Russ, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today about your life and work here in Southern Oregon. To begin with, will you please tell a little bit about yourself and how you discovered Ashland?
I was born in Rochester, New York. My family moved to SoCal when I was 4 years old. I grew up in Covina. My father was a school principal, and my mother was a homemaker and then became a real estate broker and owner with her own office in San Clemente.
I met my wife, JoAnn, in 1997. I was living in Dana Point, California and my neighbor held an informal birthday party for me and invited JoAnn. She cooked me a delicious birthday dinner and like two kindred spirits, we found ourselves in the kitchen together, washing dishes and getting to know one another. We’re both Italian, so it’s not surprising that we started our relationship in the kitchen, sharing our love of food. We hit it off immediately; I could tell she was a very nurturing sort of person. I proposed a year and a half later, and we have now been married for 24 years. We’re really good friends. We support each other and laugh a lot.
While living in Dana Point, our good friends decided to move to Ashland. We were invited to visit and immediately fell in love with Ashland. Having lived with an ocean view for so many years, I thought I would never move away. However, there was just something about Ashland that felt more familiar than different. People were so friendly, and we loved the beautiful Craftsman-style homes and quiet neighborhoods. Shortly after our visit we took a leap of faith, sold our home and business, and moved to Ashland. A decision we have not regretted. We quickly began exploring the area’s natural beauty, the amazing hiking trails and the quaint towns surrounding Ashland without having to sit in traffic.
We love the diversity of the people here. You have retirees, college students, 2nd generation hippies, actors. Lots of happy people. We find ourselves walking through town to Lithia Park at least once a week. Being in the mountains, hiking, hunting for mushrooms and fishing are some of our favorite things to do. There is so much beauty in Ashland and so many opportunities to be exposed to art!
Russ, you’ve amassed a substantial track record in customer service, spanning from your early days mowing lawns to establishing your own pool business. Furthermore, you’ve successfully ventured into selling luxury cars and, more recently, homes. What would you say is the key to your achievements across these diverse fields?
Growing up, my GoFundMe was selling flower seed packets door to door, my newspaper route or collecting Coke bottles and blue and green chip stamps. These ventures taught me that if I wanted anything bad enough, I had to work for it.
For me, business isn’t just business—it’s totally personal. I’ve been working in the service industry my whole life. I started my career in the restaurant business as a waiter and then later a restaurant consultant. When I waited on customers, I wanted them to enjoy the food and feel special. I treated them like they were having a meal in my home. Later when I changed careers and was selling Hi-line motorhomes and then luxury cars, I felt as though I was selling my clients a dream.
I feel that way about the real estate profession as well. Selling real estate is such a personal process. Relationship building and creating an atmosphere of trust and support is an essential part of the process. At its highest level, business is always an act of service. I have built a lifelong career in the service industry on the strength of this business relationship, growing my business from the ground up through organic referrals. I’ve never been a corporate climber or part of a big machine. I like to be at a personal level with people, focusing on the customer’s needs, is the key to his success. Zig Ziglar said that “you can have anything you want in life if you can help others get what they want.” For the past 10 years in real estate, I have been helping my clients achieve another personal dream: a vision of their future. It’s fun to be a part of that journey for people, as well as a big responsibility. You must do what you say you’re going to do and fit your service to meet their needs.
Russ, how do your clients find you and why do they choose to work with you?
My business has been built on the relationships I have fostered with my clients. Like so many of my past business experiences and successes, relationship building has led to referrals from my clients. This type of organic business development has succeeded because of my personal approach to how I conduct business. Knowing the market at all levels is extremely important but I have found that people primarily “don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is no greater honor than to receive a referral from a client. I would also like to share how important it is to work with the right brokerage firm. I chose to work at John L. Scott because they have a strong work ethic and equally strong moral compass. From management to agents and support staff, the company motto is “Living Life as a Contribution.”
Russ, building trust with clients is a key part of the work you do. Please say more.
When I meet with a client for the first time, I keep in mind that buying and/or selling real estate is a personal process so during that first meeting I like to discuss the most important parts of their decision to purchase or sell. Some may be upsizing or downsizing, retiring, or selling because of the death of a spouse, so often there is an emotional component that goes along with the transaction. Being able to bring real-time information about the current market to my clients is crucial so that they are not holding onto unrealistic expectations. There is a process from start to finish that needs to be thoroughly uncovered and discussed. My ability to really listen to what’s being said and not being said has proven to be helpful in getting to their core beliefs and needs. For example, I once had a client who expressed a desire to live on a golf course. In our conversations, he confessed that he doesn’t play golf, but he truly desired the open space that living on a golf course provides. We were then able to expand our search criteria and found a list of properties that provided open space. During our conversations about wants and needs and current market conditions, we craft a plan together for their purchase or sale. When you openly discuss needs and expectations it makes for a smoother transaction.
Russ, you offer several concierge services to your customers including marketing newsletters, tax updates and more. Please tell us more about how you go above and beyond to exceed the expectations of your customers.
