Florida has one of the worst real estate markets in the country, yet Pinellas County is home to the top-selling Century 21 Realtor in America. Dania Perry has sold more than $50 million worth of real estate this year. What's even more surprising is that the 44-year-old from Treasure Island who works with Jim White & Associates started in the real estate business in 2006. Oh, and she has four kids ages 12 and under. Before selling waterfront and luxury homes she was a marketing and sales manager at Progress Energy and General Electric. Experience in the corporate world is part of the reason for her success. She also credits pounding the pavement and hard work. Perry spends more than 8,000 minutes on her phone a month. She averages 45 active listings at a time and usually has about 11 homes under contract at any one time.
How have you reached this level of sales when you started during a dismal real estate market?
It's good, old-fashioned work. I knocked on doors. I didn't do any of it by referrals. I went to for-sale-by-owners and expired listings. I said, "Hi, I'm Dania Perry and I specialize in luxury and waterfront listings and I'd like to talk to you about selling your house.'' It took me three months to get a listing, but I never gave up. I got my first listing on Causeway Isles and I sold it in 17 days. My first sale was for $550,000.
So what are you doing to sell so many expensive homes?
I attribute it 100 percent to my analytical skills. People who hire me will see I'm a very data driven type of person. I help them price their home, which is key. If you price too high you're going to chase a declining market and it will cost you money to chase the market. I rarely take an overpriced listing. The only time you see me (listing an overpriced home) is if I know the seller and I have a strong relationship with them, they have gone against my advice and they've decided to chase the market. . . . I'm a good negotiator. I sell at an average of 94 percent of the asking price.
They say this is a buyer's market. How do you get most of your seller's asking price?
I use that same data to help the buyer be comfortable. I show them that this is a fair price for the property. If I'm not confident about my price or my ability to sell it, people will read right through it. I'm definitely a tough negotiator and no nonsense, but still nice. At Florida Power they called me "the velvet hammer.'' I just sold one in Yacht Club Estates. I was asking $1,150,000 and I sold it for $1,140,000 in 24 days.
Do sellers ever worry their home was priced too low?
Folks who sold their property a year ago who had a stomachache when they signed the contract call me up and want to send me roses when they see what things are selling for now.
What goes into setting a price?
Most Realtors spend 15 minutes to give somebody an average price per square foot. I analyze the market for about six hours. I pull up the land and property values. I plot them to see the size of their lots. I look at the condition of each property (in a comparison) of plus of minus 20 properties. Out of that 20, I'll narrow the list down to about six comparisons that are true comparisons. I look at the whole history of each property.
So you price right and you're a good negotiator. What else are you doing to sell this much real estate?
In this market it's about last man standing. Don't be eliminated because the photos of your house aren't good and people can't tell you have a nice home because the rooms look dark and the ceilings look low because you didn't use a professional photographer. I have a property that hasn't been put on the MLS for two weeks. It's been cloudy. My seller had the house ready (to photograph) three times now and all three times it's been cloudy and I've said, ''I'm sorry. I can't do it.''
My husband, Rick, does the marketing and all the push for our listings and the written media. He does a wonderful job.
How do you have sellers prepare for a showing?
I tell my sellers to pack up pretty much all their personal things. "You've hired Dania Perry and I'm going to sell your house, so start packing.''
Do you do open houses for buyers or brokers?
I did a brokers open about two years ago. I don't do open houses. I don't feel that's how your house is going to sell. I feel your house is going to sell through the push that Rick does through the marketing and exposure, and my ability to show the value and focus on the value.
I ask all my sellers to put a value statement on their house on what they've spent on (enhancing) it. I know how to close. I've been through formalized training with General Electric and (Progress Energy). I'm not someone who just decided to go out and get my real estate license. When you hire me you're not just getting a tour guide.
I work until 2 a.m. every night. I wake up at 6:15 a.m. every day. People ask me all the time how do you do it with four kids and I say: ''It's simple. I gave up food and sleep.''
Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at email@example.com or (727) 409-3642.