Today in our “Meet the Agent” series we get to know Hope Rosenberg, owner of CENTURY 21 Norma Altman Realtors in New Jersey. Hope shares with us how being involved in the local community generates referrals, the strategy behind her office’s Facebook business page and the unlikely feature that made her fall in love with her first home: the staircase banister.
C21: How did you first get into real estate?
HR: I have worked in sales for 35 years, but in real estate sales for the past 14 years. For over 20 years I was involved in sales in the garment industry. When my kids were born I took off to be a full time mom. Then my husband and I were in the process of selling our house and my eyes were opened to the real estate business. My husband convinced me that “as a seasoned sales professional, if you know your product, you can sell anything – and in real estate you can build your business and still be home when the kids get out of school.” So I got my license and haven’t looked back since.
C21: Do you remember your first sale?
HR: While I was in real estate school, I told everyone I knew I was getting my license – especially all the mothers in the school parking lot as we waited for our kids to be let out. I had two listings waiting for me when I got my license. My first listing was from the president of the PTA. Her husband had become a successful doctor who wanted a house “befitting a doctor”. I had my marching orders and went to work. My first transaction was a double – the sale of their old house in the morning, and the purchase of their new house in the afternoon.
C21: When you bought your first home, what made you fall in love it?
HR: Believe it or not, the first thing I fell in love with was the staircase banister. We had been looking at townhouses, and the banisters were always shaky. When I felt the sturdiness of this banister, I knew this was my new home. We had been renting in a three and half room apartment in New York City, so moving to a three bedroom, two and half bathroom house gave us the feeling of having so much and was just overwhelming.
C21: What was the first big furniture purchase you made for the place?
HR: Our first big furniture purchase was a dining room set that made us feel like we were truly homeowners.
C21: After ten years in the office, you became the owner of CENTURY 21 Norma Altman Realtors. We understand Norma, the original owner, was a prominent figure in the local community. Can you tell us more about the company?
HR: Norma started the office over 40 years ago. She was THE real estate broker in our area. Everyone knew Norma. Although Norma has been gone for over a decade now, we still get calls from her old customers saying, “Norma sold me my house”. After Norma passed on, her daughter took over and folded the agency into the CENTURY 21 family. When I bought the company, I kept Norma’s name on the agency out of respect to her legacy and because her name is a “brand” in the local community. Now our motto is: From Our Home, To Your Home… There is always HOPE!
C21: Now in your second year as owner, the company is on target to triple its first year’s revenue. How do you not only survive, but thrive in this recovering housing market?
HR: We don’t view the housing market as challenging, but rather as an opportunity. Now, more than ever, buyers and sellers alike need a real estate professional who can hold their hands through a transaction. Coming to terms on a price is the easy part, but bringing the deal to the closing table takes a certain expertise. And it’s not just that, we offer full service above and beyond the transaction – anything from shoveling snow from the walks of a vacant home, to helping sellers clear inspection hurdles or navigate Town Hall for required permits and CCOs. We leave nothing to chance, and that is what we base our reputation on.
C21: Your area of focus is northern New Jersey. What makes this real estate market special and unique?
HR: While like the rest of the country, prices are well below what they were just a few years ago, activity is still strong. We benefit from our proximity to New York City. Northern and Central New Jersey offer a middle class suburban lifestyle with a quick commute to NYC. And for those that work in NJ, they are still a quick train ride, or short drive, from Manhattan, considered by many to be the “cultural center of the world”.
C21: If I had only one day in your city/town, what are the three things I must see/do?
HR: Each town around here is fairly small, so I will expand that answer to the entire surrounding community. Springfield is a very historic town and is home to the Hutching House, or better known as the “Cannonball House” (so called because it was hit with a cannon ball during the Battle of Springfield in the Revolutionary War). It is one of only four houses left standing in town after the retreat of the British. The Thomas Edison National Historic Park is another must see. It is located in West Orange and the grounds encompass Thomas Edison’s estate and laboratory. Then top off your day and take in a play at Millburn’s renowned Paper Mill Playhouse, the “State Theater of New Jersey”, which hosts productions on par with anything seen on Broadway.
C21: Name the three qualities necessary to succeed in real estate.
HR: 1) Compassion – understanding the needs of your clients and putting their goals ahead of your commission.
2) Integrity – there is no substitute for honesty, professionalism and ethical behavior. This is what you build your reputation on.
3) Patience – sometimes you have to spend a lot of time with a client, and do a lot of hand holding, but witnessing how the end result of a transaction brings joy to a Buyer or relief to a Seller is very rewarding.
C21: Our company mantra is “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.” How do you embody the mantra in your day-to-day work?
HR: Smarter = We embrace new technologies. We will try everything and expand on those that work best.
Bolder = We pride ourselves on developing creative out-of-the-box marketing strategies customized to each client.
Faster = We utilize online tools and all forms of communication to relay feedback to our clients on a swift and regular basis.
C21: Your office has a very active Facebook business page where you share company information, talk about local events, have tabs for your listings, your reviews and more. What is your strategy for building an online community?
HR: The strategy is simple. The more your name shows up online, the greater the likelihood that someone will find you in a search. It’s all about exposure. If someone were to Google my name, our office, or one of our listings, they will see multiple pages appear with results. Besides our company Facebook page, I also have a local Facebook group page where we post home sale prices and other pertinent information, I have been a contributing writer of real estate articles for our local online newspaper, we create custom URLs for our listings, we push our listings out across all the various social media sites, and we utilize CENTURY 21 to syndicate them to hundreds of real estate sites.
C21: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person starting out in the real estate business, what would it be?
HR: You will only get out of this business what you put into it. It is as easy to fail as it is to succeed. But to succeed, you need to put in the time, spend some money on marketing yourself, and cultivate relationships. Don’t get frustrated when times are tough because if you are committed, success will follow.
C21: You are involved in the local broker’s council and with the local chamber of commerce. Tell us a bit more about that and why it’s important to you.
HR: As a member of the CENTURY 21 team, it is important for me to be a part of the voice that helps direct the future of the company. The growth of CENTURY 21 as a brand name will only enhance my local business. Involvement in local politics and organizations are also vital for two reasons: 1) I live in the community that I serve and if I am to be helping buyers and sellers in that community I should be well versed in every aspect of the community, and 2) There is no better way to network and get referrals then to hang out with other people who are looking for the same; as they say – “one hands washes the other”.
C21: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
HR: Not working? What does that mean? However, when I am away from the office the three things I love the most are going to the beach, going to the beach, and going to the beach. Spending time with my family and baking are right up there too. Of course, as long as I have my cell phone, I am ALWAYS working!