For more than 40 years, local entrepreneur and Real Homes President/CEO Jon Port has been leading the Wenatchee area real estate and housing industries, providing thousands of affordable homes for families in the Valley. Born and raised in Wenatchee, Jon takes pride in being your “hometown builder” and really recognizes the needs of the community he serves first-hand. Affordable housing has been the primary focus of Port’s career and is the driving force that originally motivated him to take his successful business selling manufactured homes and turn it into a home construction company, building affordable Real Homes. Find out more about Jon’s story and some of the keys to his success in our Q&A below:
What is your hometown? Horoscope sign? Wenatchee, WA. Capricorn.
What would you say is one of your best qualities? Strong work ethic.
What is your favorite thing about living in Wenatchee? It’s a great place to raise a family. I also like that you can do a lot of different recreational type of things here — skiing in the Winter, water skiing in the Summer. In fact, there was one year that I went waterskiing on the Columbia River in the morning and skied down Mission Ridge that very same afternoon. There aren’t a lot of places that you can do both of these things, especially in the same day!
How did you get your start in the home-building industry? I started out selling manufactured homes. I owned a local operation that grew into 6 different dealerships across the state of Washington. I ended up selling that company to a large corporation and worked for them for a short time. I hated it. So, I quit my job with them and started building my own homes, developing land here in the Valley instead. This has been so much more worthwhile and I have no regrets when it comes to making that decision.
Have you owned any other businesses in the Valley? I’ve had a couple of different businesses over the years. My wife Melissa and I owned and operated the Entiat Princess – a boat built in 1908 that we bought and converted into a classic style sternwheeler. We hosted dinner cruises up and down Lake Entiat, Me as the Captain and Melissa as my first-mate. Over the years, we had a lot of dinner cruises and many other memorable events. We still own the boat today, but limit it’s use to personal occasions. At one point I also owned a paintball business called Surviving The Game. It was behind Joe’s Log Cabin; It’s Nelson Motorsports now. I was also involved with a custom shelving company for a while, building and installing custom shelves for homebuyers.
In 2010 I purchased the REMAX Landmark franchise. As Owner/Managing Broker, I oversaw the purchase and sale of thousands of homes and managed over a dozen agents at one point. I decided to sell my stake in REMAX, but continue to run my own local brokerage here in Wenatchee called Viva Wenatchee.
In what ways have you seen the Wenatchee housing market evolve over the last 40 years? The biggest change has been the huge price increases. Also, the manufactured home industry has almost completely died off. There used to be 7 manufactured home dealerships in Wenatchee back when I was in business and now there are zero. This has left a big void in the market for affordable housing in Wenatchee and this is where Real Homes is trying to come in and make a difference.
Why has your focus been on building affordable homes? Very few builders try to build affordable housing and I can say that I truly enjoy putting a family into one of our new homes. We realize that the high demand for affordable housing is where we want to focus our energy and really make our impact.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced while building homes? The biggest challenge right now is the changing availability and price of materials required to build a home. Luckily, we have found some great local suppliers that we’ve worked with for years. They really do the best they can to take care of us so we can continue to build affordable homes and keep everyone involved happy.
What has been the most rewarding part of building homes? The thanks we receive from our customers, especially the first time homebuyers. Seeing the smile on their faces when we hand them the keys to their new home is really something special.
What do you credit Real Homes’ success to over the years? I’ve been able to find some of the best employees and sub-contractors in the industry, many who have been with us from the very beginning — this has been the biggest reason for our success. My advice for anyone starting a business would be to find the best employees you can, treat them with respect, pay them well, then watch your business grow!
Do you have any other advice for someone thinking about getting into the home-building industry? It’s very important to make your customers your top priority and to give them the highest quality service you possibly can. Even when the homebuying process is complete and a family has moved into their new home, Real Homes continues to provide excellent customer service in the form of our 1-Year Builder’s Warranty. We want to make sure any issues that do happen to arise in a new home are taken care of as quickly as possible and make it easy for the homeowner to resolve. Word of mouth is absolutely the best advertising, and most of our sales are referrals from past homebuyers who had a good experience working with us. We’ve also had a lot of repeat customers who end up buying two or even three homes from us over the years. I’m certain this is because of our commitment to our customers.