Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mother Knows Best!

For those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s (during the age the family sitcom), we were entertained by a cornucopia of television shows that revolved around family. “Ozzie & Harriet”, “The Donna Reed Show”, “Leave it to Beaver” and (one of my favorites) “Father Knows Best”, a wise parent figure (usually the dad) would always be there with the answer for the majority of their children’s daily challenges. The mother (although often the wiser parent) would be there to doctor the skinned knee and/or broken heart, but they usually weren’t the “go to” parent for the heavy stuff.

If you were fortunate to grow up in a household that (unlike the sitcom of the day) the mother played a more dominant role, you no doubt now teach your own children what you learned so well from her. Sometimes it was not by lecture or coaching, but by example.

My mother (the late Pearl Boxer Levine) passed away when I was 17 and my sister was 11. She was an early victim of Breast Cancer at the agent of 39. From her I learned the value of honesty and integrity, the belief that if you do the “right thing”, you will never have to look back behind you. And, most importantly, that you can have anything in life, if you believe in yourself and are willing to work to make it happen!

No doubt, one of this month’s cover honorees, Tamela Waltz of RE/MAX Northwest was taught the same values and beliefs about life and business from her mom, Sandy Laine (also of RE/MAX Northwest). Having spent allot of time with these two dynamic women this month, I can tell you that (despite the title of the article), they are very much alike in these core values and beliefs. You will indeed enjoy their story!

In this month’s Lender Profile, we introduce you to Miguel Sanchez of the Gold Quest Group. Miguel is the current President of The Gold Quest Group that includes, Gold Quest Realty and Gold Quest Mortgage Financial. Gold Quest is a company that was founded by his mother, Ms. Marisol Moreno, who lost a valiant battle to leukemia.

Her beauty and charm is missed by all who knew her. The story of Marisol and her husband’s Orlando’s life in Columbia and new start in the U.S. with their family is nothing short of amazing. Their story is more movie material than any that I have ever heard!

But, rest assured, her legacy lives on through Miguel, Orlando and all of the staff at the Gold Quest Group. Don’t miss their story!

To all of the moms and their moms in Houston real estate, we wish you a very happy Mother’s Day!

God bless you all!

As always, good reading and good sales!

Success to you!

Steve Levine

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Sandy Laine & Tamela Waltz—RE/MAX Northwest

Like Mother, Like Daughter? Either Way they’re Two Dynamic Realtors.
By Woodie Stephenson

With adjacent offices located at the RE/MAX Northwest office, mother and daughter associates Sandy Laine and Tamela Waltz have forged a real estate dynasty by focusing on superlative service for a faction of exclusive clientele. Although not technically a “team”, a quandary that seems to sometimes baffle even their closets of colleagues and friends, the duo has achieved their own milestones of success by embracing the importance of family, friendship, and faith. Theirs is an incredible story of the will to survive and desire to succeed in a demanding industry that relies on service first and foremost, and a difficult life that has dealt both misfortune and triumph to their family.

Sandy’s story begins in her hometown of New Orleans, LA, where she met the love of her life, Jerry Laine, and joined him in marriage. Fate would bring the couple to Texas for the first time when Jerry’s job with Air Products and Chemicals transferred the new family outside of Houston to the Clear Lake area. Sandy and Jerry’s only child, a young Tamela, was with the couple through the move. Sandy happily adjusted to her new home and operated a successful dance studio that specialized in ballet and jazz classes for children. It was during tours of homes in Clear Lake that Sandy had her first envious encounter with the world of real estate.

“Watching the agents doing walk-throughs of the house, I was immediately struck by their class and appearance,” Sandy says, “It was then that I knew I wanted to be a Realtor®.”

Sandy and Jerry quickly fell in love with Texas life and made an avid hobby of salt-water fishing together but unfortunately the couple would once again be transferred, this time to Oklahoma City where they experienced an immediate culture shock.

“There was only fresh water fishing in Oklahoma,” Sandy remembers, “We missed Texas almost immediately.”

Despite the culture shock of life in landlocked Oklahoma, the happy family made the best of the adjustment that would inspire a change of career for Sandy. While Jerry worked hard to support the family and a young Tamela took up playing flute in the school band, Sandy decided to pursue an education in real estate. Sandy valued the perspective she could learn from studying subjects outside the school’s requirements.

“Having more education than necessary has allowed me to offer better service in so many ways,” Sandy explains, “not just by being able to offer pricing evaluation, but also by being able to advise on repairs and replacement, offer make ready methods for the property to show at its full potential, and most of all a God-given talent to communicate with all types of people.”

