Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Real Estate . . . an Industry with a Heart

One of the things that has impressed me the most about the real estate community is how it takes care of it’s own. It is truly and industry with a heart! No matter how competitive you are for clients, I have witnessed time and time again just how you come together when one of you is in trouble or has a need.

Just this year, there have been several of our cover stories that have faced one of life’s biggest challenges (illness, death of a child, etc.) and others in the industry (from both sides of the real estate desk) were there to help out with fundraisers, donations, and much more personal help.

This month’s cover honoree, Ms. Donna Ellis of Coldwell Banker United-The Woodlands faced just such a tragedy several years ago and was overwhelmed by the help that she received from her friends and so many wonderful people in the real estate community. I know that you are going to enjoy her very special story.

So many real estate companies (Coldwell Banker United, Keller Williams Realty, RE/MAX etc.) and organizations like chapters of the Women’s Council of Realtors ® put on events during the year. to benefit causes like Hope Village Foundation, The Brookwood Community, Candlelighters, Texas Childrens Hospital, American Cancer Society, The Nancy Owens Memorial Foundation, The Susan B. Komen “Race for the Cure”, etc.

What a wonderful thing it is to be able to use your blessings as a business community to bless others.

Whether you give generously for the recognition or do so as a secret between you and your GOD, thank you for all you do for others in need!

Please remember as you give generously this season to help the poor, the sick, the homeless and the destitute, that the poor, sick, homeless and destitute are in the position in life all year long and not just during the holiday season. Finally, from our family to yours, have a wonderful, safe and happy holiday!

Seasons Greetings!
As always, good reading and good sales!
Success to You!

Steve Levine

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Donna Ellis – Coldwell Banker United- The Woodlands

"The Diva Realtor doing with A Little Help from Her Friends"
by Barbara Davis

Throughout her childhood, Donna Ellis never had trouble making friends no matter what obstacles got in her way. Most likely her charismatic personality developed as a result of the gregarious genes that run throughout her family going back at least six generations. Her fifth great-grandfather, Collin Aldrich, was one of the founders of Houston County and the first Chief Justice of Crockett, Texas where Donna was born. Another of Donna’s great-grandfathers, Armistead Aldrich, was the Historian for Houston County, Texas and also a County Judge. Donna’s early upbringing by her grandparents also had a great influence on her personable nature. Donna’s grandmother, Julia Satterwhite Dickey, was an active member in the D.A.R. and her grandfather, Clive Dickey, was the City Administrator of Crockett for years.

Donna’s father had passed away when she was a toddler. Subsequently, her mother, Carol, made the decision to attend Southern Methodist University to acquire a degree. Not only did she get a degree, but she also graduated with honors in three years while working at Neiman Marcus in the Advertising Department! At an early age, Donna learned numerous life lessons watching her mother study and sacrifice in order to get ahead in life and become self-sufficient. She is still learning today from this incredibly strong, versatile woman. While Carol attended SMU, Donna was reared by her grandparents in Crockett until second grade. By then, her mother had remarried and her little sister, Marti, had been born. Donna then moved to “Big D” to be close with her family, including her new father. Her sister, Marti, who is now a college professor, still lives in Dallas today with her husband, Dallas County Judge of Criminal Appeals, Jeff Rosenfield, and their sons, Max and Jacob. Donna readily adapted to her new life with gusto. One would have thought she was an ardent student of Dale Carnegie’s the way she was able to “win friends and influence people”! She was very popular in junior high and was on the drill team. Any school office she sought, she was elected as everyone knew and liked her. Unexpectedly, in ninth grade everything came crashing down. Her mother had gotten a divorce and returned to the little town of Crockett with Donna and her sister, Marti. Again, Donna witnessed her mother’s strength in a time of adversity as they all transitioned into their new lifestyle.

It was quite a change from living in a city of hundreds of thousands of people to a little town of 7,000 but Donna was never the type to “get lost and flounder”. She carried on admirably in spite of the challenges and ended up being even more popular in high school! Donna recalls, “I was eligible to get a driver’s license at age 14 because I lived in a small town. I would have had to wait longer if I had been living in a big city. I survived the transition quite well and tell this to my clients who are relocating and have kids going into high school. I understand and relate to it and am able to tell them that this won’t be the end of their life as they know it! It will get better.”

Donna was elected as a cheerleader every year until she graduated. In addition, she was elected as a student council representative and everything else under the sun. She was in the band and surprisingly played a baritone, which dwarfed her at the time because she was only 5 feet tall! By the time she graduated, she had grown so much that she was 5 feet 8 inches tall. In high school, Donna met and dated the person who eventually became her husband. Graduating in 1969, she attended Kilgore Junior College her freshman year which was a fabulous experience for her since she had come from such a small high school. Her grandparents had given her a brand new car, a Cutlass Supreme, and she felt as though she had the “world on a string”. She also thought she knew everything there was to know about life. She later transferred to Texas Tech University and became the President of her Delta Delta Delta Sorority pledge class. All of Donna’s college memories were wonderful ones and little did she expect there would be life-changing events to be overcome in the future.

