A year after Starbucks poured its first cup of coffee, John Jacobi founded Windermere Real Estate in North Seattle’s Windermere neighborhood.
The year was 1972.
The company, which is observing its 40th year in business, now has more than 300 offices in several western states and Canada.
Jacobi, who had a marketing background, quickly franchised his business model, which emphasized professionalism in the ranks. Those who immediately took up the Jacobi baton are remembered as first- generation Windermere owner/brokers.
One of those was Terry Haberbush, who founded the Queen Anne, Magnolia, Belltown and West Seattle Windermere offices in 1982, the same year Microsoft was founded. Those four offices are marking their 30th year in business.
Haberbush, who died in 2004, was known as a supporter of community causes, which included the Queen Anne Helpline.
Janet Haberbush, Terry Haberbush’s daughter, owns the operation along with her husband, Rich Gangnes; she headquarters at the Queen Anne location.
“My dad was very hands-on,” Haberbush recalled. “He was good with people. He didn’t have a big ego. He would sweep the sidewalk.”
Jacobi’s business model, pioneered by people like Terry Haberbush, grew with near-brush fire rapidity.
By the early 1980s, Windermere had nine offices in the Seattle area. Around the same time, Windermere Services in Bellevue was created to provide marketing, legal, financial and technological support for the growing Windermere network. Additionally, in 1984, Windermere’s Community Services Day, in which various offices help spruce up their neighborhoods, was inaugurated.
In 1987, the collegiate crew races on the opening day of boating season became the Windermere Cup; two years later, the Windermere Foundation, a nonprofit designed to fight homelessness, was launched.
Janet Haberbush, a Washington State University graduate, went to work for her father as a sales associate in the Magnolia office in 1991. Before that, she had worked in public relations, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and commercial real estate.
She said part of Jacobi’s vision, which led the company to prominence in the Seattle marketplace, derived from grouping the various office’s print advertising together in the daily newspapers so they would have more impact.
“Offices were upscale; the ads looked good,” Haberbush said.
Not incidentally, Windermere also developed a more favorable commission scale for its agents.
Currently, Haberbush said sales are up about 15 percent for her four locations over the prior year. She’s also seeing multiple offers again: Inventory is low, down 30 to 40 percent from last year, and prices are nosing up.
Haberbush said that Seattle, with its strong employment base — which includes the emergence of Amazon.com as a major player — “will come out of the downturn with gusto.”
Her optimism matches a recent Seattle Times piece which reported that, of the 2,500 new condos available in downtown, Belltown, Uptown Queen Anne and South Lake Union available during the darkest days of the recession, fewer than 250 units remain unsold.
“I love it,” Haberbush said of her work. “Working in real estate is a career that involves so many different aspects. It’s all about personal growth. It requires you to be a good listener.”
Windermere’s public-service tradition takes various forms: Ellen Gillette, broker for Windermere Real Estate/Wall St. Inc. in Belltown, is president of the Queen Anne Helpline’s board of directors.
The Belltown office is where Terry Haberbush made his headquarters.
Janet Haberbush marvels at her father’s pluck: “My dad decided in 1982 to work out of a Belltown office. In those days, Belltown did not have real estate offices and was not upscale. But he was a visionary. Look at it today: It’s a thriving part of downtown that is only going to expand. His glass was always half-full.”