Gay Realtors shining through tough times

Posted on 22 Dec 2009 at 7:00pm
By David Taffet | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

MetroTex Realtors honors several gay members with top awards

The past 18 months have seen some pretty tough times for the real estate industry. But some LGBT real estate professionals in North Texas have managed to shine despite the recession.

Among them are Keith Yonick, Mark Sadlek and Steve Habgood, all three of whom were recently honored by MetroTex Association of Realtors.

MetroTex recently named Yonick, of Prudential Realty, top agent for recruiting members. Sadlek, with the Turtle Creek office of Republic Title, was named 2009 top affiliate and top volunteer for the association. And Habgood, of Hewitt & Habgood Realty Group, affiliated with Keller Williams Urban Dallas office, was named 2009 Salesperson of the Year.

Sadlek said his award is for bringing in more Realtors and affiliates to sponsor what the organization does and get members to sit on committees and volunteer.

MetroTex represents more than 13,000 members involved in all areas of selling real estate and is the largest member association in the industry in North Texas.



TOP AGENT | Gay Realtor Keith Yonick of Prudential Realty was honored recently for recruiting the most members for MetroTexas Association of Realtors during the past year. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Keith Yonick

Yonick called it a big deal that gay men won these awards.

His win as a recruiter is impressive in a year that the organization lost 1,048 people who mostly left the business.

Although MetroTex dues are higher than other area associations, Yonick said that he sells new members on the benefits, which include continuing education classes.

Many of his recruits have been young gay agents just out of college. While many experienced agents have left the industry this year because of the downturn in the economy, Yonick said he has run into a lot of people who have decided to give it a try.

With few companies hiring, a career in real estate has become an attractive option to many just getting out of school, he said.

Yonick first got his license in 1992 but left the field in 1998 for a "more stable" career: He became a school social worker.

But by 2004, he had returned to selling real estate. He said he first realized he had an eye for property when he was 11 and his family was shopping for a new house. He recalled telling his mother, "Mommy, this neighborhood’s trashy. Don’t buy this house."

She listened to his advice.

Yonick bought his own first house at age 19. Then the agent that sold his family the house when he was 11 sponsored him for his license.

Yonick said August of this year was a low point for him in the real estate industry.

But he weathered the poor economy by focusing his energy. He said he decided to concentrate his marketing effort on a segment he knew well — teachers.

"You can’t spread yourself too thin," he said.

This year, 20 percent of Yonick’s sales came from his mailer to new teachers, sent from a list he purchased. He said that 15 percent came from referrals from his mother, and another 40 percent have been referrals from old customers.

Yonick said that his very first sale was to someone that other agents refused to work with, a woman who had $27,000 in a shoebox.

"Since then, she gives me three referrals a year," he said. "A lot of people don’t follow up with difficult customers. I do."

Steve Shatsky is a real estate agent that works with Yonick, and he said Yonick succeeds because he is willing to put in some extra effort.

"Keith has this very rare ability to connect with people on all different levels," Shatsky said. "He does a lot of [relocation] sales and he works with people struggling to buy their first home."

Kathy Hewitt of Hewitt & Habgood Realty Group said the MetroTex awards have a lot to do with community involvement. And Yonick scores on that front, as well.

Twice a week, he spends time at a hospice in Oak Cliff reading to patients. He’s a volunteer concierge at Children’s Hospital and he has designed a DIFFA jacket for the last 11 years.

"Last year my jacket was on ‘Good Morning Texas,’" he said.

He also attends real estate association meetings and invites unaffiliated agents to join MetroTex.



NO. 1 IN SALES | Steve Habgood, of Hewitt & Habgood Realty Group, affiliated with Keller Williams Urban Dallas office, was named 2009 Salesperson of the Year by the MetroTexas Association of Realtors.

Steve Habgood

Steve Habgood is another gay Realtor who devotes quite a bit of time volunteering to the community. He spent eight years on the Black Tie Dinner committee and gives time to other community organizations, too.

"He’s given his time, energy and expertise to MetroTex," said Hewitt, his business partner. "I’m very proud of him. Our association has been blessed with his giving his time to our industry."

Habgood’s award for salesperson of the year represents his sales volume as well as service to the industry.

"In every year for the past several years, we’ve listed and sold more $100,000-plus single family homes than any other realtor in the city," Habgood explained. In actual sales volume, the team ranks in the top 15.

Habgood said that Yonick’s niche marketing focus was very smart. He and Hewitt also concentrate on what they do best. Most of the properties they sell are in Oak Lawn, Uptown, Oak Cliff and nearby neighborhoods.

Planning for the future, Habgood said, "I think the ring around downtown will see growth."

Habgood has been selling real estate for 11 years. He had a background in marketing but got his real estate license so he could work with Hewitt, who was already a successful agent.

"Kathy had strong buyer business. I started building on the listing side," he said. Visibility for the team increased as signs popped up in front of more homes.

Habgood explained the difference between working with buyers and working with sellers.

"Buyers are all about hopes, dreams, tomorrow," he said, but sellers are more interested in business, asking "What can you bring to me?"

The bulk of Hewitt & Habgood’s business is referral-based.

"We’ve sold some clients three or four properties," he said.

But, he added, the recent economic crisis has changed people’s home-buying habits.

He compared the new climate in real estate with the last decade. With the increase in personal wealth, he said, people were upgrading their homes regularly, often remaining in the same area.

In recent years, though, people have been staying put more.

"With the financial collapse, people may nest and stay in one house longer," Habgood said.

But he said he is seeing the climate beginning to change again.

Habgood said that although the last month of the year usually finishes in the agency’s top five, it rarely ranks No. 1. But this year, December is on track to be the agency’s best month of the year. He said he sees that as a sign that the economy is returning to life.

Hewitt said, "People are feeling like the economy is doing better and interest rates are still low," making this a good time to buy.

Habgood said he isn’t sure, though, if his year-end increase in business was indicative of business throughout the Dallas area, noting that business for Habgood & Hewitt is affected less by the school year than agents working in the suburbs tend to be.

He also called his cold weather customers serious buyers. Those looking for a new house this time of year want to close on the property by the end of the year so they can take advantage of homesteading exemptions their first year in the house, he explained.

The first-time homebuyer credit, Habgood said, has had a substantial impact on reviving the housing market. That $8,000 tax credit has been extended to properties under contract by the end of April 2010 and closed by the end of June.

A $6,500 credit is also available to buyers who have been in a home five of the last eight years.

Habgood expects those credits to extend the recovery he has seen into the new year, a good sign for an industry that is moving toward recovery, and for the LGBT agents that work in that industry.

REAL ESTATE ROUND-UP

Partners Home Lending moved to 4310 Wiley Post Road No. 205 in Addison. … The Advocates Realty Group merged with Keller-Williams Preston Road in North Dallas on Dec. 1. Jay Narey, with Advocates for the last four years, said, "The synergy created by this merger combines the personal, attentive service of our small independent brokerage with the resources and name recognition of the largest Keller-Williams office in Dallas/Fort Worth with nearly $1 billion in annual sales."

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 25, 2009.

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