Veteran Realtors: Tools for Success Come With Experience


(Sunday, June 8, 2008 6:10 PM EDT)

Hard work, effective communication, technological prowess and keen negotiating skills allow Realtors to succeed in good times and bad, local real estate agents said.

The Sun Gazette asked dozens of local Realtors who were on the list of 2007 Multi-Million-Dollar Award Winners of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors one question: “What are the most important skills needed for long-term success in the Northern Virginia real estate business?”

Here's what they said:

Kay Abell, Long & Foster Arlington: “I think you need to be comfortable with a multicultural population and be prepared for an educated market. You need to be frank, honest and up front with prospective clients. It also doesn't hurt to have some savings, with the way the market is at this time.”

Dotty Abt, Long & Foster McLean: “You have to be honest and listen to what your clients desire, and have an ear for what they want, to serve them well. There are no short cuts. You have to work hard and play it by the book.”

Tom Anderson, Long & Foster Arlington: “I can boil it down to three things. One, always striving to improve my knowledge about the market so that whatever economic cycle we are in, my buyers and sellers can be assured of the best advice and service. Second, constantly keeping in touch with friends and past clients so that over the years there is a constant source of repeat business and referrals from people who know and trust me. And finally, hard work. I let people know by my actions that this is not a hobby that I jump into when the market is hot, and disappear when the market turns cool. It is a profession I do every single day, and my clients realize I am here to stay for the long term.”

Julia Avent, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “You just have to keep with the basics: Keep up with current information and keep in touch with your clients to let them know that you're still there. Buyers use their Realtor when they go to sell and need to remember their name. I keep up with personal notes or calling to see if they need a contractor or have questions about the market, and to remember me. You have to be there after the sale, to provide them with an after-service.”

Diana Bagay, McEnearney McLean: “Understanding the changes in the marketplace, keeping current with technology, patience and devotion to your clients and their needs.”

Deborah Bash, Long & Foster McLean: “Patience, because whether you are working with a buyer or a seller, the majority of people like to take their time about making a decision. So you give them the chance to make their decision with your guidance. You also need good negotiation and excellent communication skills. Your clients will respond to you much better that way.”

Cindy Beline, Weichert McLean/Old Dominion: “It takes persistence, patience and believing in real estate as a smart investment, because if you don't, you will fizzle out. Also, ask for business and referrals.”

Diane Bellaschi, Long & Foster McLean/Dolley Madison: “For one thing, knowing your market field and keeping in touch with a good client base. You need to keep a pulse on what's happening and be able to match what are the best options and what works best for your client.”

Rafael Beltran, Long & Foster Arlington: “What's important is knowledge, customer service, endurance, attitude, always tell the truth, and doing your homework every day. You have to respect people and insure that you always have the right answers to the right questions. Don't misrepresent them. All of this together combined as a package makes a Northern Virginia Realtor a successful Realtor.”

Chip Benjamin, Long & Foster Arlington: “It's being honest and candid with your clients, and being straightforward with them in both up and down markets. It's to advise them to help them make the right decision to move forward - or not, if that's the right decision at that time. That's part of what our job is. It's also listening to them and focusing on what their goals and needs are, not what our needs are.”

Pat Bias, Long & Foster Arlington: “Being knowledgeable and professional at all times, and being a good communicator, which is first and foremost to be a good listener, and react from there. Equally important is to have the ability to manage the buyer's or seller's expectations, to walk them from the beginning to the end, every twist and turn of the way, so in the end there's no surprises for them, and they understand everything that's going on. One last item: Follow u

Dede Brough, Long & Foster Arlington: “To be attentive to what the client wants and open to the client's needs.”

Pat Brosnan, Keller Williams McLean: “The most important thing is consistency, doing the basics. I think when the market got hot, [real estate agents] cut out things they were doing. You put up a sign and things sold. Now you have to work harder. Being consistent with lead generation has been helpful. It's back to the basics, doing the calls, work and follow-up.”

Nancy Broyhill, Long & Foster McLean: “You have to stay informed about the market at every turn and keep your sellers educated about it as well. You have to keep a strong work ethic and keep up to date with the changing methods of marketing properties and helping your clients find properties. It's a continuous learning curve, which is what keeps [real estate] interesting for those of us who've been in it for a long time.”

Patricia Bryant, Weichert McLean: “What's important is having the in-depth knowledge, experience and ingenuity to solve problems for buyers and sellers and help them prosper - across many types of business cycles.”

Robin Cale-Horak, McEnearney Arlington: “We started this business in 1991, when there was a market just like this one. The most important things are patience and perseverance so your clients understand the markets they're dealing with - whether buying or selling - and react accordingly. Satisfied clients breed more satisfied clients, which keeps you in business. The key is being willing to do the hard work to get through it all.”

Paula Calvin, McEnearney Arlington: “A good listener. It's what everything centers around.”

