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With over 25 years in the industry, Donna Elder of RE/MAX Creative Realty has had plenty of experience creating lasting relationships with her clients. In the following interview, she shares some of her most notable wisdom.

Elder_DonnaDonna Elder
RE/MAX Creative Realty

Years in real estate: 25
Region served: Lexington, Ky.
Average sales price in your market: $165,000
Average market time: Less than 90 days, but we still have considerable inventory.

Why is real estate an excellent career choice for you?
When I started in real estate in 1988, I did so because my child had major surgery and I needed flexibility. But as I got into the business, it developed into my passion. Over the years, I have made so many friends from so many different economic groups and age groups. Helping people is what I do, so real estate turned out to be something I truly love doing.

What are some of your best strategies for staying connected with clients and prospects?
I like to do pop-by visits without being intrusive. For example, I may drop by and leave a pumpkin at the door with my card in it. This year, I left mums at Halloween. I also send out yearly calendars at Thanksgiving for two reasons: First, during the Christmas season, so much mail gets sent that my calendar gets lost in the crush; second, I am mindful of the fact that not everyone in my market is Christian, so Thanksgiving makes better sense. Of course, I email and phone and text, but I also stay in touch with good, old-fashioned handwritten notes.

What sets you apart from the competition?
How much I care. I truly care about my clients’ financial well-being. Not only do I answer my phone, I return phone calls.

How do you stay at the top of your game?
People energize me and as the market has changed, I have changed with it. I make sure that I learn technology and use it. I have a lot of experience and I get a lot of referrals. I am sure if I did not use as much technology as I do, my clients would still come back to me, but I do not believe their children would. So it is essential that I stay on the cutting-edge of technology.

What is your number-one tech tool and why?
My smartphone. I text, call and email with it. It is a must-have in today’s market.

How do you maximize your online presence?
I am working very hard on that. This year, I have gotten a lot of business from Zillow. My highest sale for the year came from an agent who had no franchise connections and went through Zillow to find a referral. I just started using Google+, so I will need to wait to see how that benefits my business. I make sure that I always ask new customers, “How did you find me?”

What is the key to a successful life in real estate?
What it really boils down to is the combination of caring and building the knowledge I need to serve my clients properly.