Tropicasa Realty is celebrating a 25th anniversary in 2022. Through changing technology, storm damage, the US housing crisis of 2008, and a global pandemic, Tropicasa Realty has continued to adapt and thrive, not only exemplifying one of the most successful companies in our region, but one of the most community minded. Founder, Wayne Franklin – known simply and fondly as “Franklin” by almost everyone in Vallarta – took some time to sum up 25 years of real estate success in 25 questions.
1. Where was Tropicasa’s first office?
It was located on Aldama, upstairs in a small room overlooking Morelos. You had to duck your head coming upstairs if you were over 5 foot tall, otherwise you’d knock yourself out on the low beams of the roof.
2. Why did you move to your current office?
My business partner, at the time, and I would have lunch daily at Chile’s, which is now Coco’s Kitchen. We got tired of hunting for parking when we’d return to the office, so we thought, “Hey, why not just move over here so we can be closer to lunch.” It is said men make their decisions through their stomachs. So true.
3. How did you come up with the name Tropicasa?
A friend of mine and I were brainstorming one day. We had concocted all the standard iterations of a real estate company’s name that you could think of. Then, in a stroke of genius – or was it the Tequila? Who can say? – we decided the meshing of two names would be better than just one. Taking two of the most obvious features of our environment and business, tropical and house, Tropicasa was conceived.
4. How large was the Tropicasa Realty team in 1997?
There were just a couple of us, meandering the maze of real estate in the late 1990s. And our growth has been slow as our intention was to build a team of like-minded people, more like a family. And that’s how we operate the company to this day.
5. How many team members does Tropicasa have now?
We currently have about 30 team members at Tropicasa – a combination of agents, administrative and management. And as a family environment, we jump in to help each other out when needed, socialize together in off hours, and support each other in so many ways. It’s not your traditional “office environment”, which is why we have very little turnover.
6. Approximately how many homes has Tropicasa helped buy or sell in 25 years?
That’s a nearly impossible question to answer, but it’s in the thousands, at this point. And one of the best parts of that is that we still have clients, of many years past, who come down to spend time in their home with their loved ones, and they pop into the office, just to say “hi”. When was the last time you went to your Realtor’s office just to say “hi”? I just love that!
7. What would 2022 Tropicasa say to 1997 Tropicasa?
Buckle up! You’re in for the ride of your life!
8. What has been the biggest change in real estate over the years?
There have certainly been a few. For the industry, I would say how the standards for professionals have improved, and in some ways have reached parity with other highly regulated countries surrounding the practice of real estate. The sort of “handshake mentality” and loose practices are all but gone. I think that’s a function of prices, too. When a condo cost $50,000 USD, people were more forgiving if something wasn’t perfect in a deal. When condos are $500,000 or more, they’re significantly more cautious and concerned about all aspects of the transaction. That’s one of the other major changes. And while the internet and email were not “new” in 1997, not only has their use exploded, but you have all manner of social media platforms and other digital methods of communication. So, clients are far more educated on the topic of real estate in Mexico. We used to have to explain the fideicomiso process to every client who walked through the door. Clients can now recite the process before they ever get here, as they’ve already done their homework before even arriving. Having a well-educated clientele has eased the entire process and I’m sure all agents here would say that they are grateful for that change.
9. Who is the funniest team member at Tropicasa?
Our team has a GREAT sense of humor. We are always joking in and out of the office. And so that I don’t pit any team member against another … I’ll just say … me!!
10. Which Tropicasa Team member hosts the best dinner parties?
There was a dinner party? Did I miss my invitation??
11. What was your most memorable sale?
I think it had to be my friend Dottie’s house. She is one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, and she is quite spiritual. We had the house on the market for a while and I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out what I needed to do to get it sold. One day, she told me, “Don’t worry. You’re going to sell it to two guys and they’re going to want to move FAST, so save your energy, you’re going to need it.” And I’ll be, if shortly thereafter we didn’t show it to a couple of great guys that had their home in escrow, and they needed to move literally in a week. Their agent told us if we couldn’t get them in within the week, the deal was off. And we did it. And I’ll NEVER do that again. Beyond exhausted. But everybody on our team, in and out of the office, pulled it off. Interesting how she “knew” that, right?
12. What is the achievement that makes Tropicasa most proud?
Being accepted into the community (both public and professional) to be able to help people accomplish their real estate, financial and personal goals. It may sound corny, but I’m forever grateful for that acceptance.
13. How many developments has Tropicasa brought to market?
We’ve been involved in marketing over 20 new developments in our career and we continue to work with some of the most prominent developers in the area, promoting some of the most well-received condo and home product on the market. New product continues to drive certain areas of town and are even rejuvenating neighborhoods such as Versalles with all manner of new businesses, shops, restaurants, bars, etc.
14. How many languages are spoken at Tropicasa?
We’re officially a polyglot! We speak Spanish, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Tagalog, and Pig Latin. OK, maybe the UN hasn’t recognized the last one, but we’ve got a large portion of the speaking population covered with the other seven.
15. What is the one thing that Tropicasa buyers love most about Vallarta?
THE PEOPLE! Puerto Vallarta’s list of amenities and benefits reads as long as a good book, but without question, consistently the first response on that list will always be the people of Vallarta. The way you’re driving or walking down the street and people wave, the willingness to go entirely out of their way to help in any small way, how everybody seems to know “a guy” who will help you do whatever you need to get done, how you can sit at a corner café or bar and end up becoming friends with people almost instantly, and on and on and on. And the real differentiator? They mean it! They’re genuinely happy to see you or take you to a store even if they’re going to be late, or to connect you with their friends. It’s sincere. That’s why people come to Puerto Vallarta!
