The Impact of Turning Points

The help he got early in life convinced Guest Editor Rocky Balsamo of his duty to give back.

October 28, 2015

Life can turn on a dime, and it can also show you that every single coin makes a difference. When I was 13, my father died unexpectedly. I was the eldest of seven kids, and during these dark days I learned what it meant to face the unknown. My mom, a stay-at-home seamstress, kept our family together in East Brunswick, N.J., with all the stability and love she could muster. The local Knights of Columbus and other community members pitched in with food, clothing, and toys. For a while, food stamps and other public assistance helped to keep us afloat.

Given the help my family got when I was young, I needed to give something back. In 2007, I cofounded the Center for FaithJustice, a nonprofit that educates students from middle school through college about the ravages of poverty and challenges them to do something about it. More than 5,000 young people have had their eyes opened to an array of socioeconomic problems. In 2012, REALTOR® Magazine honored me with a Good Neighbor Award, which helped our center through its own financial rough patch. For this issue, featuring the newest Good Neighbor Award winners, I was delighted to serve as guest editor and share ideas with the magazine team about the real estate business and the business of philanthropy.

Even in her bleakest days, my mom set a strong example—her hard work and unfailing kindness have shaped both my volunteerism and my approach as a team leader at Long & Foster. I lead an eight-person team that expects to close at least $20 million in sales this year. In real estate, it’s all about relationships. We like to say, “When you put others first, relationships last.”

Unfortunately, sometimes relationships are undermined by forces we can’t control. The Internet has exploded, seeking to satisfy a consumer appetite for information, regardless of its accuracy. Third-party websites can churn and produce data with little regard to consequences for buyers, sellers, and practitioners. That’s why I was so excited to read about a new initiative, Project Upstream, that will allow agents and brokers to input and update listing data using a single entry point. None of us truly knows the future; I’ve known that since I was 13. But we all experience turning points, and the Upstream concept feels like a turning point with great potential to boost consumer confidence in our industry and reaffirm the role of REALTORS® at the center of the transaction.

Rocky Balsamo

Rocky Balsamo is the director of the Rocky Balsamo Real Estate Group at Weidel Real Estate in Princeton, N.J., and was a 2012 recipient of the magazine’s Good Neighbor Award for his ongoing work with the Center for FaithJustice. Real Trends America’s Best Real Estate Agents has ranked his real estate group #1 in their market two years in a row.