Monday, January 05, 2009

Veronica Mullenix of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors

Reaching the World from the Heart of Katy
By Kate Sullivan-Conlan

Veronica Mullenix, broker associate at Coldwell Banker United, Realtors®, lives and works in Katy, Texas, but she impacts the real estate industry far beyond her city and state. Her own business is intensively Internet-based, so she can serve clients anywhere in the world. She also champions the use of the Internet to other real estate professionals, teaching and supporting them in developing their enterprises for maximum effectiveness. Her commitment likewise extends to numerous leadership positions with the Texas Association of Realtors and the Houston Association of Realtors.

Veronica infuses these three facets of her professional career with her warm enthusiasm for life, an enthusiasm that radiates from the foundation of her strong family life and her core belief in deeply held principles. Her favorite passage from Proverbs 24:3-4 applies both to her personal life and to her approach to real estate: “By wisdom is a house built, by understanding is it made firm; And by knowledge are its rooms filled with every precious and pleasing possession.”

An Internet-intensive Real Estate Practice

Ten years ago, when Veronica discovered her natural talent for real estate, she told Charlotte Goeters, her first sponsoring broker at the former Henry S. Miller Realtors, that her business plan would not be limited to sending out post cards and holding open houses. Her intention was to launch an all-internet business and specialize in residential long-distance relocations as well as local moves. “All I talked about was the Internet,” exclaims Veronica, who adds that

Charlotte “squished up her nose skeptically and remarked, ‘That’s up-and-coming, but how about today? No one buys houses on-line.’” Veronica was adamant: “But that’s what I intend to do!” Wisely, Charlotte supported Veronica on the condition that she meet with Toni Nelson, who was responsible for computer education at the company. Veronica took Toni’s class, and “while listening to her talk about real estate on the Internet, it was as if a beam of light shone directly on me, like I was the only one in the class! I was where I needed to be. I was all-in, hook, line, and sinker.” Today, Charlotte says, “Veronica has set a rare example of success for the new agent in new times! Veronica is a solid leader who has an accurate eye for recognizing and implementing productive pathways.”

Can a real estate agent using the Internet give the personalized service that has been the backbone of the industry for so many years? “Absolutely,” declares Veronica. “We can have high-tech and soft-touch!” Veronica uses her own webpage and the tailor-made webpages she creates specifically for each of her clients to show “I’m here to help. I’m here to step you through the process. I’m your eyes and ears in Houston.”

Through her website,, Veronica offers a comprehensive, incredibly user-friendly gold mine of information for both buyers and sellers from all across the country and the world. Her links include such pertinent topics as Real Estate News, Dream Home Finder, Your Home’s Value, Buyer and Seller Tips, and MLS Home Search. With families in mind, she has added extra sites, such as Here’s Houston and Community Links. The Wilsons, who relocated to Houston from Maryland with Veronica’s help, wrote to her: “… we are extremely blessed that we were able to find you, with your bubbly and positive personality, professionalism and well versed knowledge of the Houston area all wrapped up in one. Your website is the most unique and user friendly site that I have ever encountered.” Steve Barnes, president/CEO of the Houston Region of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors®, agrees, “Veronica exemplifies the type of agent who understands the needs of consumers by investigating new technologies and marketing programs – servicing future buyers and sellers today.” Bob Hale, president/CEO of the Houston Association of Realtors, adds, “Veronica’s commitment to customer service is second to none, and she is constantly finding ways to incorporate new technology to the benefit of her clients.”

For her personal buyers and sellers, Veronica maximizes the capabilities of the Internet to provide one-on-one service and around-the-clock accessibility combined with engaging friendliness and warmth. “My Internet service is always permission based,” says Veronica. “When clients contact me, I always ask if they would like to proceed from the comfort of their own homes. Almost always they respond, ‘Yes, can you show me how?’ We may eventually meet in person, but not always.”

Veronica helps her buyers make sense of the plethora of information available on the Internet. “Many of my clients are computer savvy, and they know information is out there, but it can be overwhelming.” She sets up a password-protected webpage for each client who wants one. She takes the information a particular client needs, organizes it, updates it, and makes it state-specific. She guarantees them, “You’ll have only what you need. Everything on your webpage will be relevant to you and never outdated.” She teaches them step-by-step and at their own speed how to navigate and use the information. “I help them make sense of it all.” She also sends them videos and still photos, even using her cell phone to beam photos to them for on-the-spot updates. “I may sometimes find it necessary to write my clients whole dissertations of information!” Veronica says. “But then I write on the subject line of the email how long my message is and how many minutes it may take in order to view everything. It’s a little extra touch so that my busy clients can know how much time they will need to set aside.”

The Garcia family, after moving to Katy from Florida, said, “It is a challenging process to buy a home as a long distance transaction; however, Veronica made it an efficient and easy process….Veronica was there to answer all our questions from start to finish.” Eric Spillane, also from Florida, trusted Veronica to handle three transactions back-to-back for him: “Her ability to work with all parties involved – other Realtors, contractors, escrow agents, lending reps, and of course myself, was amazing… She won me over right away with her ability to work with a busy professional by sending out meeting agendas, accurately gathering all the facts in our conversations, and by making herself available when I had questions… her online presence and knowledge of the World Wide Web made everything much easier as well.”

The Youngs, with their three small boys in tow, traveled from San Diego, California, and had only five days to find the perfect home. They loved how she “e-mailed homes to preview so we could focus on only the best during our house-hunting trip.” After Veronica helped Morgan Stagg, a senior civil/structural engineer, purchase a home in Katy, Ms. Stagg went on to buy two additional investment properties through her. “I can attest that Veronica has been influential in not only finding us a home, but in being a friend, a guiding light into the community, an asset in shaping my family’s financial investments in real estate, and a good neighbor.” Clearly, Veronica has mastered using high-tech applications to create highly personalized service.

Veronica provides a similar personalized service and webpage for her sellers. Many of these sellers she has never met in person, for they may live as far away as The Netherlands and Ecuador. “Through our Internet connection, I make them feel that they are involved.” When anything comes up regarding their real estate transaction, she posts it on their webpage. “I make them feel that they are here.” From Washington, DC, Liban Jama writes, “My home was marketed by a local Houston real estate agent for a number of months with absolutely no success. I then switched to Veronica and just a short time later my home was sold! Veronica was always cheerful, friendly, and most importantly, professional with all dealings with me…. She went extra miles with everything she did!”

Bob Hale, in praising Veronica’s pioneering of technology in real estate sales, says, “Veronica has been a staunch proponent of the online video home tour as an effective marketing tool for some time. She recently introduced us to the Flip video camera that, for less than $150, enables REALTORS to quickly and easily produce videos of their property listings and really bring those properties to life online.”

Lu Haas, vice president and branch manager of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors® in Katy, sums up: “During my years in residential real estate I have learned to identify a true professional. Veronica Mullenix is one of the best.”

