In their spare time, George Raworth can be found at his Jackson home tinkering with antique cars — the most recent, a burgundy 1936 Ford Phaton — while Ron Harvel is usually on the golf course, working on his farm near Clinton or playing with his grandchildren.
During the workday, these two very different men with separate careers successfully collaborate on purchasing, renovating and leasing real estate in the metro Jackson area.
Since they formed Raworth & Harvel, LLC, in the early 1980s, they have amassed an impressive portfolio of residential and commercial properties by sticking to a plan centered on containing debt to short term and offering lessees the best possible customer service.
“A tenant that is paying $400 per month receives the same fair, honest and friendly treatment seven days a week as one that is paying $ 3,000 per month,” explained Raworth, GRI, owner of Raworth Real Estate, which manages administration and maintenance duties for Raworth & Harvel. “We do things right. We don’t take shortcuts. We probably spend more money than guys bigger and smaller than us, but we think it’s worth it to pay attention to details, such as having someone on phone duty every Saturday and Sunday.”
Their customer service savvy has helped Raworth & Harvel consistently maintain vacancy rates of 1.5% to 2.5% over the past two decades compared to metro area vacancy rates that fluctuate from 10% to 15%.
“The Jackson metropolitan area rental real estate market is and will continue to be a profitable marketplace for the small and large investor,” said Raworth. “Being diversified in different types of projects has kept our risks lower and allowed us to have more chances for growth. Location, location and location have always been the major consideration when considering new purchases. Another consideration is the potential for increased revenues over the following five years.”
About 35 years ago, Raworth, a native of Tensas Parish, La., who graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, worked for Harvel, an Arkansas native, in the mortgage business, “and we’ve been lifelong friends ever since,” said Raworth. Both moved to metro Jackson in the 1970s.
Raworth, who also serves as the director of credit services for Saks Inc. in Jackson, is a licensed Mississippi broker and a member of the Jackson Association of Realtors. Harvel also pulls double duty as a senior sales representative with Paul Revere Life Insurance Company and Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company.
“Our talents complement each other,” said Raworth.
Their residential portfolio includes moderately priced townhouses, duplexes and mobile homes from Clinton to Richland, many of which they have owned since the mid-1980s.
“We came into Clinton at a really good time and would like to buy more properties there, but the price has climbed so high in the last few years,” said Raworth.
Raworth and Harvel have also found unexpected prosperity in the mobile home market. Since they purchased Country View Estates, a mobile home park in Rankin County, two years ago, gross rental receipts have more than tripled. “We renovated the mobile homes that were there and added others,” said Raworth. “It’s done real well for a little project.”
Raworth and Harvel recently added the 18,000-square-foot SouthPoint Centre on Interstate 55 in Byram to their commercial holdings. They paid more than $1 million for the building, which is more than 90% leased, and the adjacent property, which they are considering developing.
“We see Byram as a place of growth in the next 10 years, and we’re probably going to expand further in that direction,” said Raworth.
During the next 10 years, Raworth anticipates moderate growth overall.
“We don’t plan to expand dramatically,” he said. “We’ll sell some assets and make some acquisitions. When it’s all said and done, we’ll probably grow by 50% within the next decade.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.