2015 Best Real Estate Professionals
Real Estate Profiles
Brad & Heather Fox
Dwell Realty Partners, Fox Homes
Specialization: Buyers, sellers, and renovations in Minneapolis and Hennepin County
Wanting a more personal approach to real estate, Brad Fox left a career at a brokerage firm and started Dwell Realty Partners, based in Wayzata, 10 years ago. Heather Fox worked as a realtor for a national builder for eight years before joining her husband as a partner in the business.
“We’re not ‘sales-y’ realtors,” Heather explains. “It’s not just about commission to us. We look out for our clients’ best interests.”
Brad’s non-aggressive approach, in-depth knowledge of Minneapolis and the western suburbs, and stellar negotiation skills, combined with Heather’s passion for people, marketing savvy, and love of home design translates into happy clients who regularly refer the Fox duo to others. Their sincere interest in helping people comes across to clients, as evident in the more than 55 positive reviews Brad Fox and Fox Homes has received on Zillow.
They believe in listening to their clients—really getting to know them—and making the process fun and enjoyable. (Many clients become friends.)
Another way they share their real estate knowledge is through helping clients with renovations, an exciting new part of their business, ranging from design ideas and cost estimates during showings to managing projects and helping secure financing.
“We’ve been through about everything you can throw at someone during a renovation, so we know what we’re doing,” Brad says. “We can help people make smart and cost-effective decisions.”
Whether it’s buying, selling, or renovating a home, “Our work is our passion,” Heather says. “We joke that with a career we love so much, we might never retire.”
Kerry Bader & Tracy Gazett
Specialization: Minneapolis and western suburbs including Minnetonka, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley and Eden Prairie
Designations and Awards: MAAR, Chairman’s Circle, Exceptional Property member, President’s Circle, Senior Housing Specialist, and Super Real Estate Agent
Realtors Kerry Bader and Tracy Gazett understand that residential real estate is unique in that, on one hand, it’s very personal, and on the other, it’s a business transaction. With nearly 60 years of combined experience, they know how to help clients make smart investments and navigate the process. According to Tracy, who has been with Edina Realty for 19 years, “You have to know how to read people and situations. I feel a genuine responsibility to do the best by my clients.”
Kerry, who has been in real estate for 37 years, knows the importance of listening. A lot can be learned from paying attention, asking the right questions, and picking up on cues. Buying or selling a home should be fun, she says, not chaotic.
The two are hard workers, skilled negotiators, and trustworthy advocates. At the end of the day, though, what it boils down to is relationships—that’s the aspect of real estate they value most. According to Tracy, “We consider it an honor and privilege when many of our clients become good friends.”
Left to right: Ricardo Sereno, Steve Havig, and Paul Frye of Lakes Area Realty
Lakes Area Realty of Minneapolis
Specialization: Minneapolis/Lakes area
Designations: GRI, CRS, Broker, and Past President of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors
Steve Havig and his team at lakes area realty of Minneapolis have rightfully earned a reputation for being ethical, honest, and professional—essential in building valuable client relationships and growing a successful business. Steve, his team, and the agents at Lakes Area Realty have extensive marketing and negotiation skills, put their clients’ interests first at all times, and are locally entrenched—many have deep roots in the areas they represent, giving clients the advantage of inside neighborhood knowledge.
“We are a full-service real estate boutique with expert market insight, offering a high level of personal service at every stage of the transaction,” says Steve, who has nearly four decades of sales experience. To demonstrate the high level of service expected of the team, he comments, “My most-used expression is ‘If our clients get a cold, we get pneumonia.’” Real estate is a business based on trust, and at Lakes Area Realty, you can trust the team will deliver exceptional service and expert home-buying guidance.
Executive Sales Consultant
The Leonard Team at RE/MAX Results
Specialization: Northwest suburbs — Plymouth, Maple Grove, Rogers, St. Michael, Elk River, Albertville, Otsego, Champlin
Designations: CRS, GRI, CDPE, SFR
Your home—whether big, small, or somewhere in the middle—should be your sanctuary. It’s where you feel safe, where you recharge, and where you relax. It’s the place where memories are made. Executive Sales Consultant Brian Leonard, who co-founded The Leonard Team along with his wife, Jenny—also a licensed real estate agent—knows how important it is to find the right home. The couple is fully immersed in the real estate community; Brian has been serving on the Minnesota Association of Realtors Professional Standards Committee for almost 10 years, was president of the Minnesota Chapter of the Council of Residential Specialists, was on the board of directors of the Minneapolis Area Association Board, and volunteers as a teacher for first-time homebuyer classes. He continues to be one of RE/MAX’s top agents in the state. Their clients are well-educated and well-informed throughout the process, from the initial meeting to the final closing. “We treat our clients with the respect they deserve,” Brian says.
