The San Antonio residential real estate market is a hot commodity. As residential property sales around the nation continue to fluctuate, San Antonio homes are consistently being bought and sold. Real estate impacts every aspect of a community. Anytime you want to know how well a city is doing, take a look at what is happening with local real estate, and you’ll know in a matter of minutes.

For realtors to be successful in any community, they have to keep up with new growth, trends and market prices while possessing excellent people skills. Fortunately, the market in San Antonio remains viable and strong. In a notoriously male-dominated industry, women are taking the lead as real estate brokers and agents throughout the United States. Here you’ll meet five women who have helped set this new trend in motion. Some of them own real estate franchises, while others own private agencies. Yet others lead companies without the stress of ownership.

TRACI SMITH
-Owner/co-founder
Smith & Associates Century 21

Traci Smith, franchise owner of Smith and Associates Century 21, was raised in meager circumstances. Born in the Mojave Desert, Smith was adopted when she was three days old by a central Texas couple. In addition to meeting her needs, her caring parents ensured she had the opportunity to attend college. Earning a degree in English and journalism, she taught junior and high school students for five years. A negative parent-teacher conference was the catalyst that encouraged her to leave the field and embark upon a new career.

Smith knew she wanted to work for herself and found sales to be her only option. Six weeks after leaving the school system, she obtained her real estate license and joined Century 21. When asked why she chose Century 21, she responds, “I had always associated Century 21 with real estate and found the company to have an incredible rookie training program.”

During her first four months selling real estate, Smith didn’t make commissions. In her fifth month she earned $564. Her sixth month produced $12,000. By the end of her first year she earned two and half times what she had taken home in her last year of teaching. At the close of her second year selling real estate, she doubled her income, leading her to own a real estate company.

Taking a leap of faith, Smith purchased her own franchise with her partner and three other agents. Seven years after opening the doors, her franchise has experienced phenomenal growth. She now has 220 real estate agents working out of five offices. Smith and Associates Century 21 is currently rated the No. 3 office in the nation out of 5,000 Century 21 franchises.

Smith attributes success to their specialty of turning rookies into champions more quickly than any other franchise throughout the Century 21 network. “Newly licensed real estate persons begin making money very quickly when they join Smith and Associates Century 21,” Smith says. “Real estate is a simple strategy if you know what to do.” In addition to her real estate company, Smith is also a writer and speaker on topics such as sales motivation and real estate. At Century 21’s international convention in March 2007, she launched her latest publication, The Diva’s Guide to Real Estate Sales: 101 Tips for Mastering the Market.

Smith finds that women don’t really understand their own power. “Women can have a wonderful career and happy home life if they figure out what is important to them and pursue it with reckless abandon,” she explains. “Women are taught from an early age to serve, help, nurture and listen. In real estate, if you apply those skills by putting your clients’ needs above your own, you can have everything you desire.”

KATE KEATING
-Broker/owner
RE/MAX North – San Antonio

Baytown, Texas, native Kate Keating was married in college and spent the first 10 years of married life raising her children while participating in church and charity work. In 1980, she obtained her real estate license. After one and a half years she became the office manager for her then husband’s Ford dealership. Keating went on to spend four years as a college administrator before returning to real estate full time.

In 1995, she joined a small real estate agency in Baytown. Four months later she purchased her own RE/MAX franchise and began building her empire. In the spring of 1996, she met another RE/MAX broker, who helped her see the possibility for franchise options in the San Antonio market. Leaving her family behind, she relocated to San Antonio to expand upon her franchise dreams. By 2005, Keating opened her sixth San Antonio RE/MAX franchise location. Under the name of RE/MAX North — San Antonio, her six offices and one training center surround the city like a rainbow. With 160 agents, her vibrant franchise offices have received many accolades, including a recent SABOR rookie-of-the-year honor and multiple Platinum Top 50 awards.

