By Susan A. Fogel
Last Wednesday, I was honored to interview all but two of the women real estate agents profiled here. But I know all of them. I have worked with all of them over the years. They are a varied group. Their time practicing real estate ranges from barely a year to so long, that when Moses brought the tablets with the ten commandments, he also brought a third tablet, the license of one of them!
All of them have been to universities, either in Mexico or in their old countries. All but one are fluently bilingual. None, in either their written response to questions I sent them or in person mentioned money as a driving factor in their work. In fact, none of them even mentioned money. I had to ask them their attitudes about money. And we do know that for a busy, responsive and professional real estate agent, the money is GOOD. Their main concern was taking care of their clients, whether the client is a buyer or seller. They want your home-buying or selling experience to be smooth and joyful.
Seven-year real estate veteran, Annie Espinoza of Diamante Associates, cups her hands as if nurturing a baby chick and says, “Our clients are like plants. We need to nurture them, weed around them. And someday they will bear fruit. Whether they buy or sell from us or send a referral, the business will come.”
“I could not succeed in real estate without a good support system at home and the office. I am grateful for that support.” She goes on to say that her years working in various customer service positions with Paraiso del Mar has taught her patience. And patience helped her to understand that not every client she spends time with will buy from her. But she learns from every one and is grateful for the experience and trust that people place in her. She maintains relations with her clients, and many call her their Mexican daughter. That these clients are still happy means everything.
Annie has seen agents come and go. Those that think about the money first and not the client, usually fail. And she wants you to know, that if you have just an inkling that you may want to buy a home, get an agent. “You will not be wasting my time, she says, I am here to serve.”
Friendship brought her to Diamante and friendship and support keep here there.” I may work for a broker, but I am still independent, I am me and I love to meet new people and match them with the perfect home.”
“I will never leave a task unfinished, and as a woman, I work harder, I go further.”
I have written many times of the importance of only using agents that are members of AMPI, the Mexican real estate association). All the women that we are highlighting today are members of AMPI and subscribe to a strict code of ethics.
Sister Power! Anabelle and Stephanie Rossell did not get along that well as adults. Then the opportunity to purchase La Paz Bay Rentals and Real Estate, real estate and rental property management agency came along. With a bit of fear and a lot of confidence, the sisters divided the labor along their skill lines. Anabelle does sales and real estate sales and Stephanie handles the administrative side. But if a client needs anything and Anabelle is busy, Stephanie will step in.
Both sisters agree that La Paz is a difficult place for a woman to be in business, but they also say this to all women in business, “Don’t take any B.S.” Anabelle says, “You cannot stay in your comfort zone. We help and empower each other.” “When I refused to learn to drive a stick shift, my father said, “I did not raise a quitter.”
With a sparkling grin, Anabelle says, “In the first month, when I was sure this new job could not work, I thought of my father’s words. And on bad days, we both kept the end goal in mind: making it through the day to a see a La Paz sunset and sip a margarita.”
Through their dedication to their clients they have earned the “Superhost” rating from Airbnb. This is the highest certification a rental agent can achieve. It is earned, not purchased. Stephanie says, “I work with the smartest woman in La Paz, my sister.”
Both sisters say that they love the human side of the business; connecting with clients and working with the tightknit and supportive members of the La Paz real estate community. Anabelle stresses that her job is to listen first and remember that she is doing business with a person, and she will always be herself and be true to herself. The sisters handle 45 properties in the best tourist destinations, like La Concha Beach Resort, Costa Baja Resort, the Malecon and Centro area, and other districts in the city. Whether it is fulfilling the top requests, like finding a shaman or supplying rooster to wake a client, the sisters try to do more and please their guests. Yes, they did find a shaman!
All the women you are reading about today are members of the Multiple Listing Service. As a seller client, the MLS will have the entire agent force of our state working to sell your home. And the MLS is open to the public, so your property has international exposure. Your agent can give you recent sales data for the area around any property that interests you.
For a buyer client, choose an agent and stick with her. Any MLS member can show and sell any of the houses that are listed. You have a virtual mall of houses, and an agent that will do the work for you and present all the details that you need to make a decision.