Realtor and Sales Manager
Coldwell Banker Burnet – Wayzata Sawicki Family Realtors
Specialization: Representing sellers and buyers; Lake Minnetonka lakeshore, west suburban luxury homes, townhomes, and condominiums
Awards & Designations: Achieved Coldwell Banker Burnet’s International President’s Circle Elite status, member Coldwell Banker Burnet Previews/Distinctive Homes Division, CRS, CDPE
Kathy Sawicki is an electrical engineer-turned realtor, uniquely positioned to provide clients with strong technical and business skills. She transitioned into real estate sales 17+ years ago, earning a reputation as a smart, trusted advisor with a genuine passion for meeting the diverse real estate needs of her clients. She is a multi-million dollar producer with access to a highly effective network of top real estate professionals who work independently yet freely share new property information, creating unique opportunities for clients. Two of Kathy’s four grown children followed her into the business as part of the Sawicki Family Realtors’ team, and together—strive to provide a truly remarkable customer experience.
Northeast Real Estate Group
Specialization: Northeast Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, inner-ring suburbs
Over the past decade, realtor/broker/owner Jim Dropps of Northeast Real Estate Group has seen thousands of homes in every price point throughout Minneapolis. “I’ve developed a thorough understanding of homes of all ages and their unique components,” he says. “I’ve learned what to do and what not to do when it comes to the plumbing, electrical, roofing, siding, mechanicals, and framing.” Equipped with this knowledge, he is tactfully yet brutally honest when assessing homes—a respectable trait in the industry, and an asset for both buyers and sellers. He is a true professional and provides informed advice and counsel throughout the process. According to a past client, “Jim was informative and real with us. He had a sincerity and sense of humor that made the house search journey fun and easy. He understood who we were and what we were looking for, and when we finally found a house that we fell in love with, he did all he could to make it happen for us.”
Specialization: East and South metro, specifically Inver Grove Heights
Designations: ABR and ePro
Listen first, act second. those wise words drive how Brian Hurt, Realtor with RE/MAX Results, approaches client interactions. Having a bachelor’s degree in psychology—and working five years as a social worker before transitioning into real estate—has enhanced Brian’s ability to effectively communicate with his clients and strongly negotiate on their behalf. Another asset is his work ethic: He’s willing to go the extra mile for his clients to ensure a smooth transaction. “I want them to feel that I’m in it with them,” he says. “When the transaction is over,
I want them to feel like they’ve not only had a positive experience, but also gained a valuable relationship.” He isn’t gimmicky and doesn’t have time for insincerity. “No billboards. No corny radio commercials. Just hard work and a professional approach to my craft.”
Samantha J. Strong
Metamorphosis Realty & Design-Build
Specialization: South Minneapolis
Awards: NAR Green, EcoBroker
Samantha J. Strong started Metamorphosis, based in Uptown, eight years ago as an alternative to the larger, traditional real estate brokerages. “I wanted to make sure dollars that would have gone to a large corporate entity were instead donated to a cause of our clients’ choice, now known as our ‘Give Green’ program,” she says. Having a philanthropic bend—and, incidentally, a sustainable streak—isn’t the only way Samantha is different from other Realtors, she also owns Metamorphosis Design-Build, a small award-winning firm with a reputation for quality work, serving clients with real-world budgets. This unique merging of services allows Metamorphosis to integrate construction, design, leasing, property management, and real estate services under one umbrella. And while Samantha readily says she is “obsessed” with houses, the best part of her job is developing client relationships. She comments, “The local neighborhood real estate office is the perfect place to build authentic relationships, greener lifestyles, and more sustainable communities.” After all, she points out, “We all do better when we all do better.”
Real Estate Consultant
Keller Williams Realty Integrity Northwest
Specialization: Ramsey, Elk River, Zimmerman, Princeton, Milaca, Anoka, Sherburne, Isanti & Mille Lacs counties
Designations and Awards: CDPE, MNS, Double Gold Medallion Award 2012, 2013, 2014
Kristie Bernard is a real estate consultant who is passionate about her profession and cares about helping others. “Our success is not based on volume, it’s based on establishing trust,” she comments. “We take the time to understand the goals of our customers and do research to get the best value and top sale prices for their homes.” Clients describe her as enthusiastic, confident, supportive, gracious, and always available. They remember her personal approach long after the final closing. Her extensive knowledge, attention to detail, and ability to ensure a smooth transition set her apart. Additionally, she goes above and beyond through offering home staging, remodeling, and architect/design-build services, and even discounts on moving companies. She’s quick to point out that her success over the past 16 years isn’t hers alone. “Thank you to my assistant, friends, family, and clients for helping me grow my business,” she says. “I am so grateful for your support.”
