The Changing Face of Gainesville Real Estate

Rebecca Johnson, Kristen Thompson, Betsy Pepine

A discussion with Kristina Orrego

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported findings that show women have edged out over men in holding positions as realtors in the US.  Additionally, according to the report, female realtors hold a higher dollar value in home sales as well as average sales price in homes.

The Business Report’s Kristina Orrego sat down with three of Gainesville’s leading real estate professionals to get their take on local real estate and what path they took to find success in a normally male-dominated industry.

Rebecca Johnson is one half of the Kristen Rabell & Rebecca Johnson duo in charge of Rabell Realty Group.  Betsy Pepine is owner of Pepine Real Estate. Kristen Thompson runs Thomas Group Realty.

What do you believe are your strengths that you bring to the table every day in terms of your work?

RJ: “So, I would say my strengths are sort of bringing a calming factor. It takes a lot to get me riled up or concerned. So again, it’s that calming and nurturing aspect of teaching. I have a desire to see people be successful and to give back to the community. And so, I bring that into the business, and I’m exposing our people and our employees and our agents to do that. I’m a big-picture thinker. I don’t really think on the short term. I’m always like, ‘I have a dream. Let’s do this, and this is how we need to do it. I’m a planner and researcher.’

BP: “When you’re dealing with someone who’s buying or selling a home — those people are in a life event. They’re going to remember the feel of this home, the purchase of this home over the next five years, which is how people typically define a life event. Their decision to buy or sell a home is usually precipitated by another life event. It could be a death or a birth of a child or a relationship, a job. You’ve got two life events from each side of every transaction — two on the buyer’s side and two on the selling side. And what I love about real estate — and I think one of my strengths, is the ability to reduce the stress of that situation and manage those transactions very smoothly because usually there’s so many other stressors going on both sides of the equation. Understanding what these people are going through, I think, is a very valuable skill.”

KT: “I’d definitely say I’ve always been a pretty determined person. When someone tells me they have a need, or if they need to sell a house in a certain amount of time, I take that as a challenge. Determination has always worked for me. I’m very sociable. I like to talk and get to know people. I’m a problem solver as well — not that I like problems to come up, but when they come up, I find a lot of reward when I’ve fixed [them].

What are some challenges you’ve faced in this industry, in terms of being a woman and also generally?

RJ: “I’ve always felt like my youth has always been an issue. I got in when I was 23 years old, and it was hard because it’s the biggest financial purchase of most people’s lives. It was hard for people to give you a shot or take you seriously, so that was a struggle. I don’t know that that was because I was a woman, though.”

BP: “One of the reasons I chose real estate was because I felt that it was an industry that was very women-friendly. I feel like the industry embraces women. In fact, our own real estate agent, the one who helped us when we moved to Gainesville — she was selling real estate into her 80s and had come from a pharmaceutical background, where there was a clear glass ceiling for women in upper management.

And I didn’t see that in real estate. So, I actually have not found there are any variants to females in this industry. [That was] one of the things that attracted me to it.

KT: “I think, as a woman, just finding that work-life balance has been a struggle. I’m actually pregnant with my second child, due in August. So, just finding that balance between saying, “Hey, I want to have a competitive, successful career, but I’m also going to be a mom.’ That’s been a real challenge. And not just being a mom, but a good mom. You can make your own schedule, so it makes it a little bit easier to be a working mom that has a competitive career.

It’s really an empowering field. It’s a great place to be. You’re respected in the community as a team member. I feel like we’re [women] are at the top of the totem pole. I don’t think we have to fight our way up to the top like in corporate America. We’re appreciated among our male counterparts.

What is real estate like in Gainesville? What sets it apart from other cities?

RJ: “I’m super excited about the Gainesville real estate market and industry. There are so many incredible things happening right now. We have Celebration Pointe. We have Butler Plaza. I feel like we’re going to start seeing Downtown get new life breathed into it. With the CRA — they did their road expansion down by Depot Park. You have the Cade Museum. They’re bringing some life back down there, and I think we’re going to start seeing some changes in the housing industry down there over the coming years. I think it’s also exciting, we’re seeing a lot of people purchase older homes, fixing them up and breathing new life into them.

BP: “I actually have coached realtors all across the country, so I do have an understanding of how we operate differently, and in other areas across Florida, as well as across the nation. I believe that our realtor community is a very cohesive group of people that play nice in the sandbox. You often don’t find that in other counties, and it’s very sad. Broker to broker, it’s a very cordial and friendly and respectful relationship. I love that.

KT: So, I think one of the things I like about Gainesville is that a lot of the realtors here are really amazing people. Gainesville’s not like other places that you hear about, where people are cut-throat, where people are stabbing people in the back and doing all these unethical things. A lot of the realtors here — they’re just good people. And I think that says a lot about the community as a whole. It’s just a good place.

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