Tina Newby became a Realtor three years ago after previously working in information technology and being a stay-at-home-mom. But she’s already built up a unique brand through her creative way of showcasing the homes she’s selling: She hosts a cooking show inside the kitchens, and posts the videos to her Realtor Can Cook Facebook page.
We interviewed Newby, who’s based in Land O’ Lakes but sells homes throughout the Tampa Bay area, about the origins of this idea and how she’s kept it up in the lightning-fast market. The following has been edited for length and clarity:
How and when did the idea for having a cooking show start?
It was in 2019. I remember it vividly because it was almost Thanksgiving, I think it was in October, that I decided to do it. I was like, ‘You go in (to a house) and the first thing you want to check out is always the kitchen.’ At that point, I was like, ‘Well I love to cook, it would be cool if I could cook in the kitchen that I’m selling.’ So it was my daughter and I with just a small camera. The first recipe was geared towards Thanksgiving, so I made apple dumplings.
It was so funny because I shared it out to people I know, and then people started making the recipe and sending me pictures of their Thanksgiving dinner and they’re like, ‘Hey this is the second batch. I wasn’t fast enough to take the pictures of the first batch.’ It was nice. And then I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I can do this for every single home that I list.’ That’s where it all started.
It’s my understanding that your family helps out with the videos. Can you tell me more about everybody’s roles?
The first time it was my older daughter and I, and we had just the basic camera and a tripod. Then it became more and more (complicated). We got the fancier camera and speakers and then slowly you buy lighting. My older daughter was helping me and then we realized, ‘Okay, we need help setting up lights, I need help getting the recipes ready, getting all the supplies ready.’
Because when I go over to somebody’s house, if my seller still lives in the house, then we kind of have utensils and things like that but when I come in to a vacant home, I have to bring pretty much all the stuff — the pans and the ingredients. So slowly but surely it’s become a family thing. My husband does the videos, he does all the editing, and then my kids help with setting up food, getting stuff ready, getting ingredients ready, helping set up lights. And then once we’re done they help clean up. It just became very natural for us, that every single one of us has a job to do.
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The real estate market has become extremely fast-paced these days. Do you still do this in all the houses that you sell?
Do you ever run into the problem where the house sells too fast to have time to do a show inside?
It becomes very strategic. When I go and sign a listing agreement, I already have a plan of how I’m going to attack marketing. It’s always listed on certain days of the week, sending out postcards, doing Realtor Can Cook and then doing an open house. Obviously, if someone is living in the house, then I have to plan accordingly with the sellers. But if it’s a vacant home there are often times when we go in the middle of the night and get it done because there’s no other time that I can get it done. We just come in at 8 at night and do the recording until whenever it’s done, clean up, pack up and that’s it.
There are times when I’m not really done until 1 or 2 in the morning. But the thing is the consistency. I can’t just say, ‘I’m too busy, I’m not going to do it,’ because everybody expects it. If I stop doing it, then people are going to assume that I’m no longer doing it or I’m no longer a real estate agent. I think for a lot of small businesses or Realtors, that being consistent is one of the hardest things for us to do. Sometimes it’s very hard but for me, I found out that being consistent is what’s gonna get me constantly busy. It’s a catch-22 almost, what do you do when the thing that you’ve been working on helps you to get busy. But then when you get too busy, you’re not going to have enough time to do what’s helping you.
I’ve had other agents ask me, if they’re thinking of doing something similar, how many hours I spent on it. And after I tell them the process they’re like, ‘No, I don’t have that kind of time.’
How many episodes have you filmed so far, and what was your favorite?
I think I’m now at my 13th or 14th episode.
I really truly believe in family dinners and getting together and having your kids be involved in cooking. To me, kitchen and family dinner is so important and I feel like we are at the time where we’re so busy with school activities, with work and sometimes people don’t have the time and they’re not making family dinner a priority anymore. So for me to be able to share recipes that I myself use often and cook for my family often, every single one of them has been really fun. Not every single episode has been perfect, like today I forgot a spatula, I forgot to bring something to mix my batter. It’s always fun because I always have to improvise.
I think if I have to pick one as my favorite that it would have to be the first episode.
Having a cooking show obviously primarily features the kitchen of a home. Do you think that kitchens give hints to people about what the rest of the house is like? Why do you think the kitchen is so important?
I believe that the kitchen is the heart of the home. I’ve noticed from hanging out with friends, or visiting my mom, my sister — the conversation, it doesn’t matter where it started, always ends up in the kitchen. When I do open houses, even if the houses are big, the family room, the patio, and everything is equally beautiful or equally comfortable, people just end up in the kitchen. I don’t know what it is, but I think for us as humans we are drawn to the kitchen — surrounded by the countertop, by the sink, talking, getting drinks, and it’s just a natural thing for us.
I felt like if you can picture yourself cooking, spending time with your family in the kitchen, you know that this is gonna be a wonderful home for you.