Currently, Keating focuses on running the business while others sell. She visits each office twice a week, concentrating on empowering her team members to be successful. Her employees find Keating conducts business with integrity not found in many businesses.

One of RE/MAX North’s newest members is a former CPA who nervously changed careers. Recently licensed, this agent has truly excelled through Keating’s reinforcement and encouragement.

Her agents are outstanding in the marketplace, with first-year agents making as much as $175,000. “Bring me an agent with a burning desire to succeed, and the sky is the limit,” confides Keating. “If people listen and do as they are instructed, they will do well.”

Many agencies provide a basic commission split, but the RE/MAX model operates a bit differently. RE/MAX promotes each agent individually, and the representatives get 100 percent of their commissions while renting their suite.

Keating finds real estate to be a multitasking field. “Women can multitask easier than men because of running households while working full time or being involved in charities,” reflects Keating. “If a woman has a desire to help people, she will do well as a real estate agent.”

DEBBIE MYERS
-Broker/owner/founder
Deborah Myers Real Estate, Inc.

Debbie Myers is an anomaly among this grouping of real estate women leaders, as she owns her company, Deborah Myers Real Estate, Inc., created in 2001. Based in the Alamo Heights area, her company is succeeding among strong competition. “We may not have the market share, but people continually tell me they’ve seen my signs all over San Antonio,” she says proudly.

Born in Iowa, Myers was raised in Monterey, Mexico, and is fluent in the Spanish language and culture. The different paths she’s taken in life guided her to real estate and owning her own company.

She began her career by running an office. This was followed by work in sales and running a mortgage company. Myers decided to get her real estate license so she could understand the end product of what people were buying with the mortgages she was providing. She discovered finding property for clients to be more fulfilling than dealing with mortgages and transitioned into selling real estate full time.

Armed with her real estate license and three children, Myers relocated from Aspen, Colo., to San Antonio. She chose the city for its special smalltown, family feel. Myers began by working for King Realtors and later

became a general manager for Prudential Alamo Realty. With an uncanny knack for marketing, she found herself asking for permission each time she wanted to venture outside the standard box of ideas. This aspect helped Myers decide to work for herself so she could implement her unusual and different marketing pieces freely.

When she obtained her broker’s license, she noticed real estate agencies typically used the same type of signage, making it difficult to stand out in a crowd. As a key differentiator and marketing strategy, Myers branded her company with a white picket fence sign.

Originally she worked out of her home as she built her client base. When the business outgrew her home workplace, she moved into a 1,000-squarefoot office. Six years later, Deborah Myers Real Estate has grown to 30 agents housed in a 3,000-square-foot office.

While Myers’ company isn’t part of a national or international chain, she stays competitive by providing her agents with the best professional development and training available through SABOR (the San Antonio Board of Realtors), TAR (the Texas Association of Realtors) and NAR (the National Association of Realtors).

Her tag line is “Your Friendly Neighborhood Real Estate Office.” Since buying and selling real estate can be really stressful, she has created an environment where clients can sit on a couch, enjoy a cup of coffee and know her agency will take care of them.

In December 2006, Myers won Broker of the Year honors from the Platinum Top 50. Much to her surprise, she had been nominated by her agents and clients. “My reputation is very important to me,” says Myers. “I work hard to ensure top ethics and integrity.”

Myers finds residential real estate consistently taps into human emotions. She calls the phenomenon “the squeal factor.” Myers reflects, “Clients frequently squeal when they find the right house. It’s as if they can visualize themselves being comfortable living in it.” She frequently hears clients say, “Oh, this is so cute. Honey, we have to buy this house.” With emotions as a driving force, generally women become more successful selling residential property than men, who are more cut-and-dried in their approach.

JENNY BINGHAM
-Broker/owner
RE/MAX Northeast
RE/MAX Preferred
RE/MAX Associates of Boerne

Jenny Bingham owns three RE/MAX franchises: RE/MAX Northeast, RE/MAX Preferred and RE/MAX Associates of Boerne. Marrying her childhood sweetheart, she followed her husband’s career in the Air Force to many locations around the nation before they moved to San Antonio 20 years ago.

