For this special dR Tampa Bay series, “Real Estate, Real Lives,” we’re profiling six people who work in five disciplines essential to the industry. Hard-working and visionary, thick-skinned and sensitive, they serve their clients above all. And each has a deep and abiding connection with Tampa Bay.
Realtor Toni Everett: She Knows The Business
“I’m not just a sales agent. I stop by buildings, check on their progress, offer advice in all sorts of ways.”
As the photographer clicks away, Toni Everett stands by the gate of a stately South Tampa mansion and calls over. “Are you getting the house in the shot?” She gestures behind her with a sweep of the arm.
“Yeah, it’s in there, but this shoot’s about you,” the photographer replies with a chuckle.
“I wanna sell this house,” she chirps back — not rude, but not kidding either. That’s Toni, a veteran — some might say legendary — Tampa realtor, in the business for more than 35 years.
The Toni Everett Company, founded on January 1, 1983, specializes in pre-selling and conversion-selling high-rise condos, as well as listing and selling luxury homes. In the last decade or so, her clients have included Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos, Cigar City Brewing founder Joey Redner, and Heritage Insurance Holdings CEO Bruce Thomas Lucas (Tampa Bay’s highest paid chief executive in 2015, with $27.3 million in compensation). Her website touts $80 million in sales volume “in a given year.”
On this balmy, late-November afternoon, Toni is dressed in a beige pantsuit, her hair boldly black, her lipstick red, her dark eyes sharp and intense. She operates in a hurry, with an air of impatience. A photo shoot and an interview — just another task in a busy day.
Many years ago she was, to use a term from back when, a housewife. Toni grew up in Davis Islands, the daughter of prominent surgeon Anthony Perzia, part of a large, multi-generational Tampa family. She graduated from Academy of the Holy Names, then attended Rollins College in Winter Park, where she met her husband, Horace Henderson Everett, known as Sonny.
After finishing the Tobé–Coburn School for fashion in New York City, Toni returned to Tampa with marketing, interior design and public relations skills. She earned a real estate license. Rather than embark on a career, though, she opted to stay home and raise her children while Sonny worked in the insurance business.
Then fate intervened. An advertising firm asked her to take over a nearly finished high-rise on Bayshore. The contractor had gone bankrupt. The improbable job offer — plucking a homemaker to finish a condo project — resulted, Toni says, in large part from Tampa’s tight-knit culture. “I knew them through my husband’s business friends,” she says. “We’d go to a lot of parties. Tampa was a small town then. Everyone knew everyone.”
She accepted the challenge. “I wanted to see how it would work out with my family,” she says. “As it turned out, we managed it pretty well. They were proud of me.”
A woman running a jobsite was certainly unique for the time. But Toni wouldn’t be pushed around. “The workers didn’t know what to make of me,” she recalls with a mischievous grin. “They’d try to steal things. I just told them I’d call the police.”
Toni completed, marketed and sold out the Pinnacle [check] building. How does she explain her rookie triumph? “It just happened,” she says. “I’ve never thought much about it.”
Success bred success. More high-rise pre-sales and conversion sales followed: The Bayshore Regency. Howell Park Condominiums. Plaza Harbour Island. She and another agent ran the on-site sales center for the ill-fated Trump Tower in downtown Tampa, which, according to her website, they sold out, although the project never advanced beyond a vacant lot.
Toni’s wide-ranging real estate experience — including construction, marketing and design — has provided her a professional advantage. “I’m not just a sales agent,” she declares. “I stop by buildings, check on their progress, offer advice in all sorts of ways.”
Toni diversified into single-family homes, ultimately becoming a major player in the South Tampa high-end sector. The Toni Everett Company has roughly 30 agents operating out of offices on Bayshore and Harbour Island. They include Toni’s daughter, Henderson Everett Lee. Toni’s son, Anthony Everett, operates his Everett Realty Services out of office space he shares with his mother.
Sonny Everett died in 2009 at age 72, having realized his dream of being a Broadway producer. According to Playbill, his credits include Avenue Q (associate producer) and In the Heights (producer).
Toni, true to her character, forged on.
Back at the South Tampa mansion, awaiting the photo shoot, she sits in the driver’s seat of her Jaguar. Anyone hoping she’ll offer insight into how she built a compact real estate empire, or to ponder what might have been if she’d not received that improbable job opportunity all those years ago, is bound to be disappointed. “When I was just starting out, a man in the business told me I was a natural,” she says, when asked again about the reasons for her success. “I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Across the street is a three-story, walled-and-gated, 11,469-square-foot, five-bedroom estate listed at $6.65 million.
It needs selling.
Click the links for other profiles in the “Real Estate, Real Lives” series: