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This article was published on: 06/01/2004

COVER FEATURE: Thirty Under Thirty

BY JANE ADLER, BARBARA BALLINGER, PAUL BEAKLEY, MARGARET CRANE, and CHRISTOPHER WRIGHT

Aiming high

Esaul Alatriste, 27
Andrew M. Arroyo, 26
J. Stotle Baird, 23
Trevor W. Benn, 29
Alexander Betances, 29
Katrina S. Campins, 24
Christopher J. Curry, 23
Matthew I. Difanis, 27
Dan Estey, 27
Raeid Farhat, 23
Joseph Hoyt Feliciano, 29
Billie Franklin, 29
Mandy Gardner, 28
Matthew G. Garrison, 28
Yanni Georgas, 24
Kevin W. Glenn, 29
Kimberly Gomberg, 28
Wade Hanson, 27
Leslie A. Hopkins, 28
Mara Ackermann Klopfer, 28
Nga T. Le, 29
Raylene Lewis, 27
Ilona Matteson, 28
Thomas S. McCormick, 25
Jacqueline A. Miller, 29
Richard E. Paradise, Jr., 27
Marketa Pospisil, 29
Ryan J. Styles, 29
Ramelia D. Williams, 28
Terry L. Zimmerman Jr., 29
Brady Brittain, 27
Sage Novak, 29
Brian Pakulla, 28
James Raysbrook, 25
Scott Smolen, 29

They haven’t all had their shot at fame on TV and the cover of People magazine, as one of them has, but they’re making a mark all the same. This year’s “30 under 30” have benefited from the robust real estate market and are building on their success by investing in real estate, opening their own companies, and becoming leaders in their community and their association.

Although they followed different paths into the profession, these twentysomethings share one dream: to lead in the competitive business of real estate. And though most don’t have many years under their belt, they’re showing their elders and peers new ways to establish contacts, professionalize their business, and achieve their dreams.

ESAUL ALATRISTE, 27
Salesperson, Realty Executives Premier, San Diego

“I was surprised at how poorly informed most people are when it comes to selling their home. They have no clue what’s involved.”

Alatriste was working at a construction equipment rental business when a customer, a real estate salesperson, suggested that he switch careers because of his savvy sales and phone skills. He was scared but took the risk when the salesperson offered to mentor him. He’s worked full time in real estate since February 2003, reaching $8 million in sales in his first year.

Important lesson learned: Initially Alatriste spent 18 hours a day working and ignored his family. His broker suggested he join the Mike Ferry coaching program to learn to prioritize. He did and now has quality time for his family, a wife and two children, 6 and 1.

How he gives back: During a parent-teacher conference at his daughter’s school in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, Alatriste learned that the students had only black-and-white photocopies of books. He organized a fundraiser, soliciting local businesses to buy books. The result: 300 books in English and Spanish. He continues to seek contributions and donates 5 percent of his income to the school for future book purchases.

ANDREW M. ARROYO, 26
Broker, Arroyo & Arroyo, San Diego,www.andrewarroyo.com

“I’m a face-to-face kind of guy. Not being behind a desk is what attracted me to real estate.”

Experience as a music producer who had set up sound-recording studios inspired Arroyo to create a high-tech mobile office in his car. He has all the tools needed to work, including a satellite Internet connection for his laptop, fax machine, printer, and flat-screen video. The results are great efficiency on the road and a strong “wow” from his clientele and their kids. Wee ones watch movies while parents look at listings.

How he got into real estate: A strong desire to surf and retire at a young age spurred Arroyo to relocate to San Diego from San Francisco six years ago. After spending most of his time near pricey beachfront property, he found that he was good at schmoozing with the area’s wealthy homeowners about furnishings, artwork, and investing. He got his real estate license and focused on the luxury home market.

The one downside: 85-hour workweeks leave little time to surf.

J. STOTLE BAIRD, 23
Manager, Abio AHK, Dallas, www.dallasintown.com

“Being young doesn’t always work for me. I’m associated with an experienced partner, which provides legitimacy.”

A year after graduating from Southern Methodist University at age 21, Baird got into real estate. In his first year at Keller Williams Realty Inc., he became its youngest general partner and branch owner, he says. His volume hit $8.5 million that year. He left after a year to form a partnership with Dallas real estate maven Betty Abio, who knew about him from his “ridiculous number of billboards and advertisements,” he says. “We hit if off, and formed a partnership by opening Abio AHK this year.”

