Real estate professionals are, by nature, good listeners who are happiest when helping buyers and sellers achieve their real estate goals. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) honorees named by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) to the REBAC Hall of Fame this year exemplify those values—going above and beyond to advance buyer representation by providing outstanding service.
The ABR® designation, conferred by REBAC, is held by more than 24,000 REALTORS® who are committed to advocating for homebuyers. That makes induction into the 2020 REBAC Hall of Fame a rare and distinctive achievement for this year’s honorees: Tamara Suminski, broker and co-owner of Beach Real Estate Group in Manhattan Beach, Calif.; Sandra (Sandy) Maier Schede, award-winning agent with Maier Real Estate in Meriden, Conn.; and the Pinellas REALTOR® Organization and Central Pasco REALTOR® Organization, headquartered in Clearwater, Fla.
Each of the designees personifies ABR® values and has an admirable history of service.
“I came to real estate from the hotel industry, so I know how important it is to provide an exceptional experience for every customer,” says Suminski.
A third-generation REALTOR® with an MBA from Pepperdine University, Suminski was drawn to real estate by a desire to set her own path and a passion to help people achieve the dream of homeownership. Licensed in 2004, she quickly increased her value by steeping herself in class work that led to ABR®, GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) and other professional designations.
“I have a curious mind,” she says. “I know that the more I know, the better able I am to communicate meaningfully and provide the customized guidance every homebuyer deserves.”
With her fiancé and partner, Chris Duff, whom she met through their association with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Suminski established Beach Real Estate Group in 2018, determined that the small boutique agency would offer clients distinctively personalized support.
Today, as co-owner of Innovate Success Strategies, Suminski teaches many of the national designation and certification courses offered by NAR, and is a sought-after speaker and trainer at broker conferences nationwide.
A past president of the South Bay Association of REALTORS®, where she was named 2010 REALTOR® of the Year, she is a graduate of NAR’s Leadership Academy and currently serves on the boards of both NAR and the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.).
Sandy Maier Schede, another third-generation REALTOR®, earned her real estate license at the tender age of 16 while she was a high school junior—shortly before the minimum age was raised to 18.
“I missed the festivities for students moving into the senior class because I was taking the licensing exam,” says Schede, who has now been helping homebuyers and sellers for 47 years.
Earning a degree in education at Southern Connecticut State University while actively selling real estate, Schede quickly realized that she was earning more as a REALTOR® than she would earn as a teacher.
“I also discovered that I had a real passion for helping people through the gratifying life experience of buying a home,” she says.
Determined to be the best in the business at advocating for homebuyers propelled her to earn the ABR® designation along with a variety of other specialized designations, and to share her expertise through service to her community and the industry.
A three-time REALTOR® of the Year awardee and a multi-year Five Star REALTOR®, she is a past president of the Connecticut REALTORS® Association. Additionally, she was the first woman president of the YWCA in Meriden, and was recently elected to both the Meriden Board of Education and the Meriden City Council.
But neither her many hours of industry and community service nor her hectic business activity—she had 17 closings in the month of September alone—comes before her personal interest in every client.
“At the height of the health pandemic, I was able to guide one young couple who were expecting a baby, a little girl, through the purchase of their first home,” she says. “When the baby was born, they sent me a picture of her homecoming—snugly wrapped in the little pink blanket I crocheted for her.”
For such dedicated individuals to be recognized as REBAC Hall of Fame inductees is easy to understand. But what does it take for an entire association—in this case, Florida’s combined Pinellas REALTOR® Organization and Central Pasco REALTOR® Organization—to be honored?
Led by CEO David Bennett and current President Cyndee Haydon, the organization is one of Tampa Bay’s largest professional trade associations, representing the interests of more than 9,000 real estate professionals.
“When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the nation, real estate professionals, like everyone else, were unsure how—or if—they could move forward, and this board really stepped up,” says Angela Emerson, the organization’s vice president of professional development and standards. “We quickly partnered with 14 other larger and smaller boards in the state to generate programming, schedule instructors and reach out to a combined total of more than 50,000 members.”
Drilling down even further, Pinellas had 566 students take the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) Designation Course so far this year, in addition to 363 students who took one-day ABR® elective courses.
A bit ahead of the curve, they embraced technology to provide members with tools to help them increase their skills and think outside the box, says Emerson. They created a dedicated studio and a virtual format featuring ideas, instruction and inspiration from noted instructors designed to engage their members and get their business back on track.
“Our association had already been transitioning into hybrid classroom capability,” she notes, “so we were able to react fast to meet the need.”
Zoom classes attended by as many as 700 members at a time encouraged agents to use the pandemic downtime to improve their skillsets, study for ABR® and other specialized designations, and reach out to their sphere of influence offering a patient ear, help where needed, and expert guidance to those with a need to buy or sell during these difficult times.
“The effort resulted in a huge number of clued-in agents who not only increased their expertise, but who were also prepared to meet the deluge of pent-up need when it began,” says Emerson. “The pivot time was little to none. It was truly an awesome experience.”
For more information on this year’s award winners, and how you can submit an application for next year’s induction, please visit http://rebac.net/hof.
Barbara Pronin is a contributing editor to RISMedia.