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By Robert Warde Posted: Sept. 3, 2011
For more than 30 years, Dave Birkle has sold real estate. He started right out of college and once worked with Carol Sawatske, who was mentoring her daughter, Kathy, in the business. This was about 15 years ago and when Dave and Kathy met; they fell in love and married. The two have worked together since. Kathy had a career in banking for 14 years before she decided to work real estate full time so that she could have schedule flexibility after she and Dave started their family. The couple discussed their careers and the state of real estate in the edited interview below.
What do you enjoy about selling real estate?
For Dave, it’s the people and helping them find a home that they like or helping them sell one and move on in their life. Just helping people make their next move is the joy of it all. Kathy is very high energy and loves showing buyers homes and working with them. She’s shown some buyers more than 50 homes. She just loves being out there.
What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
Getting a buyer financing is extremely difficult. Even in they’re pre-approved, lenders can throw monkey wrenches into transactions and delay closings. That has been the hardest part, along with some people not having enough equity to get out of their homes. Short sales also are difficult because the buyer has to get the approval of not only the seller, but also the bank and banks have thousands of homes in foreclosure, so you’re often in a holding pattern of one or two months.
What role do you think an agent should play for a client?
You have to be there from start to finish — through the ups and downs of it. If they’re in a panic, it’s your job to settle them down. You have to work with them so they know you’re doing everything you can to get it to a closing.
What qualities make for a good Realtor?
Right now, you have to have the most positive attitude and you have to be peppy, outgoing and energetic because if you aren’t, you will never make it and the clients will see right through you. You also have to have experience in order to handle what are sometimes monumental challenges with transactions today. Experience also is important in dealing with appraisers.
Have you had any mentors?
For me, Kathy, it was my mother, Carol Sawatske. She sold real estate for more than 30 years and she got me into it and got me going and taught me the right way.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
You’ve got to have a business plan and you’ve got to be honest and you’ve got to tell your clients, not always what they want to hear, but the reality of the situation so they know what to expect. Also to communicate with clients.
What’s the best advice you give to clients?
That we are now a team and have to work together. We’re in constant communication and we all have to do our best to get the job done.
Tell me about the most interesting deal you’ve done.
We had a deal for a home that was being sold on Little Muskego Lake and there had been no comparables at the selling price of more than $700,000 in at least two years. Fortunately the appraiser lived on the lake as a child and knew about the value and lifestyle, so it did appraise. After that a few homes at $700,000 sold right away, so we kind of set the trend.
What do you do for recreation or to relax?
Going out on the lake with the kids, grilling out and water skiing while enjoying the lake when we get home. We’re not always successful, but we try to get home at the same time.
What charitable groups are you involved with?
The Children’s Miracle Network by giving a portion of each commission to them. We also contribute to Children’s Hospital.