Making a name for himself

Danny Smith is the 2017 Realtor of the Year.

People constantly ask Danny Smith, “Who’s the other Smith?” in Smith & Smith Realty.

Actually, he’s the “other” Smith, and his wife, Billie Faye, is the “first” Smith in the name, as well as broker and president of the Wildwood company. But she may let Danny be the first Smith for a little while.

That’s because he received top billing from the Realtors Association of Lake & Sumter Counties as the 2017 Realtor of the Year. The award recognizes his contributions to the association and the industry, his community involvement, and his many years as one of the top producers in the area. He specializes in land, commercial, and investment properties primarily in Sumter County, but he also does business in Lake and Marion counties.

It’s another in a long line of awards for Danny, who keeps local shelf builders busy. He’s on the national radar, too, garnering the Land Realtor of America Award in 2012 from the National Realtors Land Institute.

“That sort of blew me away. I really felt like Smith is a common name and that they got it mixed up, but who was I to straighten them out?” Danny jokes.

When comparing the national and local awards, Danny says the Realtor of the Year honor means a little more.

“[The national] one was given to me by my peers in the land business, but it was nationwide, so they don’t really know me day in and day out. They see what I do to help the organization,” he says. “The difference, I think, with this [local] award is these are people I work with every day. It’s really special to me because it is local. These guys, I feel like they know me and they gave me the award anyway.”

“I’m very proud of him. It’s awesome,” Billie Faye says of the award. “I think it’s the icing on the cake.”

Danny is ingrained in the local community. His family moved to Wildwood in 1977 when his father became pastor of First Baptist Church of Wildwood, and Danny has been heavily involved with the church ever since. He put his contract and commercial land skills to good use while helping the church with a $2 million Family Life Center project that was recently completed. He’s also active in the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and the Wildwood Rotary Club, which helps Habitat for Humanity and other local organizations.

Danny has worked in real estate from the ground up, fitting for a man who became a vegetable farmer out of high school. Once the area farming industry dried up, he looked for a different path and in 1997 got his real estate license. Danny then earned certification as an accredited land consultant and a certified commercial investment member, the highest levels of certification in the fields of land and commercial real estate.

He has served on boards and committees of real estate associations at local, state, and national levels. Among other honors, he won the 2015 Commercial Realtor Achievement Award from the Florida Realtors, and the 2016 Businessman of the Year award from the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m a farmer, and the good Lord has really given me the ability to be good at land sales,” Danny says.

That farming background comes in handy. He views his role as an interpreter, for example, to bring a rancher and a developer together on a deal.

“We have a buyer that wants to buy, a seller that wants to sell, and most of the time, they just don’t understand each other,” Danny says. “So, we really work as an interpreter, and I’m very fluent at Florida Cracker.”

Danny and Billie Faye, who have three children, Amanda, Will, and Harmon, and five grandchildren, opened Smith & Smith Realty in 2007. They started the business amid the worst real estate crash in history but persevered through some difficult early years. Billie Faye handles residential sales, allowing Danny to focus on his non-residential specialties.

“She’s my biggest cheerleader,” Danny says of his wife. “She’s the one who, when you come home and you feel like the whole world is against you and you can’t get anything closed, she gives me the confidence to go out and try a little harder.”

Like many businesses in Sumter, Smith & Smith has benefited from the development of The Villages. Sumter regularly makes lists of the fastest-growing areas in the country by one measure or another, Danny says.

“What The Villages has done for Sumter County is really put us on the map,” he says. “Our market comes and goes as they come and go. If they’re doing well, we’re doing well.”

And The Villages is doing well, scooping up more and more land to expand its retirement community “empire.” And that means Danny is doing well, too. He typically totals $12 million to $15 million a year in land and commercial sales—the past two years, he’s reached $30 million each year.

He says the real estate market as a whole is “good and steady,” which makes going to work each day a lot more fun.

“When you like what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like a job as much,” Danny says. “I understand the land business, and when you understand something and you can help people and put deals together—I love putting the deal together.”