Above: Annie Hanna Engel, left, and Helen Cestra
For Helen Cestra and Annie Hanna Engel, the path to real estate success has been paved by some of the most influential mentors in the industry. The two women, who are cousins, are part of the third generation of family members running the Howard Hanna Family of Companies. After learning from some of the heaviest hitters in real estate, the pair is passionate about helping women make their mark in the industry.
“Real estate is a profession, and it’s hard work,” says Engel, who serves as chief legal officer for Hanna Holdings, Inc. and president and COO of Howard Hanna Insurance Services. “It’s a profession people can be proud of, and the industry offers plenty of tools and supports to help them develop opportunities to be just as successful.”
Cestra, who is the sales director of Howard Hanna’s Lawrenceville City Living office, says that leveraging these tools and support systems has been crucial to her success. She says that thanks to some of her early mentors, she learned the value of tools like the HSA home warranty.
“I consistently utilize our HSA home warranty account reps as partners when working with buyers and sellers,” Cestra says.
Cestra says that while many think of a warranty as simply a buyer’s product, the importance of the warranty to the listing—protecting the property and equipment up and until closing—has long been a priority of the Howard Hanna and HSA model.
The brokerage has a 33-year relationship with HSA, and according to Engel, the Howard Hanna Real Estate Services team has made it their mission to strengthen the utilization of home warranties as products that are right for buyers and sellers alike.
“Success in our industry is all about resources,” continues Engel. “It’s about taking advantage of the people and the tools that are around you. I’ve been lucky to have phenomenal mentors and leaders to learn from, and they’ve hammered home the importance of taking advantage of what you have in your toolbelt.”
Drilling down further, Engel goes on to explain that even relatively new agents can offer a fresh perspective on tools and technologies—including the importance of a home warranty—to help buyers and sellers and the successful real estate transaction.
Cestra adds that another piece of the puzzle involves relying on partners in the industry. “I’ve been able to work with our HSA rep to find new ways to support buyers and sellers throughout the transaction,” she says.
Cestra’s HSA rep, Joel Bolinger, suggested having buyers offer to purchase a warranty as a tactic to secure the contract. Cestra would then remind sellers that although the buyer was obtaining the warranty, it would also protect the seller during that crucial period when breakdowns or home inspections highlighted things that would be covered when the home was under contract.
“It was a clever idea that helped protect the seller, but it also reflected how the tactic of building in a warranty needed to change to reflect the current state of the market,” says Cestra. “A lot of our agents adopted that tactic and ran with it.”
“As the market has been changing, we continue to educate and advise sellers to put that coverage on when they’re listing,” says Engel. “Through it all, we continue to see the value of a home warranty and working with HSA.”
In addition to taking advantage of key resources, Engel recommends that new agents take advantage of every opportunity at their disposal. In fact, she notes that one of the best pieces of advice she has valued most throughout her career is to “evaluate every opportunity that is offered to you. And don’t shy away from raising your hand to ask for an opportunity.”
“Nobody’s career is a straight path, and it’s the challenges as well as the opportunities that create your professional and personal accomplishments,” says Engel. “Whether they’re mentorship opportunities or leadership opportunities, it’s important to enrich who you are and continue growing.”
“From the moment I started, mentors were instrumental in helping me with any questions I had—from big picture to small picture,” says Cestra. “They helped me gain a better understanding of how women in business operate while balancing the other priorities in their lives.”
Good managers, like the ones populating the ranks at Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, are another key piece of the puzzle. Not only do they recognize the value of good people, but they’re also motivated to find the right fit for them. This is especially true when they feel that they’re not performing well in their current role.
“The real estate industry is unique—there are so many opportunities—not just in sales and in management leadership, but also in all facets of the transaction. Our leadership team is unique in that they are looking for skill sets so that we can all continue to grow and strengthen the careers and lives of our agents and employees,” says Engel.
For those considering entering the field, Cestra advises they jump right in.
“Don’t wait if you have the inkling to get into real estate,” says Cestra. “Start sooner than later and take small steps while you learn everything you can instead of being in a position where you need to rush into it. Start, learn, then grow your business from there.”
Engel says her biggest piece of advice for new agents would be to take stock of their resources.
“Seek out a mentor,” she says. “Familiarize yourself with tools like the HSA warranty. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal—there are so many experts and industry tools that you can tap into for success.”
For more information, please visit https://www.onlinehsa.com.