As a child accompanying his father on Saturday tours to a leader offering words of encouragement to up-and-coming agents, Charlie Schwartz, II, has made a lifetime study of real estate service with a personal touch. His stories are legendary, his wisdom unmatched, and his phone calls cherished.
To celebrate Charlie Schwartz’s remarkable 50-year milestone anniversary at Patterson-Schwartz, we sat down with him to learn the secrets to the company’s longevity and success and discover the anecdotes and lessons that have shaped his illustrious career. This Q&A session offers a golden opportunity to gain insights from one of our company’s true legends, who has not only witnessed the profound changes in the field, but has played a pivotal role in steering our company through these transformative years.
What do you believe sets the company apart in the real estate market, and how has it maintained its reputation over the years?
I think the key here is that we live in the markets that we serve and we serve the markets in which we live. Again, it goes back to the whole LOCAL theme. It’s not just an advertising slogan, we live it every day. You don’t have to go very far to talk to one of the owners of Patterson-Schwartz. It always tickles me when Chris Patterson and I are together and someone says, “There’s Patterson-Schwartz.” Well it may be Mr. Patterson and Mr. Schwartz; Patterson-Schwartz is a whole lot more. I want every one of us – our associates and our staff, from the most seasoned to the greenest – to think of themselves as Mr. or Ms. Patterson-Schwartz. That is the family aspect of the company.
How has your father’s legacy influenced your approach to business, and what principles have you carried forward from him?
Not a day goes by that I don’t use one of his expressions or recall one of his parables! There’s a statement attributed to Winston Churchill about the USA: “America always does the right thing, usually after trying everything else first.” Dad and Bill Patterson’s philosophy was invariably to do the right thing first, even if it hurt to do so. The examples of this are legion and I’m sure that any of the industry veterans who worked with them could relate a story or two. The company stood behind buyers when a builder-client made off with the escrow money they were holding. PSA funded the deposits of those who wanted them and I acted as general contractor to finish the homes for those who chose that option.
Another illustration I’ll share in more detail. PSA was one of the first companies to offer a home warranty program for the purchasers of our sellers’ homes. The program was called Palace Guard. Palace Guard was new and its concepts were largely untested from an actuarial standpoint. For example, it asked for no deductible, nor a pre-inspection – the absence of one or the other are prescriptions for disaster in warranty business as we know it today.
PSA sold about 1,500 of these policies, which offered coverage for one year after the settlement date on certain appliances and systems. There were perhaps 900 still active when the Palace Guard insurance company went belly-up. PSA made the decision to back the remaining policies until they expired. I can remember my dad coming into the old Milltown office in the mornings and asking the lead secretary how many policies were still active as of that day and if there were any new claims that had come in. Standing behind the promises that our people had made proved to be very expensive, but it was the right thing to do.
Can you share a memorable experience or anecdote from your early years in real estate that shaped your career or taught you an important lesson?
There are many, some of which are unprintable. But let me start by saying that there are seven or so words (depending on how you treat contractions) that are critical to remember to use frequently in almost any profession setting I can think of, but most importantly in real estate: “I don’t know but I’ll find out.”
I’ll give you an illustration from early in my career. I was showing a newer split-level house in North Star to a Dupont engineering type when the subject of insulated glass came up as we were approaching the family room sliding glass door. Now I knew nothing about the R-value of insulated glass since it was just coming on the residential scene. As I slid open the door to step onto the patio beyond, the buyer asked, “How much heat loss is there through that door?”
What should I have said? You got it.
What did I say? “Do you mean when it is closed or when it is open?”
To paraphrase an old saying, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and confirm that supposition.
A Commitment to Excellence
Charlie’s 50-year journey with Patterson-Schwartz is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the enduring power of relationships. From humble beginnings with one office and a handful of agents, we’ve grown into a regional powerhouse with a footprint that stretches across Delaware, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Maryland’s eastern shore.
Our legacy of values, handed down by mentors, is a testament to the enduring spirit of PSA—a family built on cherished values and a commitment to excellence in all that we do. Charlie’s memorable anecdote about responding with “I don’t know but I’ll find out” exemplifies a profound lesson in humility and the value of continuous learning—an ethos that continues to drive PSA forward. As we celebrate Charlie’s remarkable 50-year milestone, we’re reminded that success in real estate, like any other field, hinges on a willingness to adapt and a commitment to excellence.
Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate is Delaware’s largest independent real estate brokerage and offers a full range of services that include residential home sales, purchase and rental, relocation services, and property management. We’ve been guiding home buyers and sellers since 1961, and invite you to connect with us when you’re ready to partner with a local real estate expert.