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Realtor keeps working (and believing) in the Coast

Gulfport — With faith, strong family ties and resiliency, Gulf Coast Realtor Jay Schroeder is getting through these trying days following Hurricane Katrina. The broker and property manager is working from his office on Courthouse Road, but his beach view home on Vista Drive in Pass Christian was completely destroyed.

His family was hit hard as his mother, three sisters and two aunts also lost their homes. “No one on my side has anything, and my wife Marie’s family took damage at their homes but they are habitable,” he said.

Jay and Marie and their three children, Destin, 8, Noel, 10, and Katie, 13, boarded up their home on Sunday, Aug. 28, and went to Marie’s brother’s home in Gulfport to ride out the storm. They took along family photos and three sets of clothes for each person. Having evacuated for other storms and been stuck in endless traffic, they chose to stay nearby.

“I didn’t have a premonition, but for some reason I videotaped the houses along the beach in Pass Christian,” he said. “We came back to find everything gone.”

The Schroeders rode out the storm in a part of Gulfport that was not severely damaged. After it passed, they saw another brother-in-law’s shell of a house near the beach and thought their home in Pass Christian would look the same.

“On August 30, we drove as far as we could and then walked three miles to get to our house. We could barely tell where we were,” Schroeder said. “We met up with a neighbor who told us everything was gone. Still, I was hoping to get some camping gear from a storage building we had.”

Schroeder says the family was not prepared for the total devastation, and with no sunblock and water soon realized it was a mistake to bring the kids along. They were glad to find unopened bottled water that had floated out of destroyed houses.

The Schroeders found nothing but a slab and were able to rummage through the debris to salvage a few mementoes. “I felt sick to my stomach and had to go back three or four times to grasp it all,” he recalls. “I managed to videotape the ‘after’ scene on the beach to go with my ‘before’ videotape.”

The 42-year-old real estate professional says finding four unbroken crosses in the rubble of his home was a positive sign. The family is active in St. James Catholic Church of Gulfport and the younger two children attend school there. He had two inspirational quotes stuck to his bathroom mirror in Pass Christian. Those pieces of paper are gone but their philosophy stays with him.

“One is ‘to accept with grace and have faith in His wisdom’ and the other is ‘if we really knew the value of suffering, we would ask for it’,” Schroeder says. “Remembering these words helps me get through these hard times.”

Currently, the family is staying in the home of one of Marie’s brothers. Schroeder hasn’t lost his sense of humor as he laughs about nine people sharing a three-bedroom, one-bath house. No one knows the Gulf Coast housing market better than this Realtor of 21 years.

“We will definitely rebuild our home, and I may start building some spec homes,” he says. “The Coast will grow bigger and better and construction will be phenomenal. Now the risk is gone at being able to sell homes.”

He says he’d be going crazy if he wasn’t working right now, and he’s thankful his office escaped damage. “We’re very busy. Any listings we had that survived the storm are under contract,” he said, “and we’re getting new listings every day. Many of these are from people who don’t want to stay here and go through this again.”

The most frequently asked question he’s getting is “How does the hurricane affect the price of real estate?”

“The supply of homes here was low before the hurricane,” he answers, “and now it’s really low. Prices are higher due to supply and demand. Right now older homes are getting top dollar, but we don’t know the effect when they are competing with new homes that will be built. I think it will stay the same at least for three years.”

A broker who also works with commercial property, Schroeder doesn’t want the Coast’s beachfront to be all commercial. “Something like Seaside in Florida would be a great way to go,” he says. “The storm won’t slow down condo development. It actually may become more intense and easier to get zoning changes, but I will fight for Pass Christian to remain residential.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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