Ernie Eden

History of the Eden Family

Ernie’s Mom was an immigrant who escaped from Berlin prior to World War II. She escaped with her parents and three siblings. Ernie’s Grandfather Schoenbach was a wealthy Jewish banker who was raising his family in a big house with five servants. They had a cook, a nanny, a gardener, a housekeeper, and a driver. That house still stands today, and is, in fact, considered to be a historical home in Berlin. Mr. Schoenbach also owned timber land along with real estate investments. In 1933, he anticipated trouble and converted as much of his timber and real estate as he could into stamps, jewels, and small works of art in order to travel lightly. He sent his family to the countryside of Alsace Lorraine, France. Grandfather Schoenbach followed, but at this time, they had no real home of their own. Looking for a place to call home, he and his family traveled through Yugoslavia, France, Holland, and even Palestine before eventually immigrating to New York through Ellis Island. Ernie’s Mother, Erika, was 17 years old, and the family’s new chosen name was Fairbrook because Schoenbach sounded too German.

Ernie’s dad was from Vienna, Austria, and was also blessed to make it to the United States before the war, thanks to his curly blond hair. He did not leave Vienna until much later, when the situation with Hitler was getting really bad. Ernie’s father and his cousin found out what was really happening, and they decided to leave Vienna immediately. As they were leaving Vienna in 1938, he and his cousin were stopped by the Gestapo. Ernie’s dad was very clever. He took off his hat and showed his curly blond locks to prove that he wasn’t Jewish—even though he was. The guards allowed them to pass.  He got on a boat and traveled to New York, and his family set up a chicken farm in New Jersey. Ernie’s parents were introduced by relatives at a barn dance near this farm, and they were married in 1946.

Ernie’s mom was a teacher. When Ernie’s dad went to school in Austria, he studied chemistry. He was fortunate enough to have a sponsor from a refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, to further his career as a chemist. It was important to have a sponsor to prove that he would not be burden on society. Mr. Eden would have multiple jobs throughout his career; and he settled down as a shipping manager at a dry bean factory. Ernie recalls as a child watching beans fill the packages. It amazed him how some of the beans became name brand when they fell into the “right” bags while others remained generic.

Ernie was born in Winnsboro, Louisiana, on November 4, 1948. His family was the second Jewish family to move into town. The first Jewish family built a little cottage in their backyard for Ernie and his parents to live in. His family moved to Dallas when Ernie was two to be closer to his aunt on his dad’s side. Ernie grew up in a family of six, with one sister and two brothers, all younger. Ernie has siblings who became a teacher, deputy director the of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and an IRS agent. Ernie attended the University of Texas at Austin where he began as a government major. He convinced the Dean of Arts and Sciences to let him learn more about cities and, in essence, negotiated a new major for himself. He was the first Urban Studies major at the University of Texas. Soon after finishing college, Ernie worked as a housing coordinator at Sangamon State University and met Liz, the librarian. It didn’t take long for them to know it was meant to be. They married in December 1974 and soon lived near Washington, DC. Annie, his daughter, was a Montessori teacher and now runs a nonprofit to further Montessori education for public schools.  Annie has a two-and-a-half-year-old son named Joshua who is Ernie’s only grandchild. Ernie’s son’s name is Noah. He has worked for the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center, and now heads up team setup to prevent counterfeit goods from being sold at Amazon in Seattle.

Outside Interests and Hobbies

Ernie loves soccer. He enjoyed playing pick-up games. He felt that he had better learn to play soccer because he coached his kids when they were young. (Don’t call him for work during the World Cup!) Another of Ernie’s hobbies is contra dancing.  He and wife Liz tried it over 20 years ago and got hooked. Ernie goes once a week whether Liz goes or not. He is so into it that he knows by memory which surrounding cities have dance nights each week where he can dance just in case he is out of town on a project. It’s his main exercise and personal recreation.

Lifetime Awards and Designations

Ernie earned his CCIM designation on his 50th birthday on November 4, 1998. His broker in 1985 required every agent to take one CCIM class the first year, so he did. He got busy working and raising a family, so becoming a CCIM took longer than most. He started attending Association of Georgia Real Estate Exchangors (AGREE) meetings in 1983. Later he became President of AGREE twice as well as Exchangor of the Year, and he sat on the board for many years—and still does. Ernie specialized in multifamily and has brokered or owned thousands of units in his career. This stemmed from living in cooperative housing while in college. The 29 guys who lived in Ernie’s co-op house, while in college, worked together to have a place to live and save money. He realized that the students only had a simple lease on the house, and the group wasn’t incorporated. As a senior in college, Ernie took an informal group of 20 houses that was at the mercy of the landlords, and he created a corporation and a part-time job for himself. The Co-Op that he helped start now owns some of the houses. A couple of the houses were purchased while Ernie was still in college. One house was semi-abandoned, and the nonprofit quit claimed it to the Co-Op. After it burned, Ernie sold the lot and used the cash to make down payments on two other properties. Another house was purchased with a mortgage from the Texas Ex-Student Association and a Seller held second. That’s pretty creative for a college kid. This Co-Op is still in existence today, owning more real estate and servicing more members. When asked, “What did you do before you got into real estate?” Ernie’s answer was simply, “Nothing.” Later, Ernie helped start a national trade organization for student Co-Ops and worked in DC as the first paid executive director of The National Association of Housing Cooperatives in 1975 to 1980. Being the first, Ernie quickly realized his main job was to find a way for the organization to afford to pay his salary.

