The road to a career in real estate was quite unconventional for Milt Thomas, agent with Real Living Capital City. After stints as an English teacher in Japan, a bartender and a filmmaker, Thomas found himself in the small mill town of Porterdale, GA, roughly 35 miles east of Atlanta along the banks of the Yellow River.

It was there the 2017 Atlanta REALTORS® Top Producer discovered his passion for the preservation of the historic mill homes – houses built between 1910 and 1920 as homes for the worker families of the mills – as well as a knack for selling real estate.

Porterdale was once a thriving mill town named after the local mill owner, Oliver S. Porter. The mill was the county’s main employer, operated the area’s only fully staffed hospital, provided recreation programs for the mill workers and their families, and built homes, schools and churches within the town limits. The mills closed in the 1970s and the town fell into disarray after much of the population left for jobs elsewhere.

After discovering the village about four years ago, Thomas became interested in renovating one of the small mill homes and purchased a property of his own.

Thomas, along with the Porterdale’s mayor, economic development director and other civic leaders worked together to bring awareness to area’s affordable housing. Thomas joined the historical preservation group and held events showcasing what could be done to renovate the mill homes.

“After 20 years of living in Atlanta, I moved to Porterdale because of the neighborly feel, the river, the peace and quiet,” said Thomas. “I never imagined I would be helping to restore a town to its historic integrity but I feel really passionate about the preservation of these homes and the opportunity restoration could mean for the community.”

To promote Porterdale’s historic richness, Thomas created the site The site is a resource for homebuyers looking for information on homes for sale, various loan programs, schools and arts programs and nearby entertainment and tourism.

When Thomas first started selling homes in 2014, properties sold for an average $27,000. Today, the current market value of many mill homes is more than $100,000.

Rusty Willis, broker/owner of Real Living Capital City, described Thomas’ efforts as going beyond the call of duty to really elevate the reputation of network professionals and the areas they serve. “He’s helping the town restore itself to former glory,” said Willis. “It’s not just real estate, it’s the whole community.”