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As a real estate professional, you probably already know your job is about so much more than simply selling houses. In the following interview, Donna Elder of RE/MAX Creative Realty talks about staying educated, staying connected, and guiding consumers to the best decision.

Elder_DonnaDonna Elder
RE/MAX Creative Realty
Years in real estate:
Region served: Lexington and Central, Ky.
Average sales price in your market: $188,000
Average market time: Less than 90 days

Lesley Grand: What are your most challenging listings and why?
Donna Elder:
Estate sales are always the most difficult. There is usually one greedy relative, and because of that one relative, the entire family will spend more money on attorney’s fees than they will ever get for the sale of their parents’ home. I also have people who lose a spouse and call me within a few weeks of the death. I encourage them to stay in the home for two years if they can afford it, until they can process their grief. Sometimes they have to leave for financial reasons, but otherwise, I encourage them to stay put.

LG: In what areas have you cut back and where have you invested in order to operate your business more efficiently?
I no longer run print ads. I run a tight ship on expenses. I have my own personal page on Facebook, but I have also hired a blogger. I took blogging classes three times and finally turned my blogging over to the local blogger who puts something out there every week for me.

LG: How do you stand out from the crowd?
First, because it’s never about the money to me; second, because I am a problem solver. I have a huge network out there and I know financing as well. All lenders do not have the same programs, so it is very important to be well informed on financing options. For instance, mortgage insurance on an FHA loan is higher than some real estate taxes in the area.

LG: How are you staying educated and informed about market conditions?
I am fortunate to have national networks like Top 5 to connect with. I am also a member of the Real Estate Masters Guild, where I go once a year to learn what is going on in the rest of the country. You have to understand that most things do not happen in Lexington, Ky., first, so I depend on my East Coast and West Coast connections to tell me what is going to happen next.

LG: How do you stay connected to the community?
For me, it is all about giving back to the community I serve. I am very involved with Habitat for Humanity and our local homeless shelter. And perhaps most importantly, I am a gardener. I have an enormous garden that I share with the community. So when somebody buys a house, they are more than welcome to come to my house and dig up plants to place in their gardens. These were plants that were given to me by clients who left the area, so I see this as my mission: taking care of homeless plants and passing them on. I also have a huge vegetable garden and I drive by and leave vegetables on people’s door steps. Real estate is all about community.

LG: What is the key to a successful life in real estate?
Real estate has to be your passion—it cannot just be about money. I believe in helping people make the correct decision. This may mean not selling their house or buying a new one. In the end, it is about helping my clients live to the best of their ability.