Alumni Success Story: Denise Gifford

For 50 years, Hondros has educated some of the top real estate agents in Ohio. We are proud of our alumni and seek active relationships with them well after they pass their exams. We sat down with Hondros Alum, Denise Gifford, and asked about her journey to success in the real estate industry.

Student Success Denise

Why did you decide to become a real estate agent?

I was a figure skating coach and owned a figure skating program. After 2008, people’s disposal income went down, and the business wasn’t doing as well. I also got divorced around this time. I wanted to feed my family while owning my own business. I thought, “Where can I be rewarded for all the work I put in? And an income that’s exponential?” With most jobs, you don’t get rewarded for a great project. In real estate, if you work hard, you get rewarded. I sold my company in 2010 and got my license in 2011. Best decision ever!

I also wanted to make money, build relationships, and use my marketing background. I was a marketing major at Miami of Ohio. My parents were both marketing professors. The housing market was so bad at the time (2011), I thought “If I had fresh Ideas, new marketing ideas, it should work.” I wanted to try new things that would help me. I used Facebook right away and strategies that other people weren’t doing. Now, my team connects with our audience via video emails, Facebook live, and Instagram live. People want to be guided to your information where it’s readily available.

Why Hondros?

What I love most about Hondros is the flexibility. While taking classes, I still had to work and teach skating. I was able to get classes done in the regular amount of time, but I changed it all around to make it work with my schedule. They didn’t have classes online back then. But if they did, online and in class mixing would have been ideal. That would have made my life a lot easier.

To prepare for the test, CompuCram and the CD of vocabulary I found most helpful. I would drive in my car and just listen to the definition of things. You can understand the questions if you understand the words.

What advice would you give to a student looking to become a real estate agent?

Make sure that you have, before you get started, something that can help you stay afloat. Because the biggest stressor is while you’re in class is you’re not making any money. I would also urge people to pick their broker early-on. So that they have an idea of what they should be working on. I was doing my database during classes so when I started I actually STARTED.

Put in the hours. Ask 5-10 agents who have done it and do it well. Don’t use just one person, because that person will get annoyed. Spread out to ten people you think you can talk to.

Every weekday; call 4 people, email 4 people, and hand write 4 letters to people. Year one, I did some of those things, but it wasn’t a program. Now that it’s a program, I owe lots of referrals and a lot of my business to these habits. It’s worth my time and effort and doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Look for your brand ambassadors. These are the 20 people that are going to know and love you. Anytime someone posts on Facebook about real estate needs, my brand ambassadors tag me in their comment and say, “Denise and her team can help you”. Because I’m tagged, I’m notified of the post and I’m not having to scrounge Facebook to find them. These ambassadors will hear someone talking about real estate at the next table in a restaurant, pull out my card, walk over to them, and say “Hey you should use Denise”.

Be honest with people.

If you walked into a house with red carpet, and you say “I hate the red carpet” and they love red carpet… That’s the kind of thing you don’t say. Avoid opinionated comments about objects.

But as soon as I walk into a house I say “I know you guys see all the great things. Do you care if I point out everything that’s going to cost you money?”

They may love the house. And I say, “It’s fine to love it, I just want you to know what you’re walking into.”

When you’re that straightforward with people, people love it. They do appreciate that.

Then you have to have the resources. So the people in the classroom are just getting out of school, what they have to start doing is building networks of contractors. I have a chimney guy, electrician, plumber, and general contractors. They’ll give my clients an idea of how much it’s going to cost. Before we ask for repairs, we have an idea and are well prepared.

What does the future look like for you?

The team that I have now, I plan to grow. I did 80 this year, next year’s goal is 125. I also want to focus on training and giving praise to my team. If somebody does something well, I need to text them and tell them. Because if they don’t have the positive reinforcement they won’t do the right things. Or they may not know that what they did was good.

In ten years, hopefully, my 13-year-old will join my team and I can pass it on to her. I want to give everyone else the leads and get some money as a tip when I retire. My daughter either wants to do engineering or real estate. She’s coming to Hondros to get her license after high school.

What experiences do you find most meaningful in your real estate career?

Helping clients who have had to start over after divorce. Getting them through the processes. Taking it the extra step and teaching them how to set up direct deposit or setting up their bank accounts with online pay systems. Things like that. Knowing that you made a difference in their lives. 10 times people have cried when it’s all done. It makes the hard ones worthwhile; even the hundred-house people that are looking for the unicorn (the perfect home).