It’s All in the Relationships…
By Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Pat Puckridge and Donna Prinz are a team, the “Asheville’s Dream Team.” More than that they are leaders and mentors to their staff and other team members at Keller Williams. And more than that, they are great friends.
A Little History
Both of them are natives to Asheville. Pat grew up in the Beaverdam area and after finishing school married Larry 36 years ago. They had a trucking company and also invested in several properties as a retirement plan. “We rehabbed many of them; I painted more walls and cleaned more toilets than I care to say… but that was back when we were young!”
Their realtor, Mike Tavener, and his partners started a Keller Williams franchise in 1999. They called Pat because they wanted a property management business within the organization. She brought that business in and also started training for real estate sales with Donna, whom she hadn’t known before. “We immediately became best friends and business partners.”
Donna grew up in Biltmore and graduated from TC Roberson. “I went into the medical field at the early age of 18, learning on the job and finally running a surgical practice for 14 years.” When she and husband Keith’s son Joshua reached high school age Donna decided to quit her job and stay home for a few years.
“I figured he was probably gonna get into trouble, being a teenager, and thought being at home I’d avoid some of that. But he was such a great kid he never really got into any trouble.” Once Joshua left home for school Donna decided to go to work in something she considered “easy” and got her real estate license.
Husband Keith was a contractor and had worked with Pat’s husband Larry; the two couples hit it off and did a lot of work together, including building houses in a subdivision where Larry was the grader and Keith the builder. “It was a one-stop shop. We could build, lease and sell. We’ve experienced about everything you can in real estate!”
The 80%-20% rule
Donna stresses this rule and how it has affected their business growth and relationships. “20% of what you do creates 80% of your income.” The work Donna and Pat love to do is sales and working closely to assist their clients, so they have developed a support team of 12 including other agents and staff.
Connie Haynes has been with them for 17 years overseeing listings and closings (currently with the help of their virtual transaction coordinator Davie Cox). Shannon Paris, also a Broker/Realtor®, is their Marketing Director handling all of their events and social media presence, and Steven Owens is the General Manager who oversees the administrative tasks and runs the sales team. Lynda Baker and Theresa Gillespie run the property management side, Asheville Phoenix Properties, which, although housed in the same building, is a separate business.
Because Donna and Pat’s team are designated by Keller Williams as a mega-agent, they and their team are housed out on Sweeten Creek Road instead of in the downtown office. “Back in 2005-2006, when we were building the business, it was really intense, and we needed this space.”
Staying in their 20%, letting the detail go to the staff has enabled the team to grow: last year they had their biggest increase, up 63%.
The Asheville Market
“The market is really hot now,” Donna says. “But right this minute it’s hard to get listings. Asheville is a destination city so there are lots of buyers out there. The challenge is that there’s a pent-up energy and about April it’s going to bust loose and be a crazy year. Sellers are waiting, and buyers are waiting for them to list their houses.”
Pat asserts, “We see people coming and going, buying and selling, and I say the reason is grandbabies! They either want to come here to be near them or sell to go where they are.” One problem with the local market is that prices are so high. If you sell in Asheville you can’t turn around and buy in Asheville, even if you are downsizing.
Donna says, “Many people are coming here from California or Massachusetts. They sell a $3 million house there and buy a $500,000 property here and get three times the house, and they pay cash. Our prices are so high now locals can’t afford it; service industry workers need three jobs to afford a place to live. Many of my clients are moving to Tennessee because it’s cheaper and still fairly close to Asheville.
Or if they want to be even closer, they are looking in the outskirts and adjacent counties. Pat talks about one client who is moving his three kids to Barnardsville where he can get twice the house as he could in Asheville. “There are no bargains in Asheville now. You have to build if you want one.”
Donna declares that their clients are like family. “You’re helping people downsize, upsize, cope with death or divorce. Whether it’s hard times or happy times, moving is stressful; this is the largest purchase they’re going to make.” Pat tells about a man who had a terminal illness and wanted to be sure his wife was situated before he passed; they found a place for her just in time. “It’s gratifying to be part of that even when it’s sad.”
Because Pat and Donna are so focused on helping their clients, they both have attained the designation of Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)®. The National Association of Realtors® notes that “by earning the SRES® designation, REALTORS® are prepared to approach mature clients with the best options and information for them to make life-changing decisions.”
Pat mentions the sheer number of tasks to be accomplished when someone is moving and, especially downsizing. “We have affiliations with people who can help with packing, sorting, and moving. A lot of seniors can’t do all that.” They also know the retirement communities in the area whether clients are simply moving into a community that is exclusively for ages 55 and over, or if they need some level of nursing care and assisted living.
Both Donna and Pat are seniors themselves now and they have the empathy and understanding about the abilities and energy of people “of a certain age.” Often seniors want to remain in the area even though their children are not here to help. As more baby-boomers are coming of age there is a growing need for someone to be on the supervising end to make the transition much less stressful.
These two women love what they do. They find it very rewarding to support and help others; they can be there for their clients and for the members of their team. “Most partnerships in Keller Williams, who are not family, only last about six years… we are in our 19th year together.”
Pat says that 90% of their buyers and sellers come through referrals, and laughs that, “Donna has 98 cousins! It’s all about the service and enjoying it. Relationships are everything!”
Donna confirms: “And we always say, if it’s not fun, we’re not gonna do it.”
Bio: Sandi Tomlin-Sutker is the former editor of WNC Woman magazine. She is a freelance writer and editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.