With Elite, I have the ability to contact a la mode anytime I have an issue. Now, THAT is customer service well above and beyond what is expected.

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We had the privilege of talking with Don Clark, who’s worn many important hats over the course of his career in the U.S. military and real estate industry. Don is a retired Navy veteran (even serving alongside the Marine Corps in Vietnam) who, today, runs a family-owned-and-operated real estate appraisal, agent, and broker business with his wife in Virginia. Don’s current concentration is, exclusively, in assignments for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has been with a la mode 28 years and is an Elite member.

Don, what did your life and career look like before you were an appraiser, agent, and broker?

Don Clark (DC): At the age of 18, on January 23, 1955, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy and attended boot camp/training in San Diego, California. Immediately after, I transferred to the U.S.S. Piedmont AD-17 and was assigned to the deck force. In the next year aboard the ship, I worked several jobs but the most notable was a boat coxswain. After advancing in rank, I applied to attend Hospital Corps school the next spring, after tours in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

For the next 20 years, I had many assignments as a Navy Corpsman and worked in places like the Naval Medical and Research Center in Bethesda, Marine Corps Air Station, Quantico, went to advanced training similar to what a PA would do today, then trained as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman in support of the U.S. Marine Corps. I did two combat tours in Vietnam and served on six different ships (three of which I was the Senior Medical rep with crews of 250 to 500 men). I loved what I was doing, but, with a growing family, I decided to retire as a Chief Hospital Corpsman after 20+ years of service.

Thank you for your service, Don. What a resume! Tell us what influenced you (and your wife and son) to consider a career in real estate?

DC: Before retiring from the Navy, and after purchasing our home in Virginia Beach, my wife obtained a real estate license and was very successful, making the “Million Dollar Club” her first year. Soon after, I joined her and primarily worked in management. We both obtained our broker’s license and operated two companies. Later, I served as a district director for Century 21.

In the ‘80s, we became interested in the appraisal of real estate and teaching real estate and appraisal courses. That is where we have been since the early ‘80s. When licensing became mandatory, we obtained a license/certification and opened our own company. Our son, Gary, started working under the same roof for his own company, and we still run our respective businesses today.

What's been your absolute favorite part of working in the industry?

DC: For me, it has been teaching. I have taught courses in real estate brokerage and appraisal since the 1980s. I taught coast to coast over the past 30+ years, but, due to profound hearing loss, I had to discontinue that as of three years ago, though, my wife and I still hold licenses to teach all of these courses in Virginia.

Do you have a funny story to tell from your experience as an appraiser?

DC: Several, but many are not suitable for publication! Here’s a funny appraisal story. About 20+ years ago, I was assigned to appraise a property in Yorktown, Virginia, which is not my usual market. My wife decided to go with me, thankfully!

On arrival at the property, a pert “young thing” came bounding out the front door to meet me. She was visibly wilted when she saw my wife in the car [laughs]. I am certainly glad I was not alone that day.

We can see why these stand out! I can imagine you have hundreds more of these gems. Will you share how a la mode has helped you over the years in your career?

DC: First, by introducing me to the software. I was teaching a local real estate course, and a la mode asked if I would be willing to give my students some literature and a disk they could use to try out the software. I readily agreed. I liked the product then, and like it now.

With Elite, I have the ability to contact a la mode anytime I have an issue – now that is customer service well above and beyond what is expected. There have been many calls, and you have always helped. The support has been the best in the business and reliable and knowledgeable. They just can’t be beat. This is most likely my last year as an appraiser due to age, but my son will still need you.

We’re grateful for your partnership, Don. We couldn’t do it without you. What advice would you give to new appraisers joining the workforce?

DC: Find a mentor, regardless of what it takes in time and money. A good mentor is worth their weight in gold. My mentor, God rest his soul, trained me the right way; made me do and re-do reports until I had it right. He taught me the aspects of what we do, not just the mechanics. But, first, ask others about their mentor, their reputation in the business and what others think about them.

What will you miss most about your job when you enter retirement?

DC: The people I meet, their stories and being able to communicate the importance of what we do. And of course, the routine that is never routine.

Liana Whitehead

Interview by Liana Whitehead, Elite Product Manager