ST.LOUIS — Owners Buddy and Patrick Wood of Wood Brothers Realty admire the colorful photos of Missouri Botanical Garden flowers hanging in their office’s main hallway but are eager to guide a visitor around a corner to view a painting by one of the firm’s sales agents.
An abstract oil by agent Alvin Horst, the painting depicts Wood Brothers Realty’s face-painting booth at the annual Art in the Park art fair at Francis Park, five blocks south of the company’s office on Chippewa Street. (This year’s fair was canceled because of coronavirus concerns.) The brothers point out that Horst’s painting shows a large crowd at the company’s booth.
The painting and its prominent display exemplify Wood Brothers Realty’s connection to the community and the closeness of its employees.
Wood Brothers Realty is ranked first among midsize companies in this year’s Top Workplaces.
The Wood family’s history in real estate goes back to 1948 when grandfather L.K. Wood Sr. got his broker’s license. L.K. Wood Jr. later joined his father in the business. Wood Jr.’s sons, Buddy and Patrick, started their company in 2011.
Buddy Wood still uses the big, dark wooden office desk at which both his father and grandfather sat.
The Woods have built a business that includes residential and commercial property listings throughout the St. Louis area. The brothers said their family history and value of fair dealing are the core of their business.
The brothers said they treat employees and customers like family. “Learning and leading” is the company’s motto, they added.
The firm has grown to 157 employees, including agents, who work as contractors, which is standard practice in the business.
Jerry Vancardo, a longtime agent, said he prefers Wood Brothers Realty’s family atmosphere to any of the national real estate firms.
“I don’t like corporate things,” Vancardo said.
The absence of bureaucratic layers means Vancardo can speak with the owners whenever necessary and easily get the firm’s help with property listing and marketing information.
“It’s more personal than anything else,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced changes to selling real estate, which is built on in-person interactions, including house showings.
To safeguard prospective buyers, house showings are scheduled at least15 minutes apart. Patrick Wood said the company follows CDC guidelines to protect agents and buyers.
“We strive to keep people safe,” he said.
House showings done by online video are becoming more common. The brothers said a couple that recently moved to St. Louis from Washington, D.C., bought a house in the Hill neighborhood based solely on a video shot by the owner. More often, such videos are professionally done, the brothers said.
The closing procedure also has changed. Instead of the buyer going through the process inside a title company office, a company agent comes to the buyer’s car with the closing documents in a sealed plastic valise, the brothers said. The buyer fills out the paperwork, which the agent retrieves. After the closing is done, the agent returns to the buyer’s car, puts the documents in the trunk and tells the buyer to leave them there for three days.
Protecting Wood Brothers’ employees also is a company priority.
Only recently has the company resumed sales meetings at the office —with social distancing, of course. Many employees attend meetings through video conferencing. At the start of the pandemic, the brothers livestreamed consoling messages.
“We did the old fireside chats, like Roosevelt,” Buddy Wood said.
The company’s agents are a mixture of old hands and newer agents, including some just getting their real estate license.
Donna Peters, the human resources director with Wood Brothers for nine years, said the company even mentors agents who struggled at other real estate firms.
“They come over here,” she said. “And we get them going.”
Tim Bryant Jul29, 2020