Dava Davin has never been afraid to take risks if she believes that is what it takes to be successful on a personal and professional level. Intuition is the GPS of the soul, and when Dava went soul-searching for a new direction in 2012, she found it.
Nine years later, as the founder of Portside Real Estate Group in Falmouth, a 100-percent women owned company, Dava has built the fifth largest real estate agency in Maine. The business is doing very well, thanks to the real estate boom driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. She employs 105 agents in five Portside offices that stretch from Kennebunk to Yarmouth.
Through it all, Dava has maintained a commitment to give back to her fellow Mainers. She has created a company culture that is dedicated to helping others.
“We pride ourselves on our service and the care that we give to the clients, and collectively we feel a larger responsibility to give back to our community and enhance our community as well,” Dava said.
To that end, Dava launched the “1% for Maine” Foundation. The agents of Portside donate 1 percent of their gross sales commissions to help Mainers who are struggling with the opioid crisis, generational poverty, housing problems, and hunger issues. “We hope to donate $250,000 to Mainers this year,” she explained.
A seven-member agent committee reviews the requests they receive to decide who receives grants on a quarterly basis to a specific category. In April, Dava said her agency awarded two $10,000 grants.
“What this program proves is that we can make a difference in Mainers’ lives,” Dava said. “If companies like mine that are much bigger also donated 1 percent, we can make a difference.”
Portside Real Estate Group also sponsors an events series that drew as many as 350 people pre-pandemic. The events series shifted to a virtual affair in 2020 and was still able to raise $24,000. This amount, coupled with the $22,000 provided by the company and $35,000 from the agents, allowed Dava’s company to donate $81,000 to Maine non-profits.
While 2020 was a difficult year for many sectors of the Maine economy, the real estate market has remained red hot. Demand for new homes and existing homes on the market soared as more people from other parts of the country decided to move to Maine and escape the stress of the pandemic.
“Pre-pandemic, we had been trending that way,” Dava observed. The state already saw rising prices and low inventory. “The pandemic just escalated that.”
“Maine is now on the map. We’ll never go back,” Dava predicted. Before COVID-19 arrived in Maine in March 2020, Dava said it would take less than a month for a listing to be sold. Now it will be sold in less than a week. The other trend that her agents and other realtors are seeing is that homes are selling for over 100 percent of the sales price/list price ratio.
In Portside Real Estate Group’s annual report, the agency saw sales revenues of $635 million from 605 listings sold. Some 220 of the 855 buyers were from out of state.
In some ways, Dava’s success as a real estate entrepreneur is related to her belief that it is never too late for anyone two switch gears and try something new.
Dava founded her company in October 2012 with six other people in Falmouth, on the heels of the 2008 financial meltdown and the recession that followed.
“Real estate was a second career for me, and I had been working for a larger franchise,” Dava explained.
She had also been selling pharmaceutical supplies and had reached a point in her life where she needed to move in a new direction. She loved real estate and wanted to form an agency that reflected her values. When she and her husband, Jim, moved to Maine in 2008, she obtained her real estate license.
Unlike larger real estate agencies that have offices and experiences that are similar nationwide, Dava wanted to create a more local, Maine-centric agency. “I just wanted something that felt a little more authentic and where I would have the creative freedom to build it the way I wanted to here in Maine.”
Her approach worked, and within a few years, Portside Real Estate Group went from having the main office in Falmouth to subsequent locations in Portland, Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth, and Kennebunk.
Like many Mainers, Dava’s journey began elsewhere. She was born in Bichester, England, near Oxford. Her parents worked for the United States government, and their postings took her family to Spain and Germany. They then returned to the US and settled in Connecticut.
Dava attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and studied plant and soil science, with a minor in business. “I was envisioning opening a nursery and a greenhouse,” she recalled.
Her husband Jim has worked for Tyler Technologies in Falmouth for 26 years, and his job is what made them decide to move to Maine. They have two boys, Cole, 16 and Ty, 17.
Like many business leaders, Dava has to make sure she makes equal time for her business and her family with a proper work/home balance. In her mid-30s, Dava decided to get more athletic and took up running and strength training. When she wasn’t growing her business and raising her family, Dava was competing in four Iron Man Triathlon events and running in marathons. The discipline it takes to train and compete in those events also helps her strike the right work/family balance, she believes.
“I’m a great believer in living your best life,” Dava said.
Dava competed in two Iron Man Triathlon events in Lake Placid, NY and two in Canada pre-pandemic. Those events typically involve a 112-mile bike ride, a 2.4–mile swim, and a full marathon. In 2019, Dava ran in the New York City marathon, and her goal is to run in the other five majors held in Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London, and Tokyo.
“I’m a late bloomer,” Dava notes. “But it’s never too late.”