In 1968, when Dare County’s population was less than a quarter of what it is today, Joe and Ann Lamb rented a little office and opened up shop as Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates. Coming from Elizabeth City, the couple, who had a real estate background, chose to invest in the beach where they shared vacation memories.
Fifty years later, Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates has grown to manage more than 550 properties from Duck to South Nags Head. Jodie Herman, marketing manager for Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates, credits the company’s growth to people.
“It’s kind of unique that we are the only vacation rental company that doesn’t use the word realty in their name,” Herman says. “It’s not just about us, we know that there are other people along the way to help us, to help us grow our company, and I think that’s kind of why a lot of us are comfortable here. We know we’re part of the team. We know they appreciate our success. There’s that fact that we’re here. We really do care.”
Caring seems to be second nature to mom ‘n’ pop-style businesses, but being a family-run business doesn’t hold the company back.
“We have a pretty small team for what we do. We have just over 30 employees that work for us. We’re active in the industry. We design our management plan around our homeowners so we’re flexible,” Herman says. “We are always willing to change. We have the most upgraded and sophisticated system that can be found right now in the industry running our software. We’re not mom ‘n’ pop pencil-to-paper anymore.”
Herman estimates roughly half of the staff has worked for the company for more than 10 years.
“They’ve been there, they’ve seen it, and they’ve done it. You’re getting the best service you can get because we’ve done it for so long,” she says.
That longevity is not limited to the staff. Herman says a large portion of their guests are repeat guests, and some homeowners have worked with the company for decades.
“There’s a toehold the Outer Banks has. There’s this emotional toehold,” she says. “Some people like to come back to that same house, but I think it’s the memories we help create. We have everything from a one-bedroom cottage to big 12-bedroom houses. We cover a whole spectrum. For us, we look at that inventory and say we can meet the needs of any budget of taste,” Herman says.
Despite the constant communications between teams at the company and the longevity of both staff and homeowners, it’s not always easy.
“I think the misconception is that Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates owns every one of these houses, and that there’s like this underground tunnel system so they can get to your house. It’s not Disney,” she laughs. “This industry is so unique to our area. The misconception that this huge conglomerate owns all of these houses is not the case. [...] We offer housekeeping and maintenance and cottage inspections, and we do it 570 times every weekend. It’s an amazing industry.”
But Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates isn’t acting alone.
“It’s someone’s home. It’s different from the hotels,” she says. “Every house is different. Our staff and our vendors that support this company are amazing people. They work so hard all year round.
“Every time they walk in, it’s not just [like a hotel where] all the toilets are the same, and all the air conditioners are the same, and all the lamps and TVs are the same. They’re walking in to a unique situation every time.”
That gratitude extends to the community through a large variety of charitable contributions. Joe Lamb Jr. is a large contributor to education and has sponsored several scholarship programs, as well as literacy programs. The company’s philanthropy extends to the arts, as well as the local environment through their relationships with organizations like the Dare County Arts Council and Surfrider Foundation, whose mission is the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.
In addition to property management, Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates offers real estate sales. Many of the brokers have been on the Outer Banks for decades, which allows them to have insight into an unusual housing market.
“Sales have been really moving and shaking this year, from what I can tell. There are a lot of properties that are being kept within the rental program, and then there are some people are keeping for themselves and living in. Property sales are actually better than they have been the past three years,” says Herman. “Our market is so different because we only have a short window of time for people to get in and see our houses. We have to find balance between how this market works, and how companies like ours can be representative of both types of businesses of rental sales and property management. We’ve learned how to manage that ebb and flow of availability and being able to advise people.”
Herman says there’s a fine line as to how to advise people with both things in mind “and really talk to them about what their interests are and what they want to do.”
The Outer Banks remains a draw for homebuyers because of the open beaches and free and easy beach access.
“We know that the beach brings people here, the history of the area is also another big draw. I don’t see too much changing,” she says, adding Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates plans to be as much a part of the Outer Banks’ future as it has been its past.
“I see great things,” she says. “I see us still being here managing properties and doing it successfully — always being here.”