A Lifelong Commitment to Excellence in Teaching and Learning

In college, Veronica earned a B.S. degree in elementary education with certification as a reading specialist. She taught for ten years, once being voted Teacher of the Year at Roberts Elementary School in HISD. “I loved the kids. I loved teaching!” she says. When Veronica set her sights on a career in real estate, she may have left the elementary classroom, but she never stopped expanding her knowledge base, and she never left teaching. Guiding her is another of Veronica’s favorite passages, Proverbs 23:12: “Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.”

As Bob Hale says, “Veronica is a natural teacher.” Informally, her door is always open, and she takes time out to counsel colleagues in Internet business development and email etiquette so that they can perfect their Internet proficiency and online entrepreneurial skills. Bob Hale adds that Veronica demonstrates to her fellow agents that “technology is available, affordable, and easy to manage – and that’s critical in these challenging economic times.” Formally, Veronica teaches pre-licensing course work at the Champions School of Real Estate, west campus.
Her advice to her colleagues and students: “Try it! Don’t be afraid of technology.” Her words of wisdom are based on the advice that Charlotte Goeters gave her when she was first starting out: “Don’t let what others say about you bother you. Do what you want to do.” Because she was the “Energizer bunny for the Internet,” she sometimes felt criticism from other agents who were wary that the global reach of Veronica’s Internet-based business encroached on their territory.

Her innovations were met with comments like, “You do too much for your clients,” and, “You have to show your homes in person, not on a computer.” Charlotte supported her in those early days, and now Veronica takes every opportunity to support and teach others. “When you’re breaking new ground, others may criticize you,” she counsels, “but just try it anyway. Get on Facebook and You Tube, use the web. The contacts you make today through social networking could later lead to referrals and new clients.”

Not only does Veronica teach others, but she also takes classes and expands her own certifications. She has earned seven major real estate designations, including GRI, ABR, and CRS, and she was one of the first in Houston to become certified as an e-PRO Internet Professional by NAR, and is now an NAR e-PRO Internet Trainer. She is a Texas Real Estate Commission Pre-licensing and MCE instructor and has her Quality Service Certification.
The QSC program is one that Veronica is particularly committed to, for it offers in-depth training for real estate professionals on a “disciplined approach to service delivery” so that, as Veronica says, “giving excellent service to our customers is not a random act, but a series of predictable, critical service steps that we follow with every client.” QSC also provides “accountability and transparency” because once clients of QSC-certified agents close their transactions, they rate their agents on a number of service criteria, and QSC posts those ratings on their website. Veronica consistently ranks at the Platinum level, the highest level of service satisfaction.

Veronica is most proud of her recent graduation, after an eight-month study, from HAR’s inaugural class of the Texas Association of Realtors Texas Realtors Leadership Program.
How does Veronica find time to keep up with her many commitments? She took the eight-week Star Makers S.M.A.R.T. Selling course in time management offered by popular real estate coach Floyd Wickman, and now lives by her Outlook calendar. “We learned to block out our time, starting with our personal time, then our money-making time. I color-code these blocks of time in my calendar and make appointments with myself! If I schedule forty-five minutes to work on my website, then at the end of that time, I stop and move on. I learned to be focused and disciplined when it comes to my business.” Veronica also has the support of her staff and colleagues, including Patti Lacy, with whom she shares office space; Barbara Ross and Elizabeth Pickens, her office administration assistants; and Rachel Noblitt, the office receptionist and appointment manager.

Her many years of training augment Veronica’s natural propensities for analyzing problems, developing and simplifying procedures, and quickly finding innovative solutions, skills that she contributes to every situation that she becomes involved in.

Leadership in the Real Estate Community

As an active, dynamic professional, Veronica loves the variety in her day, devoting her energy not only to her own real estate business and to teaching, but also to volunteer leadership roles at several levels. “My goal,” says Veronica, “is not to be number one in sales, but to be balanced in my life and do as many things as I can with my real estate license.”

Veronica’s leadership responsibilities enable her to direct the policies that affect 28,000 Realtors in the Houston area. She serves as a Director on the Texas Association of Realtors Board of Directors, and this month joined the TAR executive committee as a Region 14 Vice-President for 2009-2010. She also is a member of the TAR Professional Standards Committee for 2009 and has served on numerous other committees.

Veronica serves on the Houston Association of Realtors Board of Directors for 2008-2009. She was also the QSC Chairman in 2007 and has served on the Technology Advisory Group, the Communications Advisory Group, and the MLS Advisory Group, among others.

Strong Foundations

“Eight is great,” chants Veronica with a grin, the youngest of eight children. “We’re one, big, happy family. We always look forward to our times together, and we still get together for holidays. My close-knit family formed my personality. “ She and her high school sweetheart Michael both ended up at the same college, Southwest Texas State University (renamed Texas State University). She suspects her parents probably worked behind the scenes to get them there together since at first she would not tell Michael which college she had chosen. She wanted him to go to school where he wanted to go because “I wanted to make sure that our relationship would last. If it was going to work out for us, it would.” Twenty-three years and two children later, Michael is still the love of her life. “He is my soul-mate. He supports me. He lets me go to pursue my dreams. As long as he has healthy food and clean clothes – at least in the laundry basket – then he’s good to go!” Her secret to a successful marriage? “Talk to each other – all the time – about everything,” says Veronica.

Her secret for raising healthy, happy children? Veronica answers, “God.” When people comment that children don’t come with a parent manual, Veronica rejoins that the Bible is her parent manual. As she has told her son, “The Bible gives us basic instructions before leaving earth (acronym B.I.B.L.E.).” When her daughter was a preschooler and she was acting up, Veronica would tell her, “Be a good girl for mommy,” and quote Philippians 2:15, “The obedient sparkle like the stars in the sky!” She adds, “I didn’t make my children memorize Bible verses; instead, we lived by them. The Word lives in our hearts.”

When asked what is behind every successful real estate agent, Veronica quickly replies, “A good book!” She reads as much as she can, as often as she can. She even loves reading textbooks for fun, in particular McGraw Hill’s textbook, Principles and Practice of Marketing. While other women are sitting under their hair dryers at the salon and reading People magazine or Vogue, one can find Veronica with her heavy tome on her lap. “Okay, so I’m a nerd!” she laughs. When she is not reading or working, Veronica loves sleeping – and also biking on the nature trails in the early morning in Cinco Ranch, working out daily, practicing yoga with her daughter, and traveling with Michael and her family. “I love being outside. It’s one of the other great things about real estate – it’s both an inside and an outside job!”

With “ancient words” as the foundation of her personal life and her real estate practice, Veronica sums up her career: “My biggest strengths as a real estate professional are my faith in God, my honesty, sincerity, and overflowing enthusiasm. My clients can see and feel my positive energy when I respond quickly and enthusiastically to the challenges of their real estate transactions. But most of all, what I hope comes across is my true joy in serving others.”

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The Choices We Make

A new year another new start!