Across the bay in El Centenario, a mere 14 kilometers from the center of La Paz the three very different women of Vista Properties work. They represent the three nations of North America. Olivia Hernandez, the broker/owner was looking for a work opportunity and to provide a service. She settled on either a café or real estate. “I knew that I could do either, and would like running a café or selling real estate. But then Tanya opened Café Exquisito, so my choice was made. Educated in tourism, Olivia knows how to work with people and serve their needs. “We opened in 2008 and had three wonderful months and the crisis hit!” Her youngest daughter was just entering kindergarten when she opened the company. “It is a good business for a woman with a family. It is a balancing act, but there is flexibility, as well,” says Olivia.
Canadian Miriam Welldon has been with Vista since the beginning. She was a property manager in the old country, dealing with hundreds of tenants for years. When I first met Miriam in 2000, she said she would never work again. “I know I said that,” she says, “It took five years to decompress.” Miriam initially worked in the marketing and internet aspects of the business. But her husband, Robin, the 4th member of Vista Properties, became ill and she had to step up and handle sales. Now she loves it.
Self-described newbie, Peggy Westberg, hails from central California. Peggy has an interesting take on real estate. “I never practiced real estate in the U.S., so I have only learned the proper Mexican way to handle a transaction. I don’t try to make the Mexican way of doing things fit a foreign model.” Peggy spent some time reading and learning about Mexican real estate practice and applied this knowledge instantly with her first sale. She says that she drew on her skills learned as a school administrator, good organization, and follow through. “Education was cherished in my family. It was easy to take the time to study and then learn by doing.”
The three women have a special synergy. Olivia has the cultural knowledge and longtime contacts. “And a wonderful sense of humor” chimed in her two colleagues. This is a powerful team of women with experience, energy, and attitude. And the recurring theme of being of service to their clients was echoed by them. “This is a new chapter for our company,” says Miriam. “2017 will be a lot of fun for the three of us!”
There are so many reasons why women in North America and La Paz enter real estate. These talented women all cite the desire to help, to please, and to serve. They value education and career training. They work well with their colleagues. Often there is a life-changing experience, such as loss of a job, divorce, or a post-retirement career change. And our wonder women fit all these categories.
“I was a widow with three children,” says Heather Borquez of Diamante Associates. I took all of the real estate course required in Canada, but felt that I needed a steady income to support my kids.” Now that she is in La Paz and re-married to a Mexican developer, Heather has fulfilled this promise that she made to herself to be a real estate agent. Just concluding her first year in real estate in La Paz, Heather has made 14 sales. She says she had a lucky first sale in her first week and that gave her the energy to keep going.
“I take a serious approach to every transaction. I care for my clients and want them to be protected.” Heather loves the process of research, using the Multiple Listing Service and presenting the facts about the market and prices to her clients. And if the other agent drops the ball, she jumps right in and picks up the slack.
“I have a slightly different strategy than most. I like to have a prelisting appointment with a seller and make a checklist of things for them to do to get their home ready for the market. I like them to start in summer when it is slow and they can do the repairs and clean-up uninterrupted. Then in October, we have a shiny house ready to sell.”
Heather has a flurry of Americans coming down to “get out of the U.S.” She hasn’t seen a surge, but she has heard from people that just want to get away. “La Paz is still fairly undiscovered,” says Heather. “I plan to change that!”
Real estate agents in La Paz come from varied backgrounds. Mexican, American, Canadian, British,
Argentinian, French, and Russian. Our industry is a melting pot, just like our nation.
Fresh from a teacher’ college in Russia, Maryna Shareyeva came with her mother and Mexican step-father to La Paz. She spoke no Spanish. She landed a job as a teacher in a bilingual school and worked her way up to being principal. She was given six months to learn Spanish. She did it!
In the 14 years that Maryna has worked side by side with her husband, Eduardo at Global Real Estate, Maryna has created a team of successful agents. Seven of the eight agents in her office are women. “Buying a house is a family decision. Women understand what a family needs and how the spaces have to work.” She says men buy land and women buy homes.
Maryna applies her teaching skills to training and nurturing her agents. “I love seeing them become more comfortable, confident, and competent.” As they learn and grow and their income grows, I see them buying a much-needed car, buying their first homes or trading up. It fills my heart.” She emphasizes that they are all bilingual. “They are not the same little girls that came to me.”
Maryna does all the marketing for her agents. She takes the photos, uploads them to the MLS, writes the descriptions, and gives the properties their screen names. She does all this to support and nurture her agents. This gives them time to work with clients and be with family. Maryna’s goal is to build her team. She believes that her agent’s success is her success. “My agents are well-trained. Like a teacher that learns from her students, I have grown and learned so much from my agents.”
