Build a Brand, They Will Come, And Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go of Your Watch: Dave Perry-Miller

Dave Perry-Miller — his name is now on a luxury real estate boutique company. He has been honored innumerable times as one of Dallas’ top-producing agents, and is a leader in sales of million-dollar properties. With more than $800 million (wowzers!) in sales and 850 satisfied customers, the Wall Street Journal ranked him #27 in sales in the United States in 2006 and as having the most million-dollar residential sales in Texas. For 30 years, Dave has sold many of Dallas’ most significant homes, including Frank Lloyd Wright- and Phillip Johnson-designed properties. His reputation with home buyers and peers in the industry globally is stellar and growing as he recently returned from an international sales conference in Europe. He often represents multiple generations of buyers and sellers in the same family.

Though his name is on the door — Ebby Halliday bought his company in 2007 —  Dave is still an agent at heart and loves to share his passion for architecture, art and design with home buyers, sellers and even other agents. We caught up with him recently to learn just how he does it.

CD: Where are you from? 

Dave: I came down to Dallas in 1980 from Virginia when I graduated from Washington and Lee University where I studied architecture.

CD: Considering that George Washington funded that university, I imagine there was a lot of great architecture to study! Did you plan to be an architect?

Dave: (laughs). No, I’m too dyslexic for that – my buildings would probably all fall down. But I love architecture and selling real estate lets me see a lot of architecturally interesting homes.

CD: Why did you come down to Dallas and how did you get into real estate?

Dave:  I had friends down here from college and had visited the previous year. Sixty days after I’d established my residency, I got my real estate license and nearly starved to death. At one point I gave my watch as collateral for $12 worth of gas. I was four days out from my first closing. Luckily, I didn’t know any better and I sold a number of expensive homes in Lakewood right after that, including Ray Hubbard’s estate which was the most expensive home in Dallas at the time. I never looked back from there.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Dave: For the past 20 years I’ve lived in a 1930’s colonial revival cottage in Bluffview. It was designed by Henry “Coke” Knight – the same architect who designed the Museum of Fine Art in Fair Park.

CD: And you drive a… let me guess, Mercedes Benz???

Dave: It depends on where I am. I have two vintage Mercedes Convertibles that I drive when I’m visiting my homes in Palm Springs and Tucson.  I drive a Jaguar XJR here in Dallas and I have a Jeep Wagoneer that I drive when I’m in Nantucket.

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Dave: Obviously I love Bluffview and I’m a huge fan of old Highland Park and old Preston Hollow, but if I were younger, I think I’d move to Kessler Park. It has such great energy and I love the restaurants and shops that are popping up there. The houses are interesting on these beautiful huge lots with old trees.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Dave: Besides the Hubbard estate which helped me get established, the two houses I’m the most proud of were the Frank Lloyd Wright and Phillip Johnson homes. They were in disrepair and in danger of demolition. I was able to sell them to preservationists who have restored them to their former glory and they are magnificent. I hate to think Dallas might have lost two such treasures.

CD: What was your hardest or worst sale?

Dave: Hmm. I guess I’d have to say Candy Evans’ house. It was like herding a cat to get the deal done. And she had seller’s remorse at closing! She’s always running around. I loved the house and Candy. We laughed a lot and are still friends 10 years later.

CD: How quickly have you ever turned a house?

Dave: We often find a buyer before the house even goes on the market – a few hours basically.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

Dave: Although I still sell a few properties myself each year, my associates do a lot of the leg work nowadays. I referred out over $100 million to them last year.

CD: What have you learned in 30 years of selling?

Dave: I tell my agents, “Selling is a mindset.” If I can sell multimillion dollar properties at the age of 23 while living in a $325-a-month apartment eating Ramen noodles, so can they. Customers don’t care if you have expensive houses or cars they only care about what you can do for them and how professionally you do it.

I always looked at my career as a profession, not a transaction. I was in it for the long haul so building relationships was very important to me. I enjoy people and try to bring some fun to my relationships. For example, a client of mine crashed his Porsche 10 days after he got it and was upset. I wrote him a “get well” card from my Jaguar to his Porsche which made him laugh at the situation.

I knew early on that I needed to brand myself and distinguish myself from the competition – just like we do with the houses we sell. I carved out my niche of selling architecturally interesting luxury homes right from the beginning. It fit in with my love of architecture, art and design and it fit with who I am as a person. The most successful agents I see have built businesses that reflect who they are as people as well as professionals.

Most realtors don’t get that. They don’t know how to brand themselves and it holds them back in more than one way. Not only are they not memorable, but a prospective seller will naturally wonder “if he can’t sell himself, how is he going to sell my house?”

I also tell them that if all else fails, get a dog.  I use my dog Tucker as a courier and business development program for my business. He comes to the office with me about four times a week and has helped me find new sellers. He’s very charming. OK, maybe not all dogs are as talented as Tucker, but they all will run right up to a new person and make friends without a moment’s fear or hesitation – a great skill for a salesperson.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Dave: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I can only imagine doing it somewhere else like Palm Springs. I’ve sold three homes there already without meaning to in the neighborhood where I have my second home.

CD: How many second homes are we talking about here? And were you part of the inspiration for SecondShelters?

Dave: Quite possibly, you’ll have to ask Candy! A friend of mine told me once “Dave, you can’t go anywhere for six hours without buying a house!” I have too many second homes – which wouldn’t stop me from buying another one if I fell in love with it. There’s the 1920’s Spanish Colonial in Tucson; the 1890 Victorian in southeast Arizona that used to be a B&B; my 1960 Bungalow in Palm Springs which was designed by Rick Harrison – the same architect who designed the Palm Springs airport; and my 1930’s beach cottage on Nantucket Island.  While I have them rented out most of the time, I love to visit often. Each one has furniture and decorations that suit the period and style of the house and neighborhood.

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