My opinion takes a distant backseat to the things our members think are important. So in order to be a good chairman, you have to be a good listener.

Marvin Jolly doesn’t want to talk to you.

No, your 2021 Texas REALTORS® chairman prefers to talk with you, which means he will listen, ask lots of questions, and only after he hears the responses will he give his own.

Jolly wants to facilitate dialogue. He wants to help people think clearly, because clarity is power.

He wants REALTORS® to be unified in mission and purpose. He has been inspired by the unity and dedication to service that REALTORS® have shown during the coronavirus pandemic.

He wants to face a legislative session unlike any other with a devotion to advocacy that is as important than ever.

When it is safe to do so, Jolly wants to get back to all the handshakes and handing over house keys and meetings in the same room—the face-to-face moments that make real estate so special.

Texas REALTORS® Chairman Marvin Jolly wants to work together, and he wants your help. But first, OK—maybe he will talk just a little.

Greetings from Palestine, Texas

If you want to know what kind of chairman Jolly will be, the answer starts in Palestine. “A lot of the values that I learned and shaped me are the small-town values of East Texas. That’s who I am,” Jolly says.

It’s there, in the Piney Woods, that Jolly’s parents, both public school educators, decided to build their home themselves. They could have afforded a builder, but they built it partly to teach a strong work ethic to Jolly and his brother, Darin. Jolly learned woodworking from his father and grandfather. Jolly was helpful and encouraged others.

A lot of the values that I learned and shaped me are the small-town values of East Texas. That’s who I am.

He joined the National FFA Organization, formerly Future Farmers of America. He learned many of the skills you might expect—raising animals for the county fair and working with his hands—and two you might not. “We had competitions across Texas for public speaking and parliamentary procedure,” he says. “Sounds thrilling, I know, especially when you’re 16 years old. But I really got into it. Those two things have contributed to my current path. I’m a much better speaker, and I learned about all of those concepts for leading meetings.”

If parliamentary procedure sounds impractical or academic, Jolly points out that knowing those skills helps him facilitate meetings so Texas REALTORS® can get things done.

Investing in the Future

Jolly moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1992. He got into real estate in his mid-20s by buying and fixing up rental houses and duplexes in south Fort Worth. He became a third-generation real estate investor in his family.

Jolly partnered with an established business owner whose funding opened a lot of doors. At one point, the partnership owned roughly a dozen properties. Jolly wasn’t licensed yet—he was working on staff at a local church.

He moved to Collin County in 2001 and started selling real estate shortly after receiving his real estate license.

The first property Jolly ever listed was an old two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. The location was good, but the house hadn’t been updated in at least 30 years, and the plumbing and wiring were closer to 80 years old. “The inspection report was pretty scary,” he says.

Even with the challenges the property presented, Jolly was thankful for and proud of that listing. “It was like I won the lottery when I got the opportunity to be the listing agent. I treated that seller just like he had a million-dollar property, and it was a $65,000 home.”

Discovering a Passion for Advocacy

Jolly wasn’t heavily invested in TREPAC during his early years as a REALTOR®. He didn’t quite understand it, but he made a few small investments.

All that changed during REALTOR® Day at the Texas Capitol in 2003, Jolly’s second experience with REALTOR® Day. “I thought we were taking a nice trip to Austin to see the Capitol and some of our legislators,” he says. But when he and a small group from his local board of REALTORS® visited their state representative, his eyes were opened. When the group shared its concerns, the state rep knew nothing about them. This was all new information to her. “Had our group of five not met with her, she would have never gotten the message,” he says. “I saw how important it was for Texas REALTORS® and TREPAC to have those relationships.”

That realization put Jolly on a path that led to him serving as TREPAC chairman for the Collin County Association of REALTORS® in 2004.

Jolly met his wife, Jamee, at a TREPAC orientation in 2003. After her staff time in the REALTOR® family, Jamee went on to lead other nonprofit groups. “Jamee understands the REALTOR® organization and the political and advocacy work that we do. I couldn’t do what I’m doing with Texas REALTORS® were it not for her support.”

A Seat at the Table

The early 2000s were a busy time. Jolly was growing his real estate team and also had his first opportunity to manage a brokerage of 300 agents. The Collin County Association of REALTORS® honored him as REALTOR® of the Year in 2005. He was and remains involved in various civic and charitable groups. He was getting increasingly involved in REALTOR® association committees and task forces.

“I discovered early on that if you want to have a voice, you’ve got to be at the table, and being at the table meant serving on committees and boards of directors,” he says.

