You couldn’t meet a more different pair of agents than Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s two Rookies of the Year for 2016 — Rory Hertzberg from Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Bradley, Illinois, and Carrie Davis from Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Menlo Park, California.

  • Rory Hertzberg, of Coldwell Banker Residential Bradley Illinois, has been named Rookie of the Year in North America for total units sold.
  • Carrie Davis, of Coldwell Banker Residential Menlo Park, has been named top rookie agent for total adjusted gross commission.
  • Davis's tip for new agents is to stay true to yourself when looking at the shiny new objects offered in the first few weeks.
  • Hertzberg says to answer the phone at all times and work the long hours necessary to look after clients and build the business.

You couldn’t meet a more different pair of agents than Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s two Rookies of the Year for 2016 — Rory Hertzberg from Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Bradley, Illinois, and Carrie Davis from Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Menlo Park, California.

Hertzberg was named for selling the highest total units in North America and Davis for bringing in the top adjusted gross commission.

Each had careers before real estate — Davis as a collegiate crew coach at Stanford University, among others, while Hertzberg was a top salesman at Verizon selling mobile phones.

Both have already built reputations in their first year for being thorough professionals and receiving rave reviews from happy clients, but that is where the similarities end. Their markets are at either ends of the spectrum.

In some markets, you have to diversify to survive

For Davis in Menlo Park, in the heart of Silicon Valley, her typical home sells for around $2 million or $2.5 million.

Her highest sale last year was $3.65 million. Her clients are, at least on paper, millionaires — and they have to compete hard in multiple-bid situations to buy a home.

Rory Hertzberg

Rory Hertzberg

Hertzberg, who sells across agricultural, commercial and residential real estate in the small town of Bradley, Illinois, has had to diversify in order to get enough business.

It’s a small town surrounded by cornfields, where everyone drives a truck and smokes Camels, he said.

Hertzberg currently has homes as low-priced as $21,000 on his books, while his highest sale so far has been $350,000. So for Hertzberg, it’s about volume — though he is working on increasing the value of the properties he takes on.

The rookie agent will happily travel anywhere in Illinois for a listing, just ask him.

Tammy Mitchell, his managing broker at Coldwell Banker Residential in Bradley — a fan — said the necessity to work over a variety of real estate areas makes her agents some of the best in the industry. They’ve got to be resourceful and solve problems, sometimes stealing from Peter to pay Paul to do a deal, she said.

Mitchell believes Hertzberg is exceptional and is thankful for the 35-year-old dealmaker, who has been very helpful in encouraging new agents to join the brokerage, too.

Is he destined for greater things, perhaps?

Hertzberg said he does sometimes think he’d like a crack at the Chicago condominium market. Chicago is just an hour and a bit away.

But Mitchell is hoping he’ll stay put and wants to chain him to his chair, she joked.

“He can do anything that he wants to achieve; the sky is the limit,” she said.

It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone

Each of the two rookies had their own challenges when starting out.

Hertzberg had to just put his head down in an always-tough market with more people leaving than arriving — walking the neighborhoods, door-knocking, cold-calling for-sale-by-owners, only doing the minimum of training because he simply didn’t have time.

And his hard work has been rewarded with doing a deal, either buying or selling, almost every week in 2016. Only a quarter of the way through last year, he hired an assistant to help service clients.

Why has he done so well? “It’s just having a natural charisma, some people have it. And some people are not willing to step out of their comfort zone,” Hertzberg said.

“I should have done this earlier,” he admited.

“When they called me and said I had sold the most units, I thought: ‘Everyone else is just being lazy,'” he said.

“I sold a house a week in the crappiest conditions in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

He tells sellers that it is better listing with him, with just three or four listings, than the agent with 40 listings — because the other agent would devote a fraction of the time to marketing the home.

And he certainly works the hours, getting up at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 11 p.m. “My office is my car,” he said.

“I always answer my phone; that’s super important,” he added. He loves social media and uses his Facebook page for his business, which somebody operates for him.

“I knew I had to reinvest in myself; I always believed in leaving things to the professionals.”

The new agent has decided to put his money where his mouth is and has started buying houses — he has four in his portfolio right now.

New agent experience feels like Dory in Finding Nemo

Carrie Davis

Carrie Davis

On the other side of the country, Carrie Davis — who started in real estate in late 2015, in a hot market thanks to the tech boom — says she felt like Dory in Finding Nemo, with lots of shiny objects on offer to help her market herself and to get business.

“It took me about a month fluttering about, trying different options,” she said.

Her attitude now is: “I’m sure this is all great, but for me it took an element of confidence and discipline to say: ‘I get it, but that’s not me.’

“The biggest thing for me as a new agent was to be true to who I am.”

Davis is not your typical Silicon Valley social media junkie — it isn’t really her thing; neither is being high-profile.

Her attitude toward Facebook is “less is more.” She would rather talk about a nature hike on her Facebook page than promote herself or her business.

When asked by her broker if she would like her photo on a supermarket cart, she recoiled in horror.

Instead, her approach has been to work on areas that suit her skills.

The former coach uses her coaching with real estate, for instance, by working with individuals toward a goal and then designing a strategy to reach that goal.

The mother of two girls has found that networking face-to-face with buyers and sellers was the most natural means of marketing herself.

Open houses good for a ‘people person’ just starting out

“I know that I’m a people person, so any opportunity to connect directly with individuals versus online or on Zillow, I take,” Davis said. “I focused on open houses, making connections with people.”

Davis has attracted both buyers and sellers through these, reaching out in the early days to senior agents in the office and volunteering to run their open houses.

She found her first listing from her own sphere, and she asked a senior agent to co-list with her.

Davis likes to work collaboratively and would have been a natural for a team — but there were no opportunities when she joined.

“I believe there is tremendous value, both for new agents and the seasoned, in fostering business partnerships,” she said.

Davis said she adds value by doing very specific searches with clients: helping them filter, finding the subtleties and the nuances, and regularly communicating with them.

One very well-prepared client she worked with for a few months was a joy because he was so well-informed and pro-active. They put in an offer on a property that had 10 offers and his offer won out, though it wasn’t the highest and he needed financing while others were cash buyers.

In her presentation of their offer, Davis said they showed that they had done their homework on the property, which had some erosion.

“We demonstrated that we had not only reviewed the disclosures but looked into them,” Davis said.

Therefore, the transaction was likely to run smoothly.

It was a triumph that day, but Davis has got it already: “The real estate industry is full of highs and lows. Some days you feel like you are killing it, 30 seconds later you are completely at the bottom, and you feel like you won’t sell a house again as long as you live.”

Meanwhile, for Hertzberg, the work has just begun.

The high-volume agent has sold 12 units since January, and his properties’ price points are rising higher incrementally by $30,000 to $40,000.

He wants to build a team and is paying for a couple of his friends from Verizon to go through real estate school. They will be good candidates as they are used to working on commission, he said. They will be buyer’s agents.

The rookie agent is at the point now where he is turning down listings if he doesn’t think the seller will listen to him on price. He figured out very early on, however, that listings are what you need to be successful.

“Once you have the listing, you are in charge — you are the one working the deal,” he said.

Email Gill South.

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