Business Monday

Lessons from 35 years selling Miami real estate

Teresita Shelton.
Teresita Shelton.

This year I celebrated 35 years of selling Miami real estate. (Wow, that’s a lot of showings and closings!) I have witnessed and been a part of extraordinary change in our industry, as well as the city itself. So much about the business of real estate is different than from when I started, but several core values endure. Every day, they guide me in the form of lessons, which I offer to you.

Other agents are your allies, even your competition: We are very fortunate to have a close-knit, cooperative real estate community here in Miami. While things can and do get competitive, I have always found other local agents to be wonderful resources. Plus, being as nice as possible can be extra rewarding. For years, my fiercest competition in the Cocoplum neighborhood was a woman named Consuelo Stewart. We always seemed to be vying for the same listings and clients, but never had one issue or harsh word. Then one day — after my daughter joined the firm as a partner — we invited Consuelo to also partner with us, and it has been an incredibly positive match.

All clients are precious, even the ones who never buy: Over a 10-year span, I happily showed many houses to a very successful local couple — who never bought from me. Then, one day the wife’s mother wanted to sell her house and we got the listing. Then, the wife’s sister wanted to sell her house and we got the listing. Then, her other sister wanted to rent a house and I found one for her! So they have been a blessing for me many times over.

Never push a buyer. Don’t even call them: After I show a house to a prospect, I tell them to call me as many times as they want, and that I am available to show it again and again, as often as they want. And that is it. I do not contact them unless they contact me. They will call me if they want to buy, and I will be there for them. No one ever bought a house because their Realtor called them 10 times.

Always be honest, and be ready to walk away: Sometimes — rarely — you can do everything right for a client, go “above and beyond” in every conceivable way … and they will still be unhappy or ignore your advice. I once wound up in the hospital over the anxiety of something terrible my seller had done to a buyer. (What he did was legal, but also unethical, unkind, and dishonorable, and caught the buyer and me by surprise. Luckily, this buyer did eventually purchase another of our listings.) When that difficult time comes, you must have the courage to say, “You know what? I don't want you to be my client anymore!” Fortunately, I have only done this four times during my career, and I must say it is a good feeling.

Get your family involved. For me, working with family is the greatest joy of my life. I love them so much and they are my company’s most valuable asset. Many of my agents and clients come from a Hispanic background, and, like many other cultures, we place an extraordinarily high priority on family. When I opened my brokerage, I kept an empty office for my Yale-educated daughter. Never mind that she was enjoying an extremely successful international banking career! I just knew that she would eventually come work with me, and I insisted on keeping that office available — for 14 years. Now, not only is she my partner, my son is a real estate attorney with an office next to ours, and my son-in-law manages our finances. I should also mention that it was my sister — a female Hispanic business owner long before it became commonplace — who hired me at the very start of my career. Working with family keeps a person focused and motivated — which can serve them well in a tough industry like real estate.

Teresita Shelton is the broker and co-owner of Shelton and Stewart Realtors. She was recently honored with the Master Brokers Forum’s 2014 “Legacy Award” for her leadership and contributions to Miami’s real estate community. She can be reached at 305-775-8176.