He jokes that he slept through a lot of boring meetings as a new volunteer. Attending was time consuming. He was young; his fellow committee members were his parents’ and grandparents’ ages.

“There were times when I questioned why I was doing this,” he says. “When I saw we could make a difference, I was interested. When I saw that my voice mattered, I was interested.”

Jolly recommends serving on a committee to anyone who wants to have an influence on real estate at the local, state, or national level.

Setting the Vision of Helping Clients

Jolly enjoys being an advisor, teaching the mechanics of real estate transactions. Over time, he gravitated toward big-picture strategic thinking. “Whether it’s an agent or a seller or buyer, I ask them what their long-term life vision is, then we back it up to where we are now. Then it’s helping them navigate from Point A to Point B to achieve what they want in life.

“We help people go through major decisions in their lives and deliver great service in that process. It’s really a calling. It’s something that’s heart-based. It’s not a transaction—it’s people based,” he says.

As Jolly grew as a leader in his own organization, he was also rising through the ranks elsewhere. He chaired the Collin County Association of REALTORS® Issues Mobilization Local Task Force in 2005 and the association’s Government Affairs Committee in 2006. After graduating from the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program in 2008, he served on the program’s advisory committee the following year. He was president of the Collin County Association of REALTORS® in 2014 and a regional vice president of Texas REALTORS® in 2016-2018. He also currently serves on the NAR board of directors and RPAC Trustees Federal Disbursements Committee.

“When I started thinking about the possibility of serving in leadership of Texas REALTORS®, I thought it was going to be such an amazing opportunity to have a voice to promote concerns and the important topics to me personally,” he says. “What I’ve come to discover is that my opinion takes a distant backseat to the things our members think are important. So in order to be a good chairman, you have to be a good listener.”

The Year Ahead

The 2021 legislative session convened January 12. Jolly and the other Texas REALTORS® officers serve on the Legislative Management Team, which closely follows activity at the Capitol.

As part of the association’s advocacy efforts, Texas REALTORS® reviews every bill for potential impact on the real estate industry, REALTORS®, or real estate consumers. For example, the state’s finances have been directly impacted by the pandemic, and the Texas Legislature may seek ways to generate revenue, such as a sales tax on real estate services.

In addition, lawmakers are expected to discuss issues including homeowners associations, broadband access, and property taxes, which are among the association’s legislative priorities. See the association’s 2021 legislative priorities at The Texas Legislature will also address redistricting based on results of the U.S. census.

Besides the legislative session and specific topics that the association addresses, Jolly is focused on listening and building connections among REALTORS®, real estate organizations, and with consumers.

“My goal in 2021 is to make sure that we are together, at the very least virtually,” he says. “We are together in mindset, together in focus, and together in mission and vision … to make sure we are unified in tackling the issues that are important in our profession and for property owners. So, in order to be together on those issues and items, it requires proactively reaching out and getting opinions.”

Jolly’s attitude is well-suited to a year that, at least initially, will continue to be shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. “I believe life is not about what happens, but how you respond to what happens. I’m thankful to say Texas REALTORS® responded very positively to COVID-19. It strengthened us, not only as a state organization, staff, and Leadership Team, but also our Board of Directors and our committee leadership. Getting member engagement in that environment is very challenging. Everyone has done a magnificent job of continuing the course to deliver services to our members.”

But that’s just his opinion. Now he wants to hear what you have to say.

Building for This Generation and the Next

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Jolly enjoyed travel, fitness, golf, and mountain biking in his free time. He and his wife, Jamee, are involved in various civic and charitable organizations as well.

Marvin has been doing a lot of woodworking in the last few months. Nothing fancy—cabinets and sawhorses, mostly—but he enjoys it. It was one of his COVID-19 projects, something productive to do while the weeks blurred together.

He’s a grandfather now—”a hobby” in its own right—so it’s fitting he’s into “old man stuff,” he jokes. He’s getting back into carpentry and remodeling. It’s a chance to slow down and be mindful of the present moment. It reminds him of his teenage years and the old fixer-uppers from when he started out in real estate.

2020 was going to be the year that he and Jamee were going to build a little cabin out in the woods. They bought a remote property in January. Short-staffed because of COVID-19, their builder couldn’t commit to building a turnkey house. So they agreed that the builder would do the more involved steps, and the Jollys and a few close friends and family members would do the rest. The cabin should be done by late spring, he estimates.

Jolly’s children—Jeff (26), Jacob (24), and Julia (21), as well as their spouses—have been involved with construction. “It is a legacy property,” he says. “It is something that our children and grandchildren and then their children will eventually enjoy. It’s not elaborate, but we’re excited about it.”