Tom Gale always had an entrepreneurial streak, but it wasn’t until he tried his hand at real estate that he found the perfect outlet for it.
Today, Gale is one of the area’s top Realtors, and he is the 2021-22 president of Cape Fear Realtors.
For Gale, his professional and volunteer roles work hand in hand.
“Realtors sit in the middle between homeowners, business and the environment,” Gale said. “While Realtors know the area needs sustainable growth, they also try to strike the right balance for quality of life.”
Gale’s ties to North Carolina, and Wilmington, run deep. His family moved to the state when Gale was in fifth grade, and he moved to Wilmington in 1994 to earn a degree in communications at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
While at UNCW, Gale fell in love with the area and decided not to leave after graduation. The problem was finding the right job. It was only after Gale worked in retail, then ran a FedEx route (which gave him an intimate knowledge of the area’s neighborhoods) that he followed his father’s urging and joined him in his real estate business.
In Team Gale, which his father named and led, Gale found his niche. Real estate satisfied his entrepreneurial drive and allowed him to help others.
“I am someone who truly believes in how life changing homeownership is,” Gale said. “Where people live and raise their family is extremely important. That’s what drives me.”
Gale enjoyed working in a hot real estate market for all of two years. Then, at the end of 2007, the recession hit.
“It was a tough few years for my business as well as for me emotionally,” said Gale. “I felt like I was a doctor and all my patients were dying. I really wanted to help people and create buyers where there were none.”
However, the principles and practices Gale established for his new business sustained it during the hard years and contributed to its growth when the economy recovered in 2011.
Gale said he believes that homeownership plays a critical role in building personal economic security.
“Homeownership is a forced savings account,” Gale said.
Gale aims to stay dedicated to his clients in multiple ways. First is Gale’s investment in his professional growth – he is a graduate of the Realtor Institute and a certified residential specialist and holds several additional certifications. As his business expanded, he also added Realtors to his team to serve those in markets he was unfamiliar with, and he grew partnerships with developers and banks.
Last, and most importantly, Gale prepares extensively to ensure the homes he shows clients meet their particular needs.
“I have a long-term vision for my clients,” Gale said. “I don’t want to help them with one transaction. I want to help them for life, to be their Realtor for 10-20 years.”
Anne Gardner, chief executive officer of CFR, experienced Gale’s commitment first-hand when she moved to the area.
“Tom was incredibly thorough and prepared,” she said. “He wants the best outcome for everyone, no matter what he is focused on.”
In 2015, Gale took over the leadership of Team Gale. Team Gale, which is affiliated with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, now serves about 200 buyers and sellers each year and works with all levels of the real estate market, from renters to those seeking high-end luxury homes. Its territory extends from beyond Jacksonville to the South Carolina border.
Today, the Wilmington area is experiencing another real estate boom, driven by retirees looking for lower taxes and a better quality of life and professionals who, because of the pandemic, can work remotely.
Although he had already implemented a number of technological tools into his business, such as video conferencing and electronic signatures, Gale’s clients can now perform the entire real estate process virtually. Some have purchased a home after viewing it online, conducted the walk through via video, and put it under contract and closed remotely.
“We have plenty of people in the military who are only in town for a weekend,” said Gale. “These technological tools allow them to not feel stressed or rushed. A lot of these tools will continue to be used by buyer and sellers.”
Gale’s business has grown steadily over the years. In 2020, Team Gale saw its best year ever, with $45 million in sales.
While Gale was building his business, he also became a community leader. He serves on the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County Workforce Housing Advisory Committee and the NC Homeowners Alliance. Gale also an active member of both the North Carolina Realtors and CFR.
As CFR’s president, Gale hopes to promote his passion: encouraging affordable housing in the area.
“We are very much a service-oriented economy, and wages have been low and stagnant,” Gale said. “Housing prices increase 10% a year, which makes them out of reach for a lot of people who want to call Wilmington home. We need to provide a diverse housing supply, which becomes difficult as builders try to recoup the money they spent on land by building bigger homes.”
Gale added, “The problem is complex and will require commitment from everyone, including business leaders who employ service workers, to solve.”