Phillip Thomas Brings a Long-Term Perspective to Real Estate


(Wednesday, June 13, 2007 1:28 PM EDT)

Phillip Thomas has been in real estate since 1962, and even though some elements of the real estate business have changed drastically over the years, Thomas' dedication to land conservation has not.

His firm, Thomas & Talbot Real Estate, which he and John Talbot started in 1967, advertises on the back of the annual Virginia Steeplechase Association schedule that it is the firm's “continued philosophy to help maintain the open space and agricultural integrity of this beautiful and unique area.”

Thomas subscribes to this motto wholeheartedly, even today.

He says that although some real estate firms do not see conservation as an integral part of their business, preserving land was one of the reasons he entered the field.

“It made sense to me to get involved [in real estate],” Thomas said in a recent interview with Middleburg Life. “It was a way to make a living, meet people in the community and have influence on how they perceive and protect our area.”

Thomas - whose father, C. Reed Thomas, was Master of Fox Hounds in Western Fairfax County in the 1920s and '30s - could, himself, be likened to the foxhunters of the past, who he considers “the first real stewards of the land.”

“They wanted to preserve the beauty of the area, and to keep the countryside open and not subdivided so they could foxhunt,” he said.

In turn, this helped to preserve open-space easements.

Thomas has proven his dedication to the foxhunters' philosophy, in both his business and personal real estate transactions.

In December 2000, he made the decision to convey a large portion of his Ovoka Farm in Paris to the Piedmont Environmental Council, preserving 1,250 acres of an inheritance from his father in perpetuity.

“I basically sold the farm at a discount from its market value to the Piedmont Environmental Council, and made a gift of the remaining value,” he said in an interview with Blue Ridge Hunt Country Magazine. “This approach worked for me.”

Thomas earned the 2001 Land Conservation Award from the Piedmont Environmental Council for his decision.

During his career, some of the noted property transactions that he is most proud of are Llangollen, Ayrshire and Grafton, because the purchasers were willing to restore these properties to their original grandeur, and to preserve the land.

Grafton is the oldest horse show grounds in America, and the new owner restored the grounds by replacing numerous old and dying oak trees.

Thomas has worked with prestigious clients such as the late President John F. Kennedy, Jack Kent Cooke, Paul Mellon, Rhode Island Gov. Bruce Sundlun and numerous other distinguished clients, both national and international.

“I have genuinely enjoyed these past 40-plus years,” he said, “namely because of the fascinating people I've met . . . many have become lifelong friends.”

The common thread that pulls them together, he said, is their “appreciation of the beauty of the area, and their desire to find ways to protect and preserve a way of life for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.”

The fifth-generation Loudoun County resident said he has seen the market grow from about 25 transactions per year in Hunt Country, to what might be in the hundreds today.

But he has stuck to his guns, and has focused more on keeping a small, specialized firm staffed by knowledgeable, straightforward sales agents helping to make sure that the landscape around Hunt Country is secured.

“I enjoy seeing what I see,” he said. “If we didn't have easements in place here, the development of the 1990s would have covered the area in McMansions. I wouldn't have found that attractive.”

Although Thomas could kick back in his comfortable Middleburg office (one feature in the office is a 1775 map of Virginia drawn by Thomas Jefferson's father, Peter Jefferson) and let his business ride on its many successes, he looks to the future and hopes to continue offering quality real estate services while continuing to work toward conservation.

“The easements in place are irrevocable, we just have to keep filling in parcels that aren't in easement,” he said. “It's a constant vigil for all of us that the conservation philosophy is ongoing.”

Phillip Thomas has been involved in real estate since 1962.

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