Steve Schneider has an encouraging thought for people who are worried about the economy. Hard times, he said, can be a good time to build a company's market share.
The last time Las Vegas' economy was doing this poorly, he and two partners founded the state's largest residential real estate sales company, now called Prudential Americana Group Realty.
When Schneider sold his one-third interest in the company in 1999, it had more than 700 sales associates on its staff.
Schneider, then 56, figured it was time to retire, but he was wrong. A few months of retirement convinced him that he would only be happy if he continued working.
He went back to selling, making deals and developing properties.
Schneider grew up in a small Nebraska town, the oldest of five children of a local car dealer. He moved to Las Vegas and started teaching English at Bishop Gorman High School in 1967. His younger brother, state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, moved here at the same time.
Question: When did you get into real estate sales?
Answer: I started in 1971 working for Jack Matthews and Company.
Question: Did you prefer home sales to teaching?
Answer: I liked teaching, but I like the freedom of pretty much being your own boss, setting your own hours and activities. If you are a successful teacher, you have many of the skills of a successful salesperson.
My first year in business I sold 50 homes, which is good. I sold the least-expensive homes in town. My average sale was $18,000, and the board of Realtors' average was $20,000. The first year, I worked 365 days.
The economy was bad but certainly not as bad as it is today.
In the second year, I sold a casino executive's home for $86,000. That was a big step up for me. That was the most expensive home sold that year at Jack Matthews. Jack Matthews became the largest real estate company in the state.
Question: What did you do next?
Answer: Mark Miscevic, Jack Woodcock and I established the Americana Group, which operated as a franchisee of Better Homes & Gardens for several years. We opened at the end of 1979.
Question: What was the economy like then?
Answer: It seemed like each month we were open, interest rates went up a point.
In those days, there were a lot of assumable loans from the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs. That really saved us.
You couldn't get people to pay 18 percent interest (on a home loan). Companies were going out of business. I think it was easier to grow in a more difficult market.
Question: So you grew rapidly?
Answer: We became the largest in the state and were one of the largest in the country. When I sold, I think we had 700-plus agents.
Question: The partners sold real estate and managed the company?
Answer: That's critical, because we saw the mistakes that happen when you have nonselling owners. How else can you keep the pulse on what the sales people are going through?
Question: When did you quit top management at Prudential Americana?
Answer: I sold my interest in 1999. I thought at the time, "I don't need to do this anymore."
I had always had a goal of retiring by 55, which was a naive goal. Retirement isn't for me. I like the interplay with people. Money is secondary. I love the deal, to put the transaction together. Work is beautiful. If you like your work, you thrive.
Question: So you went back to work as a real estate broker and salesman?
Answer: Yes. I can't wait to work every day. I don't care what I sell as long as I'm selling real estate.
I also sell multimillion-dollar properties to entertainers, hotel presidents, business executives, investors and everyday working people.
Question: What are some of the real estate developments in which you are participating?
Answer: A senior apartment complex in Henderson and apartments in Indian Springs. That's a growing area with the Air Force expansion. Industrial sites at the Apex Industrial Park. Property surrounding several hundred acres of land we donated to Texas A&M University for a campus at San Antonio.
These are all things that are good for the communities and good for my partners and myself. It gives me something to go to work for each morning.
Question: What are the prospects for real estate in Southern Nevada?
Answer: People still want to come to Las Vegas, both to visit and to live. I think more will come when they can afford it. It's not like Las Vegas became unpopular.
If you price a property at the market today, a house will probably sell in a day or two. It will probably sell over list price and there will probably be multiple bidders, so the desire is here.
Growth is the salvation of Las Vegas. The only thing that is going to fix our current economic situation is growth. So we need to encourage growth.
Question: When are you going to retire?
Contact reporter John G. Edwards at email@example.com or 702-383-0420.