He didn’t know it at the time, but Rob Thomson was being groomed as a real estate agent before he was old enough to drive a car.
The youngest of five boys, Thomson would sit in the car with his mother, real estate agent Joan Thomson, while she made stops at houses and chatted with clients.
As he says, he was an unwitting student in the “Joan Thomson School of Real Estate,” picking up his mother’s techniques that he still uses 30 years later.
“You don’t realize how much you’re getting indoctrinated by how much is being absorbed into your brain when you listen to it your whole life, until you start doing it and you already know a lot of the answers,” he explains.
Today, the long-time Jupiter resident is the managing partner of Waterfront Properties and Club Communities, a mainstay in Palm Beach County luxury real estate. The company recently opened its fifth office in Palm Beach, and in recent years, he has ventured into yacht sales and manufacturing. In 2012, he was the youngest agent to be inducted into Luxury Real Estate’s Billionaires Club.
Thomson’s family moved to Jupiter in 1962 when it was a small town, and as he recounts, the population could fit on one sheet in a phone book. His father built the First Baptist Church on Tequesta Drive, home to a few dozen parishioners, including the Thomson family of seven. The boys fished, camped, snorkeled, dove and water skied.
In his teens, Thomson made money detailing cars, and then he opened his first car waxing shop on Cypress Drive in Tequesta. The business expanded to two stores, and in 1986, he followed in his mother’s footsteps and got his real estate license at 23.
Thomson started working with his mother, at first selling rentals in Jupiter and Tequesta, and eventually moving into waterfront properties. As more calls from their listing signs came in for him, Thomson’s mom decided to change the name of the company to “Waterfront Properties” in 1987. She led the charge until about 2010, when she handed over the reins to her youngest son and he bought out her part in the company.
“She’s brilliant,” he says. “[She said] let’s be highly focused on what we do, and when we hire people, let’s commit everything to a system, and get everybody to be extremely focused, not just be that jack of all trades. That simple yet stroke of genius was absolutely, totally born by her.”
Today, the company has more than 80 agents and brokers, buying and selling homes from $250,000 to more than $50 million. In search of a niche, Thomson brought his love for boating together with his real estate business to create the sister company Waterfront Yacht Brokerage with his boat captain, Joe Kelly, in 2015. Now, clients can sell or buy their home and boat through experts in both arenas.
“It was just such a logical step,” Thomson says. “The clients love the fact that we give them that same level of service in the boat purchasing or marketing area as they received with selling their property.”
The company continues to be a family affair—three of Thomson’s six children work at Waterfront Properties, as do two brothers and his fiancé, Traci Degeorge. With their success, they pay it forward by partnering with the Mike Schmidt’s Winner’s Circle Charities Fishing Tournament, volunteering with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Big Dog Ranch Rescue and toy drives, and the company’s own Waterfront Way Foundation.
Balancing his businesses, family and philanthropy, Thomson says he doesn’t get out on the water enough, but when he boards his Viking 61-foot sportfish—aptly named Waterfront—the stress melts away.
“It’s like I got a 1,000-pound gorilla off my back,” he says of being on the ocean. “It is just totally, 100 percent relaxation. I love the water.”