Most successful marketing strategy: He carved out a niche as one of the favored brokers for the gay and lesbian community in the Oak Lawn section of Dallas. More than three-fourths of his staff is gay, the rest are hip and “gay-friendly,” he says. The focus has proved lucrative, with sales expected to hit $20 million by the end of 2004.

Important lesson learned: If you’re young, gay, and extremely successful, not everyone will sing your praises, Baird says. He says partnering with an established salesperson has helped him increase his credibility and overcome the negative reactions of some prospects.

TREVOR W. BENN, 29 ABR®, e-PRO®
Broker, Honolulu Realty, Honolulu, www.honolulurealty.com

“First-time buyers are my favorite. I love showing them how to do deals. Invariably they call me back in a couple years.”

Having graduated from a top prep school in Hawaii, Benn has a strong circle of contacts for his upper-end listings and investment properties. His first commercial transaction, a Japanese-owned golf course, came through a prep-school contact. About one-third of his volume now is commercial but if several hotel projects work out, that could zoom to 90 percent.

Target marketer: He uses his knowledge of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 to teach homeowners the benefits of tax-free capital gains on the sale of their home. “We have a lot of military personnel in my area,” he says. “The savvy ones buy homes with their housing allowance.” When they ship out—as long as they’ve been in the home two years—they can make some money.
Thinking big: Benn’s experience with the golf course listing gave him a new plan—to get into real estate development within the decade. He’s also putting together investment groups to pick up foreclosures, which are increasing, he says. “Maybe I’ll be the Donald Trump of Hawaii!”

ALEXANDER BETANCES, 29
Sales Associate, Century 21 Park Road, Wyomissing, Pa.,www.century21parkroad.com

“I see how happy they are when they move in. That’s the reward for me.”

His niche has become relocating Spanish-speaking families to his Pennsylvania community from New York and New Jersey. He translates their sales contracts and other documents. In 2002, the first year he was licensed, he won a company award for being a top 100 salesperson in the Pennsylvania/Maryland region with a volume of $2.25 million.

Marketing strengths: About 85 percent of his business comes from referrals to Spanish-speaking customers. But he’s also aggressive about tapping leads. He hands out business cards at supermarkets and advertises in a Spanish-language newspaper, Atiempo.

Overcoming cultural barriers: Many of his buyers lack confidence in the banks in their home country. Betances uses himself as an example of someone who works well with lenders.

KATRINA S. CAMPINS, 24
Broker-owner, K Real Estate Group, Coral Gables, Fla.,www.katrinacampins.com

“Don’t stop until you achieve what you want five times over.”

Campins made it into the final six out of 215,000 applicants this year on NBC’s “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump as her potential boss. To participate she took off several months from work. She worried that doing so would negatively affect her image and business but has found the reverse.

Moving in rarefied circles: Campins, who closed her first real estate deal at age 18, say her stint as a TV star has enhanced her visibility and introduced her to a new circle of movers and shakers. She specializes in high-end luxury homes but handles lower-cost listings, too. Last year she closed 43 transactions with a volume of $17 million.

What really counts: “There’s no success without sacrifice,” says Campins, who works 15-hour days and describes herself as “driven and intense.” But just as important to her success are compassion, integrity, and a sense of ethics—even if she was teased on TV for saying she’s a good person, she says. She learned those traits from her parents. “You only have one reputation. If you lack in any of the three values, your reputation will be damaged,” she says.

CHRISTOPHER J. CURRY, 23
Salesperson, RE/MAX Professionals Inc., Gainesville, Fla.,www.curryteam.com

“Offer a guarantee: Your home sold in 60 days, or I’ll buy it for cash.”

Curry uses a team approach to work two markets, Gainesville and Lake City. Having grown up with nine siblings, he’s used to being part of an extended group. He brought two brothers, a sister, and his father into the company over the last few years.

How he got into real estate: He took his first real estate class at age 16 and received his license shortly after turning 18, the minimum age to get a license in Florida. Last year he did 117 transactions worth $14.5 million.

He tells it all: Got a real estate question? Curry has answers. He emcees a 30-minute live call-in radio talk show each Saturday. The broadcast is paid programming—he spends $3,000 monthly for the airtime—but Curry says the show reaches his target and generates sufficient business to offset the cost.

