Good Times… Great Market – DeAnna Sickler & Dyan Lane
DeAnna and Dyan have over 19 years of experience in selling real estate in Southern Oregon. In that time they have seen a lot of changes in the housing market. And yet, even with those changes, so many things have stayed the same. The Rogue Valley still remains a desirable and sought after community to retire in and to raise children. The quality of life remains high. We continue to be surrounded by natural beauty and positive, outgoing people who share the mutual appreciation of this great community. In today’s interview, I speak with DeAnna and Dyan about their tagline “The Highest Caliber of Service.” I wanted to learn more about what exactly this entails.
Hi DeAnna and Dyan. Welcome back to LocalsGuide and thank you very much for speaking with us today.
Thank you so much for having us. It’s always good to connect with you.
To begin with, how did 2018 end for you two?
As we ran the final numbers for 2018 we were pleasantly surprised to see we closed 25% more in 2018 than we did in 2017. This brought the grand total to over $40 million in closed sales. At the beginning of the year the market was super strong. We did see a little bit of a decrease in market activity during the smoke. But all in the all we experienced a very healthy and balanced real estate market here in Southern Oregon.
From your perspectives, and over the course of your careers, what has changed the most in your line of work? What has stayed the same?
I think the biggest change we have seen is in how technology has impacted our industry. When DeAnna started, nearly 20 years ago, there wasn’t an online MLS system, Zillow, or Realtor.com. Each week all the listings were printed for each real estate office and agent and you had to wait until the following week to get an updated booklet. Obviously nowadays buyers can often learn about a listing prior to their agent because everything is at the tip of their fingers.
There is one consistent aspect of the real estate business that has stayed the same, and we believe always will; good old-fashioned networking still sells homes. Some of the most valuable hours in our day are spent connecting with other Brokers. The voice-to-voice dialogue, brainstorming about upcoming or current inventory, and talking about what our buyers are looking for is invaluable. As much as people want to believe the Internet had taken the place of a Brokers position in this industry, it’s simply not true. Zillow and Trulia are not people and neither will ever be able to walk through your home or attend a Broker meeting. Period.
Are there any age-old words of wisdom that you learned early on that still apply to today?
“Even a trained monkey can unlock a door”, which means it is the level of service you provide that will separate you from the rest. As depicted in our slogan, “The Highest Caliber of Service” we really do strive to make the home buying and selling process as stress-free and streamlined as possible. It’s that level of service that helps maintains our reputation and supports residual business. When you decide to sell real estate you quickly realize the product you are actually selling is yourself and the level of service you provide. The homes will speak for themselves. By helping to guide our client to the right decision for their current situation is where we get the most joy from our business. Secondarily, if you don’t know the answer then simply say you don’t know, but then work on finding the answer. On an annual basis, we sell anywhere from 80-100 units. If you multiply that by the number of years we have been selling, you’d be hard pressed to find a scenario we haven’t already come upon. However, from day one, if we were asked a question and we didn’t know the answer, our response was clear, “I don’t know but I can sure find out.” Then lean on your mentors and provide the level of expertise your clients deserve.
I know one question many people, including myself, are having is how you see the future of smoke and fires impacting Southern Oregon real estate.
This was probably in the top ten most asked questions for 2018. To be honest, it is just too early to answer that question with total certainty. We did see quite a few locals talk about buying second homes at the coast; to escape the smoky summers skies and we also experienced buyers cancel their trips because of the air quality. HOWEVER, as we mentioned, we closed $8 million more in 2018 than 2017. And our company as a whole had a top-producing year to date, closing $834 million. We both believe 2019 and possibly 2020 will be a better indicator of how the west coast fires are going to impact real estate sales and values.
You must get so many questions on a daily basis and that is why I wanted to really go into depth with about your subtitle, “The Highest Caliber of Service.” Your jobs require so much more than just showing homes and signing contracts. Let’s talk about this.
As we touched upon earlier, the property Realtors sell really isn’t the “business” we are in. The role we play as trusted advisers and the service we provide to our clients is what sets each of us apart. When trying to find the perfect motto or tagline, we wanted something that communicated the degree of excellence we feel we have achieved and “caliber” felt like the appropriate choice.
I know I have emailed you on multiple occasions looking for advice relating to real estate. What has been one of your all-time favorite questions you have received?
I think the all-time favorite question was from someone at a local gas station. He recognized DeAnna from marketing material, signs, etc. and asked how the market was and also what his house was worth. Not having one stinking clue who this guy was, let alone where his house was located, DeAnna spouted out the first value that came to her head, “Hmmm, I’d say around $250,000.” It was intended to be light-hearted given the little amount of info she had but he seemed pleased with the value and he went on his way.
Details… details… details… how do you keep a balance with it all?
