I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Molly Brundage and Cheri Smith of the BrundageSmith team at Total Property Resources to pick their brains on being working moms, Realtors and a successful broker team in Central Oregon. After strategically working together for a while and “feeling out” the team dynamic, the BrundageSmith team officially formed in 2015 and has consistently worked to grow their book of business while striking the work-life balance so many Realtors are striving for.
How did you get into Real Estate? –
With ambitions of becoming an attorney, Molly received her degree in Political Science, but ended up moving to Seattle, WA where she fell in love with the fast-paced, dynamic lifestyle and began a career in commercial real estate with CB Richard Ellis, the largest commercial real estate services and investment firm in the world. Learning the industry from the ground up, Molly spent over a decade in commercial real estate serving in marketing, tenant improvement and leasing before her knowledge and experience made her a valuable resource for mergers & acquisitions.
With the intention of continuing in commercial real estate, Molly relocated to Bend, Oregon with her family in 2003. Finding the commercial real estate climate much different and more insulated in Central Oregon, Molly was still traveling to Seattle for work on a regular basis and fearing the reality that she may need to walk away from real estate for a more traditional career.
Around this same time, while playing a round of golf, she had a chance encounter with Dan Reedy who served as the Principal Broker for Total Property Resources. With his encouragement and support, Molly decided to give residential real estate a go stating, “I’m going to give this a year and give it an 8-5 effort”. In 2009 after four years in the residential real estate field, Molly succeeded Dan Reedy as managing Principal Broker for Total Property Resources when Dan and his wife Ronda retired from real estate.
A self-proclaimed “science geek”, Cheri studied Environment Health and Microbiology in college where she met her husband Matt, a Bend native. Following her heart and her career path, Cheri left her home state of Colorado and made the move to Oregon in 2000 where she took an internship testing water quality for the state.
In 2004 Matt’s job took him and Cheri across the globe to China where they had the opportunity to learn a new culture and expand their worldview. After a year, the time came to make their journey back to the states and Cheri & Matt knew they were ready to settle down in a small, family oriented community and found Bend was the perfect fit.
A move also meant a new need for employment for Cheri. Fortuitously, Cheri’s father-in-law had a friend who was looking for an administrative assistant for his real estate firm. This friend happened to be Dan Reedy, Principal Broker at Total Property Resources. One year later, in 2006, Cheri got her Oregon Broker’s license to which she states, “I wanted to do more in real estate.” Analytical in nature, Cheri has become the go-to for real estate trends and statistics, often blogging about current market conditions for the BrundageSmith team.
The recession was a hard time in real estate, how did you survive it as Realtors?
Molly and Cheri both widely credit the stability of their business through the recession to the inter-connectedness of the Total Property Resources ownership team and their partnership with Ambrose Law Group, a real estate law firm owned by David and Chris Ambrose, both partners in Total. The devastating effects of the recession on homeowners and those in the real estate industry gave way to the creation of a program called HALO, short for Homeowner Advocacy and Legal Options. The HALO program gave legal options to people who were at risk of losing their home to short sale or foreclosure. During a time when people didn’t know what their options were or how to proceed, the brokers could bring their clients in to speak to an attorney at no-cost to the client to discuss options and create a plan that would mitigate long-term losses as much as possible. Speaking about the recession, Molly says, “Part of our story is our longevity in the market, surviving the crash & sticking with the industry that’s been so good to us.”
“Part of our story is our longevity in the market, surviving the crash & sticking with the industry that’s been so good to us.”
How do you stay motivated when it’s slow?
The BrundageSmith team utilizes the slower months of the year to re-group and focus on to-do list items that get pushed down the priority list during the busy season and see the down times as an opportunity to do the back-end work such as marketing, website maintenance, and re-connecting with their networks. Referring to real estate karma, they cited taking this time to be in the right place at the right time and having the right conversations will often get them back on track. The team also works closely with a business advisor, Dave Luke who has helped them to maintain focus on both the front-end and back-end processes that drive their business.
When they start feeling like things are going slow, the team will take notice of other brokers’ activities to stay motivated and adjust their plan of action accordingly, saying that often it can be motivating to celebrate other colleagues in the industry when you feel like there’s a lull.
What’s your favorite thing about being a team?
“It feels like a safety net, there’s always someone there that’s got your back and that makes everything easier.” –Cheri
“Not feeling like an Island. I love knowing we’re better together and that we can provide a broader sense of professionalism.” –Molly
“We complement each other because we have the same mindset of conducting business”
What advice would you give to brokers who may be interested in forming a team?
Molly and Cheri said, “one and one has to equal three, it can’t equal two because why bother?” quoting their business advisor, Dave Luke who they credit for helping their team to stay on track and thrive. Expanding on this, the duo believe that their strengths must not only balance each other out but make each other stronger. Molly and Cheri say you really need to like the other person and advise that you be thoughtful in why you’re partnering, stating, “When you form a partnership, you’re spending more time together collaborating and the things you don’t like will magnify.”
Both women agree on the importance of having the tough conversations up front, “how will you split commissions and income?”. Defining your structure and expectations up front will help you to avoid the things that will often become larger issues down the road if not agreed upon from the get-go.
Other suggestions include testing out a partnership prior to formalizing the team and talking to other teams to learn about their structure and how they negotiate commission splits.
On work-life balance-
As busy moms, better work-life balance has been one of the many perks of being teammates, citing the ability to have the other team member fill in when needed so they can continue to service their clients without missing out on family life.
Additionally, the women have attributed their active social and family lives to the continued growth and success of their business. A life-long baseball fan and mom to little league players, Molly met the owner of Bend Trend Homes when their boys were on a travel baseball team together. This lead to a strong connection over both the love of the game and the real estate industry. Over the years, it has become a valued partnership where Molly and Cheri have been honored with listing Bend Trend’s speculative homes in the sought-after Tetherow neighborhood and where Bend Trend draws on the proven expertise of the BrundageSmith team to set the bar high for their home sales.
When speaking to the BrundageSmith team, it was clear that they have a passion for real estate, a deep admiration for each other and a sincere sense of humility for their accomplishments in the industry. Both women have served as a source of information and as role models for the Total Property Resources team and continue to lead by example through exemplary teamwork and performance. You can follow along their journey and read Cheri’s thought-provoking blog posts on their real estate blog at: buyinbend.wordpress.com