MATTHEW I. DIFANIS, 27
Salesperson, RE/MAX Realty Associates, Champaign, Ill.,www.CURealtor.com

“Harness technology to make day-to-day operations efficient.”

While attending law school full time in 2003, Difanis managed to close 40 transactions worth $5.3 million. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law last month.

Technology edge: Juggling school and work pushed Difanis to become efficient. “With a broadband connection, I can work anywhere,” he says. His content-rich custom Web site attracts new clients, with such information as current listings, frequently asked questions (Don’t real estate practitioners make a fortune? Not on average, he responds), and a real estate financing and area resource guide.

Case closed: With a thriving real estate business, Difanis no longer plans to make law his career. But he uses his legal skills when he eyeballs a contract.

DAN ESTEY, 27
Broker-associate, Coldwell Banker Residential, Boulder, Colo.,www.boulderbroker.com

“I’ve made every possible mistake on my fixer-upper. I feel good when I help others avoid that.”

Estey has hit paydirt—$8 million in annual sales—targeting parents of University of Colorado students who’d rather buy than sink money into rent. His booklet “The Student and Parent Guide to Campus Property” is also available in PDF format on his Web site. Parents aren’t his only target; he also focuses on homebuyers eager to buy and fix up a first home then trade up.

Buttering up past clients: To attract referrals, Estey calls on his Maine upbringing, hosting an annual client appreciation party themed around an old-fashioned New England lobster bake.

Why he’s succeeded: Estey approaches business like a marathoner rather than sprinter. “You don’t churn out deals but go for repeat, long-term business,” he says. He’s even turned away business that wasn’t in a client’s best interest, he says.

RAEID FARHAT, 23
Salesperson, Coldwell Banker Campos, Watsonville, Calif.

“I want to be sure people are treated right.”

Farhat and two of his brothers decided to build an investment business that would give them financial freedom. He focused on real estate; his brothers concentrated on management and construction. He posted more than $27.5 million in sales volume last year.

His competitive edge: Farhat’s Spanish and Arabic fluency has helped him win business with non-English speaking clients, who don’t always get the respect they deserve, he says.

What he likes most about the industry: He likes the potential for repeat sales from first-time buyers. “I don’t like to categorize myself as a buyers’ agent, but I like buyers more than sellers. Sellers move out of the area, and you rarely get repeat business. I expect to get a buyer back within five years,” he says.

Steady investors: Farhat and his brothers invest in fixer-upper properties. “We try to buy single-family homes, duplexes, and three-plexes every two or three months, fix them up, and sell them,” he says.

The brothers’ philosophy: Work now, play later.

JOSEPH HOYT FELICIANO, 29 CIPS, CRS®
General manager, Joe Feliciano Realty, Ponce, Puerto Rico,www.propertyadviserspr.com

“The personal touch and professionalism are the keys to success in this business.”

In his early 20s, Feliciano resurrected the family business—founded by his father and mother in 1970—after his father became disabled in a 1996 car accident. The young Feliciano diversified the company’s operations to include relocation and foreclosure departments. Meanwhile, his personal sales volume climbed close to $8 million last year.

Association leader: In the process of rebuilding the company, Feliciano gained visibility in the real estate community. This year, he’s president of the Puerto Rico Association of REALTORS®. He’s also active in NAR, currently serving on the Housing Needs Committee and as NAR’s ambassador for Peru. His involvement has honed his leadership skills and provided new business opportunities. Last year Feliciano was recognized as the Real Estate Professional of the Year in Puerto Rico by a group called The Most Distinguished Professional Men and Women Inc.

Nonstop marketing: Feliciano writes real estate articles for the island’s 350,000-circulation newspaper, El Nuevo Dia. He also sponsors regattas, fishing tournaments, and a professional basketball team.

BILLIE FRANKLIN, 29, e-PRO®
Broker-associate, Beverly-Hanks & Associates, Waynesville, N.C.,www.beverly-hanks.com

“I’ve always been big into giving back to the community.”

Soon after entering the business at 23, Franklin caught the attention of industry veterans. William Bass, past president of the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®, says her dedication, education, professionalism, and volunteer work have helped her overcome age bias. Franklin’s broker-owner, Alice L. Mosteller, also lauds her as “a gifted young lady with a bright future in the real estate industry.” The financial proof: The two-person team she manages closed $10 million in sales last year.