Tony Cammarota, Re/Max Distinctive Arlington: “I think it's important to have knowledge of the marketplace. Good negotiating skills are very important and when you're on the listing side, you need an actionable marketing plan that you can put into place. Today, we also need to be full-service. We need to have relationships with repair people, contractors, inspectors and mortgage people.”

Giovanni Cesaratto, Yeonas & Shafran McLean: “Networking and follow-up skills are important. The nature of the [real estate] process also has changed since 2000. The role of a Realtor is like a professional case manager. You have to have the ability to stay the course and manage the process for a long time. It's very rare now when you have a buyer who has to act within a month.”

Sharon Chamberlin, McEnearney Arlington: “It's really three-fold: first, continuing education, especially on knowing the contract and the legal implications. Second, it's networking with the agents who've worked in the market. You've got to know your financing and your Realtors. And third, you've got to have your basic, personal business standards, to make a certain number of calls, handwritten notes and drop-ins with your client base every day. It's all about your clients' needs.”

Lois Clark, Long & Foster McLean: “Listen to your client. Negotiate with integrity while establishing compromises and counterproposals that respect the wishes of the buyer and seller. Constantly monitor all details and troubleshoot all potential problems to ensure a smooth and happy completed transaction. Never let clients feel the anxiety of ‘not knowing.' Honor them with continuous updating.”

Cynthia Clemmer, McEnearney Arlington: “Not only in real estate, but any business, it's very important to maintain contact with your customer base and the people you know. It has to be consistent. You have to show up every day. You never know where your business is going to come from. Also important are communication, being straightforward, making sure you deliver what you promised and answering your phone.”

Poppy Cole, Prudential Carruthers Vienna: “You need to be consistent, follow up with conversations with clients and listen to what their needs and objectives are, whether they're buying or selling. Also, follow up with what you say you're going to do and be available.”

Jennifer Caterini, Long & Foster Arlington: “Patience and perseverance are important, especially considering the market we have now. It's a great buyer's market, but a little scary for first-time buyers, because we don't know where the market is going to go. We don't have a crystal ball. Good, open communication is key.”

Annie Cefaratti, Weichert McLean: “As my business partner, Scott Shawkey, says, two heads are better than one, particularly in the market we're seeing now. Hiring a real estate partnership has its benefits, because we can share ideas and bounce strategies off each other to create the best results for each of our clients. You need a skilled negotiator who is well-trained and experienced. Buyers and sellers need more time and patience from their Realtor to come to a meeting of the minds. Our success comes from our team approach.”

Melissa Dabney, Long & Foster Vienna: “First and foremost we need to be professional and ethical. We need to be educators and we need to have excellent communication skills. Keep your name and face in the public eye. People are searching on the Internet first, so you need to be available by phone or e-mail. People want you to answer that e-mail right away. Be accessible and available.”

Patricia Darneille, Century 21 New Millennium McLean: “I would say people skills, being able to deal with all types of people under sometimes adverse situations. Having perseverance and long-range goals is important. I know a lot of Realtors who aren't doing well during these slow periods, because they haven't looked ahead for that. Financially it's very difficult for them. Being a good negotiator is crucial. Also, being able to be a mediator for those crunch times.”

Lisa DeCarlo, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Vienna: “A good sense of business acumen. For the long term, [Realtors] need to develop a true business plan that is focused on long-term growth and building their client base. To do that, they have to stick to the basics of building a business: providing optimal customer service, developing a referral base, knowing the market, knowing the contracts, knowing the law and really focusing on the industry. This is a great time to build a career from the basics. That's the only way to stay in business.”

Mary De Luca, Long & Foster Arlington: “You really have to treat your real estate as a business, not just something you do, or a job. You always have to be thinking forward. You can't take anything personally. If it's a bad market, you have figure out a new way to get clients. You have to find a new way to do business. You shouldn't just depend on the market. You should always be able to make money.”

Anne DiBenedetto, McEnearney McLean: “A good Realtor needs to be an expert in their field. They must have a thorough knowledge of the current real estate market trends and values. Being able to adapt to the changing market is an essential element to the success of a good Realtor. A great Realtor must have good listening and communication skills and be able to gain the trust and confidence of their clients. Most importantly, all of my clients get treated as if they were my only client.”

Debbie Earman, Long & Foster Vienna: “Experience through several markets like the one we're going through, and experience with buyers and sellers - those are the things that the most successful Realtor has. Put the client first, before all needs. You have to be full-service agents . . . meaning checking the homes with them, showing their homes to everybody, staying with them through closing and just being there for them 24/7.”

Diane Edwards, Century 21 New Millennium McLean: “This isn't a hobby. This isn't part time. This isn't a quick money-making scheme. This is your profession. You have to really go after a big segment of the market. You can't just have one focus. In other words, you have to have more than just retiring people or young people. You have to go after a broader segment. If you commit to those two things you'll have your career over the long term.”