January always brings an opportunity to review our previous year and make some changes (if necessary) to do it better this new year.

What choices would you make in your life and in your business if you knew you could not fail?

I have heard allot of real estate agents in Houston complaining just how bad the real estate market is/was thanks to the downturn of the economy and the mortgage meltdown of last year. I am sure you will all agree, that Hurricane Ike’s visit to our community in September did not help any.

If the majority of your business was dependent on first time home buyers or buyers with credit challenges (certainly the life blood of our industry) who are having trouble qualifying for a loan, maybe it is time for you to find a new specialty. Have you considered getting your Luxury Home Specialist designation? How about specializing in the senior market? Maybe it is time to hire a bi-lingual assistant to start cultivating an emerging market?

Champions School of Real Estate has a number of classes available to help you change up your business. We are indeed fortunate to have Rita and her campuses there to help us switch gears. The more you know, the further you will go! Make it a point to take advantage of the classes, books and on-line programs available to you from a variety of industry sources.

Maybe it is time to go global! How many of you have had a taste of doing business on an international level? The internet can be a powerful tool to reach out to those in other parts of the world. But with all of the technology, sometimes we are so busy with the “high tech” we lose the “soft touch.”

Can a real estate agent using the Internet give the personalized service that has been the backbone of the industry for so many years? “Absolutely,” declares this month’s cover honoree, Veronica Mullenix of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors®. “We can have high-tech and soft-touch!” Veronica uses her own webpage and the tailor-made webpages she creates specifically for each of her clients to show “She’s here to help!” You will enjoy her story!

In our “Developer Profile” this month, we shine the spotlight on Ken Haney of the K.D. Haney Group, LLC. Ken is a custom builder, developer and United Airlines pilot taking “Green” building to new heights in a luxury rental community he is developing. Bayou Green, which will be situated on almost three acres bordering Brays Bayou, and will comprise a ten thousand square foot clubhouse and 258 luxury, multi-family homes. It will be an environmentally conscientious and energy efficient community with numerous cutting-edge technologies.

Ken’s goal is to achieve platinum or gold LEED certification status. According to Brian Malarky, AIA, Executive Vice-president and Director of Kirksey EcoServices and one of Ken’s partners in his vision, there are only two gold projects in Houston and no platinum certifications yet. LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a third-party certification system that rates buildings on their design and construction practices.

As always, good reading and good sales!

Success to you!

Steve Levine

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Karen Keating, Martha Turner Properties—Clear Lake

Sellin’ On the Dock of the Bay
By Woodie Stephenson

Martha Turner Properties agent Karen Keating of the Bay Area absolutely loves living and working along the Texas Gulf Coast. Prior to moving to Clear Lake, the waterfront specialist spent 8 years in Arizona, landlocked in the beautiful Sonora Desert as she attended college and first began practicing her real estate career.

“Someone told me that blood has the same salinity as sea water,” Karen shares, “I’ve often thought that is why people naturally want to be by the water.”

Whether selling a primary residence or helping with a second home, selling by the water has not only been a job for Karen, it has been a dream come true for the pioneering first agent at Martha Turner’s new Clear Lake office.

“There’s nothing better than living on the water,” Karen says, “I love to help my clients find the perfect waterfront home. I have always wanted to be close to the water and it’s an extreme pleasure for me to live and work where I do. There’s nothing like sitting on the boathouse at night, waking up the next morning and drinking my coffee as I look out over the bay. And, of course, the sunrise or sunset over water has to be the most romantic sight on earth.”

Growing up, Karen was a well-traveled young lady who saw many places, both near and far—Switzerland, Nigeria and the United States. The daughter of an oil company executive, her family was regularly on the move. Karen lived in three countries and five states all before turning 21 years of age.

Looking back on it now, my childhood was excellent training for my profession in real estate,” Karen shares, “I can identify easily with both the trials and challenges of moving and also the excitement and adventure of finding a new home.”

Although she was born in Bakersville, California, Karen’s early life journey led throuogh Denver, Colorado, The Woodlands, Texas, Villars, Switzerland and Lagos, Nigeria among other cities. Eventually, she would graduate from Troy High School in Ohio, a place, along with Houston, that she was considers “home”. Karen’s older sister, Molly, remains in Ohio, where she and her husband own a working horse farm and Molly is a well respected horse woman who shows competitively all over the United States.

After high school graduation, Karen entered the University of Arizona in Tucson. An honors student, she graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree and immediately entered law school at Arizona State University.

Eager to subsidize the mounting student loans that came with higher education, Karen began studying and working part-time in real estate before beginning her classes in law. After experiencing early success in her new part-time endeavor, Karen discovered the courage and ambition to forge a permanent career path in an area that she ultimately found to be a natural fit.

“As a young person, it seems like you are pressured to seek out professions with more stability than sales,” Karen shares, “As a kid, it seems like hardly anyone is encouraged to be a salesperson, but I was always attracted to the idea of being a Realtor.”

Karen recalls her fascination with real estate beginning at a young age as her family was searching for a new home in Colorado.

“The first home-buying trip I remember was when my parents were moving to The Woodlands. From then on, I was hooked; I loved touring the houses and watching agents do their job. When I started working in real estate, I discovered I was really good at including the entire family in a move because I would think back to what that experience meant to me.”

After familiarizing herself with the ropes of real estate in Arizona, Karen returned to Houston, a city that has always been dear to her heart. Karen wasted no time receiving her Texas license from Champions School of Real Estate, and began practicing with Coldwell Banker United in the Memorial area. At CBU, Karen received the mentorship from a pair of veteran agents who were eager to impart their knowledge of their profession and the Houston market.

“In my early days I really was fortunate to have such great mentorship from Barbara Voigt and Kat Horsch,” Karen says, “Both ladies were high-producing and knowledgeable agents willing to take me under their wings, and I learned, tremendously, from both of them.”

Another source of inspiration to Karen was Martha Hendricks, a successful and established Houston agent who lived up the street from Karen’s family in the 1980’s.

“Martha Hendricks was probably my most influential role model. I was friends with her daughter and spent quite a bit of time with the Hendricks family. I went to her real estate office on many occasions and caught my first glimpse of a REALTORS’s life.” Karen says.

Although she was grateful for the professionalism she experienced at each stop along the way, Karen had her sights set on working alongside other top producers at Houston’s premier boutique real estate company, Martha Turner Properties.

“I had really wanted to work my way up to being a Martha Turner agent,” Karen says, “Her company had always held a great appeal for me.” It is truly The Company of Top Producers and joining the company the company was always my ambition.”

During her first interview with Martha Turner Properties in 2000, Karen was told the strict requirements for joining the company. Karen interviewed with the company after establishing herself at RE/MAX and has now been at MTP for over two years.