Sandy first got her feet wet working in an explosive Oklahoma market for Red Carpet and Gundecker Better Homes & Garden. Although listing and selling real estate was a tremendous change for the former dance instructor who had been accustomed to working with children, Sandy was eager to embrace the new challenges that came with working in real estate. Her mentor at the time, accomplished Oklahoma real estate guru Harold Knox, taught Sandy a valuable lesson about her new profession.

“Harold took me by the hand on my first listing,” Sandy remembers, “I asked him to be there for me in case the potential sellers had a question I couldn’t answer. I remember telling him I wanted to know everything there was to know about real estate. He replied by telling me ‘you’ll never know it all’.”

Following their four years spent in OK City, the Laines were thrilled to return to Texas and settle in the North Houston area of Spring, the very place Sandy would eventually build the foundation for her Hall of Fame career with RE/MAX.

Sandy joined forces with Homart Development, a company renowned for designing Baybrook and Willowbrook Malls. Sandy had the pleasure of working on the Deerbrook Mall project and for a short while anticipated getting into commercial real estate; however, one day a friend visited her at the mall with some heartfelt advice.

“She asked me, ‘What are you doing stuck inside this mall? You don’t even know if it’s raining outside,’ and at that moment I decided it was time for me to return to sales,” Sandy remembers.

Revamped and ready to take on the Houston market, Sandy took the required courses at Champions School of Real Estate in order to get her Texas real estate license. Sandy quickly began accumulating tenure and experience working under Ella Bishop at a respected Gary Greene Better Homes & Gardens. Sandy used her ambition to work every lead that came her way, including leases and fickle buyers who were unappreciative of her efforts. At first Sandy remembers her peers would snicker and laugh, taking her ambition for overzealousness.

“It’s okay to laugh at me,” Sandy remembers thinking, “because I’ll do everything you don’t do and I will find more success.”

Before long, the motivated go-getter was being pursued as a recruit at RE/MAX Champions. Despite the obvious flattery, Sandy felt strongly that an office’s ethics and reputation were important to building her business and she was extremely cautious before choosing a home with the RE/MAX Champions franchise under Carol Dooley in 1987. Sandy would spend the next 8 years at RE/MAX-Champions slowly building a dynasty as she lead the way for her husband Jerry’s entry into what would become a family business and a powerful team.

“Jerry learned much of his knowledge from me,” Sandy says, “but he had his own distinct style. While I had a better knack for the organizational skills that are necessary in each transaction, Jerry was always laid back, patient, and a great listener, three attributes that most Realtors don’t possess. He was absolutely loved by his clients.”

Although Sandy wasn’t sure Jerry would thrive in real estate as she had, he proved to be a natural and the husband and wife team would begin a reign of service that was unparalleled. Sandy and Jerry built on their exceptional skills and strong marriage and began accumulating an impressive list of achievements during their partnership at RE/MAX. Although their efforts would garner shelves full of trophies and plaques, for the successful team customer service was far more important than accolades.

“Our goal was, and still continues to be for me, to serve and respect the customers and clients who have brought us success,” Sandy shares, “More important than any award was our desire to make each and every one of our clients the number-one priority, which ultimately brings success and recognition in the industry.”

Sandy’s clients have experienced firsthand the energy and knowledge she brings to each transaction. Karen and Dan Turick were able to sell their home in only one month with Sandy’s expertise, even though there were 90 other homes for sale in their community. Not expecting their home to sell so quickly, the Turicks had nowhere to go, but luckily for them, Sandy was able to quickly lease them a townhouse while she went to work finding their dream home.

“Sandy was fun to work with,” Karen recalls, “We interviewed 5 Realtors when we sold our home and she was the only one that wanted to look around the house. Instead of talking about numbers and trying to give us a sales presentation, she wanted to get to know us and get a feel for our home before she tried to sell anything. When it came to selling our home and then finding our dream house, Sandy didn’t care if it was night or Sunday, she went the extra mile to make it happen.”

Kim and Bob Gindrat, who have gone through Sandy to complete three smooth transactions, agree that she is not just knowledgeable and professional, but fun to work with.

“My husband and I enjoyed working with Sandy,” Kim says, “Although looking for a new home can become tiresome, Sandy always made it a fun experience. She researches the area thoroughly, makes sure your getting the value you deserve, and brings a high level of knowledge and professionalism to the table.”

