The Jills A Dynamic Duo
They never show a house together, but The Jills sold almost $300 million in luxury properties in 2005.
Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg are among Miami's hottest Realtors for good reason. Business partners for 10 years, their association within Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate ranks them among the top five percent of the firm's sales associates worldwide. Among the top 100 Realtors in Florida by sales, the value of their listing inventory at the end of December exceeded $280 million and included 24 single family homes, 18 condos, two vacant lots and four luxury rentals.
"We are thrilled with this year's sales," Eber said in late December. ``We would like to double it next year." The partners sold approximately 65 residential properties in 2005 -- mostly luxury, waterfront estates in South Florida's toniest enclaves: Fisher Island, Tahiti Beach, Gables Estates, Golden Beach and Coconut Grove. And they doubt speculation that Miami's real estate market is poised to tumble. "We don't see the bubble bursting," Hertzberg maintains. Adds Eber: "There has to be a correction in the condo market, but if you want to sell your house and it's in a prime location, it will sell."
One attraction of Florida real estate for the wealthy is no state income tax. The Jills get clients from New York, New Jersey, California and other states that have state income taxes. "We have people coming here to buy houses from all over the world," they say in unison. With a long track record in the community, they say many of their listings come from referrals or word of mouth. They also market themselves on the Web and advertise. And they tend to build relationships with clients. After a sale closes, they'll continue to help the buyer get settled, offering tips, for instance, on a dry cleaner or dog groomer.
They have sold properties to plenty of celebrities. Their biggest sale in 2005 was a $19.8 million house on Star Island to Miami Heat star Shaquille O'Neal. Their clients have included singer Ricky Martin; philanthropist Anthony Shriver; Carnival Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Micky Arison and Bob Dickinson of Carnival Cruise Lines; former TV anchor Jennifer Valoppi; Stephen Sawitz, proprietor of Joe's Stone Crabs; Steve Muss, former owner of The Fontainebleau Hotel; and P. Anthony Ridder, chairman and chief executive of Knight Ridder -- owner of The Miami Herald. The Jills exclusively represent the sale of singer Julio Iglesias' estate on Indian Creek Island. On the market for $28 million, the four-acre property has 400 feet of waterfront. And these are the clients they can discuss. ''We represent a lot of celebrities, but we can't talk about them," explains Hertzberg. "We had four this year. We had to sign a confidentiality agreement, which killed us." The women became known as The Jills at another firm before joining Coldwell Banker in 1997. When they met, their desks were near each other and ''it was just good morning and good night for some time,'' Hertzberg recalls. 'Jill would say `ta ta,' and I began calling her Ta Ta. "We started working together and people started calling us The Jills. We pitched ourselves to Coldwell Banker as The Jills," she explains.
Neither Jill planned a career in real estate. Eber was born in White Plains, N.Y., grew up in Miami Beach, and graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in theater. She performed in dinner theater for a while, then toured with a band as a singer for a year. She developed nodes on her vocal cords and, to avoid surgery, she couldn't speak for four months. "I was so depressed," Eber recalls. "My best friend forced me to go to real estate school. I did very well."
She's married to Seth Nachman, who owns a mortgage company, and the couple lives on Fisher Island. They have no children. Comparing herself with Hertzberg, who has three grown children, Eber says, "I didn't have the responsibility that she had." Hertzberg, a native of Miami Beach, graduated from the University of Florida. She worked for Burdines in the assistant buying program and helped run her kids' school. She is married to Robert Hertzberg, an attorney. Two of their children are attending law school and a third is a college freshman. Hertzberg went to real estate school when the children were young, 'because I thought real state would be a flexible job. There were many times when I would pick up the kids at school and say, "We're going to show a house.' They saw a lot of houses." For eight years, Hertzberg was involved in running the summer camp her children attended in the Adirondacks. Eventually, she became director of the camp while Eber covered for her back at the office. 'As the work load increased, I finally said, `Jill, It's either camp or me,' '' Eber recalls. The other Jill gave up the camp. Though Hertzberg chose real estate because she thought the job was flexible, she soon learned that's a misperception. ''It's never open or closed,'' she says. ``You are always running.'' They work weekends and never get uninterrupted vacations. They take turns taking time off to cover for each other. They call each other first thing in the morning and last thing at night, ''because there's so much information to give back and forth,'' Eber says. ``We are always in touch with business.''
They don't show houses together, because they have too many listings to do so. And they are quick to point out that they couldn't sell millions worth of property without the help of a team of assistants. ''They are our angels,'' both say. The Jills have won membership in Coldwell Bankers Legends Society and its Previews International Property Specialists, and they were named as the firm's Top Producers in Miami-Dade in 2004. They credit compatibility for much of their success. ''We've never had an argument,'' says Hertzberg. ``We are very much alike. We share the same work ethic and we're both so driven. Our birthdays are only one day apart. I was born Oct. 1; she was born Oct. 2. I'm the more mature one.'' But one thing they will not discuss is their age. ''Just say we're younger than spring time,'' Eber laughs.