“Since joining the company, I have tried to followed Martha’s system to a t,” Karen says, “After all, why would I want to try to improve perfection? Martha has worked hard to develop a system that is, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. I am amazed by the systems that she has in place. My natural talents are working with people and sales, negotiating contracts, and tracking markets, but I am not a graphic designer or marketing guru. Martha has a tremendous support staff and in-house advertising department that can handle those aspects that are not my forte, while I get out there and do what I do best which is selling property.”

Thanks in part to Karen’s tremendous success and market share in the Bay Area of Houston, Maratha Turner was able to open a new Clear Lake office in July, 2008. Transferring to this location from her prior digs in the Galleria area wasn’t a tough decision for the boating, fishing and water recreation enthusiast.

Karen may have a great enthusiasm for the backdrop nature has provided in her work environment, but she also possesses the experience and skills necessary to best represent her market’s clients. The holder of both an ABR and a GRI certification, Karen also has distinguished herself as an agent with tremendous first hand knowledge of the Bay Area market. Karen feels her strong knowledge base and negotiation skills give her an innate edge over her competitors.

“The thing that makes me successful is that I’m a very flexible person. Growing up in so many different environments taught me how to adapt at an early age. These skills have translated very well to real estate. In this business, you can’t go into a situation rigidly thinking, ‘this is how it’s going to go.’ You have to be willing to listen to all of the possibilities and then find solutions. I’m a high-energy person, very ambitious, and it is my ability to adapt of each sale that helps me meet my clients needs.”

Karen’s love and passion for her job can be linked to her philosophy on homes.

“My favorite thing about being a Realtor is dealing with the property itself. I have always thought are such incredibly special places,” Karen says, “A house is a place that has a soul. It’s a place where incredible memories are formed; where children grow up together and where lives are lived. I get so excited whenever I look at a property. I see the history of it and the potential for it. I love matching families and homes together.”

Being able to mentor under Martha Turner has only increased Karen’s professionalism as she has been exposed to a wealth of knowledge and experience from the veteran broker and agent.

“Sales is my business and Martha has given me an environment where I can focus on what I do best,” Karen says, “I have narrowed my focus to residential sales and have tried to avoid expanding into areas that only distract me from my goals. Martha Hendricks told me early on that you can’t be a ‘four-P’ Realtor- one who puts a sign in the yard, puts on a lockbox, puts a listing in the MLS, and prays. You’ve got to be able to explore all the options for each buyer and seller, and right now, I feel very focused on that.”

Martha Turner, in turn, has recognized Karen’s work ethic and client devotion; however, Martha is most thankful for Karen’s leadership in establishing a market presence in the Clear Lake and Bay Areas south of Houston.

“I have seldom met a Realtor more dedicated and vivacious than Karen Keating,” Martha Turner says, “She is absolutely dedicated to her clients and it really show that she loves what she does. For some time, she would work in her preferred market in the Bay Area but commute many miles to our Briar Hall office. Karen’s dedication in establishing her presence and client base in the Bay Area was instrumental to the creation of a new Martha Turner office in her market.”

Of all of Karen’s real estate transactions, her most memorable came when her clients the Rosales family of Dickenson, TX was faced with father Raul’s sudden job transfer to Washington, DC. The family immediately called on Karen who was a member of their church. Raul and Stephanie communicated to her that it was important for them to get as much equity out of their home as possible while turning a quick sale so Stephanie and the couple’s children could soon join Raul in Washington.

Raul recalls being relieved that Karen worked so diligently to help his wife at home with the sale of their property.

“Karen always kept me and my wife in the loop during the sale of our house,” Raul recalls, “She was excellent at communicating with us and following-up with us. Karen has an exceptional eye for detail; she gave us tactical advice on various improvements we could make to our home in order to make a quicker sale and, with her advice, we were able to sell our house in a very short period of time in a market that was generating few transactions. She is a straight-forward woman of her word, and a diligent Realtor.”

Jeff Cook of Home N Mortgage, one of Karen’s longtime business partners, can attest to the diligence and tenacity she puts in to making each transaction a success for her clients.

“Karen is a very hard-working and diligent Realtor,” Jeff says, “She always finds a way to put each transaction together and get her clients in the homes they have chosen. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her services to anybody who plans to buy or sell a home in her market area.”

Focusing her business in the various waterfront markets including Clear Lake, League City, Kemah, Friendswood, and Seabrook, Karen is responsible for an average of approximately twenty-five transactions a year with a median home price of roughly $415,000. Recognizing early on that many of her clients would be relocations and buyers looking for a second home, Karen has diversified her marketing between local and national markets. Although Karen is aided by Martha Turner’s exclusive regional publications such Martha Turner Properties, she puts her eggs in several baskets including The Wall Street Journal, Homes & Land, and the Houston Business Journal.

Karen’s marketing approach encompasses a simple yet effective philosophy.

“I advertise my listings heavily in print and online,” Karen says, “I am often thinking outside the traditional box, looking far and wide for buyers from outside the area. An old marketing manager once gave me a good piece of advice: ‘If you’re not catching enough fish, you should fish with a bigger net.’ I utilize as many tools as possible to actively move my properties.”

Karen also practices in the land development sector of real estate, an area that is historically responsible for some of her most successful ventures.

“My biggest deal in the last year was a commercial land deal in League City,” Karen shares, “My system is generally geared towards residential property, but I do work with several developers.”

Besides working on the occasional land transaction, Karen has even recently began to dabble in the international market, a step that would seem natural for an agent experienced at helping clients find their second homes. Among the international locations Karen has targeted internationally are some of her favorite ports of call: Belize, Costa Rica and Playa del Carmen.

During Karen’s leisure time, she loves to travel to the most exotic beachfront resorts of the world, or if she’s allotted just a day off, she enjoys boating or relaxing by the water in her community. Karen, however, is most passionate about her daughter Grace, a fourth grader at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School. Grace faced many challenges at a young age due to kidney problems that she has had since early childhood, but you would never know by looking at her today.

“It’s tough watching your children when they are sick and in pain,” Karen shares, “but instead of allowing myself to feel hopeless, I try to get involved in activities that make me feel empowered.”

Karen’s active role has been fundraising for Texas Children’s Hospital. She has worked to organize many benefits to help Grace and other children in need of treatment for medical conditions. She has volunteered for Children’s Miracle Network and partipated in the Dream Home Project in August, 2006. In addition to her ongoing commitments to TCH, Karen has also been active in many community, church, and real estate volunteer opportunities including the St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church School, The Bay Area Builders Association, and the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

A special service Karen has prided herself in providing to the real estate community has been the mentorship of aspiring agents. She has often advised agents to embrace the same principles that have moved her career forward—honesty and hard work.

“In order to achieve success, sacrifice and dedication are part of your job in any career,” Karen says, “I have advised our new agents to keep this in mind as the tireless hours of a real estate career become a reality. Time management and organization are critical in this career. I also encourage young agents to have an open communication with their clients and peers. You can be as sweet as you want to be, but be direct and to the point. When you’re trying to make a sale come together, there might be the temptation to embellish, but it is never beneficial to your clients or your reputation. It’s not up to you to make a decision for someone. The real estate agent is an advisor who can provide knowledge and solutions. But, the decision will be found in the heart of the buyer and the seller. My best advice for any agent is not to stand in the way.”

