Bruce Elliott’s road to the real estate industry was hardly A to B, but in his thus far short-yet-illustrious career – just eight years – he’s become quite the VIP.
Elliot spoke with Growthspotter on the eve of his inaugural as 2017 president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association – “an historic event for me, about seven years in the making.”
The path had been long, with Elliott one of very few members to have served in every position on his way to the big chair – stints on committees to chairmanships, board appointments to extended elected roles. He has been the secretary, the treasurer, the president-elect and now, the Big Kahuna.
Born in Michigan and raised in Wisconsin, the second of three brothers had always wanted a snowmobile as a kid – but never managed to get one. He did, however, have a penchant for vehicles and while in college, wrote a check for cash – $150 – and purchased a 1973 AMC Gremlin in the convenient shade of rust brown.
“I couldn’t open the driver’s side door because the hinges were badly rusted and it would have fallen off,” he says. “But you had to be within four feet of the car to see how bad it was because of the paint.
“It was a little challenging for dates, though,” he admits. “I’d walk around to the other side and say, ‘Please forgive me, I’m a little unconventional: I open the door for myself, but I’ll hold it open for you…’ because I had to climb over the shifter on the column. And they’d laugh.”
Indeed, Elliott’s unconventionality has left its fingerprints on just about every aspect of his life.
Proud Midwestern roots notwithstanding, it was a trip to Florida on Spring Break that led him to the City Beautiful.
“Everything here was green and beautiful and growing and I could see things were happening,” he says. At the time he was a criminal justice major/political science minor with aspirations to one day sit on the bench as a judge. But the promise he saw in the Sunshine State changed his mind straightaway. He saw a future here, and it was in real estate – not law.
His father was none too pleased, but Elliott was determined. He saved some money and by October 1987, he made Orlando his home. While living with his contractor uncle in the Seminole County neighborhood of Bear Lake was convenient, working with him was not.
“Construction, I realized, was an up and down world,” Elliott explains. “Sometimes I had work and sometimes I didn’t. And I needed to have work. So I got a mostly full-time job at a Shell station at the corner of 436 and Bear Lake Road.”
It was also third shift, a night gig which allowed him to pursue his education during the day, and lucrative enough to afford him something life-changing in other ways – a Sears credit card with a line of $200.
Now, Elliott – who had purchased a bicycle to get around – had some buying power. He pedaled out to what is now Executive Airport to have a look at a car he’d found for sale: a 1985 Mustang GT.
“The guy had been leasing the car from Don Reid Ford,” he explains, spinning off into a tale about the hot rod he’d gotten for his high-school graduation, a 1973 Chevelle. He’d put a lot of high-performance work into the muscle car, eventually blowing out the motor and transmission with his penchant for racing. After his stint in the rusty Gremlin, he was likely keen on something with a little more style, not to mention functional doors.
That credit line was enough to put him in the Mustang’s driver’s seat, which in turn made the entire city his employment oyster. A stint as a pool bartender at what was then the Stouffer Orlando Resort Hotel (Orlandoans now know it as the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld) parlayed into the senior bartender position, where Elliott – whose friendly nature clearly makes him a natural barkeep – met a recruiter for a stock brokerage company.
His path, again, would be altered. And likely much to his father’s eventual delight. “By this time my brother had graduated from a very prestigious school and I was a bartender at a pool at some hotel in Florida!” he laughs.
Before long, Elliott was working downtown at Church and Orange – and moved through various other positions, eventually to a place where his relative bartender’s pittance of $100 a day had become a broker’s pile: $10,000 a month. A few years and a few jobs later, that pile had collected into a mountain.
“I had 62 employees, I had about $5.6 million in the bank. I went to work at 9:30, I left around 4:30. I’m going for cocktails. Life is good. Then 9/11 happens, life begins to unravel ... and there wasn’t anything you could do about it. Wall Street didn’t open for three days. Most people have no idea what that means, but millions of dollars – trillions on a global scale – just disappeared.
“I went from having millions in the bank to literally having a policeman in my lobby because an investor threatened to kill me over $250.”
Following the national and personal tragedy Elliott regrouped, and the future this finance industry pro saw was the one he’d seen in his past: real estate.
Today, the former hot-rodder drives a decidedly more sensible Mercedes SL 550 and specializes in the transfer of luxury residential properties, and serving international buyers seeking vacation or investment homes here with Regal Real Estate Professionals.
And in his spare time? Elliott’s that spandex guy on two wheels you’ll see around town. An avid road biker, he and his girlfriend enjoy bike events as they travel between his home here and hers in Denver, and are set to spin a business trip to Hawaii into a load of two-wheeled pleasure.
“We’re going to bike the Ironman track in Kona just for fun and then,” he says, they’ll attempt to ride up Mount Haleakala.
That’s a 10,000-foot trek many cyclists consider among the toughest challenges around.
Elliott is good-natured about it.
“My friends tell me I’m crazy,” he laughs, “but if I can’t do it, I’ll just take the typical route and ride down.”