Today in our “Meet the Agent” series we get to know the newly inaugurated President of the Illinois Association of REALTORS, Loretta Alonzo. Loretta is the owner of CENTURY 21′s Alonzo & Associates, serving the suburbs of Chicago. In our Q&A we discuss how she first got started in real estate, her advice for new agents and her must-see destinations for visitors to Chicago.
C21: You have been working in real estate for 38 years. How did you first get started in the business?
LA: I was working as a paralegal for an attorney in downtown Chicago who also did a lot of rehab in the Old Town and Lincoln Park areas of Chicago. As his assistant, I would hand all the subcontracting for the rehab projects. This sparked my interest in real estate. I then had my first child and wanted to still work, so I decided to pursue real estate. Since I already knew the legal part of the transaction, I decided I could do the selling part also and provide my clients with insight to the complete transaction process.
C21: Do you remember your first sale?
LA: Absolutely! We were in a market at that time with very low inventory. I had a client looking for a two unit building in the Berwyn-Cicero market. There were no active two units on the market. I decided to check to see if there had been any recent expired listings and found one. I called the owner and asked if they were still interested in selling. They said they were, I showed the building to my client and it was sold! So my first transaction was my listing which I sold.
C21: When you bought your first home, what made you fall in love it?
LA: My first home was a two unit because at the time, my mother was a recent widow and needed to be close by. I loved the kitchen. It had a breakfast nook that I was fascinated by because we could sit very cozily at the kitchen table. I was newly married so I got to buy all new furniture for the house.
C21: You have worked as a broker, a president and an owner. What aspect of working in the real estate business do you enjoy the most?
LA: There is enjoyment at all aspects. As a broker/owner, I love seeing new agents come into the business, training them and see them achieve their goals. I like being in charge of my own destiny even though at times it can be challenging, it is exciting to see how you overcome those challenges and learn to adapt to the changes in our business.
C21: Your area of focus is the western suburbs of Chicago. What makes this real estate market special and unique?
LA: Our marketplace had a lot of predatory lending so we are constantly faced with potential sellers being backwards in their homes. We had to make sure the agents were ready for this market by requiring that they all take classes on dealing with short sales. We set up a system in the office to handle this market.
C21: If I had only one day in Chicago, what are the three things I must see/do?
LA: I’ve gone to a lot of different large cities and truly believe Chicago it one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. I bring my out of town family to Navy Pier, any one of our Museums of Science and Industry, and of course, for us ladies, shopping on the Magnificent Mile.
C21: Your office, CENTURY 21 Alonzo & Associates works in both residential and commercial real estate. What are the key differences between selling in these two markets?
LA: The key difference is in the marketing of these type properties. Obviously, the internet plays a big role in both, but there are the different sites for residential as compared to commercial. We deal in areas requiring inspections by our local cities and towns for residential and commercial, so it is important that we know what is required for the buildings to pass the inspections and having a good rapport with the various building departments in the different communities.
C21: Name the three qualities necessary to succeed in real estate.
LA: Good service, honesty and being goal oriented.
C21: Our company mantra is “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.” How do you embody the mantra in your day-to-day work?
LA: All of our material has “Smarter.Bolder.Faster” on it. When you are a busy person you have to be able to work smarter to get everything you need to do accomplished. Bolder means standing out and creating a positive image for your company in the community. Faster means getting it all done with the necessary systems in place.
C21: You were recently installed as the new President of the Illinois Association of REALTORS, congratulations! What will be your new responsibilities in this role and what are you looking forward to most?
LA: I have always been very involved in the real estate community, but I look forward to being the spokesperson for our State Association next year. We have a lot to get done, such as meeting with our Governor to help create jobs in Illinois. More jobs mean more homeowners. We have legislative issues. Illinois had over 6,000 bills presented last year that would have affected homeowners. Our State Association saw that only 632 got passed and did not negatively affect homeownership. I represent Illinois at our National Association of Realtors meetings where we are working together to see that the mortgage interested deduction is not taken away from homeowners and other issues. At the end of my term, I would like to see what we can accomplish to meet our goals.
C21: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person starting out in the real estate business, what would it be?
LA: I tell all my new agents getting into this business that is hard work, but the rewards are very gratifying. You get to help people make a decision one of the most important decisions of their life and build friendships that last a lifetime.
C21: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
LA: I play golf, travel and love spending time with my seven grandchildren. They are the light of my life and they keep me young too!
C21: Continue the conversation with Loretta on her website.