SIDNEY – After 27 years as a RE/MAX franchisee, Gay Smith has ended her partnership with the international real estate company and renamed her business Gay Smith/Associates.
But Smith wants to be clear – she remains committed to her business and she’s not going anywhere.
“In a small town, people can put all kinds of spin to any change,” she said. “I’m not sick. I’m not unwell. I’m not backing off. I’m not selling my company. All of the above. Because I wouldn’t give this up for anything.”
It wasn’t an easy decision to split from RE/MAX, Smith said, but ultimately it was the right decision for growing her business and helping her agents succeed.
“I think it’s time,” she said. “At my age, if I’m going to keep this going, I want it to be me. My agents all agreed this is the name they wanted, and it’s much more economical for my agents. And I want them all to succeed.”
Not being tied to a franchise, Smith will save money as she won’t have to pay franchise fees. She’ll also have more opportunities to promote the agents who work for her company, Justin Vondenhuevel, Bill Foster, Lori Shoemaker, Brian Strunk, Rob Jameson and Kevin Frazier-Jones.
“We have quite an assortment (of agents), which is the best, and it is so good,” Smith said. “They all get along. They all promote each other. It’s great.”
Smith’s decades of real estate experience put her in position to lead her company without the backing of RE/MAX. But when she first started in the industry, she needed support to compete against other companies in the market.
“I had to have it because there were big companies in town, and you need to have that support,” she said.
Smith got started in real estate when she and her husband, Eric, moved to Sidney to pursue his desire to farm.
“He was in the Air Force then he got out, and then he was with Huffy Manufacturing, and then he came home one day and said ‘I’ve supported you for 20 years; it’s your turn,’ and he farmed,” Smith said.
“He does what he wants, and I do what I want, and it’s really good. That adage about if you love what you do you’ve never worked a day in your life, I won’t be that good that I’ve never worked a day in my life, but it’s been close for both of us.”
Smith loves her life in Shelby County with her business and her animals on the farm, although her feelings were quite different when she first moved into the community.
“I cried when my husband told me we were moving here,” she said. “I did. I did. It was awful. He drove me up, and we drove through, and it was awful. But I had never been in a small area before, and now I love it because he gets to farm, I get to do my thing, I get to have all of my animals, and I love the people around here.”
Smith’s change of heart is similar to the experience many of her clients have had throughout the years.
“Not everybody knows what they want until they get into it,” she said.
During her career, Smith has seen numerous people who thought they wanted to live in the city fall in love with country living, like her. She’s also seen people seek a country home before deciding they prefer city life.
And Smith thinks the notion that a kitchen, dining room or any other feature of a house can be described as great is misguided. She contends agents should let their clients make their own judgments.
“It’s not about selling houses. It’s about matching the people, what they want,” Smith said. “My standard comment is I really have never sold a house. You take people and you make the fit.”
Smith understands the challenges of moving from personal experience. Her father regularly transferred jobs, which caused her to move frequently throughout her childhood.
“I moved every year I was growing up from first grade through high school, and I felt comfortable with the process,” Smith said. “I think because I did that I’m able to understand a lot from the buyers and sellers and what they’re going through.”
Real estate always has been and always will be a people business, Smith said.
But while some things never change, other aspects of the business are significantly different now than they were years ago.
“Oh, my gosh,” Smith said. “It used to be a one page document to list a house. It used to be a two page contract, no disclosures. Oh, my gosh. It’s gone from simple to ridiculously cumbersome.”
Another big change Smith witnessed during her career involves concerns about liability, which altered how real estate agents interact with their clients.
“You used to just load your car up with people and go,” she said. “Never thought a thing about it. I’ve had clients that brought two dogs in my truck, and we went to look for houses. It just used to be such a different world. Because now, very, very rarely do we put people in our cars.”
Smith still holds onto some of the old ways of interacting with clients. She sends more than 800 calendars a year to past clients and still mails them letters. The practices might be archaic, she said, but she enjoys maintaining contact with past clients and likes the traditional methods of doing so.
“It’s just a people business, and it can be a very lucrative business or it can be horrible,” she said. “It’s what you put into it.”
For the past 27 years, Smith has worked with clients in Auglaize, Darke, Miami and Shelby counties, and she thinks her business is well positioned to continue serving those communities for years to come now as an independent company.
“I probably should have done it years ago, but it’s scary when you do that, too,” Smith said. “We all get used to our own rut.”
For more information about Gay Smith/Associates, visit the company’s website at https://gaysmith.com/ or call 937-507-4341.
Reach this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-538-4824.