In 1993, Sandy and Jerry’s daughter Tamela, who had been in college during her mother’s climb up the real estate ladder, was seeking success in a career in retail. A recent graduate in marketing from Stephen F. Austin State University, Tamela was happily married to her college sweetheart, Bill Waltz, the owner of Green Oasis Irrigation. Tamela had taken a job as a store manager working in retail for The Limited Corporation but quickly became frustrated with the exasperating hours in a demanding job. It wasn’t long before she was eager to find her own success in a profession that encouraged motivation and rewarded hard work with success and compensation. After taking the state exam for her license in 1993, Tamela remembers having to apply and compete against other candidates for an assistant position at her own mother’s office!

“I had to convince my parents that I really wanted the job,” Tamela remembers, “My husband even tried to convince me I wouldn’t like the reality of working in real estate—the long hours, working for myself, the learning curve—but to me those were the aspects that made it feel so much better than working in any other profession.”

Just when life seemed like it couldn’t get any better for the real estate trio, they received the most devastating shock of their lives when Sandy was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer.

“I decided that if God wanted me that he would take me no matter what,” Sandy says. “Jerry encouraged me to fight and reminded me that God helps those who put forth the effort. He told me that he couldn’t live on this earth without me. I was also inspired by Tamela who informed Jerry and I right at this time that she was expecting our granddaughter, Shelby. Being there for Shelby gave me one more reason to fight and survive.”

Sandy was able to miraculously overcome the cancer that plagued her and see the birth of her granddaughter Shelby, thus establishing 4 generations of proud women in her family.

Although Tamela enjoyed working for her parents after getting her license in 1994, she was ready to start her own career at RE/MAX Champions. She subsequently became that office’s “Rookie of the Year!”

“I love to give my customers personal attention,” Tamela says, “It’s all about quality versus quantity.”

Today Tamela focuses on an exclusive 1,600 home area where most of her buyers are previous sellers, and likewise. She feels that her customers appreciate her honesty when being consulted about the condition and value of their home on the market. With years of experience as a specialist in her exclusive area, Tamela is able to offer clients more than other agents who are not as familiar with the area’s marketing conditions.

“I work strictly off of referrals and repeat business,” Tamela says, “When you are really making an impact in an area your sold signs will do your marketing work for you. Most of my returning clients stay in the area but call me when they’re ready to make a move.”

Tamela’s clients are the first to sing the praises of her tremendous experience and work ethic. Wayne Risher, an Allstate Insurance Representative in Tamela’s listing area, has not only used Tamela as his family’s exclusive Realtor through 3 homes, but has also referred her to his own brother and all his own clients who are interested in moving to the area.

“When Tamela lists a home, she works to market it leading the property to sell quicker,” Risher explains, “She makes you feel like you are the only client she has. She advises you on how to increase your home’s appeal and keeps you up to date with all the current feedback from potential buyers so that you can make adjustments to get the best deal possible. She is completely intentional about the personal service she gives each and every one of her clients. Whenever I have customers moving into the area, I am quick to stake my professional reputation on Tamela’s services.”

Charles Schlowinski, who has sold 2 homes and purchased another with Tamela, considers her more than just a Realtor.

“As a seller’s agent, Tamela really protects your interest and represents you to the fullest,” Schlowinski says, “She priced our homes fairly and got the most for my family. She possesses superior ethics making it a blessing to work with her. As a buyer’s agent, she went to battle and got everything for us. She is flexible and can represent you on both sides of a transaction, a quality that’s rare to find in an agent. We don’t fell like she’s our Realtor, we feel like she’s part of our family.”

After all, Tamela learned her customer service philosophy from her mother. For Sandy, success is about focusing on exclusive clients and giving them her all.

Tamela, however, is not so much an emulation of her mother as she is a combination of the best parts of both her parents.

“I think she’s better than me,” Sandy admits with a warm smile, “She has her father’s best qualities and she can summon up my dynamo energy when she needs it. Her father always could listen to a buyer’s needs, show them 5 houses, and they would pick one. Tamela has that ability to anticipate a buyer’s needs”

That dynamo energy which Sandy possesses has led Tamela to affectionately dub her mother as “a firecracker,” however, all jokes aside, Tamela has always looked up to her mother as her mentor and greatest influence.

Sandy and Tamela, who now have offices next to each other at RE/MAX-Northwest enjoy seeing each other on a daily basis at the office. Although they work closely together, often taking the time to back each other up in completing transactions and serving their customers, the mother and daughter co-workers are technically not a team.

“We are like two separate practices working together,” Sandy explains.
Tamela adds, “We enjoy seeing each other and it’s fun for people to know that although we don’t share the same last name that we are in fact mother and daughter.”

When not working with their clients, Tamela and Sandy enjoy spending time with Shelby who will celebrate her 10th birthday this year. Tamela gave Sandy a set of CD’s by Joel Osteen, Pastor of Houston’s Lakewood Church. Those CDs, “Your Best Life Now” helped Sandy recover. She still listens to them in her car to this day.