Counselor Realty, Inc.
Specialization: Minneapolis (from Southwest to Northeast), St. Paul, St. Anthony, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Roseville, Shoreview, New Brighton, Columbia Heights
Designations: MBA, e-Pro, CRS, ABR
By leveraging technology with a traditional hands-on approach, Kevin Bumgardner provides personalized service to clients. He understands what people want their Realtor to do for them: be available, care about their goals, provide timely information, possess negotiation skills, and use their expertise and knowledge to advise and counsel toward the decision that’s right for them. “Simply, I listen,” he says. “Only then can I ensure I’m serving a client’s needs.”
RE/MAX Results – Matt Engen Group
Specialization: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina, Eden Prairie, Apple Valley, Lakeville
Awards: RE/MAX Platinum Club, 100% Club, and RE/MAX Hall of Fame
As a Minneapolis native with 19 years of real estate experience, Matt Engen of Matt Engen Group knows Minneapolis. That knowledge base, combined with strategic marketing, honest communication, and strong negotiating techniques, has served as a valuable resource in helping clients save time and money. According to one homeowner, “Matt sold our house in two days. He knows the area, he knows the market, and he genuinely cares.”
The Joy Erickson Real Estate Team
Specialization: White Bear Lake,
Vadnais Heights, Hugo
A good real estate agent, one who knows the market and has negotiation experience, can make or break a transaction—the difference between buying the house of your dreams and a deal that falls apart. Joy Erickson with The Joy Erickson Real Estate Team/Edina Realty is a true advocate who fights hard for her clients. “I love to negotiate,” she laughs. Joy is positive, responsive, a great problem-solver, and works tirelessly to protect all of her clients’
Specialization: Greater Wayzata area, Minneapolis
Awards: RE/MAX Hall of Fame, RE/MAX Platinum Club, Top Ranked Real Estate Agents in Minnesota Trulia.com 2015
Stu brings $100 million in contract negotiations and over 15 years of industry knowledge to his clients. As a Realtor and active real estate investor, he watches market trends closely and works with attorneys, title companies, bankers, tax advisors, relocation companies, and Realtor team members throughout the home sale and purchase process to ensure clients have a streamlined—and enjoyable—experience.
Property Executives Realty, LLC
Specialization: Western Wisconsin and Eastern Metro (personal use and investor clients)
Designations: GRI, SRES
Currently living at her 24th address, Denise Krogman understands real estate and the details of relocating. Loving western Wisconsin and the east metro, she opened her office just across the river in the heart of historic downtown Hudson. Licensed in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, she is your dedicated, creative, and effective St. Croix Valley connection. Her enthusiasm is contagious. “I love what I do! Isn’t that who you want working for you?”
Sandy Green Realty, Inc.
Designations: Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI), e-PRO® certification, National Association of REALTORS® Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certification (SFR)
With nearly 30 years of real estate experience, Sandy Loescher, owner/broker of Sandy Green Realty, Inc., alleviates client stress by personally handling all aspects of the real estate transaction. “I don’t have any minions,” she laughs. “To really know what’s going on with my clients, I have to be there, hear what they say, and engage them in important conversations to be sure their expectations are realistic. I like to have happy clients.”
Carolyn H. Olson
Coldwell Banker Burnet
Specialization: From downtown Minneapolis to Lake Minnetonka, and everything in-between
Whether it’s finding a diamond in the rough with good bones and potential, or a beautiful, pristine home, Carolyn Olson provides exceptional service to buyers and sellers. She draws on 26 years of industry experience to customize marketing plans for maximum visibility, think outside the box, and deliver on her promises. Her clients, she says, might describe her as tenacious. “I don’t leave a stone unturned,” she comments. “I truly go the extra mile.”
Steve and Kimberly Shea
Realtors and owners
Specialization: East metro area
Awards: “Best Real Estate Company”
Steve Shea and his daughter-in-law Kimberly respect one another’s talents and strengths, a partnership that benefits their clients. She designs and stages the homes for showing—paying meticulous attention to detail—while he’s the business-oriented closer, bringing 30+ years of experience to the table. Kim and Steve also work with renovation contractors and a talented network of lenders and title companies to get the best results for their clients.
