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Dale Sorensen Real Estate tops $1B for new record here

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS (Week of January 13, 2022)
Photo of Dale Sorensen Sr.

Dale Sorensen Real Estate sold more than $1 billion worth of property in Indian River County last year, a sales milestone that company founder Dale Sorensen Sr. never thought he would see.

From Jan. 1 to the moment the ball dropped in Times Square bringing pandemic year 2021 to a close, Dale Sorensen Real Estate closed a record $1,001,254,441 worth of real estate sales here.

“I started the company in 1978 and never once in all the years since then until late last year did I ever imagine that we – or any real estate company – could possibly sell $1 billion in our little county,” said Sorensen.

“In my mind it is the most significant achievement in the company’s history.”

The sales total here is nearly double what Dale Sorensen Real Estate did in the county in 2019, prior to the pandemic, and up 40 percent from 2020, when the company sold a then-record $700 million in and around Vero.

Companywide, sales volume – for its 12 offices in Brevard, Indian River and St. Lucie counties – increased 50 percent, as Sorensen sold $1.5 billion in 2021, up from $1.05 billion in 2020.

“The biggest surprise for me was not just the demand engendered by the pandemic, but the intensity of the demand,” Sorensen said. “Buyers’ psychology went from ‘we want’ to ‘we have to have’ a home in Vero Beach. For many, there was no question this was going to get done, whatever the price.

“I don’t care if you are from South Florida or the west coast of Florida or California or New York, you name it – when you compare what you have there to what you have here, we were a great bargain.”

Beyond the favorable selling conditions created by the pandemic, as millions of people fled crowded urban areas for attractive small towns and embraced remote work, people inside and outside the company say Sorensen’s landmark 2021 success was due to the Sorensen family itself.

Sorensen said working with his wife, Matilde, and their children, Dale Jr. and Elizabeth, “is very satisfying” and that their efforts have been “crucial to our success. If you look at all of our strengths and weaknesses, we complement each other tremendously.”

Matilde Sorensen, the company’s top producer, accounted for more than 20 percent of its sales here, closing $215 million in transactions in 2021, the most ever sold by an individual agent in Indian River County.

Dale Sorensen Jr. is the company’s managing partner and in many ways its driving force, an innovative businessman who has taken the firm from a medium-size family business to a regional powerhouse in the past 10 years.

And Elizabeth Sorensen “is an exceptionally good salesperson in her own right,” according to Dale Sr. She was involved along with her mother in the company’s top sale in 2021, a $9.5 million deal on Gem Island in John’s Island.

Beyond the Sorensens, the company had 35 agents who sold more than $10 million in 2021, including 14 who sold over $20 million, according to figures provided by Dale Jr.

Successful father and son businesses are common enough but having four members of a family work together so effectively is rare.

“It is unique,” said Jim Goldsmith, the company’s managing regional broker. “The family dynamic is like everyone else’s. They are all different people. And yet when it comes to the business, they give each other the freedom to use their individual gifts to contribute to the company’s success.”

“That is what it makes it work,” said Megan Raasveldt, a longtime Sorensen agent who handles new home sales at Surfsedge and for Lifestyle Homes. “They all have their niches that they excel in, and they stick to those.”

Dale Sr. said his children played a critical role in the company during the real estate downturn.

“I will tell you this, I am convinced that if it weren’t for our two children urging me to go all in and invest in the company back in 2007 and 2008 rather than pull back and not spend on advertising, I don’t think we would be in the position we are in today,” he said.

“Elizabeth was in her late 20s then, and Dale Jr. in his early 30s, and they both came to me and said, ‘Dad, now is the time, when things are really bad, to do all you can to expand,’ so I begged, borrowed and stole, maximized credit cards and did everything I could to enhance the company, making a huge commitment to technology before everyone else did, and that put us in a position to attract great agents and really build the business we have today.”

Just as the family members allow each other to be who they are and do what they do best, they likewise give their agents freedom to achieve success in their own ways, according to company leaders and veteran agents.