In September of 2008 Hurricane Ike ravaged the usually calm and peaceful communities of the Galveston Bay area.. The property damage was unprecedented. In the wake of the storm, Karen witnessed her community come together in a way she has never seen before.

“It’s amazing to see the recovery process after Hurricane Ike,” Karen shares, “People have worked so hard together and shown each other so much resolve and support.”

Her observations may capture the sentiment of her fellow neighbors and community leaders, but Karen was not content to just sit idly on her hands, even if that meant getting them dirty.

Many of my friends and neighbors has substantial flood and wind damage to their homes,” Karen shares, “People’s livelihoods were interrupted and many homes and businesses were destroyed. I went to work right away ripping out sheetrock and doing whatever I could to help my neighbors and clients. I organized work crews and delivered water and tools where they were needed, I delivered lunches and cooked dinners. Because of my real estate connections, I was able to get a lot of construction work done fast.”

“Recovering from Ike has been really difficult, but in the last few months I have received the greatest compliments of my life, as past clients and neighbors and friends have come to me for advice. That is the true reward of this job- knowing that people count on me for something as important as their home.”

Whether she’s helping clients to own their waterfront dream homes, lending herself to community causes, or just sitting on the dock of the bay, Karen Keating loves where she is and what she does.

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Realtors to the Rescue!

Isn’t it hard to believe that we are a just a few weeks away from the close of 2008? Do I hear some of your cheering?

For all of us in real estate it has certainly been a year to remember…to say the least!

Our nation’s “mortgage meltdown” and “credit crisis” had a profound effect on the real estate industry through out Texas and the rest of the U.S.. But, we in Houston knew that we had not felt the effects as badly as those in other parts of the country. We kept putting one foot in front of the other and felt truly “blessed” to be in Houston.

But, all of that would change on the 12th of September when a hurricane named Ike came a calling. I do not think that any of us were really prepared for the devastation left in Ike’s wake. Downed trees, fences and power lines the next morning in Houston were just the tip of iceberg of the damage, destruction and (in some cases) total loss of our neighbor’s homes in the Bay Area.

What was most gratifying to me was how neighbors helped neighbors clean up and make the most of their situation and (of course) there were “Realtors to the Rescue”. So many of you, like this month’s cover story, Karen Keating of Martha Turner Properties were right in the thick of things to help their neighbors remove water damaged items, pull out sheet rock, establish help lines and websites and find alternative accommodations.

It is sad that many consumers think we just “sell” in our communities and do not understand just how much we do “serve” our friends and neighbors.

We at REE Magazine salute of you and thank you for your caring hearts and for all you do in and for your communities.

As we all tighten our belts to make it through the economic storm, please keep an open heart for those in need this holiday season.

May 2009 bring us all good health and much success.

As always, good reading, good sales and Happy Holidays!
Success to you!

Steve Levine

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Becky Hill of Keller Williams Realty Professionals

The True Heart of a Leader: Introducing the 2009 National President of the Women’s Council of Realtors®
By Kate Sullivan-Conlan

Have you had the pleasure of meeting Becky Hill, the 2009 national president of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® and a top-producing broker at Keller Williams Realty Professionals? According to her long-time business partner and friend Joanie Sharpe, Becky is a person who is “always available to help anyone, anywhere, with pretty much anything,” all the while serving as a leader on so many levels in the real estate industry.

Introducing the New President of the Women’s Council of Realtors®

Becky’s election as the 2009 President of the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, the first president ever to be elected from the greater Houston area, is a richly deserved tribute for a lifetime of service. Mark Willis, CEO of Keller Williams International, Inc. says, “Becky is a true servant leader at heart,” and Becky herself acknowledges, “I’ve served my profession in various leadership capacities for many years now; it’s just become part of my life.”

The Women’s Council, chartered in 1938 as an affiliated council of the National Association of REALTORS®, captured Becky’s interest several years ago with the training and networking opportunities it made available for women. “When I looked around the real estate industry,” says Becky, “the most professional women I met were in Women’s Council. The organization has always been known as a trainer of leaders, both in real estate and in the larger community; so, realizing that, who wouldn’t want to associate with this group?”

As the twelfth largest women’s organization of any kind in the United States, the Women’s Council’s mission states, “We are a network of successful REALTORS® empowering women to exercise their potential as entrepreneurs and industry leaders.” The Council originally served to give women entering the real estate industry training to allow them to compete with their male counterparts. “Whereas men were paid a commission, a female agent might have been offered a bottle of wine,” explains Becky. Today, many men belong to local chapters and serve in leadership positions, but the Council still “predominantly serves women, encouraging more and more women to accept leadership roles and gain the skills they need to compete successfully.”

Over the years, leading up to her installment as president, Becky took on numerous leadership and service positions to further the Vision of the Council. She has served in every role nationally as an officer and has helped develop and participate in many of the Council’s training and mentoring programs. “We gear our training for those who want to reach the highest levels of accomplishment within their careers and in their local communities as well.” The four premier courses in the Council’s new curriculum, called “Performance Management Network,” focus on an individual’s performance skills and personal development. With her expertise, it is no mystery why Becky is a certified instructor for all of the courses.

Broker JoAnne Poole, of Poole Realty in Maryland, first met Becky at WCR meetings many years ago. She attests that Becky has moved through leadership positions, always “staying grounded and reminding everyone that ‘It’s all about the members.’ With her mentoring skills, educational instructions, and her rational and visionary thinking, Becky has inspired and motivated the members throughout the country.” Joanie Sharpe adds, “Becky has garnered the respect and admiration of the entire real estate industry nationwide. The honor of becoming the president of the Women’s Council is achieved by only a few.”

Becky dedicates her energy to the Women’s Council in no small part because she herself has benefited so greatly from the organization. “Women’s Council provides a huge support system for all its members,” says Becky. “Regardless of where I am in the United States, all I have to do is pick up a phone and call another member. If I’m stranded or if I need help on a topic I am not knowledgeable about, someone would be there to pick me up or to look up that information for me.” Recently, the Council revamped its national website and online Member Search feature so that members can now search specific fields of member expertise for everything from good marketing ideas to information sources for the best cell phones and computer equipment. Members across the country also network to give one another leads and referrals for relocating clients. “It makes it so much easier because we can find the needed information right within our own network.” Becky adds, “All of us openly share our knowledge and expertise, and that sharing makes us strong as an organization. In fact, it’s like one big extended family.”

