“We never started out thinking about working together,” says Janet Mendez. Before she and her husband, Larry Mendez, teamed up as real estate agents at Smith & Associates, she was enjoying her job as concierge for what is now Bank of America Plaza in downtown Tampa, and Larry was selling boats and acting as a fishing guide.
“Then I had to get a real job as a Realtor,” said Larry, “and I don’t even like working for myself.”
That line got a big laugh from Janet, as we sat talking by the dock at a friend’s waterfront home in South Tampa’s Belmar Shore neighborhood. He makes her laugh a lot, which is likely one reason they’ve been married for 37 years and are going into their 25th year as a real estate team.
“I joined Smith in 1995 when I quit guiding,” said Larry, “and Janet joined me a year and a half later because she got jealous that I’m always looking at houses.”
They’ve developed an effective partnership since then, judging by the comments on their website praising Larry’s negotiating smarts and Janet’s charm and perseverance.
They share a clear sense of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, says Larry, “I am not good at follow-up thank-you notes. Janet is better at that.”
“My mother brought me up right,” she explained. “You always have to write a note.”
[She sent me a thank-you note a few days after this interview.]
Larry also admires his wife’s work ethic. “Like when you’re working up a market analysis for somebody, you can do it in a few minutes, but with Janet it takes hours because she’s gonna go back and look at all the pictures.” (Another laugh from Janet.)
As for Larry, says his wife, “He tends to be pretty straightforward with people — as you can tell. And I think he can be very creative in the way he presents offers and how to negotiate. There’s an art to that because there’s a lot of feelings involved.”
They both allow that he’s a bit more patient with clients than he can be at home. She tested his patience big-time with one particular real estate transaction — their own. When they moved into a home in Parkland Estates, the South Tampa neighborhood where Larry grew up, he expected they’d only be there for two or three years until they found something else.
“She looks around at houses for five years,” says Larry, “and nothing.”
“I was the worst client you’d ever want,” says Janet. “I could never find a house that I liked.”
(They wound up tearing down the interim house and building on the lot.)
The couple has a grown son and daughter and three young grandsons for whom Janet is a regular Saturday babysitter; Janet’s parents (her father’s 99 and her mom’s 95) live in an expansion at the back of their home. Tampa natives and Plant High grads, they didn’t know each other in high school.
“We probably wouldn’t have liked each other,” said Janet. “As a senior in high school I wouldn’t have paid attention to a tenth grader… please!”
But commerce and blood ties prevailed. Their families were professionally connected — his father had a trucking company, her family had a tire business — leading to Larry and Janet being set up on a blind date by his brother and her father.
They went to Bern’s. “Larry didn’t say but maybe three words the whole time,” remembers Janet. But then he took her on a ride to the beach in his 1974 Porsche Carrera (he’s a lifelong Porsche fan) and the romance kicked into gear.
What are the advantages of working together as a couple? “The fact that we have the same life goals pretty much,” says Janet. “And there’s no one that you can be more honest with than your spouse.”
The other advantage is what you might call the tag-team effect. “Sometimes one of us is going to click better with somebody,” says Larry. “I’m not a warm and fuzzy guy. She is.”
And the disadvantages? “You don’t really ever turn it off,” said Janet. “You come home, but so much of your day is wrapped up in what you’re working on. We keep saying we should take a vacation together.”
But there’s no question that they are together. The owner of the home where we met for the interview once hosted a Valentine’s dinner there during which she asked the husbands to write notes about what makes their marriages work. Guests then tried to figure out which husband wrote what. Neither Janet nor Larry remembers exactly what he wrote, but she says it was “the most romantic thing.” And it made an impression.
“Larry,” she said, “was the hero of the night.”
Want more REALtor® LOVE? Read about two other couples who’ve made love and real estate the perfect match: