NOW CO-OWNING SPECIAL Properties together are, from left, Sarah Loberg, founder Lynn Grout and Jeffrey Shadick. Ian Stepleton photo
by Ian Stepleton
Historically, Special Properties in Green Lake may have been best known for two things.
First, for selling beautiful lake properties on Big Green.
And, second, for Lynn Grout, who created the business more than 26 years ago — originally with her name right in the title of the business.
These days, though, the realty company is about much more than selling lake-side abodes and its founder.
“We’re expanding,” said Sarah Loberg.
She, Grout and Jeffrey Shadick — whose been with Special Properties for 23 years — now are equal owners of Special Properties.
Together, they’re aiming to dispel the notion that they’re a Green Lake business only.
“We don’t just sell lake houses,” Loberg said. “If you looked at my numbers, I’ve sold 40 houses this year and they are they’re lovely homes all, but I sell everything. We all do.”
It’s the next logical step for the growing real estate company, which is expanding with new staff as well.
It all grew out of a dream Grout had.
“I had been an at-home mom for a long time,” she said, noting that when husband Jerry started a new business in the early ’90s, it was time for Grout to realize her own entrepreneurial dreams. “I’d always wanted to do real estate.
I drove to Green Lake after I … had gotten my license to be a broker, and this building was for rent. It was almost like it was meant to be.”
Two and a half decades later, Special Properties continues to operate out of the same storefront it always has, at the corner of Hill and Mill streets in Green Lake.
Today, though, the business employs far more than just Grout.
Shadick joined the company first, about three years in, after the two collaborated on a few deals.
“We immediately established a friendship and a bond,” he said. “She’s one of my best friends. I always say we probably love each other 95 percent of the time. That’s better than most marriages.”
Together, for many years, the lake was their focus.
“I really worked on conveying my feelings to the people in Chicago about what a wonderful getaway this is,” Grout said.
Their biggest success, she recalls, was the development of the Emerald Shores area along southwestern Green Lake.
With nearly two-dozen lots lining a wooded shoreline, a developer thought a big-time Chicago firm would sell them fast.
But the outsiders flopped.
So, after interviewing other local realtors, the developer chose Special Properties to try where the big boys had failed.
By 2002, the development was full.
“Emerald Shores was a huge challenge,” Grout said. “[Selling those properties] was huge, huge.
“We had some big successes to that point, but that took us over the [top],” Shadick added.
Not long after that victory, about 14 years ago, Shadick brought on Loberg as an assistant.
“[Then] she migrated from being my assistant to our first agent,” Shadick said. “… In the last five years, it became very apparent to Lynn and I that she was up and coming. Our work was done. She’s become a full-blown [real estate agent].”
So comfortable were Shadick and Grout that, as of June 1, the trio now co-own Special Properties.
“I’ve never been so excited about anything in my whole life,” Loberg said, “except my children — that they let me join in their partnership.”
With the growth comes a renewed focus on properties well beyond Green Lake.
“Currently we handle ‘special properties’ in Berlin, Ripon, Princeton,” Shadick said of their market area,which extends across Green Lake County and into parts of Fond du Lac County.
“I have beautiful listings everywhere,” Loberg added.
Even as the company grows, Grout remains the marketing brains behind the firm.
“Lynn’s our head of marketing,” Shadick said.
Grout’s the author behind the artful listings, such as one recent sale for which she describes a home that “seems to echo years of laughter and happiness.”
“I said I’d write a novel someday. But instead, I write real estate ads,” she said with a laugh.
“We’re so grateful because those things are hard to write,” Loberg said. “It’s a niche.”
“You’re buying a dream when you buy a property, you really are,” Grout said.
While they may spin dreams for home buyers, they play a different role at Special Properties for the sellers.
“It’s kind of like being a therapist,” Loberg said.
She, Grout and Shadick try to help clients through those sometimes tortuous moments, they explained.
“I’ll often have a client get stressed out … Buying a piece of real estate ranks in the top-five most stressful things we go through in life …,” Shadick said. “It is emotional. It is personal and it’s very stressful for people. And we have to help [them through it].”
“No matter what size house it is, it’s the biggest purchase that person’s going to make in their whole lives,” Loberg added. “We take it seriously.”
These days, Special Properties employs more agents than ever to help people through such moments.
“We are expanding selectively because we are in one of those growth periods again,” Shadick said. “We’re bringing on Nick Vandervelde [who previously] worked in the commercial end at Fortifi [Bank].
“Our other expansion is Eileen Vandervelde … She will become our broker manager of Special Properties.”
Along with a new ownership group and new employees, soon Special Properties will boast a new look on the web.
“We’re working really hard with a marketing firm in Milwaukee that’s helping us with a really fabulous new website, which we’re launching soon,” Loberg said. “We’re just doing a little refresh.”
“It’s going to be very recognizable [as Special Properties],” Shadick said.
These are a lot of changes for a local real estate company now in its second quarter century of existence — and the three owners are thrilled with the direction.
“I think it’s very exciting,” Grout said.
“It feels good; I’m pumped up,” Shadick agreed, adding their goal is simply to help customers. “We always say we live it, we breathe it. We are a part of the community and we care.”
“We love our work, our community, the people we that we meet,” Loberg said.
For more information about Special Properties, call 294-0122 or visit www.special-property.com.