The joys of leadership: Franklin likes association work because it allows her to learn and educate others, she says. Last year she was president of the Haywood County Board of REALTORS®. She’s also active in community service and on a local economic development committee, which has produced some relocation business for her team.

Customer service maven: After a contract’s signed, Franklin calls clients daily to ensure a smooth transaction. She maintains contact through regular postcards and newsletters and an annual appreciation party for past clients and colleagues.

MANDY GARDNER, 28
Broker-associate, Century 21 Maselle & Associates, Jackson, Miss.,www.MandytheRealtor.com

“I’m single. My career is my life right now.”

Gardner’s personal sales volume of just under $10 million last year placed her at the top of her 90-salesperson company and second among all Century 21 associates in her state for 2003.

Making herself visible: She sends monthly mailings to two subdivisions and fellow alumni of Delta State University. “You get known and referrals happen faster if you concentrate on specific areas and groups,” she says. She attributes 70 percent of her business to these mailings, which bring her repeat business and new buyers alike.

Don’t forget to laugh: Gardner uses attention-getting ideas, such as shocking pink paper for Valentine’s Day and her own funny drawings of houses. Each mailing is different, whether it’s a holiday postcard, flyer, or her 10 reasons to live in a certain subdivision.

School ties: She’s president of the local 1,500-member alumni association of her college, located two hours away. Her involvement brings her referrals—she even sold a home to the past president of her college—as well as relocation business because Jackson is a hot job market now, she says.

MATTHEW G. GARRISON, 28
Sales consultant and managing director of the Matt Garrison Team, Coldwell Banker, Chicago, www.mattgarrisongroup.com

“Working for yourself can be a liberating thing.”

Shortly after he started working in June 2002, he recognized he needed help and hired nine salespeople over a 20-month period. He attributes his success to the healthy niche he spotted in new construction and to providing developers with market research about homebuying wants. Last year his team generated sales of $27 million.

The survey says: Garrison surveys customers on why they bought and what specific features they wanted, analyzes third-party studies, and tracks prospects who come through developers’ sales centers. When he saw a trend of buyers wanting to work from home, he convinced developers to build in workstations.

Business strategy: He tells developers, you’re hiring a marketing department, not just a broker. He has mastered marketing skills without a formal degree but from on-the-job training and common sense, he says. Through his market research surveys for developers, he recently secured work with Chicago developer RDM Development and Investment LLD, “from inception through completion,” he says. “We’ll put together brochures and advertising strategies for the company and handle its listings.”

Deferred gratification: He reinvested profits from early transactions to build his team. He also spent money building proprietary software to manage mailings and give clients Web-based information. He’s rolled out a $100,000 advertising campaign, which runs through October. “Enjoy the profits later,” he says.

YANNI GEORGAS, 24
Broker, Raben Real Estate Inc., Rapid City, S.D., www.rabenrealestate.com

“Treat people with respect now for a good future return.”

Georgas had an auspicious start in real estate, representing the buyer and seller in a strip shopping mall, which sold for $2.35 million. The buyer, an investor, had supported Georgas in his high-school wrestling career. Once Georgas got involved in real estate, this mentor supported his professional career as well, he says. Besides earning his broker’s license, Georgas is a partner in two development companies, both of which build single-family townhouses.

No rush: Because he doesn’t like to be pressured when he makes decisions, Georgas uses a low-pressure approach with buyers and sellers. He also encourages first-time buyers to live within their means and not max out their finances when they buy a home. “They need to save some of their money for other purposes,” says Georgas.

KEVIN W. GLENN, 29
Broker-owner, Destination Real Estate and Apt. Locating, Houston,www.whatsyourdestination.net

“I’m trying to put people in a better situation than they’re in now.”

Glenn’s a true entrepreneur. He started as an apartment manager while working his way through college but added real estate sales when some early contacts were ready to buy. His real estate business took off, so he opened a brokerage office five years ago. He became a loan officer last year. He’s now thinking about adding commercial listings and sales since he owns two income-producing properties and a convenience store.

Helping others: Glenn gives homebuying seminars to fellow African Americans and to Hispanics at churches and at minority youth group meetings. “I feel that it’s my responsibility to educate minorities,” he says. “I’m amazed that there are so many individuals who don’t have the knowledge to get a loan,” he says.