Before completing college, she got married and moved to Houston where she finished her degree in education at the University of Houston. While she was attending U of H, she worked in the children’s department at the Sakowitz Department Store on Post Oak and made two dollars per hour. She realized then that the retail sales business was not her forte. Upon graduation, she started teaching elementary school in Tomball, Texas in 1973. She actually graduated on a Saturday night and her first day at work was the following Monday!

Ms. Ellis continued teaching elementary school but on Ground Hog Day in 1978 at Tomball Regional Hospital, she had her first child, Jason. He was one of the first babies ever born at that hospital. “It used to be a very small hospital but it has grown leaps and bounds now”, reminisced Donna. She then became a stay-at-home mom and three years later, her second son, Jordan was born. When Jason was four and Jordan was one, she decided to return to teaching. The day she put her application in, she was immediately hired and started to work the very next day at Tomball Elementary!

Donna has been a resident of the Spring/Tomball/Woodlands area for over 36 years. Seventeen years of it was spent teaching elementary school in Tomball and Klein. While her boys were still very young, she also took time out of her busy schedule to co-found and also teach the GED Program for North Harris County College. Ellis proudly reflected, “I taught a grown man to read, from phonics all the way through. He had run a successful business his whole life and yet never learned how to read! That was very rewarding.”

During the time when Donna’s sons were entering junior and senior high school, Donna and her family built a home in Northampton. The home builder suggested that she get a real estate license because she had sent so many people to him. He said, “Donna, you are in the wrong business!” After he said that, she went home and laughed as she told her family about what he had said. She was thinking, “Real estate! You don’t even have to have a degree and here I am holding a B.A. and I’m just three hours shy of a Master’s Degree! I’ve taught school for seventeen years, and I just can’t quit teaching school because I have dedicated my whole life to this!”

The homebuilder’s belief in Donna was so strong that he was relentless in insisting that she come work for him as a hostess in his sales office that summer. His persistence paid off because in the three month period she was there, she made more money selling homes than she could make in an entire year of teaching school!

Since Donna was so cautious about not jumping out of one profession into another, she worked two full-time jobs that year. She got her Real Estate License in 1991 from Champion’s School of Real Estate and then Martha Mears at Prudential gave her the opportunity to work as a part-time agent and still teach school. At that time, not many real estate companies allowed agents that flexibility but it was shrewd of Martha because Donna ended up being Prudential’s “Rookie of the Year”. By that time, Donna also realized, “I was not going to ever have to look back”. When she turned in her resignation to her principal, she followed her out to her car and pleaded with her not to quit, telling her that she was one of her top teachers and that she could substitute any time she wanted to!

Ellis never returned as an educator even as a substitute teacher because her real estate career was skyrocketing. Later, after working for Prudential for some time, Donna was approached by Beth and Bob Ferester of Ferester and Company to join their team. They hand-selected the top agents in Northwest Houston and the only way one could work for their company was to be asked. Donna was quite flattered to be included as part of this prestigious team. She worked for them at the 1960 office until Beth opened the office in The Woodlands, which eventually was acquired by Coldwell Banker. That’s how Donna became an associate of Coldwell Banker United and she’s been there ever since!

Although Donna’s aunt and uncle, Pat and Bubba Dickey, owners of Pat Dickey Coldwell Banker offices in Crockett and Coldwell Banker, Choice in Nacogdoches, have supported her career change from the beginning, offering advice and words of encouragement, Donna considers Martha Mears (now with Coldwell Banker in Mandeville, Louisiana) her first mentor in real estate. Donna is quick to say that Martha did an excellent job in training her in real estate, but she is even more passionate about expressing her appreciation for long-time mentor, Beth Ferester. She continued where Martha left off in being very open about sharing her wealth of knowledge with Donna and teaching her about real estate integrity. This knowledge and integrity that Donna was taught, combined with her roots as a teacher, have formed her into a straightforward, honest, punctual, and meticulous Realtor®. She is very litigious-minded and believes that everything should be done perfectly, dotting every “I” and crossing every “T”. Obviously, Cindy Hamann, VP/Branch Manager for Coldwell Banker United, couldn’t agree more, “Donna uses her teaching background to properly inform her clients and to coach them in the buying and selling process. Because of her hard work, she is rewarded with constant personal referrals from her clients, which is the highest form of a compliment that an agent can receive. She treats her clients as if they are family and her clients in turn feel that Donna is part of theirs.”

Due to her background in education, she believed everyone in authority was honest. “When a teacher told you something, it was the truth and no one questioned them”, commented Donna. It came as quite a surprise to the naïve Ms. Ellis that things were different when it came to buyers and sellers and that they weren’t always truthful but she learned quickly to sort out the type of person she was dealing with! Her first disappointment in real estate occurred when one of her dental hygienists promised that she would buy a house from Donna and then bought it through another agent instead. Ellis couldn’t believe that someone would not tell her the truth. “She broke my heart but I learned right then to just say, ‘Next’! There would be somebody else right behind them”, exclaimed Donna.

