MANATEE -- Roger Pettingell feels fortunate that he never became a doctor.
The top-selling real estate agent in Manatee and Sarasota counties last year with over $66 million in closings, Pettingell was only a medical school entrance exam away from getting into medical school, a white coat and a stethoscope when he discovered selling homes in 1983. A recent college graduate with a double major in chemistry and biology, Pettingell said it was a real estate marketing job he took during a year off between undergrad and medical school that led him to a career he knew he'd always enjoy.
"There's a lot of sameness in being a physician," he said. "That's exactly what my job isn't."
Last year was the fifth time in seven years Pettingell, 53, has been the top seller in the area's residential market. He also moved more $1 million-plus homes than any other individual, taking a side in 28 deals totaling almost $45.9 million, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics.
Pettingell is as much a marketing machine as a deal closer. Working out of Coldwell Banker's Longboat Key office, he is the lone sales guy on a team that includes a marketing professional, someone to run his website and internet marketing, and one employee whose sole job is to manage sales contracts. To promote his business and his listings, Pettingell advertises online and in print and hosts a regular real estate webcast called RealTalk.
With about 75 percent of his sales coming via his own listings, Pettingell said his clients sign on for his services because they want him to be the face out in front of their home sales.
"I feel like when people are coming to me, they're coming to me," he said.
Last year was a good one for high-performing real estate agents. According to the MLS, 29 Manatee and Sarasota agents sold $25 million or more in residential real estate in 2014. While the MLS doesn't distinguish between
solo agents like Pettingell and those who head small groups of agents, the listing does give some insight into who sold what.
No. 2 on the list was Bill Howell, founder of Sarasota-Bradenton real estate firm Hook & Ladder. Howell was credited with $50.9 million in sales for the year. Unlike Pettingell, who amassed his sales total across 58 total transaction sides on sales averaging $1.44 million, Howell made his total on 426.5 sales with an average sale price of $119,615. Howell had more than double the number of individual sides than any other real estate agent listed in the top 50 by the MLS.
The MLS lists agent involvement in sales transactions in separate buyer and seller "sides." On any transaction, an agent can be responsible for either side of the sale or both.
Another standout on the list is Deborah Beacham, a Realtor with the Longboat Key office of Michael Saunders & Co. Eighth on the MLS listing, she registered the highest average sales price, $2.96 million, across 14 sales. Most of those sales were on Longboat Key and Casey Key and in downtown Sarasota.
Beacham said her 2014 buyers knew what they wanted and exactly what they wanted to pay.
"It was interesting because everybody I worked with came so prepared," she said.
Among Realtors based in Manatee County, AMI Beaches Real Estate broker and founder Gregg Bayer was the top seller. He notched $39.4 million in sales on 62.5 sales, ranking ninth on the MLS list.
Most of his listings in 2014 were on Anna Maria Island. Bayer said this is the fourth year in a row he's been the top Manatee County seller.
"I feel pretty good about that since our market place is pretty small out here," he said.
Deborah Angelo O'Mara, who works out of the Lakewood Ranch Michael Saunders office, was the county's second-best producer, selling $35.7 million on the year.
Pettingell said he expects to have another good year in 2015. He said 2014 set up an ideal market climate with sellers earning modest returns on their homes and buyers finding reasonable pricing. It was a far cry from the boom and bust the market went through in the mid 2000s.
"It was a market that was finishing healing," Pettingell said. "It's healthier for buyers and sellers. Neither feels taken advantage of."
In the coming year, Pettingell hopes to see home prices appreciate little more than 3 to 5 percent.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.