Jim and Joan Sample started their business in 1984. Then known as United Farm Agency, later as United National, and now as United Country Real Estate, their agency has been in Salem for 35 years.
United Country Real Estate-Salem Realty sells commercial, residential, farms and land, and also manages over 70 rental properties.
As of Aug. 1, 2019, Babette Wells is now the broker for the business, after being a realtor with the company. Wells said it will be somewhat of an adjustment after working alongside Joan for the past 16 years.
“It is starting to get real,” laughed Wells. “She is such a calming influence on those around her, in stressful situations.”
The local company has been awarded several times over its three decades in business. They have been honored twice to be the number one office for sales nationwide and consistently win awards for volume of listings and for sales team accomplishments.
When asked how much has changed in the business over the past 35 years, both agents chuckled.
“Contracts were one-page with carbon copies, whereas now they are almost 10 pages, just to get started,” said Joan Sample. “Interest rates were around 20 percent when we started, so closings did not involve as many people. And there were no title companies in Salem, so we handled it all.”
This changed as husband, Jim, urged Charlie Rouse to open a title company in the area, and he complied.
Changes in technology are apparent in the way people find houses, buy houses, and even look at houses, both shared. Physical signatures were once required via mailing of documents near and far, now it is almost instantaneous as document signing is available through email in a few clicks.
Fortunately, they still have a lot of walk-in business and enjoy the one-on-one transactions the office provides.
Joan Sample remarked that what kept her in the business so long is “helping people find their dream properties.”
Some of her most memorable sales have been along the Current River. Over the years about 30 agents have come and gone, with five agents currently under the United Country Real Estate name. One administrative assistant keeps the office organized as well.
Joan doesn’t use the word retirement, just laughs that she is cutting back.
“I will still be in the office some, as we make the transition, but I hope to spend more time with family and travel more,” she said.
The Samples’ son, James, is set to retire from the Air Force after 20 years, so she looks to spend more time with him, daughter, Jill, and grandchildren. She wants to mark off the last few of the 50 states she hasn’t visited yet, along with husband, Jim.
“I will miss my people at the office, and the people we have helped on a regular basis. We have had some of the same customers for over 25 years in property management and sold a lot of the same properties more than once,” said Joan Sample.
“One of the things I have learned and a philosophy I follow is to talk it out, and sleep on it,” she said.
Wells said she doesn’t have plans to change much with the business as she steps in the managing role.
“Joan and Jim had built a great business and rapport with customers. I want to continue to help people, as they have,” said Wells.
Some additional training is required to become a broker, and Wells has completed those steps. In addition, she follows the viewpoint of the Samples about professional organizations. All of the agents in the Salem realty office are active in the South-Central Board of Realtors, as well as state and nationwide members of the realtor organizations.
Wells looks forward to possibly adding more properties under the office’s management, and adding additional agents in the future. She commended other agents in the area and remarked about the great working relationship her office has with others.
Babette and her team look forward to their continued promotion and support of Dent County and the surrounding areas.
Babette has been married to Bob Wells for 28 years, has two daughters, Jennifer Bass and husband, Jason; and Jessica Sullivan and husband, Michael, and four grandchildren.