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Dream Big!

My Aha! Moment
Inspiring Sales Transactions

Once in a great while, you meet an unforgettable client—someone who bolsters your faith in the human race, or perhaps more unfortunately, someone who teaches you to be on your guard.

We asked Florida Realtors® about their most memorable sales transactions, and we received a pile of stories, most with a moral revelation. A thirsty and dirty Little League ball player unexpectedly led one sales associate to a big sale. A struggling single mom’s quest for a decent home taught another a lesson of selflessness. Other stories had to do with the zany goings-on associated with closing a deal. Each circumstance profoundly affected each person’s perspective and fueled their sales resolve.

Here are their tales of inspiration. Read on and consider—who has touched your life, and how can you use that experience for personal and career growth?

Play Ball!
The time was a Saturday in 1957, my rookie year in real estate. That afternoon, I was doing floor time and sitting near a large front office window that had just been washed.

I looked up to see a dusty little boy in a Little League uniform, pressing his dirty hands on the window. When he caught my eye, he said, “Mister, it sure looks cool in there!”

I replied, “It is! You look thirsty. Would you like a drink of cold water?” I invited him in, and he gulped down several cups. Then he asked me for my business card and left.

One of my colleagues wasn’t happy. “You shouldn’t have invited him in,” he said. “Now, every kid from the baseball lot next door will be coming in [for drinks]. I’d have told him to get his dirty hands off the window.”

The next afternoon, we were holding open house at five model homes. Suddenly, I heard, “There he is! Hey! Mr. Frank!” There was the boy, with his mom, dad, grandmother and grandfather. The adults thanked me for being so nice to their child.

I sold them two new homes, side by side, and also listed and sold their two existing homes. The moral? You never know where business will come from. That drink of cool water sure paid off!

Don Frank, retired broker-associate, St. Petersburg Beach

Angels from Abroad
My husband and I bought a 29-foot boat in 1999, when we lived in Miami-Dade County. To pay insurance and maintenance, we ran an ad to rent a spare room in our home. Our first call was from a couple who had just returned to this country from their homeland. Even though they had previously owned a home in Miami, they thought it would be impossible to buy until they were both re-employed.

I realized they might be eligible for a “‘non-income qualifying mortgage,” as they had cash remaining from the sale of their former house. I called a mortgage broker, who obtained approval for a fixed mortgage within one hour.

By 11 a.m. that same day, I had three homes lined up in the couple’s desired area, within their price range. At the first appointment, the woman, Alicia, said, “I’m not interested in seeing anything else!” and their offer was accepted the next morning. We closed the sale in less than a month.

That was seven years ago. My friend Alicia still sends me cards and little angels at the holidays, telling me I am her angel. I, too, send her cards and angels. We never had to rent that room in our house. She, too, was my angel!

—Jane Gentile-Youd, broker-associate, Coldwell Banker Expert Realty Group, Ormond Beach

Newlyweds in Niceville
Eighteen months ago, our local real estate market was in the midst of a feeding frenzy. Investors quickly snatched up properties at top dollar, and homes for first-time buyers were hard to come by. The only people selling were those moving out of state.

Around this time, an out-of-state sales associate solicited my help. Her soon-to-be-married child, who lived in our area, was having trouble finding a home before the big wedding day. This engaged couple couldn’t afford much, and what they could afford was gone before they had a chance to make a competitive offer. After I took them on, we worked together for months and lost three homes that they wanted.

Then we found the (fourth) perfect house, which we visited during an open house. The problem was that the house was so crowded with sales associates that we were walking on top of them. That night, the owners had three offers. I knew my customers couldn’t do much to set their bid apart.

So, I wrote a personalized letter about my buyers’ plight. I explained that this would be the couple’s first house and that the man was an artist who worked for the government. I emphasized that they loved the house and had been through months of difficulty trying to find the home of their dreams.

The owners chose my customers’ offer, but it wasn’t because it was the best one—it was because of the letter. Turns out that they had a daughter who was also an artist and the same age as my young couple. They realized that it would be hard for their daughter to find a house, too, so they wanted to help someone else in the same fix.

It warms your heart knowing that there are people who don’t just care about the money. And for me, it was about the mission, not the commission.

We’re still in touch. The couple did get married, and they love their home. To cap off this nice ending, their house is in my town—called Niceville.

—Cindy Knighten, sales associate, Emerald Dunes Real Estate & Development, Niceville

The Good Mother
Women in abusive relationships face an uphill financial battle when they leave their spouse. Eighteen months ago, I met a very courageous woman with four children who had done just that and wanted to find an affordable home in a safe neighborhood for her little ones.

Other sales associates wouldn’t return her calls because she could afford no more than $97,000. She also was using a program to cover her down payment and closing costs. I don’t usually work in the lower price range, and this was more work for less money, but I can tell you that I so enjoyed helping this family!