In deed, there was. Soon after, Larry and Sharron Walsh gave her the first opportunity to sell them a home and in addition let her list the home they wished to sell! Ms. Ellis is forever grateful to them and elaborated, “They are my friends who live in Northampton and I still owe a lot to them because they gave me an opportunity to get started. I didn’t even know the importance of what I was doing at the time and yet they let me sell them a home.” Their families are still close friends to this day. In fact, Donna’s son, Jason, was Best Man in Jamie Walsh’s wedding, which recently occurred.

Ms. Ellis knows how hard it is when first beginning in real estate and shared these words of wisdom when she first began, “Everyone has got to start somewhere and I was always so scared that someone was going to ask me ‘How long have you been doing this’. So one of the things I learned first when I started out in real estate was to say, ‘Some days, it seems like all my life!’ That was my answer.”

Some of Donna’s accolades include consistently being a Top Listing Agent and a Top Producer. One of her claims to fame is that she sold “The Silver Anniversary Home” which was built to commemorate the twenty-five years of building in The Woodlands. She is always on the “cutting edge” when it comes to keeping up with current trends. Due to Donna’s outstanding achievements in real estate, Steve Barnes, President and COO of the Houston Region of Coldwell Banker United Realtors® shared these flattering comments, “As a Top Producer for our company, it is very evident that Donna’s life experiences as a teacher have given her a belief system focused on her clients and their needs. She embodies everything that we strive to be for the consumer, and does it with grace, intelligence, and care.”

Donna holds professional, educational, and experience designations ranging from about every letter of the alphabet including ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative), GRI (Graduate Realtor Institute), CRS (Certified Residential Specialist), and CPS (Certified Preview Specialist), along with all kinds of Relocation Designations for working with Relocation buyers and sellers. She enjoys helping people relocate from all over the world, working with people from many different countries.

One of Ellis’s satisfied clients, Jason Simmons, Supply and Logistics Coordinator with Shell Oil who relocated to Houston, had these glowing words to say, “Working for a large corporation, I tend to move every three to four years and have worked with many realtors across the country. Donna stands out from the rest due to her professionalism, work ethic, and no-nonsense approach. Additionally, she consistently answers her phone. We worked together for a month and almost every time I called, she was the one who answered. When you are desperate to find a home, that kind of service makes a difference!” Close friend and business associate Gale Brand, with Chicago Title, validates the quality of Donna’s business dealings, when she remarked, “Donna always looks out for her clients’ best interest and I know that as a fact because not only have I been her friend for 14 years, I have also had the pleasure to work with her, too!”

Ms. Ellis exclusively sells residential only properties in The Woodlands, Spring, Kingwood, Conroe, and Northampton area. Prices of the homes she sells range anywhere from $150,000 up to two million dollars. She primarily gets her business through contact with past clients and referrals from her friends and family.

When Donna is not “working her behind off” in Real Estate, she spends her leisure time, what little she has, traveling and going to casinos and gambling. “I am the ‘slot-machine queen’! I don’t play golf or bridge but I enjoy traveling with my family and friends and playing slot machines,” laughs Donna. Recently, on her trip to Las Vegas, she won $2,500 in quarters only 45 minutes after she had arrived. She had taken her friend Penny Mustachia there for her birthday and the great thing was that Penny won about the same amount of money, too! Penny, who is with Maximum Mortgage, had this to say about her best friend, “It’s an honor to be Donna’s friend and also work with her for over the past 10 years. She excels in all she does because of her integrity and sincerity and charming personality. She truly cares about her clients. She makes real estate transactions so pleasurable because she is liked by everyone. Her recognition in Real Estate Executive magazine is well-deserved!”

Ms. Ellis supports Coldwell Banker’s involvement with Candlelighters, an organization that helps the families of children with cancer. She helps buy Christmas gifts and adopts a family or two for the holidays but she also has a very personal charity that she and her family have set up as a result of the saddest day in her life, the death of her son, Jordan. It is the Jordan David Ellis Memorial Scholarship at College of the Mainland. Jordan was a firefighter and a paramedic and the fund benefits any deserving young person who is pursuing a career in firefighting/EMT and has a financial need.

Donna’s “shining star” is Riley Aldrich Ellis, her grandson who was born August 23, 2004, four weeks before the death of Jordan. Riley’s parents are Jason and Lauren Ellis. Jason, a Sr. Group Sales Representative for Genworth Financial, shares his mother’s strong work ethic. “In October, he was third in the U.S. for his company”, Donna proudly announced and she added, “Lauren, who is an active Junior League member, is the best wife, mom, and friend that I could ever wish for.” “Riley’s birth was the happiest day of my life! He just melts my heart every time he calls me ‘Nonna’. I am so proud of him,” raves Donna. She philosophized by adding, “In trying to recover and put our lives back together after Jordan’s death, Riley has been the focus that has kept all of us from going crazy. We can live through him because he keeps us knowing that life goes on”. It is quite obvious that he is the love of her life. No matter how down she gets, when she sees him bouncing around with the cute, little smile on his face, she knows that her life must move forward.

