By Lynette Carrington
Some people find their job niche through schooling and some find it through networking. But Realtor Debbie Jennings of Realty One Group was practically born into the industry, having been influenced and surrounded by different aspects of real estate since she was very young.
When Jennings was in grade school, her parents build a small six-plex apartment in Glendale, renting out five of the units while living in the sixth. “I helped with everything and learned a lot about being a landlord at an early age,” Jennings states. “The most fun part about it was that we lived across the street from a Catholic church and the celebrations they had were fascinating and beautiful. The worst part was the way some of the tenants left their properties when they moved.” She definitely had a taste of the duties and responsibilities of a landlord and those earliest experiences have stuck with her.
No one in Jennings’s family had a real estate license, but the industry captivated Jennings. She says, “My parents owning the apartment complex was as close as it got. One close friend took me to three different companies. We worked well together, we were a good team and she taught me a lot.” In fact, that friend, Gloria Munoz also served as a mentor to Jennings. “She taught me about compassion and the dream of home-ownership and how people have come to this country for generations to own something so important and real as a home,” Jennings explains. “It's the American Dream and she taught me a lot about it. There is something special about owning your own home; something you can afford and be proud of. It might include working your way up from first time home buyer to owning your dream home and investing in rental properties and building your income portfolio.”
Falling Into Real Estate
Jennings says, “I think you fall into your passion sometimes. When my parents lived mortgage-free if the other five apartments were rented, I thought it was a great concept, even in grade school. My dad worked all the time, he was a police officer, picking up extra shifts when he could and owned a small welding business. My mom was a homemaker and worked the day-to-day operations of the apartments. After that, I fell into things with my job and purchasing homes.”
Home ownership was important to Jennings and she bought her first home at age 19. “In my early 20s I purchased a HUD condo and gutted it,” she explains. “I learned how to do that through trial and error, but my mortgage payment was so much cheaper than rent, even with my HOA fees. I was stunned. I have owned so many homes since then. Why rent when you can build equity?! Some brand new, some in need of a lot of work, but lots of learning and lots of equity building. It’s much better than renting.”
Jennings continues, “For my career, I ended up just getting jobs in the industry because they interested me. I first worked for a builder-they built condos in Phoenix. After that I worked for a landscape architect, who designed master planned communities. Then I worked for the AZ Department of Commerce, Housing Department, years later, a nonprofit run by the Sisters of Mercy to aid in low income housing, and then the most interesting job I have ever had (besides my current one), when I was hired by the Federal Government during the Saving & Loan collapse. They formed the Resolution Trust Corporation and I helped them sell their foreclosed homes in Phoenix and Denver-absolutely fascinating job. The interest rate in the early 90s was 18 percent! The program I assisted with was to sell the lower income homes to residents who would live in them and we gave them a 9 percent interest rate and people flocked to it.”
After closely following the industry for many years, Jennings is still amazed at how low interest rates are. Homeownership is more attainable than ever. “The homes have gotten so much bigger and more affordable, people are used to buying ‘McMansions’ for their families as of late,” Jennings says. “The size of affordable homes back then was much smaller. So that brings me back to today. I had meandered out of housing and gone into sales and advertising for eight years. It was not my passion, but that background helps me with selling homes today. I got my residential real estate license in May of 2014, and started working for Realty One Group-an absolutely fantastic company with great culture. I have once again found my passion. I am back into doing what I love to do-helping people with the American dream!”
As a self-professed fan of HGTV (Jennings still watches it when she gets a spare 30 minutes), she always thought it looked like such fun. She explains, “But it’s not like that at all. I love solving problems for people and getting the job done well for them. I love negotiating and I love handing people keys. But my background in different aspects of real estate has put me where I am today. I have a knack for it and I really do love it! In reality, real estate is hard work. Most states require an attorney to assist with the transaction, but not Arizona, so we have more work to do. We have long days without an income until we close escrow. Finding a work life balance and managing a budget and spending are important. You really have to like this business to stay in it and I love it!”
As with many financially related markets, the real estate market changes constantly. Last year it was a buyer’s market. This year it has been a seller’s market for most of the year and now the scale is tipping to more of an even market. “Many changes in this industry keep us on our toes and we have to constantly educate ourselves and our clients,” Jennings states. “I’m always learning. You will never be bored as an agent but you have to do a great job for your clients so they will refer their friends and family to you-this is a referral-based business for the most part.”
Jennings continues, “Here is a little bit of honesty and reality-most Realtors fail. There are too many people who think this is an easy business because it’s easy to go to school and get your license. I believe it should be much harder to get in because there is so much at stake. I have never worked harder in my life. There are tens of thousands of Realtors in Arizona. Hundreds and hundreds graduate monthly. From what I have heard, there is an over 95 percent dropout rate by the time the two year renewal comes up. We have lots of fees and dues and Continuing Education training, and we have to pay our broker’s monthly fees and fees with each deal closed. What we end up making after a deal closes can be much smaller than the general public thinks.”
“You really have to have a passion for it like I do to succeed, and I have great respect for my fellow agents who are passionate for the business as well,” adds Jennings. “I also give back to charity. Each time I get a paycheck, my client’s favorite charity gets a donation too. If they don't have a favorite, I will donate to my favorite. Charity, compassion, helping others is what life is all about!
Visit www.debsellsaz.com, email [email protected] or call (602) 550-4958 to get your home buying or selling process started today.