In 2004 tragedy struck the Laine family when Jerry passed on. Sandy, stricken with grief, at first had difficulty accepting the loss of her husband of 38 years, but eventually she looked to her faith to find strength.

“I like to have the power to change the things around me,” Sandy says, “I had such a difficult time accepting my loss because no matter how much I want to change things, I couldn’t bring Jerry back and I just had to tell myself he’s in a better place with the Lord.”

Tamela was able to find strength in her family and her strong beliefs.

“What I have discovered over the last few years is that what does not break you will only make you stronger!” Tamela shares, “Tragedy happens to everyone. No one is immune to the heartache of loosing a loved one. As much as I miss my father, I know that he is in a much happier place and someday we will be together again. Rather than be sad for loosing him, I choose to cherish the time that we had together. He was the best father, and it was a gift that I had a chance to work along side him in this wonderful business. Often, colleagues comment on how much I am like my Mom and Dad. For me, that is the biggest compliment that I could ever receive!”

Ultimately relying on family, faith, and friendship, Sandy and Tamela were able to find the power to move on and return to business as usual. However, as fate would have it, they were to suffer one more tragic loss. In 2006 after a family outing, a drunk driver took the life of Sandy’s mother, Tamela’s grandmother, and Shelby’s great-grandmother Rita Gervais. Sandy credits her best friend Hilda Kirshman, “the sister God never gave me”, with being her life line through both of her difficult losses. “We all made it through with the strength and healing of our heavenly father,” Sandy says.

Despite their trials and tribulation, Sandy and Tamela have persisted as leaders in their profession. Tamela was able to gaze into her own future as she watched on as her mother was presented with the RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award for attaining “Platinum” sales status for over 4 years. Boasting over $3-million in commissions over her amazing career, Sandy was appropriately inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame, a distinguished honor among her industry peers.

Together, Sandy and Tamela share a wealth of real estate experience leaving them with plenty of advice for prospective Realtors and new agents.

“If you’re going to do one thing, be passionate,” Sandy shares, “Being a Realtor people notice your appearance first—your style, your car, your accessories—and a lot of people see those thing and want them. Just know you that those things come with the nature of our business which is built on appearances, but you have to work hard if you want them—nothing comes easy.”

Another vital factor Sandy attributes to her success is the diligence of her personal assistant, Kathy Vackar. Kathy has contributed 11 years of unmatched service since she began working with Sandy and Jerry.

“Kathy has been a big part of my life and has helped contribute to my success. Because of her situation she doesn’t need to work—Kathy is a professional shopper—but she’s a natural born people person and she’s been there for my clients and myself during hard times” said Sandy.

Tamela advises rookies to find success in an area of the real estate industry that they’re comfortable with.

“Find a niche for yourself,” Tamela shares, “Listings were where I first found success and it has always been my biggest strength. It’s either feast or famine in this business and believe it or not, everyone stumbles and falls on their way to success. Find yourself a mentor, find your niche, and work them with a passion.”

Sandy and Tamela are truly successes in every sense of the word. They have forged their own separate paths in a competitive and demanding industry, endured a series of terrible tragedies, and made the best of the cards they have been dealt. Throughout misfortune they have exhibited strong character which always relies on the strength of faith, family, and friendship to persevere. Like mother, like daughter? Either way Sandy and Tamela are truly two exceptional and dynamic agents.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Steve Interviews Writer for Real Estate Executive Barbara Davis-Levine (his wife)

Steve honors his wife Barabara Davis-Levine for her hard work featuring cover stories for the magazine.

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Cover Story Eura Miller is Interviewed by Steve Levine

Steve interviews Mrs. Miller. Barbar Davis-Levine, the article writer, attends Mrs. Miller's reception celebrating her honor.

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The StealthMarketer Interviews Steve Levine

Marketing Strategist and Marketing Evangelist/StealthMarketer, Andy Valadez, President of Marketing Dynamics interviews Steve Levine about Real Estate Executive magazine and the blog.

Andy Valadez #4 - An Interview with Steve Levine, Publisher of Real Estate Executive Magazine

Leading-edge marketing dialogue. A Podcast “From the Front Lines” by Andy Valadez, President and CEO of Marketing Dynamics, Visit:, “Because the market never stays the same”.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Steve Levine is Interviewed on CNN 650AM - New Home Show

Steve Levine in Studio with Kevin Price
and Mark Jeffery of the Houston Home Show

Steve enjoys a little "air time". Hear the interview: Houston Home Show (click to listen)

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