Heidi Ellenberger Jones, Buck & Associates Arlington: “I would say love for the market, enthusiasm and a search for continued education. You have to read the news, the economic reports, not just in real estate but in just general business, sales and marketing tools and books that provide marketing information and sales. The market is ever-evolving. You have to be out there talking to other real estate agents and business owners to see how the economy is affecting business. You have to get out there and meet people and have a wide sphere of influence.”

Sari Dajani, Weichert Vienna: “First, a good Realtor should be aware of the legal aspects and financial consequences of realty and at the same time should know exactly how real estate itself works. Be good to customers by taking clients' interests, negotiating the best deal and getting it through. Second, a Realtor must have systems in place and friends and connections to execute the systems.”

Nancy Davis, Long & Foster McLean: “I think, after all these years, that the best and most professional people are previous teachers and nurses. They have a lot of patience and understanding and are able to explain things very well. To stay in the business for a long time you have to be a good listener, stick to the basics, give people your time and attention and follow through.”

Dorota Dyman, Long & Foster Vienna: “The answer is: education, preparation, people skills, psychological insight and ‘total immersion' in their work. [Successful Realtors'] work motivates them, keeps them on their toes, makes them learn new technology, new systems, new legislation, stay on top of economic and demographic developments and all that's happening in their area. One must constantly adjust, learn, review one's course of action, evaluate the trends and educate their clients about them.”

Carol Ellickson, Weichert Great Falls: “It's getting each client the attention they need, whether they're buying or selling, and covering every detail. And being persistent, and just following through to the end with your client's best-case scenario always in mind.”

Heather Embrey, McEnearney McLean: “Patience. But I'm also a very big advocate of continuing education. It's very important to keep on top of every aspect of this market and to take advantage of the educational opportunities out there, because the more we know, the bigger benefit we are to our clients.”

Pat Estryn, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage McLean: “To really know your area and all the communities. To know where you can find a preschool, where the libraries are located, and the community centers; know what has a youth league or doesn't; point out the bicycle paths and jogging paths and shopping areas - those are the things that matter to people. If you educate people about the areas and where things are situated, they get more comfortable. Specific details. It's to know your product. That's what our value is.”

Pat Evers, Weichert McLean: “The ability to listen to the person that's come in to see them. To listen to the client, their needs. And be honest and realistic with them.”

Jean Fales Warne, McEnearney Arlington: “Number one is fluency with the latest technologies - and the willingness to use them and keep up to date on them. Second is having a thorough personal knowledge of the market and its inventory - and the willingness to spend the time to preview the inventory personally, especially in the area that you cover. The computer tells us a lot, but doesn't take the body through it. Keep your learning curve up, make your personal educational requirements higher than the minimum.”

Coral Gundlach, Fall Properties Arlington: “It's to be able to convince your sellers to do the right thing to their homes to be able to sell. So it's really all about persuasion skills and being able to set the right competitive price for the marketplace.”

Linda Haer, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Arlington: “I'm not sure I'm the one to ask, because I've had exactly the same amount of transactions over the past five years. But I think it's just being accessible and available, and being a resource to clients and friends, because that's where all of my business comes from. So it's establishing yourself as an expert and as a resource to help them out for any home-related issues or information about their property or values.”

Archie Harders, McEnearney Arlington: “One of the skills is, more than ever before, we need an almost encyclopedic knowledge, not only of the current inventory but also of various neighborhoods' track records. A Realtor's skill has to be not just to convince people, but, rather, to prove to them that there is value in a particular property. Another important set of skills is to be able to communicate with people from the whole spectrum of society - ages, races, everything. Not everybody uses the Web, believe it or not; many people still rely on the papers. So you have to know how to reach people, and you have to be able to demonstrate value to them and prove it to them. And the best way to do that is with facts and figures, not with hype.”

Jane Jensen, Weichert Arlington: “To be honest, ethical, responsible and hardworking - all the usual. But today, the big things are to be tech savvy, to have a Web presence and to be responsive pretty quickly. People do expect that.”

Tammy Jones, Cameron Duke Real Estate Arlington: “The same skills that have been tried and true for years and years: Being honest and ethical, developing good negotiating skills and marketing our properties. Real estate is a long-term investment, and it's counseling our clients to make the best possible decisions. That's what our job is.”

Cindy Mathys, Re/Max Allegiance Arlington: “Focus on the customer. During the height of the bidding wars, a lot of people got into the business thinking they could make a quick buck. This is a hard job. I work whenever the client needs me to. I research about 30 target areas every morning for a couple of hours. It keeps me on top of what's happening. I think this market is starting to shake out the people who approached real estate as something less than a full-time job. Also, you need to stay up with technology - you can't be tied to a land line and a land computer.”

Jim McGarity, Long & Foster Arlington: “I believe that working your own subdivision, where you live, is very important. You're there, you're a homeowner, you have the same problems. You want to be a friend, want to help them get their houses on the market and get them sold. Just try to be a friendly neighbor and market their homes the correct way so they get the highest return on their investment.”

Additional Realtors will be profiled in the Summer Real Estate Guide, coming in July.

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