Designed to honor real estate agents who are new to the business yet achieving extraordinary results, RISMedia’s second annual Real Estate Rookie of the Year award program—sponsored by industry education leader, Colibri Real Estate—has named five real estate professionals as 2023 Regional Rookie of the Year winners.
The five Regional Rookie of the Year winners, representing the Midwest, Northeast, South, Southeast and West, were announced during RISMedia’s 35th Annual CEO & Leadership Exchange on September 5 in Washington, D.C. The national Real Estate Rookie of the Year will be revealed and awarded during RISMedia’s Power Broker Reception & Dinner on November 14 in Anaheim, California.
Selected from the top 25 regional finalists, who were chosen from hundreds of nominations, the Regional Rookie of the Year winners are:
2023 Regional Rookie of the Year, Midwest
For Heather McColaugh, her rookie year in real estate is something she will always remember, not just for her great sales success, but the invaluable impression it left upon her.
“A rookie season comes and goes, yet in my lifetime, I hope I never grow out of, become too successful for or forget the raw grit and passion that I have carried with me every moment of this first year,” says McColaugh. “This recognition and season is a springboard from which I will catapult myself, without any guard rails or safety net. It has given me confirmation that I am created to change lives and I will use real estate as a vehicle to shape the world around me, one client at a time.”
McColaugh took a chance when she left a career in pharmaceutical sales to pursue real estate, shouldering the responsibility of caring for her three adopted children post-divorce. When she overheard her 12-year-old daughter refer to her as the strongest person she knew, it locked in McColaugh’s focus and commitment. “When I quit my job in pharmaceutical sales to pursue real estate, I remember thinking I’m either crazy or I’m going to take over the town—nothing in between. As I turned in the keys to my free car, handed back the security of my stock options and 401K, my health insurance and steady paycheck, I knew I was made for that moment,” she explains. “I knew that every perceived setback is a setup for the most spectacular of comebacks. High gear is the only speed at which I have lived the past year, and I’ve got three kids trusting me and watching every single move I make.”
As for her new career, McColaugh says she has “never been more comfortable being uncomfortable in my entire existence. “Twenty-six years of sales experience, and 18 years growing up in the military, has allowed me to thrive in real estate,” she says. “I love this career because it is exactly who I am. Connecting with people quickly, earning trust from those who barely know you, learning quickly from mistakes and always modifying how I carry myself to match the tone and situation of those around me…all of which are skills I have been perfecting since I was born. Being able to guide my clients one transaction at a time, to meet them in the midst of their chaos and stress, and offer solutions and a calm presence to get them to the other side successfully is a gift like no other.”
2023 Regional Rookie of the Year, Northeast
Portside Real Estate Group
Eric Landry’s more than 20 years as a consultant serving clients at the highest level, combined with top-notch agent training, led to his stand-out success in his rookie year as a real estate professional.
“It’s an immense honor to be considered and recognized for this award,” says Landry. “Having your peers and such a respected organization like RISMedia recognize my hard work is simply next level.”
The strong relationships forged with clients is something Landry doesn’t take lightly. “I honor every client buyer or seller and make it known that my intention is to be their REALTORⓇ for life,” says Landry. “The most rewarding part is two fold: being granted the trust from my clients to go above and beyond for them to achieve their goal; and having such a positive impact on such a massive life event.”
2023 Regional Rookie of the Year, South
Realty Executives Bay Group Inc.
“Real estate is hard work,” says Stacy Cole. “Early mornings, late nights and working on the weekends. The hard work is paying off, and I couldn’t be more excited to be nominated for this award.”
The key to success so early on in her career is all about consistent follow up, Cole explains. “Keep yourself in front of your customers and clients, and follow up, follow up, follow up! Also, developing a relationship with my clients is important, as my business has grown with word-of-mouth referrals. I strive to work hard and make a lasting impression.”
Cole appreciates the flexibility that a career in real estate has afforded her, enabling her to work around her children’s schedules and be present for their activities. “I also love meeting new people and developing relationships with my clients,” she says. “It’s not just about a paycheck for me—it’s about developing long lasting relationships with each transaction.”
2023 Regional Rookie of the Year, Southeast
Hudson ‘Mitch’ Willis
For Hudson ‘Mitch’ Willis, becoming a regional Rookie of the Year finalist is a reflection of the tremendous support he has received as a new agent. “The biggest contributing factor to my success was undoubtedly my unwavering commitment to learning and growth,” he says. “I approached every challenge as an opportunity to learn, and I consistently sought out guidance from experienced mentors in the industry.”
Willis’ focus on clients was also a critical part of his rookie-year success. “My dedication to building strong and genuine relationships with clients played a pivotal role,” he says. “I prioritized effective communication, active listening and a genuine desire to understand and meet their needs.”
Willis says that he loves everything about real estate—”the thrills it can bring, the challenges you face daily and the relationships that are formed out of every single transaction.”
2023 Regional Rookie of the Year, West
John L. Scott Real Estate
According to Keaton Bankofier, being a regional finalist for 2023 Rookie of the Year is a testament to the relationships he’s built and the smiles on the faces of those he’s been privileged to work with.
He attributes his success to one overarching factor: providing value. “I believe the best way to be successful in any business is by providing the most value,” he says. “If you can provide more value then it gains your business trust, loyalty and long-term relationships.
Secondarily he points to the importance of written goals and all those who have helped him along the way. “My principal brokers, secretary and other REALTORS at my office have helped me almost every single day,” he says. “I’m surrounded by positive, caring, successful, hard-working people.”
“This is a huge milestone in my career and confirmation that I am where I’m supposed to be,” says Bankofier. “It’s a validation of the countless hours of studying, hard work, long days and late nights working for my clients.”
Honoring new-agent success and professionalism
Nominees for the Real Estate Rookie of the Year award were considered based on their 2022 sales volume and transaction data, investment in professional education, technology prowess and community involvement. To qualify for this year’s award, agents must not have been licensed prior to January 2021.
“Starting out in the residential real estate business over the past couple of years—during one of the industry’s most atypical and challenging times on record—was a challenge not for the faint of heart,” says RISMedia Founder & CEO John Featherston. “Recognizing new-agent success during these unprecedented times is critical in order to put forth shining examples of professionalism, resilience and success in any market. RISMedia’s Real Estate Rookie of the Year annual award program helps elevate our industry’s reputation, for the benefit of those who work within it as well as for the consumers they serve.”
“We are so excited to continue our presenting sponsorship of the RISMedia Rookie of the Year to celebrate agents who bring to life Colibri’s mission to lead people to achieve more and thrive in their careers,” says Jennifer Dixson Hoff, general manager, Professional Portfolio and Partnerships at Colibri Real Estate. “We are proud to honor those new agents who have demonstrated exceptional work in the real estate profession as well as dedication to the individuals and families they serve. We congratulate the finalists for such a worthy accomplishment.”
Stay tuned to rismedia.com to see who becomes the national 2023 Real Estate Rookie of the Year this November.