In 2005, real estate agent Lori Judge, a native of Princeton, Illinois and a graduate of the University of Iowa, opened Judge Realty, Savannah’s only full-service boutique brokerage company. Located in the heart of downtown Savannah, Judge Realty prides themselves on bringing an uncommon level of personal attention to the often-difficult process of buying and selling real estate.
Judge moved to Savannah in 1999 and currently resides in the Historic District with her husband and son. She is a member of numerous local and civic groups and organizations, including the Telfair Museum, the SCAD Museum, the Davenport House, Savannah Tree Foundation, Georgia Conservatory, the Historic Savannah Foundation, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and more. With a commitment to environmental integrity and sustainability, Lori earned her EcoBroker certification, a designation reserved for brokers trained to educate clients on reducing their carbon footprints through energy efficiency and environmentally-sensitive design.
Visit Judge Realty online at www.judgerealty.com.
What was your childhood like, and how did it shape who you are today?
My childhood was great. I grew up in a small farm town in Illinois, population 7,000. Everyone knows everyone. Hours from anything. We played in our neighborhood, built forts, climbed trees, rode bikes and spent every weekend at my grandparents’ farm. Looking back now, it was beautiful. As a teenager, I hated everything about it. I couldn’t wait to get away and see the world. I wanted to be somewhere warm and dreamed of being near the ocean. And I didn’t want anyone to know me. When I went off to University of Iowa I was a number, my social security number, which is exactly what I wanted at the time, which was getting lost in the crowd. In my early 20s, I discovered Savannah. It had warm weather and it was near the ocean. A big little city where there is a one degree of separation from everyone. I realized that I want to know everyone in my community and want everyone to know me. I loved the people the second I came here. But there was also one thing always missing: the country. About a year ago, my husband and I purchased a 76 acre farm in Metter, GA. Now we spend all of our weekends there. What do they say, you can take the girl out of the country but can’t take the country out of the girl.
What initially brought you to Savannah?
A boy and SCAD. Thank God neither one worked out.
Have you found your psychology degree to be helpful in the real estate industry? If so, how?
I joke about it all the time that I use it on a daily basis. Truly my business is all about the psychology of people. For example, when negotiating a real estate transaction, you have to really listen and pinpoint each side’s “hot buttons” and what’s important to each side. I try to go into it with no perceptions and anticipate every possible rejection. There is so much psychology in real estate I could go on forever.
How was Judge Realty able to weather the storm of the real estate crisis in 2008?
I almost drowned. I always say it was like a near death experience in business. I remember one day walking in the door and realizing I had two choices: close the doors and crawl under the bed or sit down and figure it out. I looked at my property manager at the time, who was probably the worst property manager in the entire world, and that’s when the light bulb went off.
Did you have to change your approach to business in order to stay afloat?
Absolutely! I had to change my approach on a lot of things. Most importantly, I focused on property management which was producing income that we could count on, unlike real estate sales.
A city such as Savannah, known for it’s historic charm, faces unique challenges when attempting to balance history with progress. What are your thoughts on developer Ben Carter’s vision for Broughton Street?
I don’t think it matters what I think about Ben Carter’s vision or what I think at all. What matters is that those buildings have been here for 200+ years and are currently getting a major facelift so they can be here another 200+ years.
What does a typical day for you look like?
Wake up my sweet boy, prepare his breakfast, and help him get out the door for school, get in a quick workout and then head to the office to catch up on emails. I check in with the property management team. Now I have the best property managers in the world. I also check in with the agents and my creative team. Most days I meet with clients, show properties or go to listing appointments. My latest venture over the past six months has been real estate development. I have a few projects up my sleeve. Stay tuned!
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
I love documentary films, especially about artists. The Artist is Present, which is about Marina Abramovic. It’s seductive, fearless and outrageous. She really has been redefining art for 40 years.
What do you miss most about Princeton, Illinois?
My family… mother, father and brother especially. I also miss its safety. You can leave your doors unlocked, car keys in the car, and not worry about someone hurting you. I think there have been five murders in Princeton’s entire history. Savannah had five murders last week. We have a huge crime problem that is completely unnecessary. I don’t know all the answers but I know it’s a solvable problem that needs to happen soon.
What effect does the issue of crime in Savannah have on your work? Do you encounter buyers who voice concerns about moving to Savannah, or to specific areas of the city?
Crime never really comes up when doing business with buyers. I think, just like any other city, most people should practice safety wherever they live and work.
How do you relax or unwind after a long day?
I love playing with my son, Albert at the end of the day, catching up on his day and then maybe a glass of wine.
If you could craft the perfect sandwich, what would be on it?
The perfect sandwich in my opinion is a grilled cheese sandwich. You can use any bread and any kind of cheese, melt it and it’s pretty much perfect.
If you could offer one piece of advice to individuals just starting out in the real estate industry, what would it be?
You will get out of it exactly what you put into it. You must love real estate and people. Real estate is easy to love but people, sometimes not so much. You have to enjoy the process. The success and money is only the fruit of the doing. If you don’t enjoy the doing then you have to change the doing. I believe that is true with anything you do.