Florida-based Century 21 agent Ivis Suarez shares how she persevered through the toughest transaction of her career to help a family get back to Puerto Rico.

Throughout her 15 years in real estate, Century 21 Myers Realty’s Ivis Suarez has earned many accolades, ranging from earning C21’s coveted Golden Eagle sales award to being named one of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals top 250 agents.

However, Suarez says those awards pale in comparison to the relationship she’s built with her clients, many of whom come from the same immigrant background as her and count on Suarez to help them make one of the most important choices of a lifetime.

“I love people, I love to help out, and I felt [real estate] was a way that I could do it,” she said. “I’m making money to support my family, while making a difference in the world by doing acts of kindness, going above and beyond on all my transactions, and helping people’s dreams come true.”

“A big thing in Hispanic culture is trust,” she said. “My honesty and my word mean everything to me.”

In April, Suarez’s skills and reputation was put to the test when a former client called asking for help. The client needed to sell her parent’s Lakeland, Florida, home quickly, as their health was deteriorating and they wanted to spend the rest of their lives at home in Puerto Rico.

“Nobody wanted to go out there because [the home] was occupied, and the [sellers] were old and sick,” Suarez said, describing the difficulty the sellers had before contacting her. “They didn’t have COVID, but the dad is 74 years old and has diabetes, and the mother only has 10 percent vision, and she has diabetes and Alzheimers.”

“Everybody was on pins and needles because we wanted to protect them,” she added.

Suarez agreed to help and knew the perfect couple to purchase the home. With masks, gloves, and sanitizer in tow, Saurez gave them a quick tour, which ended in the couple expressing interest in the home, but only if the owners could complete a list of repairs.

“They bought the home four years ago as a foreclosure,” Suarez explained. “They paid cash and didn’t want to pull in an inspector.”

The family had plans to renovate the home, but the parents’ health challenges got in the way of anything being done. Now, they only had a few weeks to make repairs, sell it, and move out.

“So I spoke to my licensed contractor and said, ‘I have this family, and they need to get back to Puerto Rico. They have no one here, they need to get back, and I need to get this house sold for them,'” Suarez said. “I told him they didn’t have any money to invest [for repairs], and he agreed to do the work anyway. It was like an angel falling from heaven.”

After striking a deal with the contractor to receive payment at closing, his team completed $8,000 worth of repairs that included installing a new air conditioning system, bringing the electrical and plumbing systems up to code, and replacing the roof.

“The home appraised and it passed inspection after the repairs, but it came back with some notes,” Suarez added.

After reviewing the inspector’s report, the buyers added onto the list of repairs they wanted the sellers to cover before closing, which added to the sellers’ financial pressure. So, Suarez spent $1,800 of her own money to buy new window screens and pool pumps, and have the pool professionally cleaned.

Before and after photos of the pool.

“I told both parties, ‘We will do whatever needs to be done as long as all parties are satisfied once we walk away from this deal,'” she said.

As the closing deadline crept closer, the buyers kept adding to their list of the requests, which included a deep clean and proof from the sellers that their airline tickets and moving plans were in place.

“The sellers had been staying with family members after selling their old home,” Suarez explained. “[The seller] didn’t feel they were going to be able to [clean and move] because they’re handicapped, and she said, ‘Unless these things are done before closing, I’m not going to move forward with the sale.'”

“My heart dropped, not because I couldn’t put it back on the market and sell it,” she added. “My heart dropped because my sellers would be $8,000 in debt with the [contractor]. I told him that he would get paid upon closing.”

She continued, “My word is more important to me than any contract or document. If I give you my word, I will follow through on it.”

So Suarez and the sellers’ daughter rolled up their sleeves and spent two days deep cleaning the home, throwing away clutter, carrying furniture to the garage, organizing moving boxes, and finding plane tickets to Puerto Rico.

Suarez during the cleaning process.

“I was there for two days, with gloves and masks,” she said. “I was doing everything. My back gave out on me, but I couldn’t give up. They needed to get this house sold and go back to Puerto Rico.”

Before she could breathe a sigh of relief, the buyers had a new request — they asked the seller to replace the DIY grease trap that led to the septic system. Then, Jet Blue canceled the family’s flight back home, further putting the deal at risk.

“In the midst of that, the airline called and said they’d canceled all flights to Puerto Rico. My heart dropped again,” she said. “I wanted to leave crying. I lifted up my hands, and I had to pray and have a little talk with God.”

Suarez called upon a trusted septic specialist and plumber who repaired the grease trap the next day. Meanwhile, she bought new plane tickets with Southwest and completed the closing.

“Southwest came through and had flights to Puerto Rico. I had to be at their house on Saturday at 6 a.m.,” she said. “I went to the home on Friday at 5 p.m. and I was there until 12:20 a.m. making sure they had their bags packed, they’d emptied the fridge and it was clean, and everything was cleaned.”

The family getting ready for their flight to Puerto Rico.

“The next day, the sellers and buyers exchanged the keys, and I drove the sellers to the airport,” she added. “I put my heart into this transaction.”

In the two weeks since her “most difficult transaction” ever, Suarez said she’s received calls from the buyer and seller thanking her for her service.

“The seller called me this week to tell me that she bought a home in Puerto Rico,” she said. “She said that she wouldn’t have been able to get home and get her parents to a safe place if it hadn’t been for the work I did. That’s worth more than any commission.”

Email Marian McPherson

We’re highlighting agents with extraordinary stories through our feature, Agent Plus. Do you know someone who should be highlighted for their work inside and outside of the office? Send your nominations to AgentPlus@inman.com.

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