One can never get over the loss of a child but Ms. Ellis has a multitude of friends, family, and business associates who have given her support through the tough times, in addition to the help she gets from little Riley. One group of her friends has formed kind of a social club that she is part of and they refer to themselves as “The Divas”. Each of them pulled together and did everything for Donna when she lost her son. Her dear friend, Penny, who was with her at the time when she learned of the tragedy, called every family member to relay the tragic news. The “Divas” bought her clothes for the funeral and even dressed her. They helped arrange the funeral and made a video of Jordan’s entire life. They cooked and fed her for a month. Donna’s Office Manager at Coldwell Banker United, Cindy Hamann, stepped in and ran her business for her until she was able to continue. One of the “Divas” who is also a realtor took over a listing that Donna wasn’t capable of completing at that moment and actually gave her the commission, too! Donna’s mother, who has always been there for Donna, lived with her for three weeks and other friends never left her side. With great appreciation in her voice, Ellis said, “Everyone literally step-by-step held me up for months and months.”

The Divas have been together for about seven years. Once a year they take a trip together. They have traveled to Austin, Galveston and also have gone on a cruise together. They are quite a diverse crowd ranging in age from “younger to older” (no ages, please). Some are married and some are divorcés. Some have young children and some are grandmothers. Some work and some are retired. They’ve been together through births, deaths, wars, retirements, separations, divorces, and marriages. They have pretty much gone through the gamut of life together. They all have very strong personalities in addition to being competitors and yet they set their competition aside when it comes to being friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people in the corporate world were like this? Just ask Donna and she’ll tell you how wonderful it is to “get a little help from your friends”!

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Behind Every Successful Agent There is a ________!

I am sure that all of you readers could fill in the blank above with a great answer!

There are so many possibilities. Believe me, with over 50 interviews (56 to date to be exact) with Houston’s top real estate producers who have made it to the cover), I could think of at least 20 that have been mentioned in the cover interview. The first seven that come to mind from those interviews are a great team, a strong mentor/coach relationship, a great brand, continuing education, a strong support system, written goals, a strong work ethic, etc.

This month’s cover honoree, Marion Franke has them all and one more….her wonderful husband, Bruce a/k/a “Big Daddy!”. Bruce has always been an important business team member serving as the man behind the woman. Bruce regularly takes time away from his business in the oil and gas industry to manage the time consuming financial responsibility of The Franke Team. Marion is the first person to recognize Bruce’s dedication to support her in every possible way from catering to her clients, to putting in hours at home when she is working around the clock to make a sale. By the way, that IS Bruce on the tractor behind her on the cover at their Moran Ranch (note the “M” on the gate and the “WE” brand above it.). Bruce is right behind Marion all the way! Hence the cover.

I don’t think that any of you would disagree, that having a supportive (or at least understanding) spouse is a “blessing” in more ways than one.

I had the opportunity to get to know Bruce during the cover photo shoot at the ranch, which has been in Bruce’s family for over 65 years. What a great guy! It’s no wonder Marion loves and appreciates him so much.

Finally, from our family to yours, have a wonderful, safe and happy Thanksgivng!

As always, good reading and good sales!

Success to You!

Steve Levine

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Marion Franke-Keller Williams Realty-Conroe: An Exceptional Agent and Leader Always Doing “The Right Thing” by Woodie Stephenson

Born in Irving, Texas, Marion grew up the oldest of three loving siblings. The daughter of a supportive stay-at-home PTA mom and a hard-working General Electric machinist father; she knew the comforts of a close and loving family relationship from a young age. Marion fondly recalls a great childhood as she grew up playing softball, water skiing, and camping with her parents, siblings, and extended family.

Growing up in such a blessed environment, she has been able to recognize the importance of families’ needs and dreams which she places high above her own ambitions. Going above and beyond the traditional ethics of realtors, she has always had a strong personal desire to do what’s right and help families to make the best decisions.

After graduating from Irving High School in 1969, Marion began her formal education at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas, majoring in Elementary Education. Deciding to marry her young love, Ronnie D. Jones, also from Irving, Marion was determined not to let a young marriage stand in the way of continuing her education.

With her professional photographer and accomplished artist husband’s help, Marion was able to build a prosperous life and reach her goals. Ronnie and Marion’s son, Isaac, was born and life seemed complete and happy for the couple.

