Real estate full circle

Since her 16th birthday when Denise Cortez was gifted an interior design book, she has been smitten with all things real estate. Now at age 32 as a multi-award-winning associate broker with EXIT Realty Twin Bridges, Brokerage, in Sarnia and an interior design student, her dreams have come full circle.

Denise’s road to real estate took a detour through the beauty and fashion industries where she studied aesthetics and won multiple awards for sales achievement.  “I love sales,” she says. “People told me I had a bubbly personality and should be selling bigger and better things.  That was the bug in my ear I needed to get my real estate license.”

Early in 2017 when Denise was considering where to place her license, one brokerage in particular caught her eye.  “I kept seeing Julie Jenkins on social media and all the things she was posting about EXIT Realty Twin Bridges’ community involvement,” she says.  Coincidentally, an acquaintance from Denise’s retail days, Nicole Smith, was a top producer at Julie’s office. “I loved seeing that there was a woman who was so successful,” she says. The two met to discuss Denise’s plans.  “Nicole introduced me to Julie and invited me to attend a company event. I experienced EXIT’s culture and saw how much the brokerage gives back to the community.  Those were two of the biggest reasons why I joined.” 

For the first year after she was licensed, Denise kept one foot in her old career and the other in real estate. “I was petrified to jump all-in. It can be scary, especially going from a job where you know you’re going to make X amount every month,” she remembers. At the end of the year, her boss at the salon encouraged her to make the leap to full-time agent. “The minute I jumped in and started to focus all my energy, my real estate career took off,” she says.

During that transition year Denise was also going through a personal life matter.  She sought support from Life’s Seasons, a community-based non-profit providing assistance to individuals going through difficult life experiences.  “A friend told me I should talk to someone and because of the help I received from Life’s Seasons, I saw a huge positive change in my life and in my productivity. I couldn’t pay for my own counseling because I was tight on money. The incredible thing was, due to the generosity of somebody else, my counseling sessions were paid for by donations.”

As her real estate business gained traction, Denise was determined to pay it forward. “The fact that somebody else did that for me and I received the tools I needed to do better inspired me to want to make that change in somebody else’s life.” Denise donated the equivalent of three counseling sessions to Life’s Seasons for every transaction she closed.  Later, she utilized EXIT Realty Corp. International’s Spirit of EXIT Dollar-for-Dollar charitable initiative to match some of her donations. To-date, she has donated more than $15,000 to Life’s Seasons.  “My parents were missionaries and we didn’t have very much growing up.  It was always about giving back and not expecting anything in return. Being raised that way made me want to provide for others who don’t have the same means.” 

Denise is one of the first in her office to raise her hand in support of any community involvement initiative the brokerage launches whether attending a gala to raise money for early-intervention social-skills programs for youth or cleaning up a local park. Denise’s enthusiasm for her brokerage sparked the curiosity of two agents from other brands to learn more about EXIT; one she met at a continuing education class and another at an open house.  “I told them about the hands-on help I received – for example when I wrote my first deal it was 8pm on a Saturday. I called our Broker/Owner, Julie, and she was right there helping me write the offer. Other agents allowed me to go with them on their appointments.” The agents were inspired to reach out to Julie who determined they were a good fit for her brokerage, and they joined.  As a thank you for helping to grow the company, EXIT Realty Corp. International pays Denise a thank you bonus in the form of single-level residual income based on their production.

“It’s been fantastic receiving that money. I’ve been collecting it!” she says.  This year almost half of the cost of her new X5 was paid for by her residual bonuses.

Denise is on track to double her production this year, all while pursuing another life goal. “I have been staging my listings for the past year, so I decided that it’s finally time to get my interior design diploma. I’m halfway through and I’m excited to see where that takes me.”

Denise offers this advice to anyone considering a career in real estate.  “I think if you have passion, you’re a hard worker, and you’re willing to do what it takes, you should jump in with two feet. Believe in yourself and do the work. Get uncomfortable, because anything that involves risk feels uncomfortable.  I would also tell someone new not to compare themselves to anyone else. There are people in my office doing more volume than me – they’re all inspirational but I’m happy with my own journey and growth year after year.  Real estate is a marathon, not a sprint.”

As seen in Buzz Magazine. Reproduced with permission.

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