All the women in these pages talked about the first 90 days in real estate being crucial. At first, it may be about the money. And for some agents, that makes it all about the money; success does not come easily. This is hard work. But it is well-paid hard work. Real estate allows agents to create a work schedule around their family’s needs.
Alicia Mora says, “We have to work twice as hard as men. But we do get paid the same.” Alicia has just embarked on her real estate career with Global Real Estate. Alicia was friends with Eduardo Ramirez, the broker of Global. She put some friends together with a property and says she was just at the right place at the right time. Eduardo offered her a job, and she signed on.
“I made my first sale very quickly. I saw an opportunity and I made my own market.” Alicia saw a property in Centro that was in disrepair, but adjacent to the property of someone she knew. She contacted the owner of the neglected property and her friend and created a transaction together. “I feel so good about it, I saved a historic property, and my friend no longer has a nuisance next door.”
Alicia says that her listening skills as a woman are what helped her have three sales in only a few months. “Sometimes, their needs are not what they tell you, you have to observe and listen carefully.” “For me, real estate is a career and a joy.” Alicia says that she treats her clients’ needs as if they are her own and handles the details of the transaction. “Real estate is a perfect career for retired women. We have no family demands, and we have experience and empathy. And it is fun!” Alicia lived in the U.S. for 30 years. She is Mexican, bilingual, and understands both cultures and looks forward to making the transition to life in La Paz a pleasant one for the client.
Specialization is a buzzword from the last century. Real estate is such a broad practice, that an agent can specialize in a particular kind of property and succeed. Back in California, there was a woman that only sold condos. A man that worked only one development. They were both extremely successful.
Zulma Ramirez is a specialist. I first met Zulma when I had to inspect Paraiso del Mar for a mortgage lender. There were no homes, just sand, and the Hummer that she was driving got stuck in the sand! It was a memorable occasion that neither of us will forget!
Zulma specializes in master-planned communities. She represents resale properties in Paraiso del Mar and is the exclusive listing agent for the new development, Vista Coral Ocean Front Residences, at Vista Coral. Zulma works in both states of the Baja Peninsula. She has a real estate license in Baja California. Our Baja state does not have a licensing requirement. Zulma is an independent broker that previously worked exclusively for both Paraiso del Mar and Costa Baja. She has a unique understanding of the kind of buyer that is looking for a master planned community.
She says, “I love this town and the people, food, and the malecon.” She wishes more people knew and understood the beauty of our lovely city. “I like to get to know my clients so that I can better understand their needs and assist and guide them.” Zulma says that follow-up is key and she answers all questions and concerns. She wants her clients to make informed decisions. “My selling process starts with a friendly conversation. If a sale results, then I have done my job.” But I do not push; I listen and guide.”
Education is keys to growing a real estate career. Whether an agent educates themselves and obtains certifications or teaches other agents, the key is for an agent to be up-to-date and well informed. A true real estate pioneer, Linda Neil, embodies education. She has an alphabet soup of certifications after her name and is authorized to teach most of them. After 45 years in real estate, she muses that it may be “too long”. Say it isn’t so, Linda!
In addition to her many certifications, Linda holds a California real estate broker license. She has represented the interests of our state at national conventions for AMPI and is a special representative to the National Association of Realtors in the U.S. Linda works mainly as a buyer representative and will represent you anywhere in Mexico.
Her biggest frustration is that there are still many properties where the titles are not clean and this takes time and effort to correct. Linda likes to make buyer’s dreams come true and will assist you to find the home of your dreams. La Paz is her special place because, “La Paz is a wonderful little city, with lots of personal feeling. It was not developed for tourism, and keeps a livable feel.” Linda entered real estate because she said she fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright and his style and philosophy. But she said she was math impaired, so she took her love of architecture to real estate.
This was truly my honor to meet with these dedicated women—their passion for real estate and their care for clients is inspiring.
Here are some things that they all said:
To potential buyers and sellers:
- Use a professional real estate agent.
- Use only an agent that is a member of AMPI and the MLS.
- Be honest with your agent about your needs and your budget.
To new agents:
- Be patient.
- Be empathetic.
- Learn all that you can.
- Always put the client first, and you will be a success.
All of these women have completed a university degree. Some have advanced degrees. Many have special real estate certifications. All of them love La Paz and want to make you feel at home in La Paz.
Call them or email them and decide which one fits your style. And Welcome Home!
Susan Fogel is an observer of life and writes to tell you what she sees. Visit her blog mexicomusings.com