Through their son Isaac’s godfather Dr. Bobby Fong and his wife Sandy of Irving, Marion was introduced to successful realtor Joy Riley of Red Carpet Real Estate in Irving. Over the next couple of years Marion referred numerous family members and friends to Joy for clients. Joy recognized in Marion the interpersonal dynamics essential to succeed in the real estate business and encouraged Marion to get her real estate license which was a natural. Breaking into the Irving real estate market was a terrific success for people friendly Marion; thus began Marion’s thirty-year career of success in real estate.

Marion’s real estate career prospered with the Red Carpet office over the next few years under the guidance of exceptional mentor and owner Nita Miller. Nita Miller was an “Icon” of real estate in the Dallas market along with well-known rival Ebby Holliday.

Instrumental in helping to form The Women’s Council of Realtors® in the Dallas area, Nita Miller possessed all the attributes Marion most admired. With impeccable integrity, high energy, fun loving nature, creativity, and intense spirituality, Nita’s guidance remains with Marion and her decision making every day.

Tragedy struck Marion and her son Isaac when her husband Ronnie was killed in an automobile accident in 1980 shortly after their ten-year wedding anniversary. With help, love, and support from her own family, her late husband’s family, her dear friends and her church, Marion was able to put her life back together.

As fate would have it, the following year one of Marion’s late husband’s best friends from El Campo, Texas, Bruce Franke came forward after a great, mutual friendship of over six years and became more than just a friend. Some months later, Bruce and Marion married in a quiet ceremony in El Campo and have just recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas with over 100 of their closest friends and family.

Moving to El Campo was a bit of a cultural shock, but Marion jumped in with her usual enthusiasm and optimism. Bruce had full custody of his children at that time, Todd age 12 and Jennifer age 10, so the couple had a blended family with Isaac being 6 years of age.

For Marion taking the first few months away from real estate sales in order to settle into her new role as “full-time” mom and step mom, as well as integrating into the community life of El Campo was challenging, but rewarding and fun.

“I absolutely loved the people of El Campo. Some of my best friends I met while living there and I plan to love them well until my last breath,” Marion says.

“Blending the new family and making a place in the community was not hard with the good name of my husband’s family and the friendliness of the community. What was very hard was getting my profession back.”

Once Marion decided to return to real estate sales she approached the local brokerage firms and spoke with the men who owned those firms. Unanimously, she was told to return to teaching or reconsider the importance of being a full-time homemaker. “Although these are both exceptional and noble professions, I felt it was unfair to me because I’m extremely challenged as a homemaker and I love selling real estate,” Marion says.

Ultimately Marion joined forces with a dynamic woman in El Campo named Carol Sanders and together they made the decision to purchase a Century 21 franchise from nearby Bay City Century 21 franchisee Helen Hairston. Within a short time they were able to built quite a successful business and were able to help start the careers of several men and women who still sell in El Campo today. “I am happy to say that El Campo now has many women in the industry and their career paths are much smoother, at least in part due to our earlier efforts,” Marion says.

For Marion moving to the Conroe area in 1988 was like moving to “Real Estate Heaven.” Living in an area that had a Multiple Listing Service and where the agents happily co-broke with one another was something she had sorely missed professionally. Although their move was motivated by her husband Bruce’s family’s business interests, Marion was beyond excited by her personal business opportunities.

“Montgomery County is the most beautiful area,” Marion says she has ever lived in; “with lakes, golf courses, fine dining, shopping, theatres, and every form of entertainment imaginable, this area simply sells itself!”

Upon moving to the area Marion stayed within the Century 21 system, but shortly thereafter moved to well-known broker and business woman Sue Luce’s office in Conroe. “Sue was a fountain of knowledge and taught me many things I use every day. Sue possessed the strong work ethic that I saw in my father while growing up. She simply could not tolerate laziness or incompetence in those around her. Although some may have perceived her as tough, no one I’ve ever worked with had a softer heart. She just wanted us to give our best, like she always did. I will always personally love and admire this strong woman of real estate.”

In 1995 Marion says she made the largest professional leap of her life by joining Keller Williams Realty Conroe/Lake Conroe. Marion quickly prospered in the Keller Williams environment by embracing the company’s philosophy for success and by attending valuable Keller Williams seminars where fellow agents share their secrets for success freely with one another. Business models for success are explained and every tool needed to accomplish success is available to all Keller Williams agents. “This team effort has been the backbone of my business,” says Marion. “I have embraced the compassion, work ethic, business model, and philosophy to always do the right thing in order to succeed with the Keller Williams heart and soul.” By following the system outlined in Gary Keller’s (the founder of Keller Williams) best selling book, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, Marion has been able to surpass a level of success beyond her wildest dreams.

While attending her first Keller Williams Convention in San Antonio in 1995 with probably less than 500 agents in attendance, Marion heard Gary Keller speak on the subject of hiring a licensed realtor to assist in one’s business and the value of that acquisition as a “wealth determiner”. “With Janice Oliver as my first team member aboard, I saw a marked increase in sales volume plus a return of some of my personal time and enjoyment of life.”