A further commitment of the Women’s Council that Becky especially supports is “giving back to our communities that support us as professionals in our businesses.” Hand-in-hand with training and networking, a goal of WCR is “to educate and promote women and their influence in every phase of society, not just in real estate,” says Becky. “Since most of the Council’s activity is at the local level, we encourage our members to reach out to other organizations within their communities – Chambers of Commerce, civic and charitable organizations, as well as various political groups. Local chapters of WCR are critical; they are the delivery points of all we want our members to do in their own communities; they serve as the business resource centers for local agents.” Many chapters raise funds and volunteer time with local organizations such as Candlelighters, battered women’s shelters, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Others support scholarships for college-bound girls and provide skills training programs for women and children.

What does Becky want to be remembered for when her presidency is over? With the financial situation and recent mortgage crisis people have been experiencing in the US, Women’s Council, like many other organizations, lost some members last year and experienced some internal conflict. “I want to be remembered as the president who cared about each and every member and the struggles they are facing in their chapters, their careers, and in their personal lives. I hope to bring us one step closer to realization of the Council’s vision of making a difference in the industry and in our communities,” states Becky. She wants to re-energize and focus directly on the members, meeting their needs and assisting them locally to become stronger and more viable in their communities and profession. “If we can accomplish these things, then the future will be bright for Women’s Council, and this should be a year of healing and growth.”

Personally for Becky, her role as president “will be an experience of a lifetime.” She will be traveling across the country to visit local and state chapters and doing what she loves – meeting and educating people and making new friends.

Leading on the State and Local Level – With a personal Touch

As Joanie Sharpe says, “Becky has always led by example.” She encourages other agents through Women’s Council to become involved in their communities, but she leads the way with her own involvement in education and in the political arena.
For the past four years, Becky has served as a PAC Trustee for the Houston and Texas Associations of REALTORS®. Her participation keeps her up-to-date on proceedings that could affect the real estate industry, and it facilitates her networking across the state. For example, TREPAC insures that bills get passed that support property ownership rights and that benefit the whole industry. Becky shares that information with other agents and her clients, for “it’s good to be thought of as someone who not only is an expert in the industry but who also really knows what’s going on that could impact the industry.”

Becky imbues her work at every level with a focus on the personal: “Without a personal touch I don’t think I could have accomplished what I have been able to so far in my career.” Her passion for people comes through especially in her teaching at the Champions School of Real Estate, where she shares her knowledge with new agents coming into the field. Friend Janis Spiller says of Becky, “She really cares about the education and quality of other agents, and there is no one who exceeds her knowledge of the contract and real estate transaction.” Teaching these courses,” Becky adds, “allows me to use my talents as a teacher alongside my knowledge and experience in the industry. I love being able to do the two things that I’m really passionate about.” Rita Santamaria, owner and president of Champions School of Real Estate, says that Becky gets “rave reviews from her students as an outstanding communicator.” Rita honored Becky with a Teacher of the Year award, and, according to Joanie Sharpe, her students say that Becky is the best teacher they have ever had.

Joining Keller Williams: Leader, Mentor, Friend

Becky grew up with her four siblings in the Appalachian Mountain area of southwest Virginia. Her father worked in the coal mines from the time he was in the ninth grade until he retired, so Becky truly is a “coal miner’s daughter.” Her mother was the regional manager for World Book and Child Craft Encyclopedias and gave Becky her first exposure to the world of sales. “I was really somewhat of a country bumpkin when I left home for college, and then I wanted to learn as much as I could about the rest of the world,” says Becky. She majored in math and science, married, and moved with her husband to Houston in 1970 after they had both graduated from college. She taught in the public school system for ten years, and during the years of her marriage, she and her husband invested in real estate. They would buy the worst house in the best neighborhood they could afford, and, after working weekends on the house, would then resell it. “We did flips before flips were popular! I loved it, and we never lost money on any of our properties,” says Becky. “That’s when I first started getting the real estate bug and decided to someday get a license!”

Joanie Sharpe was Becky’s agent on her last house transaction. She encouraged Becky to get her real estate license and join her in the business. “Joanie was my mentor,” says Becky. “She was always there to answer my questions and support me. She soon became my friend.”

At first, Becky continued to teach and work part-time at a small real estate agency. When she became more serious about a real estate career, she quit the classroom and took a full-time position with REALMCO Realty, later known as Saffold Company Realtors, where they offered more formal training. “I knew from the beginning that training would be the key to becoming highly successful in the business,” says Becky, “and that’s why Keller Williams became so attractive to me later on.”

Keller Williams Realty found Becky in 1990, when she was managing an office in the Memorial area, and they approached her about opening the first Keller Williams office in Houston. Since Becky lived in the Champions area in NW Houston, she declined the offer. Later, partnering with Joanie Sharpe, they opened a Keller Williams office just one year later, nearer both of their homes, and became the second market center location in the city. Janis Spiller of Houston Title remembers first meeting Becky in the early 90’s when they were opening the office: “She wanted to open an office that gave back to the agents and gave them some advantages they otherwise would not have had. Keller Williams met that need.”

Four years ago, Becky and Joanie sold their business so they could once again concentrate on their own clients and sales, for Becky “loves working with the public.” She does only residential sales, and hers is a totally referral-based business through former clients and her networking with Woman’s Council and other organizations. She has consistently earned sales awards and historically places in the top 10% in Keller Williams in productivity. Becky remains a Broker Associate, at the same company that she and Joanie once owned. The office, which recently merged with another location to form Keller Williams Realty Professionals, is strategically located to better serve the needs of her clients throughout NW Houston, Spring, Cypress, Tomball, Kingwood and The Woodlands.

“The real mark of my success, I believe,” says Becky, “has been my personalized services to my clients before, during, and after the sale. It’s important to be there initially and then continue to do as much as you can even after closing. I focus on my clients in a real estate transaction because buying a house is a tremendous expenditure and one of their most highly emotionally charged dealings.” She adds, “The commission is the last thing to worry about because you will be paid handsomely if you do a great job and focus on first serving the needs of your clients.”

The focus on formal training and mentoring at Keller Williams first attracted Becky to the company and, seventeen years later, continues to hold her loyalty. Becky was part of the original training crew and nurtured their efforts as training “blossomed and grew” at Keller Williams. Her commitment to continuing personal and professional development also led Becky to the Women’s Council. “The principles of Keller Williams Realty and Women’s Council of REALTORS® are so much in alignment with each other,” she explains. “Both organizations are vitally interested in what their agents/members feel and are structured to get that input from the field. They both focus intensely on training and believe in delivering programs that can elevate an agent to the next level(s) of success.”

Between her own business, her teaching, her work with the Women’s Council and TREPAC, Becky long ago learned to manage her time efficiently so that she still has time to be with her friends. “I have many close friends in the Houston area,” says Becky, “and I have remained friends with many dear people all over the country over the years.” Becky also makes sure she gets together with her family with whom she feels very close even though they live far apart.

