When asked what he thinks about the real estate market in the Virginia Piedmont, Phil Thomas smiles and says, “Real estate in the Hunt Country is unlike any in the D.C. area. You aren’t just buying a home, you are buying into a unique landscape and a special way of life. This real estate tends to retain its value because it offers so much more than just a residence.”
Phillip Thomas and his agents have invested much time and energy into the preservation of the countryside and the cultivation of long-term relationships with property owners and homebuyers here. And Phil is proud of the fact that, over the years, his firm has bought and sold nearly every notable property in the area — most of them more than once. He’s also been instrumental in the protection of open spaces. Phil worked hand-in-hand with the early champions of land preservation like Eve Fout, the Honorable Bruce Sundlun, James Rowley, George Horkan, Esq., the Honorable Charles Whitehouse and William Backer, among others.
A bill was passed in Congress in the 1970s establishing a state’s ability to create and hold conservation easements. These efforts helped establish organizations like the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Goose Creek Association. “My father, C. Reed Thomas, assembled many small parcels of land over many years around Paris, Virginia. He loved the land and it gave me enormous pleasure to fulfill his dream and convey the 1,250 acres of Ovoka Farm to the Piedmont Environmental Council for permanent conservation.” This resulted in Phillip being the recipient of the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Land Conservation Award in 2001.
Phil was raised in the Middleburg area. Fifth generation. In the late 1950s, after prep school, college and the Marine Corps, his first job was pulling a surveyor’s chain across a huge cleared field that today is Dulles International Airport.
Phil reflects on those times and laughs. “Real estate looked pretty good to me, even though my first year of business was conducted either in my car or in my hat.” He goes on to say, “It wasn’t long before I started hanging out with a real estate guy located in Middleburg named John Talbot. We’d meet up at the Coach Stop restaurant, which was a social hub in Middleburg at the time. I’d sit across from John and sponge up everything I could about real estate.” They forged a partnership and opened Thomas & Talbot Real Estate together in 1967. When Talbot moved on in 1979, it became Phil’s company outright, as he already owned the building.
Back to Phil’s passion for preservation: Fox hunting was, and continues to be, an important part of the local culture. The fox hunters of yesterday were actually the forerunners to today’s conservationists. It was vital to the fox hunting community to maintain large unspoiled tracts of land for the hunts, and simply for pleasure riding. Families such as the Phipps, the Warburgs, the Harrimans, the Guests and the like had the wherewithal to protect and promote Hunt Country. It’s all about this glorious landscape. “It’s why we love where we live,” Phil says, beaming.
Phil Thomas’ approach to buying and selling over the years hinges on the ethical and the practical. He insists, “I’m not going to tell a seller just anything they want to hear to get a listing. We’re going to establish a realistic price they can get today or we’re just wasting each other’s time. Same kind of approach goes for buyers, as well.”
When Phil speaks about the Hunt Country real estate market today, he has this to say, “Many who settle in this community have no idea what it has taken to preserve it. We take it upon ourselves, here at Thomas & Talbot, to give everyone a little background, and encourage those who buy property here to continue the effort, to protect open land and this place that is so treasured.”
Phil is proud of his years in the real estate business here in Virginia’s Hunt Country. He has dealt with industry leaders, politicians, football players, new money, old money and just plain hard-working people who have earned a piece of this spectacular landscape. “I work for fun,” he says emphatically. He loves his life here and values the great relationships he has maintained. Phil’s quite serious when he says, “It’s taken over 50 years to assemble my team of 20 agents, all of whom are recognized as among the best in the business. They share my ideals and love for this landscape and community. Maybe that’s why we’ve established a sales record of historic proportion.”