Grateful to be here: “I believe that I’m very lucky and blessed,” he says, “to have accomplished as much as I have by age 29.”

KIMBERLY GOMBERG, 28
Salesperson, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, Coral Gables, Fla.,www.kimgomberg.com

“I believe people can accomplish anything if they have ethics, perseverance, and the willingness to learn.”

Gomberg had a great 2003—selling more than $20 million in real estate—but made time for philanthropy as well. She’s on the board for the Coldwell Banker Community Cares Foundation, which contributes to neighborhoods where its salespeople work; a volunteer for the ALS Recovery Foundation, which works to eliminate Lou Gehrig’s disease, an illness her grandfather has; and a volunteer for the annual Huntington’s Disease triathlon.

Real estate’s in her blood: After working as a manager for a luxury high-rise apartment building in Miami from 1999 to 2002, Gomberg got her license. She thought her uncle, a local single-family, luxury-home builder, would drop some listings in her lap. But he expected proof she was serious—so she went to work, showing him detailed listing presentations, a marketing plan, and her Web site. So far she’s sold three of his homes and has listed two others.

Her marketing mix: She uses a combination of marketing techniques, including open houses, advertising, eight domain names, and digital photos of new construction, taken from the time ground is broken all the way through a project’s completion.

WADE HANSON, 27 ABR®
Broker-owner, Leech Lake Realty, Walker, Minn.,www.wadehanson.com

“Vince Lombardi said, ‘The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of will.’”

Hanson took over his family business after a tragedy. His sister, the victim of a sexual assault, committed suicide four years ago. Instead of becoming embittered, Hanson was inspired to make a difference, donating office space to a sexual assault program. He has also participated in an adopt-a-highway program, gathered toy donations for needy kids, and sponsored boys’ and girls’ basketball fundraising events. His parents still work part time in the business.

Business sense: Buyers may come to Leech Lake—a vacation community 200 miles from Minneapolis—for the slow pace. But that doesn’t mean they want their salespeople stuck in the dark ages, Hanson says. He hired a director of information technologies and Internet marketing to set up Web sites and network office computers. He also hired a full-time legal counsel and a year ago opened a second office in Hackensack, 15 miles south of the Walker office. A third office is planned.

Challenge of selling way up north: Each winter the temperature around Leech Lake dips below zero, but that doesn’t deter Hanson from selling dreams of lazy summer days by the water. In a typical recent sale, a Georgia couple bought a $1 million vacation home in the dead of winter. To check out listings, they had to buy boots, mittens, and hats, he says.

LESLIE A. HOPKINS, 28
Salesperson, Realty Executives, Scottsdale, Ariz.,www.lesliehopkins.com

“I look at myself as a role model for other single parents, helping them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Hopkins, a single parent, moved from property management to real estate sales in 2001 to have more flexibility with her daughter, then 3. This year she established Extraordinary Single Parents (ESP), a program that provides up to $6,000 in downpayment assistance to other single parents. She supports the program through fund-raising and a portion of her commissions. So far ESP has helped three people. Hopkins also formed a support group for single parents and is involved with Habitat for Humanity.

Condo focus: Hopkins specializes in selling condos to first-time buyers and investors in the North Scottsdale area. She targets owners and investors at area subdivisions who may be interested in switching units or buying a second property. She also sends direct mail to out-of-state investors and buyers. In less than a year, she’s become her area’s condo expert, she says. She started her own company in 2002 and last year had $3.5 million in sales volume.

MARA ACKERMANN KLOPFER, 28 ABR®
Broker-owner, RE/MAX Consultant Group, Columbus, Ohio, www.ackermannteam.com

“I brought a different generation’s perspective to the market, particularly about the necessity for technology.”

Klopfer got into real estate to help her mother, Marty Ackermann, out of a jam. Ackermann, a practitioner for more than 30 years, had an assistant quit. So Klopfer, who had recently graduated from college and planned to attend law school, agreed to help for a short period. Six years later, she’s running the Ackermann team as broker-owner of a RE/MAX franchise and serving as president of an association of Central Ohio RE/MAX franchisees. Her sales volume last year was $8 million.

Warm welcome: From the outset, seasoned colleagues have treated her as a protégé rather than a competitor. “They take each deal as a mentoring opportunity,” says a grateful Klopfer. “I can call them with questions about deals, and they’re happy to help me.”

