Her Hero: Real Estate Leaders Reflect On The People Who Empowered Them
April 01, 2022 - United States
In so many ways, women are the driving force moving real estate forward. That’s true in the present, where the majority of agents and brokers are female—but it was also true in the past, thanks to the risk takers and change makers who charted paths and opened doors for women in the industry. Now, the real estate leaders of today are paying it forward as role models for the agents, brokers, and businesspeople of the future.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, three inspiring women share their stories about those who helped them throughout their careers. Whether they were idols, mentors, or close collaborators, all made an incredible—and indelible—difference.
Heidi Pay, Chief Operating Officer at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, cites Olivia Hsu Decker as her real estate hero. “When I was just getting into college and dreaming about buying a home in Marin, I would see this glamorous woman on the home sale magazines at the time, selling the most luxurious and impressive properties—and it was all the more notable because she was a female Asian agent, which was highly uncommon at the time,” she says.
“Olivia’s story is the true American Dream story. She came with a suitcase from China, started work in hospitality, and leveraged that into becoming one of the owners of the largest Sotheby’s International Realty affiliates in the world. She advises countless billionaires and celebrities, and now publishes Haute Living Magazine in San Francisco. She is truly an inspiring businesswoman.”
Hsu Decker and the other owners at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty moved the dial for Pay by placing their faith in her leadership and her vision. “Working together, we’ve grown the company from a small 30 agent brokerage to over $7 billion in sales,” she says. “They believed in me and were always open to listening to alternative viewpoints to allow the best decisions to be made at each step.”
Learning the Trade
For Joan Herlong, Owner and CEO at Joan Herlong & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty, her real estate hero is Pat Dorsey—the top producing agent at the realty company where she first started her career nearly 30 years ago.
“Pat helped me learn the fine art of hosting an open house. She taught me to engage every buyer who walked in, and position myself as an expert not only on that home, but on the market at large. She was genuinely happy to see anyone succeed, and to help them any way she could.”
Dorsey was unequivocally supportive and uniformly kind, but what stood out above all else was her work ethic. “Like many other people, I assumed Pat lived in the neighborhood where she had so many listings, which was a very prestigious country club community,” says Herlong. “She didn’t—but several times a week, she walked her adorable dog in the area, chatting with every neighbor, remembering their names and their dogs’ names, and she was so engaging that the residents thought she was a local. She took time to really know the people in her designated area, and form relationships rather than deals.”
While Pat Dorsey was Herring’s first mentor, she wasn’t her last, and she notes that there have since been many women, as well as men, who have invested their time and trust in her as she advanced her career.
On that note, Tamy Gluck, Broker and Owner at Soleil Sotheby’s International Realty, considers her father, Joseph Kertesz, to be her real estate hero. He arrived in Australia as an immigrant with limited English and schooling—but his excellent listening and observation skills helped him start a career in real estate. “His hard work, intuitive decision-making, and innate real estate vision were the catalysts for his success,” says Gluck.
During one particularly difficult time in the local real estate market, Kertesz couldn’t find a buyer for a shopping center on North Stradbroke Island—so he turned it into a scuba diving center and hostel and obtained his license as an instructor and captain. “It’s still flourishing today,” says Gluck. “Tourists from all over the world come to take in breathtaking dive spots and catapult over the waves on boats my dad designed. To be able to learn and dissect, change directions, consistently analyze and improve, and then implement—that’s invaluable.”
Ketesz equipped his daughter with real estate knowledge, while also encouraging her in her own pursuits. Gluck traveled the world for three and half years, working a range of jobs—but her life seemed to come full-circle when she found her calling with Sotheby’s International Realty.
“It was a pivotal point in my life, professionally and personally,” she says. “The friendships, the network, the guidance, and the information shared daily have helped me become a better broker, owner, and businesswoman. I love looking at the big picture and strategizing. Which path do we need to take, and how do we enjoy the journey along the way?”
She sums up a near-universal truth for anyone striving to excel in their profession: “Everyone needs to be inspired. Everyone needs someone they can trust. Everyone needs someone they can turn to and ask questions, and who will listen. I have some pretty incredible people who have impacted my life, whether it be business, friendships, or family. The biggest takeaway is to surround yourself with the people that make you want to be better—and throw in a cheerleader or two.”