They also do have do everything in their power to assist their agents in reaching their business goals.

“We have the best support you can imagine,” said Raasveldt. “Our marketing and admin departments are amazing, off the charts, which allows us to stick to income producing activities almost all the time, calling prospects and negotiating deals.

“We are all small businesses, running under the umbrella of Dale Sorensen Real Estate, and they give us license to be creative and be ourselves and use our talents to shape our business – to achieve our individual goals under the Sorensen banner.

“And they are always there to help. When I was working to get the contract to sell the new homes at Surfsedge, I went to Dale Sr. and suggested that we go to the developers’ headquarters in Naples to try and seal the deal. He said, ‘Of course, let’s go over.’

“I offered to drive, but he said, ‘No, we will fly,’ and the next day we were getting on a plane and went over and closed the deal.

“Any time I come to them with something new that I see or want to try, it is never a case of you can or can’t, but rather how can we help you implement your plan and pursue your dream. All I have ever heard is, ‘What can we do to help.’” 

Dale Sorensen Sr. articulates a vision of business success that expands outward from the family in concentric circles, encompassing Sorensen agents, support staff, clients, associated businesses and the community as whole.

“Our company can only succeed to the extent that the community succeeds,” he said, and his personal commitment to Vero Beach goes back to the earliest part of his career.

When he was a young headmaster at St. Edward’s School in the 1960s, he decided to change careers, not because he didn’t love his job and the school, but because he knew he would have to leave Vero Beach and go to a larger school to advance in his career.

“I was ambitious, but I loved Vero beach,” Dale Sr. said. “So I talked to one of the parents at the school who ran a big company and asked him if there would be the need for someone with my background and education in a company like his. He said, yes, he thought so, but he wouldn’t talk to me unless I was leaving the school.

“So when I made the decision to leave, I let the board know well in advance and he offered me a position working for Gulf Western, a large conglomerate that had its food and agricultural products division in Fort Pierce at that time. We moved it a couple of years later to Vero Beach.”

Sorensen had great success at Gulf Western, which owned a lot of property in Florida and the Dominican Republic, getting his real estate license and working on a range of land and development deals.

He took the lead in developing Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, which the travel website describes as the “classiest, most famous resort in the Dominican Republic, part of a massive, 7,000-acre resort community that includes three world-renowned golf courses, an immaculate beach, a marina ...  and numerous other on-site activities.”

Despite that success, when Gulf Western decided to move its ag division headquarters away from Vero, Sorensen left his bright career with the corporation and launched his own real estate business in a small office at the intersection of A1A and Beachland Blvd.

“They still wanted my services, so they gave me a two-year consulting contract that smoothed the transition,” said Sorensen, who was helped by other realtors as well, including Ed Schlitt, Cliff Norris and Alex MacWilliam Jr., father of Buzz MacWilliam who runs AMAC Alex MacWilliam Real Estate today.

“You would think those guys might have been worried about the idea of another competitor, but to the contrary they all helped me tremendously.”

Matilde Sorensen got her real estate license and joined her husband in his business three years later, contributing greatly to its success over the years.

“It doesn’t hurt to have Tom Brady on the staff,” Dale Sr. said with a smile. “Matilde is consistently number one or two in sales in the county.”

As the company grew, it maintained its commitment to the community, supporting the Vero Beach Museum of Art, the Boys and Girls Club and other nonprofits, and encouraging agents to be involved with philanthropic efforts and organizations.

“We have a tremendous group of agents who are dedicated and believe in the foundations we have established,” said Dale Sr. “They all believe in giving back to the community.”

Looking ahead company leaders are optimistic. Dale Jr. said there will be fewer transactions in 2022 due to tight inventory but that rising prices should keep sales volume up at or above 2021 numbers.

“I am looking for another record-breaking year for two reasons,” said Goldsmith.

“No. 1, real estate is a momentum business, and we are going to help our agents maintain their momentum. No. 2, we believe Vero Beach is an incredible place to live and will continue to be a magnet for buyers.”