While they were stationed in Belleview, Neb., this South Carolina native answered a newspaper ad for real estate agents at Gateway Realty Better Homes and Gardens. Accompanied by her husband, who was just an observer, Bingham obtained her real estate license and certification attending night school in nearby Omaha. She didn’t have to work but had an innate drive to follow a career path. After six months, Bingham got her first listing and went on to become the agency’s top producer.

Another military move found the Binghams relocating to Randolph Air Force base. Originally, she wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of moving to Texas, as she didn’t think there were any trees, but Bingham found it to be much prettier than she expected.

Once they were settled in their new home, Bingham joined Deanie Owens Better Homes and Gardens for a few years. Then a new franchise came to town recruiting local agents. In 1982, RE/MAX Nova Properties lured her with their program designed for top producers. With a business model that allowed agents to rent their space while keeping all their commissions, Bingham soon found her talents being recognized and appreciated more than ever.

In 1984, she opened a Universal City franchise. Not realizing the market was about to crash, she opened a RE/MAX Northeast Windcrest franchise in 1986. Struggling through the real estate downfall, Bingham closed her Universal City location in order to maintain focus on her Northeast franchise. This office has been thriving for the past 20 years while consistently employing many of the same agents for an equal amount of time.

Bingham’s years of experience have found women gravitating toward real estate because of their high organizational skills. “Real estate allows women to set their own hours so they can work while managing a family,” she says.

In 1992, Bingham’s world changed permanently. Her lifelong companion, business partner of nine years and husband died of a heart attack while jogging. With his passing, Bingham’s income drastically changed as her husband’s military retirement benefits and income disappeared. She had to make tough decisions quickly and determined that failure was not an option.

Fifteen years later, Bingham has successfully increased the number of franchises she owns. Her daughter, Debbie Acosta, even manages the RE/MAX Preferred office. Bingham’s other daughter works in Austin as a CPA.

She attributes her success to strong ethics and values. “People give us permission to help them make the biggest decision of their lives,” she explains. “In real estate, if you’re not honest, you’re not in business for long.”

SUSAN GIBSON
-Managing broker/CEO
Century 21 United

Susan Gibson’s leadership in real estate is a bit different. In previous years she owned her own franchise. Today, she is the managing broker and CEO for Century 21 United. As the franchise’s leader, she is the designated broker for over 400 agents. Yet she is not an owner. She is an employee.

As a transplant from Iowa, Gibson began working in real estate after relocating to San Antonio. She also spent time working for title companies to give her greater depth and understanding about the real estate industry. She entered the industry when the country was heading into a recession. To this day, she jokingly reflects, “If I hadn’t moved from Iowa to San Antonio, we wouldn’t have experienced a decline economically.” Even though she didn’t know what good times in real estate could be like, she did quite well during her first year.

During the ’80s she worked with a lot of foreclosures and relocation properties. “I dealt with sad situations, such as owners bringing money to the table so their house wouldn’t go into foreclosure,” she recalls. “It took a lot of the romance out of it while teachingme how to work with people who were in stressful situations.”

Gibson accepted her first management role with Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper Realtors. This opportunity provided wonderful training and reinforced management as a career path. Following her experience with Coldwell Banker, she purchased her first franchise. Gibson worked the franchise for six years before she sold it to her partner.

Century 21 United asked her to become CEO and managing broker last year. This new experience has offered her the best of both worlds. She is able to manage the company without having to own it.

Gibson sees an upward trend of women leading in residential real estate. “I have seen women enter the market and be absolutely transformed,” she comments. “As they become successful, they begin to glow.”

The best advice she offers is to embrace learning by seeking every opportunity to learn and determine what you do well.

Author: Joy Capps Powell

Photographer: Robert French