Riding high on the success of increased volume and profit for her budding team, Marion added yet another asset to her emerging team the next year. Marion was quick to recognize the potential in Charlie Price, a young senior in high school and an Internet Guru, who was just what she needed to get started promoting her listings online through fast surfacing sites such as Realtor.com and HAR.com. A decade later, Franke and Price’s diligence has paid off as they see approximately 85% of their team’s sales come from the Internet, a figure that is extremely large for even some of the top agents. Marion and her team have found immense success utilizing a vast online real estate presence.

In 2000 Marion added her first buyer agent to represent buyers and to provide the utmost satisfaction in customer service. This addition to her team was so successful that Marion soon added another buyer agent to handle the tremendous influx of inquiries on her team listings that were occurring due to the Internet exposure they were experiencing every month.

With their strong success and team chemistry, it wasn’t long before the industry’s most talented agent prospects began to gravitate towards The Marion Franke Team. Marion and her team were proud to welcome the talented Matt West in 2003 to serve as listing co-coordinator as well as marketing and business development manager.

In 2004, Sharon Sedlacek was added to The Franke Team as a buyer agent and after completing her first year Sharon received the prestigious Rookie of the Year Award, much to the proud admiration of her teammates.

Continuing the growth as lead generation increased dramatically, 2005 welcomed Jay Garrison and Dixie Newhouse-Estep to The Franke Team. Jay joined the team as a buyer agent and commercial specialist with a background in construction and commercial lending and Dixie joined as client coordinator with thirty years of real estate experience.

The 2006 additions to The Franke Team have included buyer agents that are considered fabulous additions; veteran agent Tammy Lyons, Paula Cogdell, Greta Siemert, Paul Bacon and Terri Henkelman, and veteran Houston commercial agent Linda Sharver.

This consummate group of professionals is experiencing phenomenal growth in the Montgomery County area and expects to exceed last year’s #1 position for Keller Williams South Texas Region which they have held for the last five years. A remarkable 43 million in production and 182 transactions were a new record for The Franke Team in 2005 and the team is on target for an amazing 55+ million in production for 2006.

Marion’s husband Bruce has always been an important business team member serving as the man behind the woman. Bruce regularly takes time away from his business in the oil and gas industry to manage the time consuming financial responsibility of The Franke Team. Marion is the first person to recognize Bruce’s dedication to support her in every possible way from catering to her clients, to putting in hours at home when she is working around the clock to make a sale.

“To reach the level of success that my team has achieved”, Marion reveals, “it takes not only the extremely talented people that comprise the team, it literally requires a Super Husband; from orchestrating client appreciation parties, to providing wise counsel through tough transactions, single handedly planning and preparing meals for family events and dinner parties for friends, to shopping for my wardrobe; and last, but not least, even doing all the laundry. Bruce is absolutely always there for me and been my foundation.”

After almost twelve years of working with the Keller Williams family, Marion’s fellow Keller Williams affiliates seem to understand the work ethic and the heart of gold that separates her as a top professional in her industry.

“Marion has emerged as a strong leader within the Keller Williams culture and has developed a total team approach to helping clients successfully achieve their real estate goals,” says Dave Roedel, Keller Williams Conroe/Lake Conroe Team Leader. I is not uncommon for Marion to stop by new agent training class and help Keller Williams agents elevate the local real estate environment to one that is totally focused on helping clients achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

“Marion truly lives the principles of integrity and professionalism in her business and her life, “says colleague Ruth Smith, Operating Principal of Keller Williams Conroe/Lake Conroe/Huntsville. “It is a blessing to be able to work with her and to have her influence in our market center.”

“Marion Franke is the most recognizable name in Montgomery County real estate,” says colleague, Brian Newhouse of Suburban Mortgage. “Always the consummate professional, she is the kindest hearted and most generous individual you will ever meet. She treats her clients as family, and genuinely has their best interests at heart.”

Those who are able to do direct business with Marion and her team understand and appreciate the professionalism and warmth that she brings to each transaction.

“I have worked with Marion for over fifteen years,” says Gwen Pryor, Senior Escrow Officer of Chicago Title. She values change and re-evaluates her strategy every year to improve and expand her business. Marion has a wonderful team that makes it a pleasure to close her transactions. Her integrity and adaptability make her a top professional in the real estate industry.”

Such a high level of professionalism and attention to her clients frequently earns not only praise, but referrals and repeat business for Marion and her team.

“Marion Franke is the most professional and knowledgeable realtor in Montgomery County and is an expert on the Lake Conroe properties” comments a recently ecstatic client, Helen Frank. “We listed our house with Marion on a Thursday, received four contracts, and sold the house the following Monday. She made the whole experience painless from listing to closing.”

“I have known Marion Franke for many years,” says longtime client and friend Jeanne Slaymaker. “She was first a business acquaintance and now a good friend. She is a person of great integrity and a very caring individual. In my opinion, that is one reason Marion has such a good name in town and remains the number one agent. We have bought and sold numerous properties through her and everything has always gone smoothly. There were never any surprises at closings. This in turn, gives you great confidence in your real estate agent, and eagerness to call on Marion and her team again and again.”