Ten years from now: She dreams of a 40-hour work week rather than her current 80 hours a week so she has time to start a family. But meeting that goal will be a challenge since she’s working as a broker, selling property, and participating in community service activities. Still, she’s glad her original career plans were sidetracked. “I probably would’ve ended up in real estate anyway, but I would have lost three years of experience,” she says.

NGA T. LE, 29 GRI
Salesperson, Boucher & Co., Woonsocket, R.I., www.boucherrealestate.com

“Work smarter not just harder to exceed your clients’ expectations.”

When she was just 7, Le immigrated to this country from Vietnam with her father and brother. Her mother had died the year before. The young Le grew up with a determination to succeed—and where else but in real estate, which she says “epitomized the American dream”? After six years in the business, she was No. 2 in her company, with $17.2 million in sales, up from $13 million in 2002. She recently formed The Nga Le Team with a buyer representative and coordinator.

Asian influence: Her background gives her an edge with the South East Asian community. “Even if I don’t speak their primary language,” says Le, who has retained her Vietnamese fluency, “they relate well to me since we’re from the same part of the world.”

Secrets of her success: Le follows up on every lead and returns phone calls within 24 hours. “Even if a listing sells before I get back to them, I call since I might help them with another property or help their family and friends,” she says. She has branched into a variety of niches, including rentals, an active adult community, commercial, and land brokerage. On most types of listings, her company offers a fixed fee to sellers who are willing to handle much of the sales and marketing work. “It’s proved really popular,” she says.

RAYLENE LEWIS, 27
Salesperson, Century 21 Beal Inc., College Station, Texas,www.realtor.com/bryancollege/raylenelewis

“Find a niche and build your business from there.”

Lewis is a rainmaker in the competitive FSBO market. She looks FSBOs squarely in the eye, she says, and convinces them that she knows more than they do. Last year she closed 97 units—more than 30 percent of which were FSBOs—for a total of $13 million in sales. That was good enough to rank her No. 4 in commissions out of almost 2,800 Century 21 practitioners in the surrounding South Texas and South Louisiana region.

Knowledge is power: Lewis makes sure buyers and sellers know she’s the answer person for questions on schools, shopping and recreation, and financing options. She gives out buyer and seller packets with detailed checklists and frequently asked questions. Lewis also has a toll-free number through Century 21 Mortgage that gives her buyers access to free loan approval within 10 minutes.

Forever yours: Lewis never takes the relationship for granted, she says. After a sale, she gives buyers a homeowner’s portfolio with her name imprinted on the front, packed with important documents, such as copies of their appraisal, inspection, surveys, important documents, and the business cards of competent area service providers. When she lists a house she sends a thank-you both before the sale is made and after.

ILONA MATTESON, 28 ABR®
Broker-manager, Beach Realty & Construction, Kitty Hawk, N.C., www.beachrealtync.com

“Listen to other professionals for ideas and feedback.”

Matteson started as a sales assistant eight years ago, earned her license a year later, and soon began teaching a CE class on buyer representation. Later she added classes for brokers and salespeople. “Teaching gives me the opportunity to help others. I define my success in my ability to see their progress,” she says.

Raising expectations: In 2002, Matteson was named sales manager for Beach Realty’s four offices and broker for its Kitty Hawk office. She helped the four offices double annual sales to $60 million by increasing staff training, replacing underperformers, and demanding accountability.

Providing support: “Each associate in my office has a written business and marketing plan with goals,” she says. To help them reach their goals, Matteson taps the advice of a business consultant and management coach. Last year, the 14 salespeople in Beach Realty’s four offices surpassed $70 million in sales volume. Her biggest success, she says, has been coaching one salesperson to increase annual sales from $3.5 million in 2003 to $7 million in the first 90 days of 2004.

THOMAS S. MCCORMICK, 25
Property manager and salesperson, Action Real Estate Services, Gainesville, Fla.,www.tom-mccormick.com

“Technology saves time and legwork.”

McCormick’s foray into real estate began during his freshman year in college, when he bought a “kiddie” condo, after which he made a specialty of buying these units and selling them to parents, eager for a good investment. McCormick went on to law school but not before he formed a property management business. After earning his law degree, he merged his company with Action Realty, which now employs 25. He personally sold nearly $11 million worth of real estate in 2003.

