Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing editor with REALTOR® Magazine. In addition to writing print and online articles, Erica oversees the magazine's Broker to Broker content, co-manages the 30 Under 30 program, and manages the YPN Lounge. Connect with her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Setting the Stage for Pets
Tess Bocker is adept at making a difficult listing shine, and she does the same for her community’s furry friends, while also being a much-needed resource for pet owners in her town of Wormlysburg, Pa.
May 9, 2014
Century 21 at the Helm
How did you become involved in animal rescue?
I’m a huge pet lover. When Casey, a German shepherd lab that we had for 17 years, passed away, I didn’t want our old Chihuahua, Lucky, to be alone.
I discovered Animal House Rescue, a no-kill shelter, through Petfinder.com. We ended up adopting Jolene, who had been at Animal House Rescue for nine months. She was considered a “difficult to adopt” dog due to her health issues. She was nearly blind and we had to give her medicine every other day, but she was a wonderful, quirky little dog.
After I adopted Jolene, I became more involved with Animal House Rescue. I joined their board of directors in 2012 and this year I’m serving as president.
As a real estate professional, what do you bring to the table for Animal House Rescue?
I like to raise money — I’m all about fundraising and finding resources. That’s what I do in real estate as well; I find resources for my clients to help them either sell or purchase a home. I also spent five years in the army, so I like to organize and lead projects.
Lately, I’ve been helping people sell homes they don’t want any more, so my specialty has become difficult listings. The staging part of it comes very naturally to me. I have the ability to visualize what will look good and appeal to the buyer. I recently sold a condo owned by an elderly woman that desperately needed to be cleaned and staged. Once it was cleaned and painted, I went in with my assistant and I staged it. It sold in 55 days. I had other agents call me to ask how I did it.
At Animal House Rescue, we do something similar. We take dogs from other animal rescues that are having a hard time getting adopted or dogs that may need medical attention and find them homes.
What success has Animal House Rescue seen since you became involved?
Last year we raised between $20,000 and $30,000, and this year I have a fundraising goal of $100,000. The board organizes several different fundraisers and we have a solid volunteer base that’s grown exponentially. Last year we had about 20 volunteers — now we have 80. Facebook has been a tremendous resource because it allows us to communicate with people who are interested in getting involved.
We’ve held four yard sales at my house, and it’s not unusual for the yard sales to raise $3,000 to $4,000 per day. I invite my past and present clients either to come and shop or to donate items. About 25 volunteers are involved at each event; we sell hot dogs—it’s really quite involved.
Our next event is a spaghetti dinner and silent auction in July. The money raised goes to pay off vet bills for the animals, whether it be heartworm treatments or major surgeries.
Are homeless pets a particularly difficult or prevalent problem in your area?
At Animal House Rescue, we get a lot of our dogs from high-kill shelters, but we’re also getting a lot of owner surrenders, usually because people are moving and can’t take their pets with them, or they’ve had some financial difficulty and they can’t afford their pets anymore. We’ll take the animals and get them adopted. But often they’re not neutered or spayed. We make sure that’s done before they’re adopted.
Each month we also have a low-cost vaccine clinic, which is open to anyone in the community. I love the vaccine clinic because a little old lady can come and get her cat vaccinated for only $10. We don’t question anyone’s finances; we just give them what they need. The vaccine clinics are open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. one Saturday each month and we’ll easily see 125 animals at each event. People will line up hours beforehand. We also offer microchipping for only $25, and we also do nails. It’s a wonderful mission and it helps us educate the community about responsible pet ownership.
How do you connect your advocacy and involvement with animals to your real estate business?
I find it’s a great way to connect with people. For example, I went on a listing appointment this morning and the home owner started telling me how she rescued both her dogs. I told her about my involvement in Animal House Rescue and she was thought that was great.
My involvement has allowed me the opportunity to meet more people and make connections with those who have a similar passion for animals who I never would have met otherwise.
One of our yard sale donors works at a senior assisted-living facility. She was looking for a rescue facility that could pair dogs with the seniors. I’ve assigned it to one of my board members, and we’re working with a cat rescue, too. It’s just so helpful for people to have a pet, especially if they live alone. We plan to place our first dog at the senior living facility next month.
Being involved with Animal House Rescue has also allowed people to see me not just as a volunteer but as a real estate professional who’s there for them when they need me.
How does the health and safety of animals play into supporting the value of home ownership in your community?
I love real estate. I love figuring out how to put a difficult home on the market and make it look as good as humanly possible. And I love helping people find the right house for them. Besides that, I love finding homes for dogs. Just like every person should have a nice place to call home, so should every dog and cat.