Fortunately, we have been working as a team for a long time so over the years we have been able to fine-tune our business and truly perfect working smarter, not harder. A few years back, we had a record-breaking year closing over $52 million and outperforming any other broker in Jackson County. We quickly discovered those crazy numbers wasn’t really what feeds our hearts, nor our mission of living lives of contribution. Never mind that level of volume nearly killed us both. Sure, it was neat to see we could do it, but it solidified that our joy doesn’t come from any number. We each have elementary school aged children and raising the four of them is really our most important work. Having a friendship and respect for each other has served our business better than any self-help or business management book or seminar ever could. We genuinely care for one another and not only feel honored to help each other be the best versions of ourselves, but we also feel obligated to do so. More often than not, I (DeAnna speaking) can tell what kind of a morning Dyan had by the angle of the clip in her hair. I also know that when she gets too grumpy I just need to call her out on it… ever so gently because trust me; that is not a bear you want to poke :) She also likes to be hugged (gulp) so when things get really bad I just give her a good old-fashioned squeeze. And it better be genuine because she can see right through the awkward, barely touching, uncomfortable patting on the back type hugs and if you do it, she will just hold onto you longer.
Me, on the other hand, I don’t want to be touched when I am having a rough day and she knows that. Strong coffee or lilies – there isn’t much they can’t fix. I also love to fly fish and spending a day on the water solves just about everything. And, Dyan happily holds down the fort for that to happen.
We take our team approach very seriously and the way we run things is everything BUT it’s not a job share. Whenever possible, we attend our appointments together which not only helps for bouncing ideas off one another but it also provides coverage if one of our kiddos wakes up not feeling well.
DeAnna and Dyan, can you share a quick story with us that illustrates your amazing tag teaming in action?
I think our best examples include clients mixing us up or not knowing who is who. We really do want to ensure they get the same level of service from each of us and that they don’t have to repeat to DeAnna what they just told Dyan yesterday. We have a very integrated system that keeps both of us in the loop on every file, a system that would probably make most agents cringe. We will have clients say “How did you already know that…I only told Dyan literally about five minutes ago.” We can feel a sense of comfort from them, now that they know we really are one in the same. We also have incredible support by the amazing, Linda Haxton. She has elevated our business in so many ways and also given us an opportunity to meet with clients together versus one of us managing access for a home inspector while the other shows property. She is also the unofficial president of the D + D fan club, which certainly doesn’t hurt anything. In this fast paced market we find it invaluable to have Linda’s short notice availability to let our clients into homes that have just hit the market, or for her to meet a contractor at a property for their evaluation on something time sensitive. We trust her and she trusts us and we all have each other’s back. She is as grateful for the opportunities we have provide her as we are to have her investment not just in our business, but also in our well-being. We have gotten lots of incredible feedback from clients or even other brokers that interface with Linda saying how they can “feel” the love and admiration she has for our business and us.
Let’s go into more detail about the nuance of buying and selling homes. What do you know now in your careers that you did not know earlier?
It is important to go with your gut when you meet a buyer or seller and are trying to decide if you’re the right fit. It’s important to interview them as much as they are interviewing you. Realtors invest a considerable amount of money into their clients but also a considerable amount of time. If something doesn’t feel right, that’s okay. There are over 1000 brokers to choose from in this county. So if you don’t click with the client, help them line up with someone who might be a better fit. We are in a fortunate position to be more selective about whom we work with. The process in doing so has absolutely nothing to do with the client’s price range. Back in the day when we were building our clientele, there really wasn’t any one person we wouldn’t work with. As we have gotten more experienced and more “clear” about the value in our quality of life, we have come to terms with not being the right fit for everyone. I wish we could say we have a “type” that we gravitate toward but we really don’t. Be a kind human being who honors and appreciates the role we play and I think we will work just fine. It’s definitely not our first choice to work with someone who has called us because of our proven track record and reputation, but then continues to tell us for 45 minutes how they think their place should be marketed, to whom and where…. and never once bothers to ask what we think. The good news is they tend to love it when we tell them they don’t need us at all because they have it completely figured out and then wish them well. Don’t get us wrong…. we love to work as a team with our clients and appreciate the input. We also like to have an open dialogue with our clients, but it is important and appreciated when people take into consideration our experience and track record and let that influence their decision. I can’t say for sure we wouldn’t lean on our CPA or attorney for their expertise and then insist they do their job the way we think they should.
All in all what continues to inspire you both to do the work that you do?