Just a click away: McCormick has made foreclosure his specialty: He’s in his office by 6 a.m. to check online court records for foreclosures so he can alert clients by e-mail about investment properties. He goes after listings on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Web sites, too, and lists and sells foreclosed properties for several financial institutions.

Most important lesson learned: Never take shortcuts. “Doing so leads to mistakes,” he says. “If you put renters into a condo quickly without first checking their financial history or having their parents sign as guarantors,” he says, “you may be in for a big headache.”

JACQUELINE A. MILLER, 29 GRI
Salesperson, Edina Realty, Eagan, Minn.,www.jamrealty.com

“Delegate the details so you focus on dollar-productive tasks.”

Miller courts first-time buyers because they typically represent the potential for quick repeat business—many move within three years. Cultivating this niche helped her close 73 transactions last year, she says.

Professional approach: Committing an annual business plan to writing helps her firm up goals, estimate expenses, and think through her marketing strategies. She employs a full-time assistant to handle paperwork and marketing and help her manage her busy schedule.

Service after the sale: “I follow up after the closing with a written survey that provides me with useful information, such as ‘Did the experience meet your expectations?’ and ‘Were you happy with communications throughout the process?’” she says. She keeps the relationship going throughout the year with wreath and pumpkin giveaways, anniversary and birthday cards, newsletters, and recipe cards, she says. One of her favorite traditions is a movie night at a local theater. She greets everybody at the door with candy in hand.

RICHARD E. PARADISE JR., 27 ABR®
Salesperson, RE/MAX 2000, Gilbert, Ariz.,www.paradiseinaz.com

“If you want to work with investors, you’d better be an investor.”

Paradise moved from Connecticut to Phoenix—with no professional contacts there—to get in on the Arizona capital’s booming real estate market. His fiancé built him a top-notch Web site with a catchy name. And he began building business by calling FSBOs in the evening and offering to list their homes on the site at no fee unless a sale resulted. In his first month, he listed $1 million worth of properties (one listing was $500,000). Many FSBO owners turned out to be investors, so Paradise began to focus on that niche. At the end of last year, his closed sales volume was $9.5 million.

Good attitude: Paradise was concerned about the high attrition rate for new recruits but was determined to survive. “I was going to be the one who made it,” he says. His ammunition? Self-motivation, independence, and hard work, he says.

Dressing professionally: In a region where businesspeople dress down—often wearing shorts and golf shirts—Paradise dresses up to stand out. He wears pants and a button-down, collared shirt with a tie most days. If the temperature soars above 105, he says, “I lose the tie.”

MARKETA POSPISIL, 29, e-PRO®, GRI
Broker, Century 21 Rickard Realty, Clackamas, Ore.,www.realestatepuzzle.com

“The most important client is the one you’re with.”

Six years after moving to Oregon from the Czech Republic and three years after getting into real estate, Pospisil is the top producer in her office, topping $5 million in sales in 2003 with a better 2004 underway, she says.

Out of the starting gate: In the beginning Pospisil knocked on doors. “People can hang up on you, but they don’t slam doors in your face,” she says. She won business by taking time to educate her small stable of buyers and sellers. “It takes pressure off them when they know what to expect,” she says. Quality, not quantity, remains her motto.

Clever marketing: In Pospisil’s campaign, her photo appears in a puzzle piece with the slogan, “The last piece to your real estate puzzle.” She carries the puzzle theme through her advertising and on her car. The result, she says, is instant recognition. “When people see the puzzle,” she says, “they know immediately who I am.”

RYAN J. STYLES, 29
Salesperson, Creative Property Services, Homes & Land, Santa Rosa, Calif.,www.stylesrealestate.com

“Be honest.”

Styles joined his father, John, in the business but didn’t want others to think success was being handed to him. To prove he had “the right stuff,” he set a goal to be a top producer within two years. He put in 10-hour days for 11 months, closing 29 transactions worth $9.6 million last year and winning the company’s award for rookie of the year.

What he learned from dad: Patience. “I’m patient in dealing with everyone, from stressed first-time buyers to egotistical salespeople who sometimes belittle me because of my age.” Another lesson: Be friendly. “My dad taught me to smile and say hello to everyone you meet. You never know where your next business will come from. I’ve also learned that if things don’t go well, don’t get emotionally involved,” he says.