Civic Interests and Contributions

Ernie’s children attended Grady High School in Atlanta. The school is located in an inner-city area that was very diverse. Some of the school’s students lived in nearby public housing. Ernie identified a need. He and other parents felt the school could use some help. Therefore, they formed The Grady High School Foundation to provide opportunities to students that the public school couldn’t provide. The volunteer work and love for soccer bled into another board for him to serve on. Ernie was a founder and was on the initial board of The Atlanta Youth Soccer Organization.

Life and Business Goals

One of Ernie’s goals is to leave the world a better place than when he found it. After stating that he was near the end of his business goals, he realized that the place of our interview was down the street from land that he has under contract. That is yet another cooperative project for Active Adult Housing. Even though age 70 is right around the corner, he is still very active. Over the last 30 years, Ernie has invested in real estate, he is less and less interested in brokerage and more and more interested in being a principal.

Philosophy on Real Estate

Ernie believes you should always tell the truth, so it’s easier to remember what you’ve said. This has been a useful thing to remember for Ernie over the years. He also believes in the Golden Rule: Always treat others the way you want to be treated. These attributes have a direct correlation to his success.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Ernie’s strength is his ability to see how things fit that aren’t so obvious. He strives to search for different way to get things done and is always looking for that third alternative.

Ernie believes there is a tension between the “old school S.E.C. counselor” and the basic list-and-sell model to do business. If Ernie has a challenge, it’s that he has had to continue adding to his client base over the years. While some other S.E.C.s could counsel clients and retain them for a lifetime, Ernie has had to continually recruit new clients.

Most Significant Event in Life

His marriage and having children are Ernie’s most significant events in his life. He remembers being asked multiple times at the contra dance party for his 30th anniversary how he and Liz have stayed married for so long.  He is proud of doing it—and staying in it.

His love for his children was amplified when he explained why he had to move from DC to Atlanta. When his daughter was born, Liz worked less, so Ernie had to work more in DC to make ends meet. The commute could be 2 hours every morning and night for him. It didn’t take many days of only getting to see his baby for 15 minutes to make a change. One of the sets of grandparents lived in Georgia, so Ernie moved his family there.

Most Significant Moment in Real Estate

Ernie attributes working for Freddie Mac during a recession in the early 1990s as one of his most significant moments. He was able to help fix a big mess and help people, banks, and buyers all at the same time. Some of the complexes were totally vacant or hit by hurricanes. He was able to get them in the hands of owners who would take care of them and provide housing.

This led to his work in Atlanta after the recession with Cooperative Home Ownership in low-income areas in Atlanta. Ernie really gets into helping the “Average Joe” become an owner through his work with the Cooperatives. He has facilitated about half a dozen co-ops that have been able to purchase their apartment buildings. Folks who didn’t have the belief or the means to be an owner, now have affordable places to live and call their own. Even more satisfying for Ernie are the two complexes that he helped to convert to Cooperatives totaling 100 units that are within two miles of Ernie’s current home.

Most Significant Event in S.E.C.:

Ernie is impressed at how the S.E.C. can build a core of real estate associates who are also friends. He explained that most of the other brokers outside of S.E.C. just never became friends or have the family aspect like the S.E.C. Ernie has made a number of good friends in the S.E.C. over the years. He has attended since 1997 and believes the group today is as vibrant as ever.

One of Ernie’s favorite transactions was made possible by the tools learned attending S.E.C. meetings. He recalls that Chuck Sutherland was looking for formulas for one of his books. Ernie provided this real-life example from his career was started in 1998. It shows how to take a bad situation and turn it into a good one that later became an even better situation. Ernie had a listing on a free and clear triplex with an elderly woman who needed more income now. Offers he received at S.E.C. meetings would have only helped for a short period of time, so Ernie kept searching for a better solution. Earlier, another broker brought Ernie a listing that was overpriced, and it was decided to cancel the listing. About a year later, the circumstances changed with the industrial building’s owner, and he came right back to Ernie for help. The price they were willing to take at that time was a very good deal. Ernie remembered his other client with the triplex and agreed to buy the industrial building in cash. He went back to the triplex owner and proposed he borrow the down payment for the industrial building against her triplex. Ernie joint ventured with her and purchased the industrial building. Ernie even gave her most of the cash flow until she passed and later bought her part of the property from her estate. This asset’s cash flow is what allowed Ernie to make it through recessions. Without the knowledge learned at S.E.C. meetings, Ernie wouldn’t have been able to help this lady, and this transaction in turn helped him and his family for years to come. The unselfishness of Ernie’s “you win now, with my help, and I’ll win later” was the catalyst.

Talking with Ernie Eden about his life and career was such a pleasure. He was so generous with the details of his back story and how his career has developed. If you ever have the chance to talk with Ernie about his life and accomplishments, I highly recommend it. There are even more interesting details to his story that I just found difficult including in this short article. If I could sum up Ernie into a few words: Ernie is a generous man who comes from a family of intelligent, savvy survivors whose legacy has led him into a career of helping a lot of people using Real Estate.





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