No.1 Solo Performer

No feather weight

September 1, 2003

As an associate broker with Century 21 Advantage Gold in Philadelphia, Ronald Rudolph took the initiative in 1999 to seek the broad listing broker contract for HUD properties in Philadelphia. Nearly four years and three HUD management companies later, his company has the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The current contract is with Golden Feather Realty, a San Antonio, Texas, HUD management company. Rudolph, who works with one licensed assistant, Ina Speiser, receives about 100 assignments from GF each week. “If we received more we’d sell more,” he says regarding the astounding 2,381 transaction sides he closed in 2002.

The secret of his success: “It’s no secret. Ron has an old fashioned work ethic,” says Century 21 Advantage Gold CEO William Lublin, CRB, CRS®.

Every year, Advantage Gold needs to rebid for the HUD work. That’s not a problem for Rudolph, who calls his work—selling homes as-is to investors and first-time buyers—“absolutely the best job in the world.” The homes are cosmetically challenged, says Rudolph, laughing over a home he sold three years ago with a tree growing from the basement through the first floor. “You couldn’t do this if you didn’t have the vision to help the buyers see past the challenges.”

Rudolph’s so confident in his work that he offers a 100 percent service guarantee. “There are no sexy shortcuts to Ron’s accomplishments,” says Lublin, “but a determination, every day, to go above and beyond the requirements of our relationship with Golden Feather to help smooth the process and make the program successful.”

Finding buyers: Rudolph’s HUD listings go for an average of $50,000, he estimates, with about half purchased by investors and the other half by first-time buyers. But selling all those properties doesn’t require an oversized marketing budget. He has a deep well of investor contacts from his 24 years in the business. Many of the other buyers come through a variety of Internet sites, including www.c21ag.com, www.hud.gov, www.goldenfeather.com, and REALTOR.com. At REALTOR.com alone, where Rudolph pays for enhanced listings, he’s getting 35,000 hits a week with an inventory of about 130 properties.

Marketing tool he can’t live without: “My cell phone,” he says. “You can solve so many problems and relieve so much anxiety for clients during a two-minute conversation.” His computer and e-mail are also integral to his work selling HUD properties and presenting HUD seminars throughout the state.

The biggest challenge of going solo: Combating stress. To relieve the pressure, Rudolph takes several vacations per year and maintains a keen sense of humor. “I also remind myself that if a closing doesn’t happen on a certain day, it’s not the end of the world,” he says.

Business resources he recommends: Century 21 seminars and conventions, which he’s been attending his entire career, and sales trainer Tom Hopkins (www.tomhopkins.com).

How he works with his assistant: Officially, Speiser serves as operations manager for Rudolph’s business. But in reality, “Ina’s a ‘mini me.’ We think alike and have the same goals. She’s able to handle everything,” he says. “People want to control every aspect of their business, but why have an assistant if you can’t go on vacation and forget about it all?”

His sales style: “I’ve never sold a house,” Rudolph says with complete sincerity. “I can’t sell you something you don’t want, don’t like, can’t afford. As long as buyers show interest, Rudolph follows up in a low-pressure way. If the interest isn’t there, he gives the buyers his cell and office phone numbers and asks them to call if they want to make an offer. “It’s counter to what’s taught—follow up until you drive them crazy—but that doesn’t work for everyone,” he says.

How he organizes his day: Rudolph’s Thursdays and Fridays are mostly spent “HUDding.” That’s when he and Speiser list the week’s HUD assignments and provide the necessary reports to Golden Feather. Asked about scheduling for the rest of his week, Rudolph roars with laughter. He sets daily objectives, but things rarely go as planned. “If someone calls and wants to list a property right away, I drop everything,” he says. “I’ve written agreements at 11:30 at night because that’s when the client’s off work. I stay until the work gets done.”

How he achieves life balance: Whatever your sales volume, making time for yourself is imperative, Rudolph says. “I have tickets to pro sports games, take six annual vacations, and belong to a bowling league. The league gives me two listings and three sales each season. Having fun and making money at the same time is what life’s all about.”

His career advice to you: “When you concentrate on delivering service, the money, prestige, and honors eventually come,” he says. “When you focus on making money first and being a professional second, success is harder to achieve. The client should always come first. Period.”

Work ethic: No. 1 solo performer Ronald Rudolph says the best part of his job is helping first-time buyers who never thought they could become homeowners.

Elyse Umlauf-Garneau is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine.

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