Real-life start: Styles didn’t go into real estate directly from college but worked as an actor in independent films. He’s still active in local theater productions, though the pay is a modest $100 stipend. He also stars in a real-life role: 2004 president of the North Bay Association of REALTORS®’ Santa Rosa Chapter. Styles hopes to relocate to Los Angeles within the next 12 months to pursue his two passions: opening his own real estate company and revving up his professional acting career on the side. “The contacts I make in acting can help in real estate,” he says.

RAMELIA D. WILLIAMS, 28
Salesperson, Prudential Preferred Properties-Gold Coast, Chicago, www.WelcomeHomeChicago.com

“Pay attention to the details.”

For all the struggling new licensees out there, Williams is a reminder that success often requires perseverance. She didn’t get her first sale for seven months. But she stayed the course, tapping into savings and working 60-hour weeks. After she made her first sale, two others came fast on its heels. In 2003, she closed nine transactions with a volume of $2.15 million.

History lover: Condos are Williams’ bread and butter, but she also sells historic single-family homes and loves having the opportunity to explain a vintage property’s charms, such as pocket doors and servants’ quarters. The prime hunting ground for those historic homes: Chicago’s Southside Bronzeville neighborhood. During open houses, she engages buyers by asking questions, such as, “What do you think about the price?” and “How does this compare with other homes you’ve seen?”

Life-lesson learned: Real estate has little to do with selling a house, she says. The easy part is to find or sell the house; the harder part is to serve customers and get referrals. She’s found the secret; one buyer said of Williams, “She was such a joy to work with, after we closed the sale, I wanted to buy another home just to hang out with her.”

TERRY L. ZIMMERMAN JR., 29
Salesperson, The Carlin Co. Realty & Auctioneers, Bryan, Ohio

“Pick one high-dollar listing and set a goal to sell it within a year.”

This small-town pro racked up 105 transactions last year, worth $14.2 million in sales, by expanding his territory to cover two counties.

Going once, twice: A licensed auctioneer, Zimmerman supervises 10 auctions of estates and farms yearly, which helps him increase his leads, sales volume, and company visibility. So far only a small percent of his total sales volume comes from auctions but it’s steadily increasing, he says. He recently auctioned a $600,000 farm.

Domino effect: An executive bought an $800,000 home measuring 6,000 square feet with an indoor pool, barn, and 100 acres. The price paid was more than five times Zimmerman’s usual $150,000 listing. Zimmerman got to know the buyer well and convinced him to relocate his company to Bryan. Zimmerman handled the sale of the $450,000 office building, as well as several houses for relocated employees.

Moral: Don’t just ask for the sale. Ask what other sales may be next.

More success stories
Narrowing this year’s 370-plus applicant field involved great debate. Many promising applicants were eliminated to reach the magic 30. Here are five more young practitioners who are making a mark.

Brady Brittain, 27
broker-owner of Assist-2-Sell in Bryan, Texas, jumped from 11 transaction sides in 2002 to 97 in 2003. A successful print and TV advertising campaign and a commission rate below that of his competitors were the keys to his success, he says.

Sage Novak, 29 ABR®
a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Old Lyme, Conn., said yes to floor duty, a job experienced associates often shun. Her tangible results last year were sales of almost $7 million, up from $4 million the year before.

Brian Pakulla, 28
a salesperson with RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Columbia, Md.,racked up $20 million in sales last year by providing what he calls “Nordstrom” service. One post-closing strategy that worked: sending a cake to buyers on the anniversary of their purchase.

James Raysbrook, 25
a salesperson with Coldwell Banker Bain Associates in Bellevue, Wash.,posted almost $15 million in 2003 sales, a big leap from $7 million in 2002. His secret, he says, is “unforgettable frankness, candor, and fun.” Example: He takes relocating buyers on a dinner train that tours the area.

Scott Smolen, 29
a salesperson with RE/MAX Innovations 01 in Gambrills, Md.,saw his 2003 sales climb to $19.39 million in 2003 from $12 million the year before with the help of two buyer representatives. He keeps his team happy, he says, by cutting his referral fees and allowing them to keep 100 percent of any purchase business they bring in.

Stay tuned . . .

An application for the 2005 “30 Under 30” will be posted at REALTOR® Magazine Online in September.



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