Joanie Sharpe cannot say enough about Becky’s personal commitment to others. “She is the person who will be there when a loved one is lost, a job is lost, or a heart is broken, supporting you with words of encouragement or perhaps just sitting silently and imparting strength through her presence.” Janis Spiller adds, “Consistently putting the needs of others before her own, she always manages to show up with turkey or ham, dressing, and all the trimmings so my sister and I don’t miss out on the joys of the holidays while caring for our ailing mother in the nursing home.”

The True Heart of Leadership

To those entering a career in real estate, Becky Hill is adamant in her advice. Number one: Get the training. “If you want to sell at high levels, always continue to learn. If you were to survey successful agents, they’d credit their success to the training they’d received throughout their careers.” And number two: Network. “You must get out of your office. Work with other organizations and work in your community to expand your influence.”

Becky’s leadership in real estate on the national, state, and local levels is centered in her care and commitment to the professionalism of her industry, to the growth and success of her associates, to her personal concern for her clients, and to a deep love of her friends. As Joanie Sharpe says, “Becky will be there to celebrate your victories."

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Publisher's Comments: So Much To Be Thankful For

November Greetings!

I am sure that most of you will agree that this has been a most challenging year for our country and industry.

Our nation’s financial woes which include the mortgage meltdown and credit crunch has caused many of our local mortgage companies, title companies, builders and other suppliers to the real estate community to close up shop or (at the least) make some major budget cuts to “weather” the financial storm and hold on till things improve.

Speaking of “weather”, there is no question that “Hurricane Ike’s” brief visit to our part of the world, added another heap of challenges (not to mention debris) to our listings and our real estate businesses.

At press time, there is so much uncertainty in our world financial markets, I am not sure that even the most optimistic in our industry believe that is we will be back doing “business as usual” anytime soon.

Even considering the aforementioned, we have allot to be thankful for. Here is what I am thankful for:

• I am glad that we are still here!
• I am thankful that we are a caring community that pitched in to help our friends and neighbors clean up after Ike’s departure. Did anyone else notice how many huge trees DID NOT fall on our homes?
• I am thankful that we live and work in Houston, Texas, which is still one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.
• I am thankful that we have so many real estate associations who are “there” for us with support (H.A.R,, Women’s Council of Realtors®, T.A.R., N.A.R., and all of the various ethnic associations (like NAHREP, AAREA and HREA)

Speaking of Women’s Council of Realtors®, we are indeed pleased to be honoring Becky Hill of Keller Williams Realty Professionals on the cover of this month’s issue. Becky will be installed as the 2009 National President of Women’s Council of Realtors® at this month’s Women’s Council of Realtors® Convention held in conjunction with the NAR Convention in Orlando. This is the first time in WCR’s history that the national president is based in Houston! After reading her story, you will indeed agree that she is more than deserving of the Presidency and the cover honor. Congratulations Becky!

As always, good reading, good sales and Happy Thanksgiving!

Success to you!

Steve Levine

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Michael Levitin-HTown Realty/PM Houston Association of REALTORS® 2008 Chairman

Shining Light on the Heroes among Us
By Woodie Stephenson

Many people around Michael Levitin know him as a frustrated comedian. After all, the owner/broker of HTOWN Realty/PM and HAR’s 2008 Chairman of the Board’s favorite quote is “Don’t take life too serious or you’ll never get out alive.”

“You just have to roll with it,” Michael says on life, “My favorite part is the laughing part.”

Although those closest to Michael may know him for his sense of humor, they also know him as a hard-working and dedicated leader who has contributed much to the Houston real estate community. The first broker to open a 100% independent realty office in Houston and a dedicated public servant at HAR, Michael has dedicated his time as chairman to improving HAR and shining a light on the heroes within Houston’s real estate community.

Born and raised in Houston, Michael grew up in the Southwest side where he attended Pershing Middle School and graduated from Bellaire High School. The oldest of three siblings, Michael grew up enjoying sports and had a privileged childhood, but never grew took anything for granted due to the stories and lessons that his mother’s side of the family taught him.

“My mother’s side of the family were holocaust survivors from Germany,” Michael reveals, “and they taught me to value life.”

Following his high school education, Michael left for Austin where he attended the University of Texas studying education. After college, Michael worked odd jobs for a couple years before deciding to utilize his talent in sales in a still-thriving 1980s real estate market. Michael—still unlicensed—began working for home builder Ryland Homes in The Woodlands area selling new homes.

Although things were going great for Mike, who had purchased his own home in the Cypress area and had recently experienced the birth of his first child, the Houston market would inevitably take a turn for the worse in the wake of the 1980s recession. The Houston market was hit hard by the foreclosure era, but Mike was determined to stay the course in his new career even if that meant adapting to the market.

“It was a bad time for many people in Houston,” Mike recalls, “the market really died on the vine, but I understood it was time to finally get my real estate license and work the foreclosure market if that’s what it took.”

When the market came back around, Mike took the opportunity to become a founding partner in a new Century 21 franchise, C21 Gold Creek, in the Bear Creek area. Around this time, Mike read the first of two books that would help him to devise his own business strategies, How to Swim with Sharks without Being Eaten. Soon after, he would open his own investment property firm, The Michael Group.

Mike would soon meet the mentor that would help him open his own 100% Real Estate Co., Mike arranged to meet Schwartz in 1998 and the two bonded over their similar experiences, heritage, and ambition.

Armed with a business model and a helpful and encouraging mentor, Mike took a step forward and expanded the Michael Group into a real estate office offering low monthly fees. Over the course of the next few years—from 1998-2004—The Michael Group had grown to nearly 1,000 agents operating in Houston and Dallas.

Mike met his current wife Sandy in 2002 on Yahoo Personals and the two lovebirds chatted for a couple weeks before arranging a real date. They have been together ever since and will soon be celebrating their 5 year wedding anniversary. Mike and Sandy’s children include Mike’s daughter Tara and Sandy’s children Greg and Heather. Together, the couple have 4 grandchildren.

Mike first attempts to become involved with HAR were two campaigns running for the Board of Directors. Although he didn’t make the board at first, Mike’s efforts paid off when an opening in the Clear Lake area on the board allowed him to receive a sear on the Board of Directors.

Mike’s service and dedication allowed him to work his way up the ranks of HAR to Treasurer/Secretary, Vice President, and eventually Chairman of the Board, the esteemed position he currently serves in.

“It’s been great being Chairman,” Michael shares, “On the business side you get to travel nationally and internationally and you are exposed to so many knowledgeable Brokers, owners, and high-level associates in the real estate industry. Because of HAR’s immense reputation, I’ve been able to meet and pick the brains of some of the best like Carter Murdoch (VP of Bank of America) and Sherry Chris (CEO of Better Homes and Gardens).”

Mike credits the success and reputation of HAR’s current standing to HAR President and CEO Bob Hale.

“The success of HAR all starts at the top,” Mike says, “Bob is the type of leader that acquires the best people possible to run and improve his association. He does not micro-manage his staff; he is an excellent manager that lets people do their job but still has his thumb on the pulse of this organization.”

Mike appreciates the lengths that Bob goes to make sure his staff is not only primed for success, but enjoy their job, first and foremost.

