Get Inspired! Teens Tell How You Benefit the Community. In a competition that awarded $106,000 to 39 students across the state, three college-bound high school seniors each won a $10,000 scholarship from Florida’s Realtors®.
Close to 400 entrants from around the state competed for college scholarships by each writing a 500-word essay entitled “How Does a Realtor® Professional Benefit the Community?”
In the Florida Association of Realtors’ 13 regional districts, essay competitions awarded 39 scholarships—first-place winners each received $5,000 scholarships, second-place winners each received $1,500 and third-place winners each received $500.
The regional first-place winners went on to compete for three grand prize state-level scholarships. Winning a a total of $10,000 each to help fund their college expenses, here are the three state winners and their essays: FAR District 13
Kellie Hauer Graduate of Lemon Bay High School
in Englewood College:
University of Florida
I could hardly believe it when, at age 11, my parents told me that my grandparents were thinking of moving to Florida! I had envied friends who had extended family nearby to spend the holidays with, come to school functions, and cheer their soccer teams on. Now maybe I would be one of them. Nanny and Grandpa were actually coming down to look for a home and would be living in Florida during the winter. I was thrilled and could hardly wait for their house hunting to begin.
When my grandparents arrived, my parents told them of homes for sale in our area. They looked at model homes and searched the classifieds. Eventually they started to work with a professional Realtor named Carol. She was familiar with every aspect of our community from banks to golf courses. She helped my grandparents to evaluate each home based upon the housing market, what they were looking for, and the fact that the home would be occupied for only half the year. During the many house-hunting trips we took with Carol, she never seemed rushed or frustrated by the difficulty of Grandpa and Nanny’s decision. She always said, “It’s important for you to be sure, so take the time to talk it out.”
Eventually they found the home that was right for them in a maintenance-free community with walking trails, a swimming pool, clubhouse, and an active social calendar. Carol provided guidance on evaluating and understanding the homeowner’s association bylaws and monthly fees and helped my grandparents to negotiate a price and terms that were acceptable to both them and the home sellers. She provided lists of local insurance agencies, local lenders, and the names of several property inspectors. Carol then scheduled and coordinated the various inspections and appraisals that were needed before the sale closed. When the home inspection revealed a few minor problems, Carol explained the work that the inspector recommended and again negotiated with the sellers to assure that essential repairs would be completed before closing. She made sure that all repairs were documented and that work was guaranteed.
More recently, my parents considered selling the rental home they had owned for 13 years. Carol helped them weigh their decision based upon her knowledge of the current home sales market and home rental market. She gave advice on cosmetic updates and curb appeal to help bring the best price. Carol listed the home and helped my parents evaluate the purchase offers they received. When a buyer was found, she took care of all the details to help close the transaction without problems.
In both of these situations, my family’s professional Realtor helped to bring buyer and seller together. Her knowledge of the community, local real estate market, and her expertise with real estate transactions were invaluable. Any growing and evolving community is greatly benefited by the knowledge and expertise of the Realtor professional. FAR District 11
Qabiyl Johnson Graduate of Monarch High School
in Coconut Creek College:
University of Florida
A Realtor® benefits the community if he has genuine concern for his clients, as reflected in his market knowledge, diligence, and direction. I, myself, gained great respect for Realtors when my mom finally decided to purchase a home in March 2004 after having subjected herself to mercenary landlords with no tax relief, since her divorce in 1999.
Being a single mom without the required down payment, however, forced her to approach a Realtor, Phyllis, whom she had befriended at church, hoping that she could find a way to help her. Although financially intimidated by the enormity of the financial transaction, my mother, determined as she was, believed that Phyllis had genuine concern for her and would do all she could to make my mom’s dream achievable.
Indeed, Phyllis stepped up to the plate! She helped my mom determine her affordability, and her access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) made it easy to narrow the search and set up appointments to view homes only within my mom’s price range. Moreover, in addition to making phone calls to potential sellers and other Realtors, Phyllis previewed the homes, recognizing my mom’s time limitations with work, and conducted research prior to actual visits; for example, she searched the property records online to view sales and valuations of properties considered viable for purchase. She further verified ownership by checking title on the clerk’s Web site, investigated the existence of homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and any restrictions related thereto.
After visits to numerous homes for sale, when my mom finally decided to purchase a home in Coconut Creek, Phyllis administered the contract and negotiated my mom’s terms with the seller; in the end, my mother got a real bargain: the seller not only agreed to pick up the closing costs but he agreed to include personal property not previously included as part of the deal. All my mom had to do was make a $100 deposit! It was just too good to be true!
Finally, Phyllis contacted the HOA for a copy of its Rules & Regulations and attended the HOA meeting to obtain its actual approval for my mom’s purchase of the home. She even contacted a mortgage broker friend of hers who was able to obtain financing for my mom (no down payment required). In short, Phyllis handled all of the details of what could have been a tremendously complicated and nerve-wracking transaction so that the minutia was all stress-free and transparent to my mother.
Phyllis’ Realtor’s fee was more than well deserved, and today she and my mother remain friends. Her dedication to the real estate business and genuine concern for the community go above and beyond conformance to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of Realtors and/or allegiance to the Florida Association of Realtors, because they shine through in her positive attitude, enthusiasm, and diligence as she advances the community through simply educating those she comes into contact with in residential sales and purchases. FAR District 8
Jesse Whitfield Graduate of Apalachicola High School in Apalachicola College:
Without change, everything we know and love grows stagnant, and dies. It is the force of change that vitalizes and drives our world. Realtors® are the quintessence of this breathtaking force. Realtors restore vitality to communities. Every time a Realtor sells a home, a new family arrives in that town with a desire to be there. With newfound passion comes the eagerness to make their new community better than it was.
I live in a small oystering town, and before the real estate boom, my community was in a state of atrophy. Much of the downtown district lay derelict and abandoned. Obscene graffiti scarred the walls of
200-year-old stores. Our population was steadily decreasing, with kids barely pausing to shake the oyster dust off their white boots before they ran off into the unknown world. They would cross our town’s imaginary walls, desperately searching for something alive. Before Realtors discovered us, Apalachicola was slowly receding back into the swamps, like some lost Mayan City.
When Realtors started to move here and set up business, a very welcome rejuvenation started, and is progressing even now. In the past few years, my family and I have made many new friends that we otherwise would have never met. New residents have breathed life into our town’s charities and nonprofit organizations. Almost all of the volunteers for our local food bank would have never been here if it were not for the work of Realtors. Through our local Realtors’ labor, new owners have taken over most of the once dead Historic Downtown district. New stores have opened, and the ailing historic structures have been reborn. Instead of graffiti smeared across weather worn wood and bricks, beautiful restored versions now stand.
Prior to the arrival of the real estate rush, Apalachicola relied on the dwindling seafood industry in order to sustain itself. This meant that even the slightest problem in the bay would wreak havoc on our economy. The real estate market poured new wealth into our town. A seemingly endless demand for carpenters, plumbers, painters, roofers, and other construction workers has been created, providing jobs to what were unemployed Apalachicola High School graduates. Now instead of fleeing the town the first chance they get, many Apalachicola natives are choosing to stay here and work, because of all of the new jobs the Realtors have, in part, provided.
Real estate markets may rise and fall, but the wealth Realtors have brought to our town is beyond money. They bring with them a passion for building a better, more prosperous community. Pride in one’s hometown is a beautiful thing, and through the constant labor of the community Realtors, it is made possible.