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Broker Spotlight: Erica Ramus, RAMUS Realty Group

Name: Erica Ramus

Title: Broker-owner, MRE

Experience: 23 years in real estate, MRE – Master’s Degree in Real Estate

Location: Pottsville, Pennsylvania

Brokerage name: RAMUS Realty Group

Rankings: No. 1 independent firm in our marketplace

Team size: 8 agents plus me (not in production)

Transaction sides: 460 sides in 2022

Sales volume: $50 million in 2022

Awards: Reading Berks Association of Realtors: 2022 Realtor of the Year

3 reasons Erica Ramus is in the spotlight

  • Using her journalism background, Ramus spends a lot of her bandwidth writing and educating the industry, including starting a local magazine in 1997, writing and contributing to several works (available on Amazon) on a range of topics from reptiles to real estate, completing four book projects and a few courses for Dearborn/Kaplan over the past two years, and writing over 50 articles as an Inman contributor since 2015.
  • Ramus characterizes RAMUS Realty Group as “highly productive” and “fiercely independent.” After starting out as a franchise, they went independent three years later and “never looked back.”
  • With only eight agents, they closed 460 sides last year, plus dozens more off-MLS as consultants or transaction agents. “After 23 years in the business (16 owning my own brokerage) and being the No. 1 indie broker in my market,” said Ramus, “I’ve proven our ‘teamerage’ model works.”

A brief Q&A

How did you get your start in real estate?

I was a magazine editor and publisher. I started a local magazine in my market in 1997 called Schuylkill Living Magazine, the first in our part of Pennsylvania. Two of my advertisers were real estate brokerages and they both tried to recruit me.

One broker hired me to do his marketing and print brochures, besides advertising in the magazine. Eventually, he convinced me to get my license so I could use my marketing skills and collect a commission from the sales I assisted him with as a marketing professional. To make it easier to run the magazine and sell real estate, I moved my magazine office into the same building as the real estate brokerage, and eventually was juggling two full-time jobs.

I had two phones on my desk — one for the real estate office and one for the magazine. I opened my own brokerage in 2007 and sold off the magazine to another publishing company so I could concentrate on real estate only.

What do you wish more people knew about working in real estate?

I wish the clients knew how hard it is to do a great job if you have multiple careers. Hire a full-time agent, not someone who considers it a side job. An agent who is juggling real estate plus another job (or two) cannot concentrate fully on real estate, which is why I only hire full-time professionals. If I hire someone with another job, I require them to have an exit plan and a timeframe to go full-time with our firm.

I had one agent who worked at a restaurant, picked up a side job helping someone with rental property management and then tried to help a friend run a coffee shop. She ran between the jobs and completely lost her focus on real estate. Clients complained they could not speak to her in a timely manner when they had problems or concerns. One seller actually drove to the restaurant to see her in person when she was not answering his calls.

She was exhausted and frustrated, and kept losing clients as a result. I asked her to quit the three other jobs to concentrate on real estate — and her business did much better. I wish the public knew this when considering which agent to hire to represent them. When your focus is split between too many places competing for your attention, you cannot possibly do the best job for your clients.

Tell us about a high point in your brokerage career.

In January of this year, I received the Reading Berks Association of Realtors 2022 Realtor of the Year award. That was very rewarding, to be recognized by my colleagues at RBAR as making a difference in the association and in the real estate profession. I also serve as 2023 Chair of Professional Standards for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors. That is an honor and duty I take seriously.

What’s your top tip for freshly licensed brokers?

Find another broker or two in your immediate market area you can talk to — someone you are friendly with, who you can share tips with and talk to honestly. Use them as a sounding board to help talk through problems and issues. If they are much more experienced at running a brokerage, forge a mentor relationship with them. Just because someone is in a competing office does not mean we have to treat each other like the enemy.

I tried to create a small mastermind group in my area a few years ago, inviting indie brokers to meet at lunch once a month to bounce ideas off each other and help solve problems. Two other brokers seemed skeptical of the meetings and asked if we were trying to take over or merge companies. The answer was no, but I don’t think they believed me. In the end, only two of us kept the relationship going, but we talk regularly on the phone and meet up for coffee or lunch. We’ve even brought our two offices together in the past to do joint training on contract law when the state changed our standard forms significantly.

Both companies benefited by a stronger relationship and saved time and effort in combining the contract training into one session. It’s a shame more brokers don’t embrace this model.

What makes a good leader?

A good leader is situationally aware of what is going on in their own office and in the surrounding market. They have their ear to the ground and see what is going on with their agents and can feel the office vibes — as it is and not just as they wish it to be.

I recently consulted with a broker who told me that his office had a tight culture of sharing and cooperation and that the entire firm worked as a cohesive team to serve their clients best as a group. He denied office infighting or gossip and said he prided himself in keeping the agents so “well fed” that there was no backbiting or jealousy amongst the agents. He hired me because production was down and he recently lost a handful of agents to a competing brokerage.

When I met with and interviewed a number of agents, I discovered this was not true at all. His perception was based on what he wanted the office to be like, not what it actually was like right now. The group of agents who recently left switched offices because of in-office fighting. The remaining agents were gossiping amongst themselves and fighting over new leads. The broker was well-intentioned but missed this completely. He had blinders on.

When faced with the reality of how the office culture had changed over the past year, his eyes were opened and he saw the office as it now was, not as it was in the prior few years. He then could tackle the culture issues and help the group change course to improve the situation.

A good leader also knows what is going on in his or her immediate market and the surrounding areas. We don’t operate in a vacuum. If you ignore market trends and your competitors, you can miss opportunities as they arise and not see threats until they are right on top of you.  That’s another reason to talk to and meet with friendly brokers in your area. Compare notes on trends and brainstorm solutions to problems you both may be seeing.

Don’t be afraid to call another broker and have an open discussion. If someone doesn’t want to share data or discuss current issues, keep dialing until you find a like-minded soul. I have more than one indie broker friend I can call to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off. Sometimes I call someone in my market area, and other times I will call someone outside the region to get a different perspective.

What’s one thing you wish every agent knew?

I wish more agents understood the role of the broker. The broker should be there to help and advise you, not serve as a figurehead in name only. I took a call the other day from a local agent who is on the co-broker side of one of our transactions. They called to ask me a contract question because their broker was really busy and hadn’t returned their calls.

I answered the question, but advised them to still speak to their broker about it. She said she hated to bother the broker because she knew he had hundreds of agents to worry about, not just her. That broker needs to have managers or associate brokers available to help with questions if they are not available to help their agents.

I don’t consider it a bother when my agents call me or email me with questions. That’s my role in the company: To help the agents succeed and “deal doctor” their transactions. If you cannot get your broker to reply to your questions to help you get to the next level — then perhaps you need to find another broker. Find someone who is there for you when you need them.

Christy Murdock is a freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. Connect with Writing Real Estate on Instagram and subscribe to the weekly roundup, The Ketchup.

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