By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

The question doesn’t arise much for real estate professionals — was it their childhood dream to buy and sell homes?

For sure, the query isn’t quite like asking a firefighter, doctor or football player if they followed their youthful fantasies.

Agents generally seem to shrug off such comments, realizing that some jobs just aren’t glamorous at a young age.

But Scott Wilkinson is an exception. Hardly a teenaged Realtor groupie, he nonetheless was certain of his career path early on. “I’m 42 years old. I bought my first house when I was 21. I wanted to get into real estate.”

He is president of Wilkinson & Associates Real Estate ERA Powered, the second largest agency in Charlotte by agents. The company linked up with ERA Tides Realty in Charleston less than four months ago.

“I got my real estate license in 1992,” says Wilkinson, who traveled to the Lowcountry late last month to meet with agents and staff. “I’ve been in it ever since.” Wilkinson launched his own company in 2000.

The agency has been on a buying spree lately, moving into a half-dozen new markets in the past year. The acquisition of ERA Tides was effective Dec. 1, 2012. The local affiliate is now called Wilkinson & Associates Charleston.

“I’m super excited,” Wilkinson says. “Charleston is definitely a good market.”

Wilkinson & Associates Charleston is in the former ERA Tides office at 125 Wappoo Creek Drive on James Island. The 40 agents and fellow employees, including broker-in-charge Jan M. Miller, stayed on. Wilkinson says the Charleston locale has “a great broker-in-charge and super agents.”

According to Wilkinson, the company’s expansion strategy stemmed from growth constraints in North Carolina’s largest city.

Wilkinson & Associates merged last year with an agency in Cornelius, N.C., to reach 585 agents in greater Charlotte. Rick Knight, who ran the agency near Lake Norman, joined Wilkinson & Associates Real Estate as broker in charge. The Charlotte agency would also branch to Wilmington, N.C., which has 75 agents; and Jacksonville and Winston-Salem, N.C., which have 10 apiece.

Wilkinson & Associates is a “very agent-friendly company,” the president says. The company is able to attract people because it offers a higher than typical commission split. In other words, agents get to keep more of the sales commission — and the brokerage a little less — than is standard.

The agency has also been innovative: One of Wilkinson’s first agents, Mundy Bringuier, “was brought on (in part) because he spoke Spanish,” just as the Latino market began to emerge. “He is still with us,” Wilkinson says.

In its expansion plans, Wilkinson & Associates’ next logical step was to grow in South Carolina. The company already had an office in the Charlotte area in Fort Mill, and Wilkinson grew up visiting Myrtle Beach. He was checking out the Grand Strand for an office when the Charleston deal came through. Myrtle Beach opened soon after and has 13 agents.

One of the Charleston area’s lures is its steady economy. According to Wilkinson, downtown Charleston wasn’t hurt as much during the housing slide as many markets, and the number of home transactions has stayed strong. “There’s the opportunity to take market share,” he says.

Another perk for Charleston: “We go to markets where we see good opportunity for relocation,” Wilkinson says. Many executives, managers and workers are moving to the Charleston area, employed at corporations such as Boeing or military outposts such as Charleston Air Force Base and Naval Weapons System.

Also helping to strengthen the real estate outlook locally is the overall turnaround in the national housing market. For example, Wilkinson & Associates’ Charlotte business rose 39 percent last year, he says.

Wilkinson plans to beef up activity in metro Charleston in the next few years. “We could accumulate 100 agents. Our goals include probably doubling the transaction count.” He also wants to be “in the top tier in every market.”

The owner says he visits each of the markets at least once a month.

Wilkinson and his wife Temprance have two children, Alexandra, 12, and Camdon, 2. His wife sometimes joins him for the coastal trips including to their second house in Topsail Beach. N.C., and to places such as Charleston, with its robust nightlife and restaurants, he says.

Born and raised in Charlotte, Wilkinson says he has a simple plan for pinpointing his expansion targets. “I pick the markets I like to go to. We are definitely Carolinas oriented.”

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.