What I want my clients to realize is that I just don’t sell them their homes, I come with their homes. By that I mean, twice a year I offer a concierge service provider list that includes service vendors from all specialties relating to their potential needs as homeowners. The list includes plumbers, electricians, utility contacts, pet sitters, carpet cleaners, etc.
I put out a monthly newsletter that gives my clients the latest information about the real estate market and upon request will provide an updated home valuation and updated tax information.
I’m a strong believer in personal connections, so I also call my clients a few times a year to catch up on what is going on in their lives and let them know that I care about them and am available to them if they need me.
When I am listing a new home, I provide an opportunity for an open house. A few days before the open house, I will walk around the neighborhood personally and invite the neighbors to view the home one hour before the advertised time. Neighbors can be a great source of friends and contacts that would like to live in that neighborhood.
Russ, you also throw a housewarming party for all your clients buying new homes! What an amazing gift this is.
After a successful close of escrow, I offer to throw my clients a housewarming party. It is a wonderful opportunity for them to meet their neighbors and show their family and friends their new home. During the holiday season, another way that I like to let my clients know how important they are to me, I personally deliver a holiday wreath that has been specially made for me. This lets my clients know that I appreciate their business and appreciate them.
Russ, when we spoke on the phone you mentioned that you really love working with first-time homebuyers. Please say more.
I have always been honored and humbled to work with first-time homebuyers. Owning a home is part of the American Dream and because it’s one of the biggest decisions in our lives, I feel a tremendous responsibility from start to finish to help first time homebuyers achieve their real estate goals. When JoAnn and I bought our first home, we did not have a positive experience with our Realtor. A big part of the problem centered around communication. This has given me a greater understanding of what the process includes, how my clients feel and what they need.
Russ, please introduce us to your wife and business partner JoAnn Manzone.
My wife JoAnn Manzone grew up in Nutley, New Jersey. Nutley is a small town near Manhattan where many Italian American Immigrants came to start a new life. She had a large extended family that lived in town and there were lots of parties, communal cooking, knitting, and sewing. JoAnn graduated from Kean College in NJ with a Master’s Degree in Behavioral Sciences and began a career in mental health counseling. She moved to California and finished her career as the Admissions Coordinator at The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. Shortly after that she moved to Dana Point where we met. When we moved to Ashland, JoAnn was able to focus her energy on fiber arts. She was involved with The Ashland Art Center and now at The Fiber Arts Collective in Ashland where she teaches, creates, and sells her work. She loves being part of the Collective and surrounded by fabric and other talented fiber artists.
About 3 years ago, JoAnn got her real estate license, and she supports me and several other agents as a Transaction Coordinator. She likes being behind the scenes, helping agents with their paperwork so that they can focus on their client’s needs.
Russ, give us an overview of the range of services that you provide for your customers?
As a Listing Agent:
• Meet with Sellers at their home to get to know the property and provide a home Seller to-do list to get the property ready for sale.
• Assist Sellers in getting property ready for sale. This may include suggesting repairs, paint, etc.
• Discuss Sellers’ goals.
• Prepare a listing presentation for Sellers to include a Comparable Market Analysis (comparable homes that sold in the last 6 months).
• Discuss current market conditions.
• Explain the benefits of listing with John L. Scott (See below).
• Discuss marketing plan and my marketing strategies which will include arranging for photos, MLS listing, internet and print advertising, open house, etc.
• Explain the transaction process including buyer and seller Agency Relationships, Property Disclosures.
• Explain to Seller how commissions are earned and paid.
• Keep Sellers informed of all feedback after showings.
• Present all offers and negotiate with Buyer’s agent.
• Explain the transaction process, including inspections, contingency dates, etc.
• Assist Seller in negotiating repairs.
• Attend closing with Sellers.
As a Buyer’s Agent:
• Meet with Buyers to discuss their needs, wants and goals.
• Assist Buyer in finding a mortgage lender.
• Educate Buyer about different types of financing options and the importance of obtaining a pre-qualification letter before making an offer.
• Explain what I do for Buyers as a Realtor and explain John L. Scott’s value to Buyers.
• Provide an overview of current market conditions.
• Discuss the transaction process from Sales Agreement to Close of Escrow, including Earnest Money Deposits, inspections, contingency dates, and home warranty.
• Explain to Buyers how commissions are earned and paid.
• Offer my clients the opportunity to be on a property tracker which will send listings to their inbox that meet their criteria.
• Show Buyers’ properties that they request, educate them about the neighborhood and share knowledge and insight about the home.
• Listen and Learn from Buyers at each showing, guide them through their emotional journey and get answers to their questions.
• Update Buyers when new homes hit the market.
• Review comparable sales with Buyers to determine value.
• Prepare and submit Buyers’ offer to the Listing Agent.
• Negotiate Buyers’ Offer with Listing Agent.
• Coordinate inspections, review inspections with Buyers and negotiate repairs.
• Attend closing with Buyers.
One of the many benefits of working with a top producing company like John L. Scott is the maximum exposure my clients will receive when they list their property with me. We have 150 active agents, which casts a large net for potential buyers. Open house, with invitations for neighbors to view the home.
I facilitate the Ashland MLS agents meeting every Thursday where agents can present their listings to all agents and then tour the new properties.
