By Gary Nager & Lauren Saslow

Whether you’ve just moved into the New Tampa area or you’ve been here for years, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of either trying to sell your home or house hunting before sitting down at the closing table and signing and initialing mountains of documents, you understand how daunting the process can be, — especially if you don’t have the proper help to get the job done right.

Managing Broker Dennis Derbes (left) manages both the New Tampa and Zephyrhills offices of Prudential Tropical Realty.
Managing Broker Dennis Derbes (left) manages both the New Tampa and Zephyrhills offices of Prudential Tropical Realty.

Prudential Tropical Realty (PruTrop) is an independently-owned franchise, with 16 offices and nearly 500 agents in four counties (Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Hernando), of the nationwide Prudential Real Estate. And, PruTrop’s hugely successful location in the Shoppes at New Tampa plaza in Wesley Chapel (just south of the Shops at Wiregrass mall), can help you find the home of your dreams or sell the home you’ve loved for years at the best possible price, with the least possible amount of hassle and aggravation.

Dennis Derbes, the Market President and Managing Broker for both the New Tampa and Zephyrhills offices of PruTrop, manages a staff of 64 agents, 52 in the New Tampa office and 12 in Zephyrhills, although the market for our local office includes New Tampa, Wesley Chapel and Land O’Lakes.

One of the things Derbes says helped keep the local PruTrop office thriving the last few years, when many real estate offices in our area either closed or were absorbed into other agencies, is that Prudential Tropical Realty is truly a “one-stop shop” for all of your real estate needs. While all of the services available aren’t physically located at the New Tampa office, the PruTrop franchise and its divisions and affiliates can literally handle all of your real estate needs, including rentals, property management, relocation, title, mortgage and home warranty services, commercial real estate transactions and more.

The Power Of ‘The Rock!’

Plus, PruTrop also is an independent part of the Prudential Real Estate network, one of the largest in the U.S., with 1,400 offices and more than 47,000 agents nationwide.

“That’s the other thing that helps us in a down economy,” Derbes says, “the strength of the Prudential name. When people relocate to this area, they may not immediately find a small, local real estate office, but everyone can Google search ‘Prudential’ and ‘Tampa’ and find us.”

And now, for some more good news for anyone considering buying or selling a home in this market, in what some still call a lackluster economy.

“Every statistic we have for this market is showing a lot of improvement since 2011, and especially, since last year.”

For example, when comparing the first six months of 2013 to the first six months of 2012, in zip codes 33647 (New Tampa), 33543, -44, and -45 (Wesley Chapel) and 34638 and -39 (Land O’Lakes), he says that, according to the Florida Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the average home sale price rose more than 14.5 percent, to $204K from $178K. Equity home sales were up in this New Tampa/ Wesley Chapel market about 34 percent, while short sales actually went down nearly 8 percent, and bank-owned sales were up more than 12 percent. Derbes adds that 85% of the business at the New Tampa office are homeowners in the six zip codes mentioned earlier.

The stats also show that the New Tampa/Wesley Chapel/Land O’Lakes market is ahead of the average for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas overall, where equity sales are up only 27 percent and average sales price is up only about 11 percent.

“With both the number of sales going up and the average and median proces also rising, you can see why we’re encouraged about the future in this New Tampa/Wesley Chapel market,” he says.

A Little PruTrop History

Prudential Tropical Realty is one of the oldest and most successful Prudential franchises, and the only one with the same original owners: Dewey Mitchell and Allen Crumbley. Mitchell, a resident of the Trinity area of New Port Richey, and Crumbley, an Alabama native, met when both played football in the late-1970s for legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. Bryant taught Mitchell and Crumbley not only the lessons of football, but also life lessons. Derbes explains that the two carried those tenets into their real estate business when they bought an existing Prudential franchise in 1984 and renamed it Prudential Tropical Realty, where their focus was (and still is) on taking care of customers in “an appropriate, ethical and professional manner.”

While all PruTrop agents are individually licensed, by Florida law they must work under a supervising entity or “Managing Broker.” The Broker offers assistance and support to the agents, while also ensuring that each abides by Florida laws.

“For example,” Dennis says, “our agents are not allowed to handle short sales, although we have people we refer short sale situations to when we receive those inquiries at our office.”

The Broker also provides his or her agents with the necessary marketing materials in-house that are required to successfully complete their daily operations. Derbes explains his role, like other managing brokers, is to act as “a touchstone and a problem solver.”

While he “dabbled in residential and commercial real estate” for 25 years, Derbes actually has a long history of automotive sales. Hailing from New Orleans and graduating from Tulane University with a degree in History and Economics, Derbes managed a shopping center in New Orleans before relocating to Tampa in 1973, where he spent years as the general sales manager at Reeves Import Motor Cars in North Tampa until the mid-1980s. He eventually met his wife, Vicki — now a Licensed Real Estate Agent in Dennis’ New Tampa office — while working at Reeves. Derbes’ sales and management experience has helped him successfully lead his team of agents, which prides itself on providing individualized attention for every client.

“Yes, we have some agents who sell more houses than others,” Dennis admits, “but service is the key for every member of my team, so it doesn’t make sense for me to single out any of my agents.”

Committed To The Environment & The Community

As consumers now often prefer documents to be e-mailed to them — for not only convenience, but also as a commitment to the environment — Prudential Tropical Realty has pledged to go green. While some real estate documents still require hard copies, Dennis says PruTrop is working towards its goal of streamlining the business by becoming a paperless workplace, for the majority of the company’s business documents, by the end of the year.

The entire PruTrop franchise also has demonstrated a responsibility to the local community by offering money and manpower to multiple charitable organizations throughout the past three decades.

One targeted organization included funding for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back (also originally from Louisiana) Warrick Dunn’s “Homes for the Holidays,” which offers assistance to single parent families working towards first-time homeownership by providing down payment and closing costs, home furnishings and long-term support for financial stability.

The company’s current charitable focus, “The Sunshine Kids,” is a nationwide nonprofit foundation based in Houston, TX, dedicated to organizing positive activities, events and trips — as well as emotional support — for young children receiving cancer treatment across the country, including locally at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Treatment & Research Center on the USF Tampa campus.

Derbes and his team provide volunteers and nurses to accompany the children on trips to places like Universal Studios and Walt DisneyWorld in the Orlando area so they can relax and be ‘normal’ kids for awhile. Derbes is humble when describing the contributions and also clearly humbled by the impact the children have made on him. “We can learn a lot from those kids,” he asserts. “They have a verve for life and a conviction to conquer it.”

The New Tampa office also has many plaques on the walls, thanking Derbes and his crew for sponsoring local Little League, football, soccer and other teams and schools. The office also participates in events like the Taste of New Tampa and others.

For more info about the New Tampa Prudential Tropical Realty office (located at 1830 BBD in Wesley Chapel), visit or call 907-8200. The hours of operation are Monday -Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday & 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.

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