BERRYVILLE “When you love what you do, you stick to it,” real estate agent Jim Barb argues.
Yet 50 years is a long time for anyone to have just one career. Studies show that the average length of time people stay in the same job these days is only 4.5 to 5 years.
Observing different styles of housing and working with different people, and never having two days exactly the same, is what Barb enjoys about her business and keeps her going.
Houses were once simply built, and some still are. Over the years, however, homes have adopted more complex architectural designs catering to the wishes of specific buyers. People no longer just want a roof over their heads, but they also want specific exterior and interior appearances that they find pleasing and amenities that make their daily lives more comfortable and efficient.
Comfort is what makes a home a home. And homes today are “much easier to live with” than those built decades ago, Barb said.
His daily itinerary frequently includes meeting with various clients and consultations with various contractors, inspectors, financial lenders and others involved in the process of buying and selling homes.
Due to the variety of people and tasks he encounters, “I never get bored,” he said with a smile.
Despite being born at the Old Winchester Hospital, Barb considers himself a Clarke County native, having moved to the county when he was young. He graduated from Clarke County High School.
He began his professional life as a Federal Government IT Analyst at the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center on the Clarke / Loudoun County border. This was back when computers took up huge amounts of space and were slow to process even simple orders.
“I’m into tech,” Barb said. He mentioned, for example, the technology now allowing buyers to visit potential homes online. While many people still prefer to visit homes in person, virtual screenings have helped homebuyers immensely during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“I think it will stay,” he added.
Spending his days pushing buttons at Mount Weather, he felt a desire to work in the community and be surrounded by people other than his colleagues.
As a youth, Barb became interested in property issues after her father bought a farm on Parshall Road (Route 608) in 1948. As part of the land was subdivided and sold to others, he helped to install surveyor stakes.
“When you grow up on a farm, you develop an appreciation for the land,” he said. Plus, “I have an appreciation for houses. It all came together, I think.”
Barb, 80, got into real estate after getting her license in 1971.
“I started working on it and found that I really liked it,” he said.
But as his business grew, he felt like he had two full-time jobs.
“I knew I was going to have to give up something,” Barb said.
He decided to hit the mountain. He entered real estate full time in 1978.
Forty-three years later, Jim Barb Realty Inc. has 12 employees at its head office on West Main Street in Berryville and a satellite office on Millwood Pike in Winchester.
Employees recently threw a party for Barb to celebrate her half-century with the company.
One of his colleagues is his wife, Margaret. They have been married for 58 years. She joined the firm in 1985.
He has no plans to slow down, let alone retire, as long as he remains healthy.
From his four page resume, 3½ pages lists many professional and civic associations that Barb has been involved in over the years, as well as some honors he has received. Among these accolades, he was named Realtor of the Year by the Blue Ridge Association of Realtors in 1983 and CRB (Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager) of the Year by the Virginia Association of Realtors in 1996.
In his spare time he has been as dedicated to community service as he has been to his career. Last year, Berryville City Council honored Barb for serving on the Berryville Architectural Review Board for nearly 30 years. In 2019, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors honored him for serving for almost 20 years on the County Economic Development Advisory Committee.
Additionally, Barb was a member of the Clarke County School Board from 1981 to 1985 and the County Equalization Board in 2002. He has been a member of the Clarke County Lions Club since 1969, of which he was president in 1982.
He has three daughters, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren; his degrees from Shenandoah and Shepherd Colleges, as they were called in the 1960s; and his six months of active service and his five and a half years in the US Army National Guard Reserve during that decade.
“I tried to participate as much as I could,” said Barb.
Clarke County is a special place, he believes, because it is a rural oasis amidst a sea of urban development in the surrounding communities.
He predicts that Clarke’s population will grow as more and more people are able to do their jobs from home via the internet.
New residents “come here because they want to get out of these urban areas” and go to a more peaceful place, Barb said. “A much better quality of life is what I think people are looking for today.”
In turn, there is a strong demand for housing locally, which drives up housing prices and values.
According to his company’s website, the median value of the Berryville home is $ 430,745 and Clarke’s is $ 402,500. These numbers are well above the national median home value of $ 277,796.
Noting two new subdivisions under construction in Berryville, Barb said he plans to see more housing develop in the county, especially in areas served by public water and sewer systems.
He will be happy to sell it to families, if he has the opportunity.
But measures put in place to control growth – such as sliding-scale zoning and conservation easements – should prevent the county from becoming too urbanized, he said.