Can you please share some recent success stories with us?
“I would like to take a moment to tell you about the experience my husband and I had with Russ Manzone at John L. Scott Realty in Ashland. In early January, we met Russ when he showed us the home we eventually purchased. From that point on he was wonderful to work with.
We had some unusual circumstances in that we lived three hours from the site of his office and the home we were wanting to purchase. In addition, we went on a previously planned, two-week vacation in the middle of the transaction. I know that both complication factors, along with the fact that there were repairs done to the home as part of the sale, required that Russ make extra trips to the home and generally required extra emails, calls and footwork. Russ never batted an eye and just took it all in stride. I can’t think of one instance in a month and a half when he did not answer his phone or call us back within minutes.
Russ is an expert at explaining and advising in such a way that we were able to make our own informed decisions that we felt comfortable with. I never felt like we didn’t know what was happening or what would come next. We were always in the loop.
Overall, Russ is a good person and a hard worker and that shows in what he does. It’s clear that he loves what he does and is passionate about helping people find the right home. We will recommend Russ Manzone to anyone who needs the assistance of an amazing realtor.
We found Russ Manzone, realtor for our house which sold July 2023, to be the perfect match for us. Throughout the course of the joint and successful process of placing our house on the market and selling it within less than three months at its full price, he proved his dependability, assessment of the market, assistance in pricing, resourcefulness, attention to detail and reliability in keeping us apprised of every aspect along the way. His communication skills are impeccable, his integrity beyond question. We highly recommend Russ for his ability to meet the needs of those who are seeking a real estate agent.”
Gene and Kathryn Reppond
“Russ was awesome from start to finish. He was consistently easy to communicate with and always quick to respond. I felt he went above and beyond with our house on the market. We moved out of state and Russ arranged everything that needed to be done and even put in his own sweat!!! I have never had a Realtor do that before. He showed so much caring and respect for our wishes and gave great professional advice. I would definitely highly recommend him.
Russ did an exceptional job helping with the purchase of our new home and the sale of our old home. He provided outstanding guidance and wisdom during all the decision-making processes and was always available for questions/calls. Russ was transparent, patient and always had our family’s best interests in mind. We are beyond thrilled to have Russ in our corner from start to finish and I would highly recommend him to anyone that needs a Realtor!
I met Russ Manzone in May 2014 during my first trip to visit Ashland, at a weekend open house. He gave me a wealth of information and an Ashland Calendar which my wife loved. He took my information from our Florida home and set me up on the Home Virtual Website. I was impressed by his professionalism and a laid-back no pressure approach. He was helpful but not pushy.
Over the next year I worked the website daily, becoming acclimated to the area, with occasional emails when I needed advice or guidance. Russ was extremely patient with us, even though it was a year before we became an active client. In July 2015 we made the move, having sold our Florida home. We rented a house in Talent and began actively searching for a home.
Russ patiently showed us home after home, walked us through the buying process several times and then regrouped our efforts after the first deal fell through. Most agents would have given up, but Russ gave us a little space and then guided us back to the marketplace. In July 2016 we finally bought our current home, at the price we wanted, in the area we wanted. We could not be happier.
As a salesman and business owner, I cannot stress enough why you should hire a professional when making a purchase/investing in real estate. Protecting yourself against the pitfalls and legalities of a bad deal is important, but having someone who knows the local market and makes the process a success is the key to enjoying an otherwise stressful experience. Along the way, you gain a friend.
We heartily recommend you let Russ help you purchase your next home.
Russ Manzone was our ideal real estate agent. He helped my sister and me navigate the complicated process of selling our first home with patience and kindness. He went above and beyond to make the process as easy as possible for us. We would recommend him to anyone looking for a highly knowledgeable and personable real estate agent in the Ashland area.”
Where can we find you when you are not working in the office?
We love outdoor activities, especially hiking. The mountains here are a place of joy and you can find a variety of levels of difficulty. I enjoy fishing and have some favorite spots I like on the Rogue River. I don’t always catch a lot but enjoy the experience. I also like to golf. JoAnn and I recently purchased e-bikes and love riding on the Bear Creek Trail. Our other passion is good food so you can find us frequently dining at our beloved, Osteria La Briccola. Their food reminds us of Sunday Dinner with our families.
Russ, what is your best advice to young families and new families in Ashland looking to buy a home?
Talk to a local lender. Local lenders have a better understanding of the market, they will gather all the necessary financial information to pre-qualify clients to obtain a loan and price range of homes to view. Having a pre-qualification letter puts buyers in a much stronger position when making an offer on a home.
What do you love most about the work you do?
I find tremendous joy meeting all types of people and helping them achieve their real estate dreams. In doing that great conversations and true friendships emerge.
Finally, name an unsung hero in Ashland you would like to say something nice about.
When we moved here 20 years ago, Deanna Sickler was our real estate broker. She was referred to us by our friends from Southern California who used her to purchase their home. DeAnna embodies all the qualities I’ve been talking about. In working with her to build our own real estate portfolio, she has become a great friend and mentor. And a pretty good fisherwoman too!