buckled safely in her car seat, a young Emily Wilkins gladly accompanied her daddy from time to time as he brokered deals and tended to his budding real estate career. Later, at dinner, the family would share tidbits of their day and the little blond absorbed every detail.

At 26, Emily is still seated near her father, Burton “Burt” Wilkins, in a small office the two share at Goldcoast Sotheby’s International Realty. She’s still “daddy’s little girl,” but the grown up version is the younger half of the “Wilkins Team,” a father/daughter real estate duo.

Emily Wilkins made fast work of earning her real estate license when she turned 18. A 2003 Ocean City High School graduate, she headed for James Madison University, earning a degree in marketing. She worked at the Goldcoast office during the summer.

“After I graduated, I knew I wanted to sell real estate,” Wilkins said. Her father wanted her to experience the world, go out on her own for two years.

“I saw my brother go right into business with my father,” Burt Wilkins said. “The business got sold and he had never worked anywhere else. I didn’t want my kids to come in here and look back and wonder what else is out there. I wanted to make sure that Emily really wanted to be here.”

“I had to do my own thing, so I got a job at the Borgata and I loved it. I was in marketing, but I knew real estate was what I really wanted to do,” she said.

Two years later, she wanted to join the family firm.

“My dad said ‘the market’s really off, I don’t know how you’ll survive,’ so I went to Florida,” she said.

Once there, she noticed the number one real estate team in South Beach was interviewing.

“They paid a base salary,” Wilkins said. “It was a great opportunity. I worked as a buyer’s agent. I did everything, showed properties, went all through the transaction with them. Some of the properties in South Beach were listed for $50 million. It was incredible. I got a lot of really good experience and I was able to utilize my marketing background, too.”

Life was “really cool” in Miami, but Wilkins said she couldn’t see herself living there forever. So after her second two-year stint in the real world, she opted to join her father and hasn’t looked back since.

“I needed those years away, no question,” she said. “At the Borgata I could see how a huge corporation was run, and working in Miami provided a lot of experience.”

“We’re family and we treat our clients like family,” Wilkins said0.

Younger buyers, she said, sometimes feel more comfortable with the technologically savvy 26-year-old. Others take comfort in the elder Wilkins, a veteran with more than three decades under his belt.

“Everyone was pretty receptive as I came on board,” she said. “We work together; we both know everything that is going on with all of our clients. We’re so much alike; we can read each other’s minds. We really compliment each other and we get along well. I love working with my dad.”

Wilkins lives close by; it’s a short stroll to work and on a warm, summer evening she can easily spot a prospect viewing the listings in the office window.

“It’s kind of wild, I come down and if they want to see a property, we can do it right then,” she said. “It really is a non-stop business. I can print out a contract on the spot if need be.”

“My dad thought I would want my own office, I prefer to be right here, listening and learning from him,” she said. “My mom made a point of making sure that we always had dinner together when I was growing up. I loved listening to him talk about the business.”

Wilkins and her younger brother, Burton “LB” Wilkins, hung on his every word.

“We adored him, couldn’t wait for him to get home,” she said. “We listened to him negotiate deals on that enormous cell phone he carried around. I thought what he did was fascinating. There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to sell real estate.”

Burt Wilkins graduated from Fordham University in 1976 with a degree in accounting and went to work for Intercontinental Hotels in Manhattan. In 1978, an opportunity to work for the Sussman Corporation as manager of the Port O’Call Hotel in Ocean City – where he worked as a bellman in college - lured him back to the seashore. He worked his way up to vice president of the corporation.

“When I was in college, I ran the print shop and the college deli,” Burt Wilkins said. “The students had run it into the ground and the IRS took it over. We got it out of hock and making a profit. It was good experience at a young age and it made me realize that I really liked the business world.”

In 1986, he left Sussman to operate a group of hotels in Atlantic City. In 1988, Tim Richards asked him to join the Richard’s Agency. He could earn a real estate license and manage the office.

“We had small children, I wanted to be closer to my family,” Wilkins said. “I turned down moving to California, the hotel business, I realized, required a lot of moving around and our roots were here. So I tried real estate.”

“My father-in-law, Grandpa Deal, said, ‘Are you nuts? You just quit your job to go into real estate?’” Wilkins said.

It was a gamble, but one that paid off. For years he’s been one of the island’s top producers. In 1998 he started Goldcoast Realty.

“I wanted to do my own thing,” he said. “I had a vision of a small office, a couple of people, but we needed a rental market and that requires a lot of staff just to handle the rental side. It started growing and here we are - a full-size real estate firm.”

In 2008, he became a part of Sotheby’s.

“It seems like every 10 years I’ve made a big change,” he said.

The best thing, he said, was his daughter joining him, working side by side. Emily said the family calls the detail-oriented Burt, “Mr. Digits” because of his accounting acumen, but the real numbers cruncher these days is Susy Wilkins, Burt’s wife and Emily’s mother, who does the books for the business.

“Facebook is big, every generation is using it and Emily is great with Facebook,” Wilkins said, adding that she brings the “wow factor” to the agency’s marketing. “We need the presence and Emily is constantly updating our social media.”

“I think everyone who goes into real estate should start in a down market,” he said. “Those who got in when things were really good learned to be order takers. When you start in a bad market, you have to work for it.”

The teammates enjoy a natural camaraderie, a symbiosis. Away from the office, Burt is “dad,” in the professional setting he’s “Burt.” Regardless, she’s living the dream her dad inspired.

“It’s a great fit for me, I love working with my dad. I love working with people, the marketing, I’m passionate about real estate. This is what I always wanted to do, market beautiful homes in a beautiful place. Life is good,” she said.

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