Although those who know her consider Marion to be a workhorse driven to achieve and succeed, she is also a proud wife, mother, and grandmother with a heart of gold.

Mark Willis, President & CEO of of Keller Williams Realty, Inc. could not be any prouder to have Marion as a part of the Keller Williams organization.

“All of us at Keller Williams take pride in the fact that Marion Franke is part of our organization. She is always kind and is always a “leader. Marion has the ability to rise to the highest occasion in every situation.”

“It is no wonder that Marion is #1 in her market center and is at the very, very top of the 3000 Keller Williams associates in Houston! I personally think the world of Marion Franke and believe that there is no one is more deserving of the Real Estate Executive cover honor than Marion!”

Marion, currently anticipating the adoption of her 7th grandchild, enjoys plentiful family activities, attending their church, The Ark Family Church, and spending weekends at her husband’s family’s historical 850-acre 1940’s circa ranch house in Willis, Texas which ranch lore says was visited by President Lyndon B. Johnson as well as other well-known dignitaries such as John Connelly, Ralph Yarborough, J. R. Parten, Ben Barnes, and Clayton T. Hughes.

Despite the obligation of being a mega-agent and running her own team, Marion never forgets to give back to the community. Marion is proud to be involved in several regular charitable activities run by her church and her social sisterhood of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority.

Just last year, Marion was able to help families devastated by Hurricane Katrina and families in third-world countries with needed medical supplies. Through projects such as the Holiday Family Adoption, Faith in Practice, and Creative Outreach Ministries, Marion has volunteered both time and money.

It might be easy to attribute Marion’s success to her strong work ethic and the talented team she has gathered around her, but the self-proclaimed “workhouse” has truly succeeded through her heart of gold. Marion understands the importance of relationships with people and understands that doing the right thing always will pay off for her and others.

“In order to succeed in this business,” Marion concludes, “you must know that you have to enjoy and respect people first and foremost. Go where you can find encouragement, heart, and support. Go to an office where you can find passion for life and family and that is where you will find success in business.”

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The 2006 H.A.R. Expo . . . Be There! "Simply the Best!" by Steve Levine

It’s October and that means it’s time for the terrific H.A.R. Expo! Actually, this year the Expo is scheduled for Thursday, November 2nd from 4pm-8pm at the Reliant Center but, our October issue is always the “Expo Issue, so here we are.

As is our tradition at REAL ESTATE EXECUTIVE Magazine, we break from our format of honoring a top producer (nominated by the Publishers Advisory Board) and dedicate our front cover and cover story to our current H.A.R. Chairperson. Following that tradition, we are proud to shine the spotlight on Lorraine Abercrombie, our 2006 H.A.R. Chair and the Projects Manager for Greenwood King Properties. Lorraine is also a member of the Publishers Advisory Board.

Lorraine is a “class act” in every way, bringing the same class, knowledge, personality and charm to her positions at H.A.R. in the last seven years, as she has for the last 16 years at Greenwood King.

As is also our tradition at REAL ESTATE EXECUTIVE, we ask all of the Expo attendees and exhibitors to drop by at the expo and sign their congratulations and thank you messages to Lorraine on a cover poster at our booth. Bob Hale, President and CEO of H.A.R. and I will present Lorraine with that poster at the end of the evening. Please plan on dropping by our booth at the show (#120) to sign the poster and register for our door prize. We hope to see you there!

Congratulations are also in order for Ms. Rita Santamaria and her staff at Champions School of Real Estate on the opening of their newest campus, West Houston. The new campus is located on the intersection of Memorial Drive and Highway 6. As many of you know, most of the REE cover honorees are “alumni” and/or current clients of Champions School of Real Estate. Rita will be dedicating a wall (Champions “Wall of Fame”) in her new campus as well! Rita and I are equally proud of her alumni/clients and our cover honorees who have been honored on this wall!

In closing, try not to miss this month’s column by Ruben Gonzalez. Ruben is a Three-time Olympian and his “Go for the Gold” series of articles have become motivational “must reads” in the magazine! His article this month is entitled, “The Price of Success.”

Ruben’s article talks about how “sometimes you just have to do what you do not want to do to get where you are going”. The article references Rudy Ruettiger, the inspiration behind the movie, “Rudy,” (one of my favorites) and Ruben mentioned to Rudy that he (Ruben) didn’t like the luge all that much. Ruben told Rudy that he competed in the luge because it was his vehicle to the Olympics. Rudy got a kick out of that. Then, he told Ruben; “I never liked football. My dream was to be part of the Notre Dame Tradition and I saw football as a way to do that!”

That’s great advice from two people that I respect and admire very much!

It’s time for me to “get going!” As always, good reading and good sales! See you at the Expo!

Success to You!

