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Chemistry at work at Kessling Services in Corpus Christi

Although he started out as a chemist, Joe Kessling, owner of Kessling Services, found his secret formula for success in working with people and property. Photo by Carrie Robertson Meyer/Third Coast Photo

In business for 44 years, Kessling Services is one of the longest-serving property management firms in the Coastal Bend. Providing rental property management, real estate sales, and insurance coverage, Kessling Services is in the people-pleasing business, owner Joe Kessling said.

“We have a special relationship with each of the owners we work with” Kessling said. “There’s a bond of trust built up over the years, probably unlike in any other business relationship. We collect and distribute rental income every month to those owners all over the globe, some for over 25 years. That alone sets us apart.”

The insurance arm of Kessling Services primarily provides business clients with employee benefits and financial products. Kessling is also in the real estate sales business, selling 15-25 homes a year. The great majority of the company’s time and efforts are spent renting and managing single-family, individually owned rental properties.

“We have managed hundreds of properties over the years and helped to sell almost as many,” Kessling said. “Our reputation is impeccable both in the community and in the industry. We represent our owners’ property as if it were our own and, in doing so, have been able to retain owners, many for decades. Our owners’ loyalty speaks for itself.”

Trust is an important part of any business. That is especially true when handling someone else’s valuable asset long term. That trust is earned over time and can never be assumed, Kessling said. Issues and situations periodically arise that test the mettle of the relationship and reinforce the bond between owner and manager. Owners have to trust Kessling and his team to keep the property rented (bringing in income) and keep it maintained both for the owners and tenants. It’s a delicate balance at times.

“Our client is our owner, but, always, we treat the tenant, who is our customer, fairly and with respect,” Kessling said. “Many times the tenant wants things the owner won’t pursue because it doesn’t fall into the owner’s plan or their budget. Of course, essentials like security, plumbing, air conditioning, etcetera, are addressed with alacrity. Our job is to triage and modulate the issues to keep tenants as happy as possible and still be accountable to the owners and their best interests.”

Kessling graduated from the University of Houston in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry. He worked for Dow Chemical in process research for three years – long enough to realize he didn’t want to do that for the rest of his life.

Two explosions during his time with Dow reinforced his decision. After quitting the chemical company in May 1974 and completing a three-month-long, cross-country trek on a motorcycle trip with his sweetheart, he returned to Corpus Christi to his family and to look for work.

During those months of searching for a career, he ran into an old high school friend, Steve Free, who was in the insurance business. Free invited him to ride along for a couple of days while he worked. Kessling found the business to his liking and joined Free’s company. For three years, he learned the insurance business and managed to make a living.

In 1998, he decided to broaden his expertise to include real estate. For three years, he learned the real estate business and continued working in both fields.

“In 1982, when the market was terrible, we had an opportunity to rent a property for a Navy lieutenant whose house we could not sell,” Kessling said. “I was against it, but my mom, who was still a nurse, convinced me to handle that one rental. And there it began.”

Kessling cultivated the business one property at a time.

“It’s kind of funny how it happens,” he said. “I didn’t get into it on purpose. You could say my momma made me do it.”

Working with his mother was one of the great joys of his life, Kessling continued. Helen Kessling was in the business for 10-plus years before health concerns led her to retire. She died in 2011 at the age of 94. She was 70 years old and a retired nurse when she went into business with Kessling.

“She was a full charge, degreed RN, for 43 years,” Kessling said. “I convinced her to go into business with me. She got her real estate license, and she worked it hard for 10 years or so. She enjoyed it a lot, and I absolutely loved working with her.”

Although he might have started late into the business, he has since made it his own. A graduate of Mary Carroll High School, Del Mar Junior College, and the University of Houston, Kessling is also a longtime member of numerous organizations, including the Texas Apartment Association; the local, state, and national Boards of Realtors; the Better Business Bureau; the Corpus Christi Executives Association; and the National Federal of Independent Businesses. He held many professional designations in both fields.

Kessling’s long-term clients also attest to his company’s management abilities.

“Our experience is our resume,” he said.

On that resume, which is extensive, Kessling lists as assets his experience and many contacts in the community with all ancillary professionals such as utility providers, law enforcement, contractors of all sorts, judges, bureaucrats, and local office holders to name a few. Just some of the many people a property manager needs to know to get things accomplished for his owners.

“Our greatest assets in our company are the two ladies that form the core of our company and have for years,” he said. “These ladies form the backbone of our company, without which we would flounder.”

Laura Silva-Morin, who is the business manager, has worked with Kessling since 1994. Management Assistant Ericka Martinez came on board in 2003.

“They are simply the best in the business, and I am very fortunate to have them on our team,” Kessling said. “Of course, none of this would have been possible without the love and support of my honey, Rita Rita, for all these days —13,040.” Rita Rita is Rita Kessling, Kessling’s wife of 35 years and counting.

Kessling lists the loyalty earned pleasing clients as his greatest reward in business.

“We attempt at every juncture to get the very most bang for the buck for our clients,” he said. “We are very serious about our fiduciary responsibility. Our clients are our firmest responsibility.”

Contact Kessling Services at (361) 857-6789, or email Visit the website at

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