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August 6, 2018
Mainebiz Women to Watch 2018

Women to Watch: Dava Davin, Portside Real Estate Group

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Dava Davin is founder and owner of Portside Real Estate Group, one of Maine's largest residential real estate companies.
Photo / Tim Greenway
Dava Davin reviews properties with members of her team, including John Fitzsimons, buyer specialist, in the Falmouth office.
Photo / Tim Greenway
Dava Davin has also competed in four Ironman triathlons.

Portside Real Estate Group

417 U.S. Route 1, Falmouth 04105

Founded: 2012

Founder and President/CEO: Dava Davin

Number of employees: 8

Number of agents: 62

Contact: 207-536-4222 /

www.portsiderealestategroup.com

In her own words

What triggered your career path?: After working for a decade in the pharmaceutical industry, I was looking for something more meaningful and was hoping to make a difference working for a nonprofit. Fate landed me in real estate and I am grateful that I can combine Portside Foundation with my real estate work.

Did you have a mentor or role model?: I have had many mentors. I am a huge believer in getting better every day and I have had a business coach in one form or another for the last four years. I have also had a triathlon coach who got me to the finish line of four Ironman competitions (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike leg and 26.2-mile run).

What advice would you give your former self?: The same stuff I tell myself now: Don't be afraid to work hard, love and service your employees and agents and enjoy every minute of life's journey.

What keeps you up at night?: I am a great sleeper. I go to bed at 9 p.m. and I am up between 4:30 and 5 a.m. But when I am really excited about a new idea my brain gets going and that can keep me up past my bedtime!

What's the last book you read?: "Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child," by Ross W. Greene. I have two awesome teenage boys and my husband and I strive to make sure that we are giving clear guidelines to empower them to make good choices and problem-solve creatively. This is a great book for that!

Dava Davin left a lucrative career in the pharmaceutical industry in 2008 to move to Maine and pursue residential real estate.

After four years with a large franchise, she founded Portside Real Estate Group in Falmouth. That first year, her company had $40 million in sales.

Today, the company's 12-month figure was up to $265 million in sales volume, representing 46% growth over the previous 12 months. She's expanded to Portland and Yarmouth, and last year completed construction of a new headquarters at 417 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth. She acquired a RE/MAX office in Yarmouth.

Portside is among Maine's top 10 residential real estate companies, and Davin's own sales team ranks in the top five of Maine residential agents and teams. Portside has the No. 1 market share in the areas it serves.

She credits her success to a philosophy centered on old-fashioned, face-to-face customer service.

"Say a client decides they need to sell their home because it's a two-bedroom home and they're having their second child and they have two dogs," she says. "Life is happening for them and they're ready to move. They put the house on the market, which means strangers are going to walk through their home when they're not there, opening closets and judging the house and judging them. My approach is about understanding that uncomfortable situation."

On the flip side, agents are heavily involved in buyer finances and how much they can afford.

"It's unlike any other sale or purchase: We're involved in people's personal business," she says. "For that to be done right, you develop relationships with people and serve in an advisory role. That's how I coach my agents and run my business."

A varied career

Davin was born in England and lived in Europe until she was 13, when her family moved to Connecticut. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She worked as a travel agent and later a meeting planner before becoming a sales rep in the pharmaceutical industry, at which time she also earned an MBA.

In 2008, she and her husband, who works for Tyler Technologies in Yarmouth, moved from Connecticut to Maine. Wanting to make a career change, Davin decided to try real estate.

"I had flipped some houses and had a couple of rental properties, so I said, 'Let's see if real estate is fulfilling,'" she recalls.

Then came the recession.

"It was right when things turned for the worse," she says. "But I had to follow my heart. I said, 'If it doesn't work, I can always go back into pharmaceuticals.'"

She got a job as an assistant at RE/MAX By the Bay in Portland and learned the ropes.

She also began to see how she wanted to serve clients. Nine months later, in 2009, she started her own team and ran it based on a philosophy of providing a personal touch in situations that can be stressful for buyers and sellers.

"When I went into the business and saw people's emotions, their needs not being addressed," she says. "It was like, OK, there are going to be showings, there are hurdles that need to be overcome, but we can work with them to jump over the hurdles and get them to the closing with some humor, so they don't feel like they've been through the wringer."

The philosophy took. By the end of 2010, she was running the company's second-highest-producing team. By 2012, her success inspired her to open Portside.

In real estate, she says, communication is key. It might seem basic, but just deciding which form of communication the client prefers — say, email, text or phone — goes a long way toward making the client comfortable, she says.

"Communication is the No. 1 reason consumers are unhappy with Realtors," she says. "When I meet with a client, we go over how the communication will work on both sides. We have weekly reports and our clients know they'll get them. We schedule face-to-face meetings throughout the process. Most things can be solved by healthy communication."

Business in a comforting environment

In 2017, Davin designed Portside's new headquarters with that personal touch in mind.

"How things look and feel is important to me, whether it's a brochure or how someone feels when they walk into the office," she says. "When I had the opportunity to build our headquarters from scratch, I wanted it to feel like a comforting environment."

The door opens onto a fireplace-lounge area. Natural light, a stocked kitchen and an outdoor patio contribute to the homey feeling. Agents have closed-door offices for confidential conversations, but there's also open collaboration space.

"Our agents can pop up and greet clients and invite them into the lounge, so they feel like they're in a living room versus a corporate office," she says. "The architect designed huge windows to capture the woods behind us, so you have that outside-coming-in feeling."

A satisfying part of the business is coaching newer agents.

"It's about helping people reach their full potential in a place where they can grow and become independent," she says. "You've got all these people who are creative and have lots of energy. Helping them to channel that to serve clients is what keeps me going."

Davin doesn't recruit agents from other firms.

"I fundamentally don't believe in calling the agent of one of my peers and trying to have them come," she said. "I feel we're all in this together in our industry. We're just trying to grow a good business that makes sense for agents to want to come aboard."

That said, Davin is highly selective, taking perhaps one out of every 10 agents who does contact her.

"I think that's why we're so successful," she says. "I make sure I'm bringing people onboard who will continue to build our reputation. I've been approached recently to acquire other existing agencies, which I've had to turn down because they weren't quite the right fit. I foresee a lot of growth in the future, but I have to be strategic in order to keep growing in a way that I see benefiting the current agents and the current clients. I've seen a lot of companies grow quickly and dilute their brand and level of service. I will not compromise."

Then there's her philanthropic work. Her Portside Gives Back Campaign hosted four fundraising events for four local nonprofits. Because of the campaign's popularity, she started the Portside Foundation in 2017. All together, the initiatives have raised $37,000.Also, Rooftop ReCharge, a fitness bootcamp and expo, benefited Girls on the Run. A "Pins for a Cure" bowling tournament raised over $10,000 for the Maine Cancer Foundation.

A four-time Ironman triathlon finisher who also completed several marathons, Davin doubtless carries her energy into the planning and growth of her business, as she seeks to enhance both client and agent experience.

"It's that sense of satisfaction," she says. "It's how I and my team help clients through a transitional period. People say, 'You work so hard.' But it's just so worth it."

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