Steve Levine

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Life is “Simply the Best” for 2006 HAR Chair Lorraine Abercrombie by K. Pica Kahn

Lorraine Abercrombie is simply the best and she carries this theme through her whole life.

As the 2006 Chair of the Houston Association of Realtors®, Abercrombie brings to the position class, caring and creative genius.

Born in New Orleans, she would move to Houston at the age of 8 moving to Virginia for boarding school at the age of 15.

Attending LSU and the American College in London, she would return to Houston where she worked at Neiman Marcus. A fashion merchandising major in college, Abercrombie learned early on that retail wasn’t for her, “I knew I just wasn’t cut out for retail. My father was a contractor and large property owner in the French quarter and did a lot of historical renovations and rentals.”

That was her entry into the world of real estate, and she has combined the two parts of her background-fashion merchandising and real estate into her professional life.

She obtained her license 20 years ago.

She now uses her creativity in both her position as director of marketing for Greenwood King Properties as well as her position as Chair of HAR.

Taking the helm unexpectedly a year early, Abercrombie was up to the task. She didn’t hesitate to jump in and begin her tenure. Believing in her work and in the association, she takes pride in HAR.

“We are so blessed to have a board and staff like no other association of its type in the country. We are the model for real estate boards across the U.S.. The website has won awards, and has one of the largest world-class boards in the country following only Long Island in size. I am honored to be chair for this year.

Abercrombie got involved in HAR seven years ago when HAR.com was considering doing customized websites for local brokers.

“We wanted the Greenwood King website to be updated often, and we wanted a customized site. We were one of the only customized sites in the city of Houston at that time. Our website was designed by our local in-house designer working hand in hand with HAR. Technology brought me into HAR. I wasn’t on the board, but was working closely with the technology department, when they asked me to become more involved. It was quite an honor.”

“HAR Houston is so far ahead of others in staff and members. We own a production studio to shoot stills and video. We have billboards, ads on TV, and in the Chronicle. The real estate industry in being attacked by the community, but HAR is very proactive at showing how much money people save by working with a realtor.

“Most realtors are unaware of how lucky they are to have all the advertising means at their hands. With the web, TV there is so much. In order to have a first-class association you must hire a world-class staff that is exceptional. When it comes to customer service they are on par with the Ritz Carlton. They return you phone calls within a nana second. There is nothing they cannot do, even if they have to work all night. They never say something is impossible.

“I guess you would say they are simply the best which is the theme this year.
When we go to conferences, we have a greater appreciation for what we do. People come from all over the country to see what we have developed and are overwhelmed by our technological advances.”

Although she brings many things to the position at HAR, her technology is one of her strongest qualities. She believes that what the organization has brought to the city is “phenomenal.” And anything she has learned at HAR she has immediately brought into her own company as marketing director of Greenwood King.

By the time she found her way to the HAR board, she was well established in the real estate industry. Working for Greenwood King in Memorial/Tanglewood area for the last 16 years, she takes her experience in marketing to HAR.

“In my position as the head of marketing, I oversee direct mailings, special projects; I do a lot of training and help to improve their branding through HAR technology. We have three locations-the Heights, Kirby and Voss. The Kirby office has 70 agents and the Voss location has 50 agents. Our Heights location with 20 agents is in an Historic home. I love what I do. Every day is different.”

And apparently she is very good at what she does. Julie Greenwood and Linda King, partners in Greenwood King Properties could not agree more. “We are extremely proud of Lorraine for both her leadership position with HAR and additionally for the wonderful contributions that she makes to the community. For the past fifteen years, Lorraine has served an invaluable role with Greenwood King as a manager and head of our marketing department.”

According to Bob Hale/President/CEO Houston Association of Realtors, Lorraine Abercrombie has done an absolutely amazing job as the 2006 Chair of the Houston Association of Realtors®.

“This past year has been one of significant growth for the industry and our Association, as we added more than 3,000 new members in 2006, and Lorraine never wavered in her commitment to making the Association “Simply the Best” for both members and consumers. She is truly the epitome of a graceful, decisive leader, and the 25,000 Realtors in the greater Houston area are fortunate to have benefited from her leadership.”

Others couldn’t agree more. “Lorraine is simply the best, classy, smart and eloquent,” said Robert D. Cook/Robert Cook Properties/2006 HAR Chair-Elect.

Married nine years ago to Memorial builder John Abercrombie, she lives her work and is proud to bring it home. She and her husband talk about work 24 hours a day.

“He is simple divine and he thinks my company is great, very professional.”

The couple doesn’t do everything together however. She doesn’t join him on his hunting and fishing trips. This doesn’t mean that she isn’t as involved as her angler husband. A master scuba diver, she loves to travel. “It energizes me,” she said. “It helps in my quest to be simply the best.”

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Welcome to the Real Estate Executive Blog - Houston Edition

Thank for stopping by and hope you have information to share with the group and insights into real estate. This is going to be so cool!


Steve Levine
Real Estate Exectuve Magazine

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