Real estate is the name of the game for Linda Miller, who has been a licensed realtor since 1978, though she worked in retail management for two decades before putting her passion to good use when she moved south from the small town of Fairhope, Alabama, to the coastal community of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
“I grew up coming to Destin as a child, and my fondest family memories take place in the turquoise water and on the sugar-white sands,” Miller recalls. “Even in those days, I would tell people ‘I’m gonna live here one day.’” She made her dream come true when she moved to Northwest Florida after her youngest child started college in 1998. She has been a realtor in the area since then, has been the top agent in sales along Scenic Highway 30-A for the last five years, and has amassed over half a billion in sales over her career.
This year, Miller continued to write her love letter to the coast by launching her own brokerage, Linda Miller Real Estate. She credits her success to a positive attitude and putting her clients first—not to mention taking advantage of the beautiful scenery along Scenic 30-A. “My first customer, who is from Atlanta, made a comment to me that she was ‘back on the smile’ of 30-A when she returned to her newly purchased home,” Miller says. “I asked what she meant, and she said that once she gets on Scenic Highway 30-A, she just starts smiling. I looked at a map and noticed 30-A even looks like a smile coming off of Highway 98. I was convinced that I wanted to be the ‘Smile of 30-A,’ so I got her permission to use that as my slogan, and my personal brand was born.”
She has been a realtor in the area since then, has been the top agent in sales along Scenic Highway 30-A for the last five years, and has amassed over half a billion in sales over her career.
The real estate industry is saturated with agents, so Miller knew she would have to make herself stand out in people’s minds and in her promotional efforts throughout the area. This is where the Smile of 30-A really came into play. She became famous for bringing a sofa resembling a large pair of red lips to open houses and promotional events around the area. “It’s always a great conversation starter,” she says. “It helps that once you own property on 30-A, you’ll be smiling, too, because you will be in paradise and making money. Plus, smiling is really good for you!”
As a businesswoman and now business owner, Miller admits that things have not always been easy. She cites that it often feels like men in most business industries, especially in the South, would prefer to keep women out of their arena. “Growing up as a child of the 1960s, I have seen it all,” she says. “When I went to university, I wanted to work as a buyer of fashion merchandise, so my ‘guidance counselor’ sent me to the School of Home Economics to learn how to sew and create textiles, et cetera. Can you believe there was even a college called the School of Home Ec? My daughter is amazed that I graduated based on my cooking skills.” She continues, “At the same time, when the guys said they wanted to work in merchandising or retailing, they were sent to the business school to learn how to manage all the women from the home ec school when they became our bosses—ha! It’s not really funny, but it’s true. Plus, we made about half the salary that men did for a long time.”
In real estate, Miller says, the ladies have the edge. “I believed then and I believe now that women are smart. We make the best agents and can create more value in a property. What a wonderful world it would be if the girls just stuck together like the guys do.” And it’s possible, she insists. “I think that women, as a collective, have great power. I love the idea of empowering women every chance I have, because I remember the days when we had many fewer choices. We’ve ‘grown up’ into an empowered society where a woman’s worth is respected and valued.”
“I believed then and I believe now that women are smart. We make the best agents and can create more value in a property. What a wonderful world it would be if the girls just stuck together like the guys do.”
For women who are working on building their personal brands or starting a business, Miller has some simple pieces of advice: “Be true to yourself; be honest with your clients; listen first, then ask questions; and watch your back—protect yourself and your brand.”
These were invaluable lessons Miller learned during her tenure as a realtor on 30-A over the past twenty-one years, even weathering the financial storm that so many faced after the Great Recession. “Looking back at the years since the crash, I realized I had grown a brokerage from around $20 million to over $275 million per year and managed about a dozen agents on top of selling over $80 million last year and being the number one agent on 30-A since 2015.” She is also a member of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate, which offers a global network of agents dealing exclusively in luxury properties. This industry expertise was one reason that prompted Miller to form her own brokerage; another reason was wanting to be a positive role model for her family. “I wanted to build a legacy of my own for my children and theirs. I realized I had missed my oldest ‘grands’ who live in Louisiana, and wanted to be sure I intentionally spend the next years of my life being a mother and ‘Mimi’ who puts family first, as well as create an environment where family works together to build their legacy.”
Walton County is the fifth-fastest-growing county of its size in the country, according to census numbers from 2017 to 2018. As an expert on the area’s real estate, Miller knows that she must also plan growth for her brokerage for the coming year. “We plan to expand our team as I am led to find the right people,” she says. “When I started twenty-one years ago, a great lady named Sandi Nichols mentored me. She was the first female broker on 30-A and a great teacher and leader. I hope to return the favor to some young real estate professionals, and know I will find the right people to teach and work with.”
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Visit LindaMillerLuxury.com to learn more or search available properties.