The Sunday Sun

The supersalesmen: Profits with Honor
By Peter Ruehl

Even in bad economic times you find them, talented men and women who have turned to real estate for a living and met with astounding success.

They are the supersalesmen, people who regularly sell $2, $3 and $4 million of housing a year – in a market where $1 million is the criterion of excellence – and are paid handsomely in commissions for it.

And while none will go so far as to say he isn’t in it for the money, they will try to tell you there is more to it than that.

Like what?

“Like recognition, even if it’s only among your peers,” said James Bodine of Urban Properties, and whose $1.2 million in sales during a recent one-month period must be some sort of record.

Won’t take ‘no’
Sure, the prospect of making more money appeals to me, but what really makes me run is a desire to get ahead, to be recognized. There’s an intense gratification in competing with others and excelling. You have to have a burning determination not to accept ‘no’ and be willing to overcome any obstacle.”

With $5 million in sales over the past nine months, Dale Hanks, a co-worker of Mr. Bodine, also qualifies for super status. And he also protests that money isn’t his main motivation.

“I realize that very often it’s the people who need money who are aggressive,” he said, “but it’s self gratification that does it for me. Each sale you make represents a challenge that you overcame. I’ve been surprised, frankly, at my success.”

The trademark these people exhibit, and what apparently accounts for their margin of success, is the effort they make to familiarize themselves with their customers. “You relate differently to different people,” said Ruth Grimes of Chris Coile and Associates. “Do they want me to be cool and professional, or are they more comfortable if I’m casual and joking?”

“You’ve got to spend time with them,” said Mr. Bodine. “Get into their psyche. Some people are romantic and others like to party. Others just want a place to live.

“You learn every piece of furniture they have and whether a husband gets along with his wife. After a while, you find out what their ‘hot buttons’ are – for some, it’s a good price, for others it’s trees or a cul-de-sac or expensive looks.”

Mr. Bodine has become adept at utilizing a client’s imagination to his own benefit, such as the case of the couple who found a house they liked, but were ready to turn it down because there was no window in a wall where they wanted one.

“I suggested how easy it would be to put a window in, and what it would look like if one were there. They didn’t even know you could do that.”

Realtor of Year
Mrs. Grimes, recently elected Maryland’s Realtor of the Year, also discounted the profit motive, noting that her husband’s job provides an ample income. Still, she works seven days a week, frequently for long hours, which at one point delayed her husband’s noticing a new hairdo until three days after she’d been to the beauty parlor.

“There’s no magic to success in this business,” she said. “You just have to be prepared and organized.”

Jack P. Studnicky will tell you he’s in the business for the money. Although not a real estate salesman, the Arlington businessman is becoming a legend in some circles for his ability to take projects – usually condominiums – whose sales have halted, and turn them around completely.

Ocean City real estate people are still recovering from Mr. Studnicky’s 1975 blitz, when he sold 139 units at 9400 Ocean Highway in five weeks, after only 11 sales had been made in the previous three years. He had been hired by Chase Manhattan Realty Trust, the project’s financier, which had taken the condominium from Anderson-Stokes.

“I guess you might call me a workout expert,” laughed Mr. Studnicky, who charges $1,000 fees to lecture real estate to salesmen.

He is normally hired by savings and loan associations or banks that have foreclosed on expensive, but losing projects, such as the 9400, and more recently, Seven Slade, a condominium just over the northwest city line.

Using a handpicked sales team and occasionally a heavy advertising campaign (airplane streamers and kids handing out flyers in Ocean City, for example), Mr. Studnicky has been extremely successful at selling large chunks of property.

At Seven Slade, the developer turned an apartment house into a condominium three years ago, thinking the renters would quickly buy their units. They didn’t, and with one sale last year, Chase Manhattan foreclosed.

Sales blitz

Mr. Studnicky was subsequently called in, and in 25 days he and his three-man team sold 61 units without the benefit of a single advertisement. He cajoled tenants, offered discounts, arranged easy and rapid financing, and was tenacious in his follow-ups.

“My salesmen,” he said proudly, “lose five pounds a week.”

He exudes a self-confident flamboyance in the classic salesman style, and makes no effort to conceal his taste for profits.

“Anyone who works for me will enjoy the greatest growth period of his life,” he said. “I like to be around people who are money oriented. Engineers, artists? I have nothing against them, but they wouldn’t understand what makes me go.”

“I like working with people who get turned on by this. If we had more time, I’d blow your mind with it all.”