“Bob knows that I’m a sports fanatic and Bob and the HAR Staff went out his way to make it possible for me to throw out the first pitch at an Astros’ game.”

Mike recalls the thrill of standing in front of a capacity crowd at Minute Maid Park.

“I was really nervous about bouncing the pitch in the dirt,” Mike recalls, “So I tossed it nice and easy and kept it under 30 [mph] like I was in West University.”

Mike appreciates the perks that come with the job—such as calling bingo games, attending sports events, and taking trips—but he also takes his position very serious.

“It’s a major commitment serving in a leadership role,” Mike says, “It’s not ditch digging, but it’s demanding work.”

Since coming into office for his year-long term, Mike, in an effort to increase community awareness about the services HAR offers to the public and Realtors, has made an astounding number of television and radio appearances on a local and national audience.

“It’s all about letting the public know that it’s very important to use a Realtor when selling your home,” Mike says, “and the best way to chose a professional is by using HAR. It’s important for home buyers and sellers to find someone who has their best interests at heart; someone who is on the cutting edge of market trends, follows the Realtor code of ethics, and can get their client the best value for their dollar.”

A demanding part of Mike’s job is to represent HAR nationally and share the knowledge his organization has accumulated.

“We don’t have to toot our own horn,” Mike says, “because people are tooting it for us. HAR is a state-of-the-art model organization that real estate markets worldwide are studying. The systems we have in place are a benchmark, and everyone wants to know how HAR does it.”

HAR’s innovations to its field has garnered the association much recognition and accolade. Recently, CEO Bob Hale was recognized with the Inman Real Estate Conference Award of Innovator of the Year.

HAR President and CEO Bob Hale applauds Mike’s commitment to fighting for the little guy through his support of the affordable housing program.

“Having served as president and CEO of HAR for 20 years, I have had the pleasure of serving with many great leaders in the REALTOR community. This past year with Michael as chairman of the board has truly been a unique and rewarding experience. His belief in the active role of the REALTOR is evident in his strong support of affordable housing programs, which has been one of the primary focuses of his tenure.”

As Chairman, Mike started a campaign to increase public awareness to the roles many Realtors serve as dedicated community leaders and volunteers. Mike’s campaign—Heroes: Celebrating the Hero in all of us—highlights a different agent every month for their achievement in community service.

“There are a lot of Realtors out there doing all kinds of things under the radar for their communities,” Mike shares, “The aim of our campaign is to show people that Realtors are very involved in the community and are much more than a commission.”

Mike’s successful campaign, along with featuring stories in Houston Realtor magazine, has caught the attention of The Houston Chronicle and other media outlets which have picked up these incredible stories to share with an even larger audience.

HAR Executive Vice President Rene Galvan appreciates the vision for a model Realtor that Mike is trying to set with his Heroes campaign.

“Michael never forgets his role as HAR chairman of the board—to lead and advocate on behalf of our 26,000 members—and he does it with enthusiasm and sense of humor that is contagious. He has a sincere desire to improve the association and real estate landscape for both our members and the consumer at large. His theme for his year of Heroes embodies his view of the REALTOR in the community as well as his aspirational vision for the profession.”

Sam Scott, HAR Director of Information, believes Mike’s enthusiasm, humility, and personality have all been assets which have improved HAR over his tenure.

“Michael has a unique perspective on real estate opportunities; he tends to see the needs of potentially underserved groups. He networks and builds relationships among groups where others might not recognize an opportunity. He is also the first HAR leader to work a room in a powder blue blazer and Kangol beret. His love of people, sports and sports history frequently come together. He once spent 20 minutes visiting with the doorman at the Lancaster who he recognized as a founding member of the Houston Oilers offensive line and together they recollected much of the team’s pre-Pastorini glories. Michael’s direct and unpretentious style has been an asset in analyzing issues that balance the desires of consumers with the differing perspectives of Board members.”

Looking towards the future, Mike is proud of his contributions to the community through HAR, but hopes to see more diversity among the board in the future.

Mike advises those leaders of tomorrow to invest heavily in their education, build their list of contacts and associates, and join a company that will offer them good support.

“I would hope our future leaders in the community and at HAR take advantage of the amazing staff that our association provides for the community at whole. We are a public service here for everybody to use.”

When asked if there was anything else that he could offer, the frustrated comedian searched his mind for a joke perhaps, but could only come up with this:

“It’s been a lot of fun working towards the opportunities I have had. I would advise anybody else who makes it this far to just sit back and enjoy the ride because it doesn’t last long enough.”

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Celebrating the “Heroes among Us”

I am ashamed to admit that when I first heard this year’s HAR Chairman, Michael Levitin’s theme for the association this year, I didn’t get it. That theme, “Heroes: Celebrating the hero in all of us” left me self reflecting what have I ever done that was truly “heroic?” I can’t remember ever running in to a burning building to save a child or jumping into turbulent waters to save someone who was drowning or having really had the opportunity to do anything remotely heroic.

Just how many of us have ever had the chance to prove our heroism?

It was not until I had the chance to sit down with my friend and Publisher’s Advisory Board member, Mike Levitin for interview for his cover story in this issue, that I truly understood the meaning of the message.

You see as Chairman, Mike started the campaign to increase public awareness to the roles many Realtors® serve as dedicated community leaders and volunteers. Mike’s campaign—Heroes: Celebrating the Hero in all of us—highlights a different agent every month for their achievement in community service.

“There are a lot of Realtors out there doing all kinds of things under the radar for their communities,” Mike shares, “The aim of our campaign is to show people that Realtors are very involved in the community and are much more than a commission.

I find it very sad that many people in the community to not realize just how much you all give back to the community and those in need.

For those of you who are looking for a great opportunity to do something very special for your community that will also give you the visibility in the communities that you serve, let me again recommend “Free to Be.”

“Free To Be” is a dynamic, unforgettable program that incorporates live speakers, emotional video, powerful music and eye-catching graphics into a presentation for middle and high school assemblies across the country. The assemblies are designed to give students special perspective and a true appreciation of the freedoms they so often take for granted. Since 2006, “Free to Be” founder Larry Tooker has taken the program to over 90 different schools and reached more than 34,000 people.

Stewart Title has joined in the crusade to make sure that every student in every school in America has the opportunity to witness this incredible program.

But, here is the “call to action”…they need your help.

Knowing the Houston real estate community (as well as I do) and knowing how much each of you appreciates the freedom you have to own your own real estate practice that you are already reaching for your checkbook…and that is great! But, there is an even better opportunity that you have as Realtors® to make a difference to (literally) millions of children this school year. That opportunity is for you to help present this video at schools in your community!

You can contact any one or your Stewart Title representatives to find out more on how you can get involved,

Don’t forget to visit the REE booth at the HAR Expo to say “hello”

Thank you for all you do.

As always, good reading and good sales!

Success to you!

Steve Levine

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