By Susan Doran
Kim Heizmann, who recently took home Century 21 Canada’s Sales Associate of the Year award for 2017, is grateful to her husband Tony for talking her into a career in real estate a decade ago.
“He thought I’d be good at it because I’m good at supporting people. He kept bugging me until I finally took the real estate course,” says Heizmann.
After getting her license, she started looking for a place to work in her community – Vernon, B.C. – and she wound up at Century 21 Executives Realty. She’s been working there ever since (now as a manager as well as a sales rep). Heizmann had only been in real estate for a year when the market crashed in 2008. Tony got nervous and changed his tune for awhile, attempting to convince her to ditch real estate for a more stable career.
“But by then I was invested and wanted to stick with it,” says Heizmann. “And now he is happy that I did.”
Having learned how to survive in a challenging market, she went on to become a top producer for her brokerage.
Although production is an important factor when determining the winner of Century 21’s Sales Associate of the Year award, it is not the sole criteria. (“Little old me in Vernon obviously does not make as much as someone in Toronto or Vancouver,” Heizmann says.)
Based on peer recognition as well as corporate, the award considers all aspects of a recipient’s career and how he/she represents the brand, including volunteerism and ongoing learning, as well as community, industry and social media involvement.
Heizmann’s career emphatically ticks all the boxes. She’s a director of the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board and a strong fundraiser for Easter Seals (Century 21’s long-time national charity of choice). She volunteers for local food drives and for events such as the Vernon winter carnival. Where social media and technology are concerned, she is always looking for ways to “stay ahead of the curve.” And her credentials keep growing – she’s a certified luxury home marketing specialist and recently obtained her ASA (Accredited Seniors Agent).
An unpretentious person who admits she is uncomfortable talking about herself, Heizmann is surprised and honoured to have been chosen for the award.
“For me the biggest compliment is that this award is peer nominated. I am extremely humbled to be chosen. There is a long list of people who have won this award before me, and it is amazing to be on that list. I am proud of where I am and honoured just to be noticed.”
Previously Heizmann worked in the mental health industry. She got her Human Service Worker certification in 2000, managed a home for adults with severe mental illness and volunteered with the RCMP’s Victims Assistance program.
She found that the skills she learned in the mental health sector transfer handily to real estate, where clients’ stress levels can be high and often transactions are due to death or divorce, making it important for agents to know how “to listen and to validate clients’ emotions.”
Says Heizmann; “I care about people, not just transactions.”
She’s aware this is one of the main reasons for her success in the business, as her husband Tony initially intuited.
“I am being genuine,” she says, laughing. “I am not the Realtor to give a hand shake. When they get a house, they get a hug from me.”
Minimizing the impact of the unexpected by ensuring that clients are fully prepared is another way in which she ensures that transactions are as smooth and stress-free as possible.
“The more you prepare people the better they will handle a situation,” says Heizmann.
She covers all the bases, walks buyers and sellers through every step of the process, forewarns clients about what could come up during an inspection, makes sure that potential clients are ready to buy before she takes them out and tailors a detailed marketing plan to each property (making full use of staging, state-of-the-art professional photography and videography, drones and 3D tours).
“I do a lot of explaining the process, a lot of pre-qualifying, which is really important. I think a lot of Realtors waste time by taking people out without pre-qualifying them or asking the right questions.”
Her advice to new agents?
“Concentrate. You can’t do it all in the first year. Implement one or two ideas from every course you take. Then next time pick up more. If you get too many ideas at once it can be overwhelming.”
Asked what she loves about real estate, Heizmann responds: “I love the fact that although I work long hours, it does not feel like work. I love showing people the process and seeing the smiles after a home purchase.”
She deals with the uncertainly in the industry by managing her business in a systematic manner.
“There are a lot of peaks and valleys in real estate and to take the instability out of it, I write myself a regular pay cheque every two weeks. No matter how many deals I do, I only take that amount, even if I earn much more. So, I always have something socked away for when the market changes…I decided to treat myself as an employee of my company.”
Not that the market in Vernon, Kelowna and surrounding communities seems poised to take a turn for the worse any time soon.
“It’s going strong,” says Heizmann. “I like to call it the Napa Valley of Canada, because we’ve got lakes, mountains and wineries.”
Heizmann gets much of her business from referrals and networking, and from Facebook and other social media.
“Cold calling is just not me,” she says.
Neither apparently is being part of a large team. Not long ago she hired an unlicensed assistant to help with admin and marketing. She finds this ideal, as it gives her more time for clients.
“I want them to know that I have their best interests at heart.”