16. What was the favorite open house or special event you ever hosted?
We’ve done so many events and, although I’m partial, I have to say they are amongst some of the best that are produced in the industry. That said, my all-time favorite would still have to be the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” night that we did at a luxury condo. We hired models to dress up as Audrey Hepburn (and there were some Marilyn Monroe sightings as well), and Diamonds International was gracious enough to adorn all the models with stunning diamond rings, necklaces, and earrings. It was an evening event, which showed off the post-modern décor of the condo and star-studded evening vistas beautifully. We sold the condo in record time, and everybody had a blast. Needless to say, all the guests were on their best behavior (we had armed security, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it).
17. Who has been with Tropicasa Realty the longest?
With more than 20 years of pain and suffering under my tutelage, Jorge Guillen! Jorge has grown from being an assistant to an agent and now a partner. He’s become an expert in the field and is very well-respected in the community. We’re so proud of him. Luz Elena “Nena” Hernandez is our runner-up. She’s got 17 years of Tropicasa flowing through her veins and she keeps some of our best agents organized in all their deals, and then some. Laura Munguia, who also made partner this year, is a very close third with 16 years of keeping Tropicasa in shape and running like a Swiss watch! Without them and all the other team members, we would not be who we are today.
18. What is the most unusual design feature you’ve ever seen in a Vallarta home?
Well, I don’t know that I would call it a “design feature” as much as a “life hack”. We had a client who lived in a condo below a rooftop pool in an aging building. The pool leaked for years, and the owner of the condo grew to appreciate this oddity. She put a fountain below the leak, which was minimal, but still provided water to the fountain, and called it her indoor water feature. The new buyer, who was well aware of the leak, enjoyed the same indoor water feature for years until it was ultimately fixed. He confessed to me that he missed the fountain and the old leak as it was “part of the charm”. Old habits die hard, I guess.
19. What is the favorite “office hangout” spot?
Inside the office, it would have to be the coffee bar. It was designed for clients to feel welcomed for a cup of coffee or a chat, but it fast became the favored lunch spot for the team as they order in almost every day. It’s fun to watch, as it’s basically a group of friends getting together for lunch every day. Outside the office, I’d say likely Garbo. It’s just a little too convenient to pop over there after work for an adult beverage – or two.
20. From which country were your furthest away homebuyers?
China and India are two of the most distant buyer resources that we’ve had. Poland and Sweden are amongst that list as well. It’s impressive how our little piece of heaven has impacted so many around the world that they wish to call it home, even for part of the year.
21. What were Tropicasa’s goals starting in 1997?
Goals? We were just a couple of folks trying to eek out enough of a living to be able to call Puerto Vallarta home. There was no master plan to become this or that. We just plugged along doing what we do, and we started to grow, and by hard work and a bit of sheer happenstance we find ourselves where we are today, one of the leading real estate companies in the area.
22. What are Tropicasa’s goals going into the future?
We are very involved in our transactions and our clients. We care about them, and we want to make sure that they’re making good decisions and have the proper information to do that. That takes a lot of work and is more than just being a real estate agent. I think if we can simply continue on that path, everything else will be there to achieve any other goal.
23. What community efforts on behalf of Tropicasa are you most proud of?
When the tail end of Hurricane Kenna ripped through town and caused so much damage to the Malecon and especially affected hotels in town, we had clients calling and emailing all day every day trying to find out what hotels were open because of their travel plans. So, we became somewhat of a call center, calling as many hotels as possible each and every day for a few weeks until business came back to normal. We had a running log of when hotels were to open, and we contacted them regularly to find out if they were on schedule and continually updated anybody who wanted the information. That was our job, day in and day out, for weeks. And most recently, during the pandemic, we aided the Vallarta Food Bank. For those two years, we made a solid commitment to helping feed those who were in the most need, and the Food Bank was a great channel to help those people. I’m very proud to say that we helped sponsor the distribution of several thousand “despensas” to those who needed it the most.
24. What is a common misconception or myth about being a real estate agent that you would like to dispel?
I think the level of work that is often required behind-the-scenes to make everything look so “easy” or “effortless”. Every transaction is different, and some are certainly less complicated than others. But I think that if agents were to log their time and specifically what that time commitment entailed, as a lawyer would for example, I think you’d be surprised at what goes into having a smooth transaction. For an ad series we were doing for the Puerto Vallarta Film Festival many years ago, we did full page black and white ads with notable figures in the world, including film stars, scientists, political figures, etc. with a phrase that I created that said: “Mastering a difficult balance of craft and knowledge to create what ultimately appears effortless is the mark of a true professional.”
25. What has been your biggest success?
Without question, our survival and our corporate achievements through the 2008/9 financial crisis, which very imperfectly timed with the expensive opening of our brand new office. At no time in my business life have I ever felt so much pressure and stress. One “fire” would get put out and then another would immediately be burning, and it felt like every day was a catastrophe for one reason or another. For nearly two years we juggled bills, staffing, client dilemmas, it felt never-ending and was incredibly difficult not only for us, but for our clients whose lives were being so affected. I can honestly say that if it had not been for the team in my office, the company would not have made it. But with all our very hard work and even more importantly, our determination, we not only survived, but we learned better ways to operate and be more successful in the market. When those things happen, the lessons are hard, but the rewards are even more satisfying.
As we finished our Tropicasa 25 List, Franklin realized that we had missed an important question – who he would most like to thank: “From myself and on behalf of the Tropicasa team, we would like to thank everyone who has made the past 25 years possible: our clients, our friends, our mutual team members, and our neighbors and community. All of you have helped us in so many ways, both big and small, and the list of who to thank is far too long to even begin by name. We sincerely, humbly, and warmly thank you so much and we look forward to working together and serving our community for another 25 years and more!”
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