She did a lot of work on her own, looking up city crime statistics on the Internet and even knocking on doors to find out whether people in a particular neighborhood were safe and happy.

We finally found a house that was very old and needed work. The city hired an inspector, and the seller had to bring some things up to par. The buyer had to promise the city that she would make some repairs as well. Then we were all set, and she bought the home. The children were just as thrilled as she was with their new home.

She still lives there, and I send her notes now and then. Her 15-year-old works after school to bring in extra income for the family. A very active person, she has old-fashioned ideals and is very involved in her children’s schoolwork. I’ve sold some very expensive, gorgeous homes, but this was one of those things that just touch your heart. I knew that I was giving this woman a leg up. She was trying to make something good for her family.

—Sandi Gilbo, broker-associate, Watson Realty Corp., Jacksonville

Teaching Teachers a Lesson
Some people really don’t have a clue when it comes to buying a house. This May, I was able to help out two teachers in their 50s who hadn’t purchased a home in 20 years. They had raised their children in the same house, and now, facing retirement, they wanted to settle in a beach house. So they called our firm after picking up a FSBO flier in an Atlantic Beach neighborhood.

Immediately, I could see why they liked that neighborhood—it looked like something out of the movie “Pleasantville,” with white picket fences and neat, manicured lawns. We all agreed they had discovered a hidden treasure.

We looked at the FSBO home the next day and wrote a contract. After meeting the buyers, the sellers were more than happy to extend the original closing time frame to a 60-day window. But we didn’t need the extra time—we found a buyer for their home in 11 days and then closed in 40, with no major mishaps. Although they reduced their price by $5,000, they still got what they wanted.

Because this couple hadn’t been through this process in a while, they were really scared. I just kept telling them that we had to take everything one day at a time. It was a dream come true for them to move into a home that they loved.

When this happened, I had just started my real estate career three months earlier, and this was my first double sale. My clients are in constant contact. I’ve been over to their house for barbecues, and I’ve met their family. And they wrote to my broker saying that they wanted me to be Realtor® of the Year! It’s nice when things flow very effortlessly and everyone is happy at the end.

—Rebecca Pennington, sales associate, Watson Realty Corp., Jacksonville

An Uh-oh! Moment
You know what they say about things being too good to be true? I learned that lesson the hard way.

Another sales associate in my office referred me to a prospective buyer in South Florida, who was looking for land. I knew of two large landowners who would pay me to bring them a buyer. On our first visit, the buyer shook their hands and made a verbal contract at their asking price. I was in fat city—more than $4 million in two sales, and it was just my second year as a real estate professional.

One week later, the buyer came back to town with three partners, who looked at two more parcels. They agreed that the deal looked pretty good.

A week after that, the buyer signed contracts for the original parcels, as a representative of the partners’ company. But the sellers wanted to negotiate the amount of due diligence time needed. Suddenly, the buyer was unreachable. After two weeks, I reached one of his partners, who told me the buyer [went] to Israel for an emergency family matter. He would be back in two weeks.

Two weeks became three months. I was forlorn because I was sure that the whole thing had been a hoax. And, I had to eat crow to the sellers.

Five months after our initial visit, I got a call from the partners, who were interested in buying some property. Naturally, I inquired about the buyer. They responded, “Oh, don’t you know? That buyer is in jail.”

It turns out that he was violating parole when he was in this country and had been a major figure in the disappearance of millions of dollars in escrow money. He had no authority to sign contracts on behalf of the partners. He was playing a game of go-between by tying up land, going back to those with the money and acting like he had the land to sell.

Since then, I have met three other gamesmen. However, the first one had taught me a great lesson: Trust, but verify.
Oh, and by the way: those two partners are now my best customers.

—Rich Gonzalez, sales associate, Coldwell Banker All Stars Realty, Mount Dora

A Final Farewell
An associate in our office recently died of pancreatic and liver cancer. Just as she received the news of her fatal illness, she was successful in selling one of her hard-to-sell listings in the rural part of our county. The contract had been written, but she had to start her treatment, so I took over.

Within her short treatment period, she stayed in touch, constantly worrying about her clients instead of herself. In her last days, her husband told me, she continually inquired about them.

Nonetheless, it was only through Mr. [Bill] Watson’s [owner of Watson Realty] willingness to step in with financing and Larry Klein’s efforts, through Watson Mortgage, that we were able to close the transaction after other lenders had flatly turned the buyers down.

I fondly refer to Mr. Watson as our glue. The buyers and sellers were happy, and our associate, Brenda, passed away just hours after the closing, knowing that not only were her customers happy, but also that her family would receive desperately needed commission dollars.

In fact, we established a scholarship fund for Brenda’s 6-year-old son so that he can continue attending the school he has always known, taking the music lessons his mom wanted him to have and enjoying the summer camps he has always attended. 

—Peggy Gachet, broker-associate, Watson Realty Corp., St. Augustine

Heidi Russell Rafferty is a Georgia-based freelance writer.