RE/MAX Edge and the Vanderlinde Group
Specialization: Carver, Hennepin, and Wright counties
Designations: GRI, CDPE, SFR
A 22-year seasoned broker/owner with RE/MAX Edge and the Vanderlinde Group, Jeff Vanderlinde attributes the success of his business to effective marketing, being honest, accessible, and responsive, and strong negotiation skills. He also has an innate ability to cull the available inventory and identify properties that meet his clients’ needs. “I love assisting people in achieving their dream of home ownership,” he says.
Brian Call, Shannon Roepke, and Brad Weappa
President and Assistant Vice Presidents
Rubicon Mortgage Advisors
Organizations: Brian Call currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Mortgage Association, and has been named President-Elect for 2016. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund.
Awards: Brian was named a “Top 40 Under 40 Most Influential Mortgage Professionals” in 2012 by National Mortgage Professional Magazine.
It can take years to learn the ins and outs of the mortgage industry—a definite advantage to working with the skilled professionals at Rubicon Mortgage Advisors, with nearly 70 years of combined experience between the leadership team alone.
“Over the years, we’ve really studied the craft to be able to educate our clients in a straightforward way, customize solutions at the best possible rate, and establish the foundation for lifelong relationships,” says Brian Call, who has been in the lending business since 1997 and launched Rubicon Mortgage Advisors in 2006. “We are fully committed to the profession. It’s not just a job to us.”
The company operates as both a lender and broker, specializing in retail mortgage origination. They are just large enough to offer products and services not offered by some smaller companies; yet can compete with larger institutions on a national scale, offering competitive pricing and boutique-level quality service.
Highly-respected in the industry, words consistently used to describe Rubicon Mortgage Advisors include “transparent,” “honest,” “experienced,” “knowledgeable,” “trustworthy,” “efficient,” and “compassionate.”
“We stand by the Rubicon belief that ‘Your best interest is our basic principle,’” Brian says. “We are here to work with you and work for you.”
By recommending strategies that provide a financial benefit to their clients, they’re better able to help homeowners and business partners reach their goals—it’s the law of reciprocity, Brian says. “When we invest in others, invariably, it will circle back.”
LendSmart Mortgage, LLC
For 19 years, Scott Flaherty has been helping borrowers determine the right type of loan for their needs. He knows how to make people feel at ease, thoroughly understands federal lending laws, and is intelligent, forward-thinking, and dedicated to his clients and the industry. In July of 2006, he created LendSmart Mortgage as a “respected, stable correspondent-lending institution where people enjoy working.” The goal, he says, is to provide large company products and benefits with a small company atmosphere. “What we offer over the competition is honest advice,” he explains. “Even if it means that the best advice is to do nothing.”
His philosophy is evident in the company’s mission statement: “To demonstrate leadership within our industry, operating in a manner that inspires integrity and fosters success amongst all; ultimately providing a reason for our clients and business partners to trust in a referral of our services.”
NMLS ID 396550
Matt offers a variety of solutions, including conventional, construction, government, and true portfolio loans. Portfolio lending sets Matt apart—he is able to structure loan options based on Roundbank’s internal underwriting standards, as opposed to the standard conforming guidelines. After 13 years, Matt has developed a broad knowledge of mortgage products, as well as a thorough understanding of client needs and how to solve them. He is attentive and responsive. He comments, “I tell my clients they cannot bother me. If I can answer your call, text, or email, I will. If you have concerns, I want to address them right away.” There is much more to consider than just rate. “Take into consideration closing on time, mortgage insurance, servicing and availability,” he says. It’s important to know every option, and really understand what you are getting. As Matt says, “Knowledge is key.”
Vice President/Mortgage Lender/Merchants Bank
For more than 20 years—and through several different economic conditions—Mary Illetschko has been helping clients secure Conventional, FHA, VA, First Time Homebuyer and Construction-to-Permanent loans. She takes the time to explain the process and answer any questions, responds to requests in an efficient manner, and personalizes loans to meet her clients’ needs. She comments, “Many lenders claim they can get you a loan. However, it’s my goal to get you the right loan.”
NMLS ID 452530
Bell Mortgage, a division of Bell State Bank & Trust
The way to be truly successful in a referral-based industry is to constantly deliver high quality service,” says Matt Swords, a loan officer with Bell Mortgage, a division of Bell State Bank and Trust.
For 15 years, he has made service to his customers a priority, and his clients have been taking notice. They appreciate his extensive loan knowledge, ethical and professional demeanor, ability to close challenging deals, 24-7 availability, and “customer-first” philosophy.