Talking Shop with Thomas M. Meyer, real estate agent

Monday, March 21, 2011
Tom Meyer is owner of Exit Realty/Thomas Meyer Associates in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Growing up in the real estate business in Cape Girardeau, Thomas M. Meyer says he always knew he'd follow in his father's footsteps. He's been involved with some of the largest commercial real estate transactions in the city in recent years and feels giving back to his community is an important business philosophy.

Question: Share with us about your family's real estate business and how you became involved.

A: My father's name is Thomas L. Meyer. We've confused the general public for years not knowing which Tom Meyer is doing what. My father started in 1946, I started in 1970, when I came out of the military and finished up college. When my dad came out of the service, he moved here to Cape Girardeau and went down to the unemployment office to find a job. The man at the desk pulled out a card and said, "I've got one for you right here." He told him to go see Ben Vineyard, an old real estate agent here in town. He started his own company in 1950. I'm a second-generation real estate agent. Growing up in the industry I always thought I'd be in real estate because my father was. He used to take me with him to meetings in smoke-filled rooms. All men. He was always interested in and involved in the community, and I always liked that. Growing up I always knew I would be here. I thought about architecture, but that was like a spinoff of real estate.

Q: How has your career evolved over the years?

A: I've done everything from selling lots to industrial and commercial property. When I started out I used to knock on doors. It was straight commission. You just had to get out there and do what you do every day. I got to enjoy being with people. It's a people business. Some of my major projects include the Marquette. It took me eight years to finish up the site for the new Federal Building. I handled the transaction for the River Campus to Southeast Missouri State University. More recently I worked with Chad Hartle to handle the Schultz School project. I've got two companies: Exit Realty Thomas Meyer Associates is my primary residential business, although I do a lot of commercial through Thomas L. Meyer Commercial Realty. On the commercial side, I've done work for the city, the hospitals, the University foundation and our church. I've represented some companies down in Caruthersville, Mo., and Hayti, Mo. We've done some farm sales down in the Bootheel.

Q: This industry has many up and down cycles. What are some of the factors that have contributed to the longevity of your business?

A: German work ethic, and we love what we do. We've been in it long enough. We've gone through these cycles so we anticipate them based on the trends we interpret. Although this last one has been a little bit of a challenge. There are things we do during a down period that you don't need to do during an up period. So we maintain consistency. This is a conservative community, and they don't like surprises. If you're fair with them in your business practices, they'll trust you and you'll stay in business a long time.

Q: Why is community involvement so important to you?

A: Sometimes I think I'm into too many things, but not really, because you enjoy what you're doing. It's a good mix within your business. You give back to your community what the community has given to you. That's our philosophy. We have our business downtown, I live up on Lorimier Hill, our church in St. Mary's, but we are committed to the whole community. Right now I'm the president of the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association. I'm very proud of that, and we're making some great strides and changes. I work with Habitat for Humanity and have been on their board the past eight years. I do primarily their real estate site acquisitions. I'm on the board of directors for the chamber of commerce; I'm involved with their government and public policy committee.

Q: How important is real estate during times of economic recovery?

A: My field of study at Southeast was business and psychology. I loved statistics. I loved marketing research and trends. I was overly optimistic last year and misread some trends, as we all did. I'm a small business, so you try to work with what you can control and I made some adjustments. But I am seeing some positive elements coming out. Manufacturing is picking up since inventory has been depleted. Housing has always brought us out of recessionary periods. There is pent up demand. People have been increasing their savings. Their families are starting to grow and they've got to expand. There are great opportunities on commercial property for people to invest in preparation for a growth or expansion.

Q: How has the Internet and development of technology changed the real estate industry?

A: We always try to stay ahead. We had the first [real estate] webpage in the market in 1991. Not that I fully understand it, but we still keep an open mind to the changes. We are looking for a change in the market with iPhones and Android phones. Buyers are a lot more sophisticated. Sellers know a lot more than what they had known in past generations.

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