Roberta (Bobbi) Pickens, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Treasure Coast in Hobe Sound, FL, is used to blazing her own trail. She learned how to stand tall early in her career in industries once dominated by men like medical equipment sales and oil/gas refinement. “There were no women in sales in either industry, so making headway was a challenge. But I was a tough cookie, and learned to handle myself with confidence. Men and women bring different skills to workplace, so I needed to play on those strengths. I was quickly a top saleswoman in these industries and promoted to regional management positions,” Bobbi said.
During tough times she branched out, sharing “I got into real estate because the oil industry is cyclical. We were in a down cycle and facing layoffs. There were no budgets for new refining equipment, or research and development. With a son in college, I needed something else to do. So I trained for my real estate license, worked for a small builder in Chicago and enjoyed it. I moved to Arizona, and got my license there. I researched possible franchises opportunities and found Help-U-Sell and John Powell (coach, long-time corporate executive, and franchise owner). I met with him to review what I wanted and liked, asked tough questions and got John’s ‘always straight’ answers.”
Based on that meeting, Bobbi purchased a franchise in Hobe Sound on the east coast of Florida and opened Help-U-Sell Treasure Coast office in June of 2004. “The market was thriving and my business was doing great. Then cue the hurricanes! First came Frances, followed by Jeanne, both were direct hits and eight weeks apart. That was a crazy time, as there hadn’t been any hurricane activity in this area for over 50 years. We were hit hard. There were a ton of blue roofs everywhere, so many houses were covered in tarps. People wanted to view and buy the properties, but we couldn’t show them. I switched to selling lots in a partnership with a developer during this long recovery period. When the market was good, Help-U-Sell was well received as the new kid on the block. When the market crashed I had to let the franchise go. Homes just were not selling. I kept busy on a smaller scale, selling real estate for friends and their relatives, and making sure people in difficult situations got the right help by doing a lot of short sales,” she explained.
In 2016, the Help-U-Sell Corporate Office reached out to previous owners, inviting them to come back and Bobbi happily returned. She said, “It was a great time to re-open. I wouldn’t want to be doing this as an independent in this market. Business picked up nicely this year, and doubled over last year. I hired a licensed assistant, Samantha (referred to as Saint Sam), who handles administrative details and is the buyers’ agent as we build the business. I recently sold all my inventory, but we have six or seven listings coming up, so the pipeline is nicely filled. I’ve been getting buyer leads tied to my Facebook advertising. I just didn’t have time for them, which is why I got help.”
The market has a wide margin of housing prices in Martin County versus Port St Lucie, where buyers have choices and flexibility. Bobbi stated, “In Martin County, you’re looking at a lot of waterfront and high-end properties that can go as high as $28 million. There’s not nearly enough housing in the lower price markets. We are seeing properties in all price ranges: one came in at $1.7 million and the newest is at $180,000. People from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and the Northeast are selling their homes for $500,000 or more, coming here and buying a $300,000 -$400,000 home here instead. We are attractive to home sellers with the middle ground and above average values because the savings really stands out for them. Port St Lucie offers bigger homes for the price and it’s easier to find buyers homes within their budget that they will love. “
After the recession, many people moved out of state. Creating exposure was a priority for Bobbi. She explained, “I took a shotgun approach. I had my mobile office wrapped immediately and that gets a lot of attention. I advertise in the coupon books called ‘Living Magazine,’ they go to every mailbox two times monthly in both counties. The half page ad explains what we do and what a seller gets. The full page ad has the listings and ‘just solds’. Sellers like seeing their home in the ad. When people call from the half page ad, they usually just ask us to come out. It rarely takes more than 3 minutes to get the listing appointment.”
Elaborating further, she said, “The market is changing constantly so you expect the ups and downs and you need a reason to be. Because this isn’t a big market, people need to see how busy you are. I don’t do flashy ads, just a straight-forward, matter-of-fact approach because there is no con. When I come to a listing appointment after a competitor, I always ask what they are getting for those extra thousands of dollars. That usually seals it in our favor.”
It has been a challenging year for Bobbi. Her longtime partner, Phil, suffered a stroke after open heart surgery in February. As the caregiver, she oversees his therapies and doctor appointments but reports he is progressing nicely. Additionally, her mom died in June and she is the Executor of her estate. “In honor of my mother’s passing, I sponsored the first two sessions of a new program with Love and Hope In Action. A friend is teaching culinary job skills for their homeless clients at LAHIA, so they can be re-enter the workforce in the food service industry. We live in a great community and I love that so many people are committed to improving the lives of others. I plan to have them cater some events planned for the office.”
People persevering also aptly describes Bobbi: “Whatever’s going on, I can handle it. I concentrate on what needs to get done, put my head down, and do it. I do not understand the word ‘can’t’, but I have learned to say ‘no’ to listings that are unreasonable and refer to the ‘Realtor’s Serenity Prayer’ [God grant me the serenity to accept the listings I can sell, the courage to refuse the listings I cannot; and the wisdom to know the difference]. I really enjoy helping my sellers through the journey of selling their homes. Everyone has a story. I love disrupting the marketplace. Thank you Help-U-Sell. I love this model and I’m glad to be home.”