It’s taken a number of years, but we are really starting to realize just how much of an impact we are having in the lives of our clients. We get to partner with them in their real estate endeavors and also work alongside them in achieving their goals. Some of the reasons people buy and sell aren’t always glamorous. In fact, many times it can be really messy. We are honored to be trusted with that mess and feel we have earned the title of being worthy of such a big responsibility. We are full of compassion and empathy while also being pretty kick-ass at what we do. We often pray for clients and the struggles they are facing because it genuinely impacts our lives. We also get to work alongside each other and be paid to do it. We have made it a point to be very intentional in our lives and as we get clearer, we are attracting buyers and sellers who we feel we are of the highest caliber. It’s pretty extraordinary, really.
We enjoy blessing those around us and find that being successful in this line of works allows us to continue sharing gifts and generosity. Whether it is supporting a single dad going to college, helping strangers through GoFundMe accounts, or helping local families and their kids get warm clothes, school supplies or groceries. We enjoy pouring back into a community that has so richly blessed us. This year we were able to come along a few sprouting businesses and help them spread their wings. It’s these moments that pay the biggest reward. And thanks to our clients they allow us to continue to bless others.
Having great relationships with your clients leads to a huge part of your success. What are some your fondest memories of this past year?
Gosh. That is a hard one! We just had a team meeting yesterday and each of us felt like 2018 was one of the best years for memorable clients. We found ourselves surrounded by people who valued us, laughed with us, and we simply enjoyed being around. We were able to help quite a few repeat clients who were now ready to upgrade – a lot of whom we helped buy their first home, and now they are expecting and ready to find a more suitable “family home.” It was so rewarding to see their equity and the new journey of life they were on and to know we played an integral part in that process. We also were able to guide quite a few renters into the housing market. These are clients who thought they couldn’t afford or qualify for a loan. It really is the American Dream to own real estate. And can you believe we get to be a part of that almost every day?
Ok, STRESS… we all have it and sometimes you just have to laugh it gets so ridiculous. What have been your best remedies around this topic?
Begrudgingly, DeAnna started exercising. She pisses and moans about it but it’s helping her to feel better both physically and mentally. Dyan joins her, likely because she actually enjoys it, but even more likely because it holds DeAnna accountable. We have also found that having a designated day off and alternating coverage on the weekends has provided a much-needed reset as well as time for our families. Our clients are still receiving coverage but because all our phone calls and emails are streamlined to one place, the partner who isn’t “on” that weekend can really check out and just be a mom and wife. It seems simple, but our system has taken years to perfect. To really value taking time off better serves each other and our clients. Being at everyone’s beck and call is the recipe of success in building a business… or so you think. We certainly put in our time, but now that we have our systems in place that provide top-notch level of service, we can also be more clear on the value of getting some downtime.
On that note, how are your families doing and what’s the family update?
Our families are doing really well. Between the two of us, we now have students in 5th, 4th, and 1st grades as well as a kindergartener. It can be quite the adventure but hey… our circus, our monkeys. The Lanes will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year and the Sicklers will celebrate 17. Don was promoted to Detective Sergeant with Medford Police Department and Nate was elected Sheriff of Jackson County. So in addition to our contributions to the community, our husbands are also invested in Jackson County and continue to be world-changers. It really is a great life. We have all worked really hard to get here.
Back to the market… where are we going this year? Will we see a decline in values?
How we wish we had a crystal ball. We often say if we knew exactly what the market was going to do, we would be retired and own a tropical island somewhere. What we do have access to is over 29 years of combined experience, a good track record, and first-hand knowledge of local real estate trends. We both have experienced the lowest of lows and the highest of high in the real estate world. What we can say is we both feel like we are reaching the top of the market locally. Do we think values are at their absolute highest? NO. Do we think we have created a market bubble that’s about to burst? NO. There are a lot of systems in place at the local and federal level to help prevent the market crash we saw a few years back. Our best advice is if you are entertaining selling in the next three years, sooner versus better would be in your best interest. Values are up but for how much longer remains to be seen. Meet with an agent you have a relationship with and trust. Disclose to them your real estate and life goals and let them provide you with knowledge and facts so in turn you have all the information you need to make the best decision for YOUR personal situation.
Do you have any immediate suggestions or advice to potential buyers or sellers?
YES! If you haven’t connected with an agent recently, do it soon! They can guide you on how to get your home market ready, when you should hit the market, etc. As a buyer, they can ensure you have all your ducks in a row to purchase a new home/property. The market continues to be competitive so being properly equipped is essential in achieving your goals.
Congratulations to you both on an excellent year and for all of your great work here in Ashland!
Thank you! We would be fooling you if we didn’t acknowledge the amount of work it has taken to get us here. We have put in the hours, had the hard conversations, and shown up at the office with nothing scheduled. We treat this job as our career – where we hope to create our legacy and will someday retire from. This isn’t our hobby or a part-time gig. We have found our passion and we think it shows. Our ultimate goal has always been to provide the highest caliber of service. We want to be among our client’s elite advisors, and if our performance of 2018 is any indication, it appears we are well on our way.