The Real Deal Miami

Florida Keys real estate brokerage moonlights as pet rescue organization

By Yaffi Spodek | January 17, 2011 01:16PM

From left: Joy Martin, Kahlua, Bella, Oliver — some of the pets looking for a home — and Stephanie Clark

They say it’s never good to mix business with pleasure, but in the case of Marr Properties, a residential and commercial real estate brokerage in the Florida Keys, that may not be the case. For last three-and-a-half years, Marr Properties — which has one branch in Key Largo and an American Caribbean site in Islamorada — has been operating a pet rescue organization called MarrVelous Pet Rescues & Adoptions out of their real estate offices.

Founded by Joy Martin, the owner of Marr Properties, in April 2007, the non-profit group is comprised of Marr agents, as well as outside animal lovers, who all volunteer their services to help abandoned pets — mostly cats and dogs, but an occasional bird and rabbit — find a home.

“We realized that our brokerage was a powerful tool to help these animals,” said Martin, the president of MarrVelous Pet Rescues. “It worked out fabulously, and it was meant to be a marriage,” she said of her dual responsibilities at the two companies.

“We run the administrative side of the pet rescue out of our real estate office, and we call it ‘petworking,’ instead of networking,” Martin said, explaining how she combines her two passions under one roof. Martin, a longtime pet lover, has six horses and three dogs of her own. “People can bring their animals to work, and typically there is a dog or cat in the office at any time,” she added.

Marr Properties, which specializes in oceanfront residential sales, was founded in 1965 and, with close to 38 agents, is the largest independently owned real estate company in the upper Florida Keys, according to marketing director Patricia Hann. The firm currently has 152 listings, she said, and in 2010, closed 81 deals. Of those 81, eight were for $1 million or more. The largest of the firm’s deals last year was a $5.8 million sale of a 4,952-square-foot seven-bedroom estate in Islamorada.

About half of Marr’s agents are involved in the rescue organization, Martin said, and they use their day jobs, so to speak, to help promote their rescue efforts. Many of the brokers include the rescue organization in the signature lines of their e-mail correspondence and on their Marr Properties Facebook pages, which have helped them find homes for several animals.

“Sometimes it’s even easier [to promote the animals],” Martin said. “People will respond to a cute puppy more quickly than they do to a house, even if it’s a great deal.”

Marr Properties real estate associate Stephanie Clark, who specializes in single-family homes, said her involvement with the pet rescue component of the brokerage is “a constant battle for balance.”

“I intermingle dogs and real estate all day long every day,” said Clark, who is vice president of MarrVelous Pet Rescues. “I try to put real estate first but it’s not always the case because there are pressing issues with animals that can’t wait until the end of the day.”

Since its inception, the rescue organization has been successful in finding homes for close to 400 animals, including 125 in 2010 alone. But MarrVelous Pet Rescues is not only dedicated to finding homes for animals. It also runs several annual events which attract multitudes of pet-lovers from around the state, who attend, along with their animals, to “petwork” and raise money for related causes.

They also run monthly “yappy hours” to allow owners to network and bring in dogs for foster care. Now, the rescue team is gearing up for their second annual “Woofstock” event, a fundraiser which will be held in Amaretto March 19. Last year, the gala attracted 5,000 people and 2,000 dogs, and Martin expects the crowd to be even larger this year.