Real estate firm celebrates 75 years in the family

Third-generation owner Rick Schmit continues grandfather’s legacy in Grafton as industry evolves with the changing times

THIRD-GENERATION REAL ESTATE firm owner Rick Schmit is celebrating 75 years of the family business. Schmit is shown in his Grafton office with memorabilia, including his grandfather’s agent license from 1944. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

For 75 years, Schmit Realty has been helping customers find their ideal homes.

“Different generations of the same family have bought with us over the years,” third-generation owner Rick Schmit said. “We’re honored to be celebrating 75 years.”

The company is celebrating the anniversary of Schmit’s grandfather Michael, best known as M.J., receiving his real estate license in 1944. Prior to becoming a real estate agent, the elder Schmit was an auctioneer who assisted local businesses with sales as far back as 1919.

The company started out as M.J. Schmit Realtor and Auctioneer at the corner of Port Washington Road and Highway 60 in Grafton. M.J. Schmit owned a tavern, gas station and dance hall in the vicinity that is today Schmit’s Pavilion, where Starbucks coffee shop and other businesses are located.

The company’s headquarters is in Grafton at 1211 12th Ave. The business also had an office on Grand Avenue in Port Washington, but that building is being leased.

“It’s good to have a presence in the community, but we didn’t need to have two offices seven miles apart,” Schmit said.

Over the years, the company’s name has gone through a couple reincarnations as M.J.’s son Gene and grandsons Rick, Randy and Rob joined the family business.

Rick Schmit became a real estate agent in 1980 and his brothers joined the team several years later. Rob eventually left the business to start a sign company in Milwaukee. In 2017, Schmit’s father and brother Randy died, leaving him in charge.

Schmit said it was a tough learning curve during that transition. Prior to that, he was primarily involved in sales and property development.

“Randy ran the company and my father was pretty much retired. I was doing my thing and came back to manage the day-to-day stuff,” he said. “Selling is one thing, but managing is another.”

Schmit said a lot has changed in the real estate business over 75 years.

“From the beginning, it basically went from a handshake to an electronic signature. Basically, back then, you made a deal and went to the courthouse to get the deed,” Schmit said.

“Documents used to be one page and now they are dozens of pages.”

Financing and home inspections have also become more laborious in recent years, he said.

“There’s more and more approvals on the way,” he said.

Schmit said more property research and customer interaction occurs online these days, but having an in-person conversation is necessary to close a deal.

“You still need an office location to talk to people face to face or sign a contract,” he said. “Some of the listings you see online at other websites are nothing like what they appear to be in reality.”

The company primarily sells residential and commercial properties in Ozaukee County, and also in Milwaukee, Washington and Sheboygan counties.

“Our main market is in Ozaukee and then it spreads from there,” Schmit said.

During the real estate crash in 2008, Schmit said, it was a tough time but the business was able to weather the storm. He said property values have rebounded since that time.

“The prices are back up to where they were. They were high in ’08 and they’re above that now. It’s a cycle,” Schmit said.

Schmit Realty is one of a few local agencies that are still independent.

“We’re proud to be an independent firm, but it comes with its challenges,” Schmit said, noting it can be tough for a smaller firm to compete against larger ones.

The company has seven agents, and Schmit’s son Matthew works in property management and maintenance. His son Nick is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Schmit said he doesn’t want to persuade his sons to take over the family business but is encouraging them to start their own professional ventures.  

“I tell them, you don’t have to be like your father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Our family lineage has worked in different types of businesses, from tavern owner, auctioneer to real estate broker. I say, don’t feel guilty to do what you want,” Schmit said.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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