Sarasota Herald Tribune

Agent dons many hats in career in real estate

Debra Lichter has run her own firm and helped other agents with theirs.


SARASOTA -- Two sure signs of a happy realty customer are repeat business and family referrals.

Steve and Ethel Pawley were so happy with real estate agent Debra Lichter after she helped them find a home within two weeks last August that when their daughter looked to sell her home in Manatee County in November, they recommended Lichter again.  The challenge for Lichter of quickly selling a full-priced home was daunting. Inventories were spiraling to record highs, and investors had quit the market in droves.

Nevertheless, she delivered a buyer and closed the sale of the two-bedroom, one-bath house for $365,000.  "We think it's close to a Manatee record," said Ethel Pawley, who appreciates how quickly the sale of her daughter's house came together in a stagnant off-season market period complicated by the holidays.  "She does not leave you out of the loop, she's very professional and did a great job," Pawley said.

A licensed real estate agent since 1978, Debra Lichter has been agent and president of Marina del Rey Realty Corp. since 1979.  When she founded her company at 23, she maintained three offices and managed a sales staff of 12.  In recent years, Lichter has worked both as a solo agent as well as a marketing consultant to other agents.

Her marketing savvy attracted the attention of her fellow real estate agents as well as that of the association. In January, Lichter was named chairwoman of the Sarasota Association of Realtors' Public Information Committee.  Association President Felix Power says Lichter's job is to address issues of "image, public information, communications."  Lichter also has been working on the development of an operating system for data reporting.

"She is an excellent person to work with. She's proactive, not reactive, when responding to an issue," Power said, adding that Lichter "understands the responsibilities of managing a business, and we thought she understands the issues facing Realtors as well."  Lichter also was supported by the membership, who recommended her to the board.

Marina del Rey, as the name might suggest, was originally formed to serve as on-site broker for the Marina del Rey bayfront town house community on Sand Key in Pinellas County.

In 1981, Lichter was recognized as the selling broker for one of the largest transactions in Pinellas County history until that time: the sale of the Pasadena Golf Club to Metro Development of Atlanta, which then sold it to U.S. Steel for $22 million in a simultaneous transaction.  U.S. Steel developed the property into the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club waterfront community.

After Marina del Rey sold out, Lichter moved her operations to the Sarasota-Bradenton area.  In 1983, she developed a private gated estate on a 2-acre Gulf-to-bay property on Longboat Key, where she and her family lived for 10 years. The family moved to Siesta Key in 1993.

"If you call Debra Lichter to see one of her listings, she will be there early with the home in perfect order, lights on, ready to show at its best," said Judy Kepecz-Hays, an agent with Coldwell Banker Previews International Longboat Key.  Kepecz-Hays said Lichter, who has closed several sales in Longboat's Country Club Shores district, also does her homework.  Lichter has studied the area so closely that "she knows Country Club Shores' every detail: which homes are the best investment, have the best view, best water, docking, etc.," Kepecz-Hays said.

Lichter knows the properties both as an agent and as an investor. She has successfully invested in multimillion-dollar waterfront properties. She develops the full potential of a property, whether renovating it or knocking it down.  "She has been buying and selling for her own account," said Tom Hanley, an agent with Hanley and Associates on St Armands Circle.

Lichter has been actively investing in Longboat Key property and has acquired three properties recently, said Hanley, who noted Lichter has sold some of her properties -- some as tear-downs -- to some of his clients.

She was an investment partner in Whitehall Homes, the builder of Avalon in Palm-Aire and Maple Hammock. In that capacity, Lichter also brokered the deal when Whitehall Homes sold Villages of Palm-Aire to Taylor Woodrow Homes in 2000.

A Florida native born in Miami, Lichter has a bachelor's degree in political science and international studies with a minor in business management from the University of South Florida. She also is a Certified Commercial Investment Member, or CCIM, Level One.

She was a securities broker and member of the National Association of Securities Dealers and Securities and Exchange Commission from 1986 to 1995.

She has two children, Harry, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is graduating in June and is on the MIT men's heavyweight crew, and Ben, a University of Florida student, who is a former Sarasota crew team captain and men's varsity four-plus state champion for two years.

An avid athlete, Lichter is a "master rower" and certified scuba diver. She is one of the founding families of the Sarasota Crew Rowing Team and was president of the Sarasota Crew Booster Club for three years.  Her hobbies include spinning and yoga. She enjoys cooking and is a gourmet chef.

Lichter has been a "parent connector" for MIT for four years, representing Southwest Florida. She and her son formed a MIT summer "send-off get-acquainted program" for students and parents in 2002.

The secret of Lichter's success?

"She dots her i's and crosses her t's," says Ethel Pawley, and she "pursues a back-up plan, just in case her first deal falls through."