Reflections on His Youth

Guest Editor Matt Difanis explains why his 30U30 honor remains close to his heart.

My inclusion in REALTOR® Magazine’s 2004 “30 Under 30” class remains one of my proudest professional accolades. Of course, 13 years ago, learning I had been named to the list of rising young real estate stars required me to ride my horse to the local telegraph office to await word on who made the cut! In all seriousness, the honor has even more value today, because social media and online networking have made it simple to connect and support each other. Just a few weeks ago, I placed a referral via the “30 Under 30” Facebook group. The power of this robust network keeps growing.

Serving as guest editor for this issue helped me appreciate the painstaking scrutiny the magazine staff gives to the mountain of applications—more than 300—that they received for this inestimable recognition. The honorees, whom you can read about here, were chosen for their impressive business acumen in addition to their community and REALTOR® association involvement. For me, the honor opened my eyes to the staggering array of benefits, services, and advocacy that the National Association of REALTORS® provides to members. That awakening spurred my own deeper association involvement at the state and national level, including my decision to become an RPAC major investor. Today, I’m living proof that engaging within one’s community and the REALTOR® organization—and being a very high-producing, boots-on-the-ground practitioner—are not mutually exclusive.

Last year my team of six agents and I in Champaign, Ill., closed 246 transactions, and we’re on track for strong growth this year. I’m also an actively engaged broker-owner of a multioffice RE/MAX franchise with 65 agents. In addition to our real estate work, we’re devoted to community involvement, investing hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars annually in local nonprofit activities.

My upcoming stint as 2018 president of Illinois REALTORS®, however, has forced me to think more strategically about the increasing demands on my time. I wanted to find a way to keep growing our charitable impact beyond what my own schedule allows. Last September, I created a new staff position on my team: director of community involvement. An energetic recent college graduate named Peyton Hutchison now holds that job, working to evaluate opportunities and coordinate team volunteer projects with local groups. Months into this uncharted territory, I am pleased to report that Peyton’s contributions to the team are proving as valuable as they are versatile. Her work includes helping plan the March of Dimes annual fundraising auction and supporting programs for our local youth club. It’s a role other busy teams or brokerages might consider developing. Our director of community involvement makes us all look good while helping us do more good for those in need in the communities we serve. 

The ravages of age notwithstanding (hello, jowls!), I believe my younger self would be pretty impressed with how things have turned out.