SOUTHBURY — Realtors Donna Bannon and Mary Ann Hebert of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Bannon & Hebert, 590 Middlebury Rd., Suite E, are celebrating 25 years of what they call, “Making houses into homes and clients into friends.” The two met when they were working for large, competing brokerages. Ms. Hebert told Voices, “We had one transaction together. It didn’t go well but Donna still invited me to lunch. Over a nice bowl of ravioli, she told me that she wanted to open her own brokerage and she would want to partner with me.
“I was shocked that she even asked me to partner with her because she was, and still is, a rock star in the industry. That really hadn’t been something I was even thinking of doing, but we talked about the idea and planned, for two years.”
Ms. Bannon said, “I knew how hard Mary Ann worked because of her reputation and our interaction. I thought, if I’m going to start my own brokerage, I want to partner with someone who works as hard as I do.”
The office in Middlebury Hamlet opened on February 1, 1996, with just the two of them in it.
“It was pretty scary,” Ms. Bannon admitted. “We didn’t have a secretary but, then again, we didn’t need one.”
“Over the years, we’ve averaged 16 to 18 agents with maybe 27 at the most,” Ms. Hebert said, pointing out that they did need administrative help as the brokerage grew to its present location. “When our administrator left, I asked my sister to help us for a few weeks. I’m grateful she’s stuck with us all these years.”
According to the Realtors, today’s market landscape is different as compared to when they opened their brokerage.
Ms. Hebert explained, “There are websites like Zillow and Realtor.com and a mad rush of cold calls.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s still about a home. People are looking for a place where they want to lay their heads every night and then start the day every morning. I’m honored to be part of their journey.”
She noted, “Real estate has always been the focus of my career. I started selling homes just after my husband and I bought our first house. I thought then that the experience could have gone better and it interested me to learn what it means to be a homeowner. There is so much you should know.”
She added, “My goal was to help other homebuyers and, when I started, they were like me, first-time homebuyers trying to scrape together a down payment so we could plant roots and raise our families.
“I have great empathy for my clients and got to know them over the years. Now I find myself selling to the children and grandchildren of some of my clients.”
The Realtors commented on the pandemic’s influence on the real estate market, which impacts more than pricing and availability.
Ms. Bannon shared, “It’s a difficult time for agents as well as clients. It’s awful to give bad news to a client; a fast market means they may miss house after house and that keeps us up at night. Trust needs to be earned. We’re proud of our company and have good people working with us, people with integrity and honesty, which is important in times like this.”
Ms. Hebert agreed. “This is not the kind of job where the interaction with your customer is short. We become part of their lives at a significant and, yes, stressful time of life that the relationship is intimate. We spend so much time together that, after the transaction, we miss them. Some clients call to just check in because they miss us.”
“A good portion of our job is counseling,” Ms. Bannon said. “You have to listen not just with your ears but with your mind to appreciate where they’re coming from and where they want to go.”
Ms. Hebert advocated for sensitivity because a house is a personal possession as well as a large investment.
“We recommend that properties be professionally staged and try to educate clients that staging is not decorating. Decorating is about you and your lifestyle. Staging is about helping a buyer picture their family and stuff in your house.
“When I sold my house two years ago, the stager took down my custom drapes. I hated seeing them in a big pile on the floor. But, she was right; I had great windows and needed to show them.”
“I don’t look at myself as a salesperson,” Ms. Bannon commented. “This is a relationship business. There have been times I’ve spent two hours with a client to find out the motivation. Sometimes people need to sell, but aren’t ready emotionally. In today’s market, I want to be sure they know where they’re going because there’s no problem selling.”
Approximately six years ago, the realtors decided that a change would be best for their clients and agents.
Ms. Bannon said, “We’d always been successful as an independent brokerage but we wanted to make sure we had access to all the tools that the larger franchises have. So, we decided to join Better Homes and Gardens.
“We’re still a private business and kept the way we work with clients one-on-one but the brand and their values were a great match for our company.”
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Bannon & Hebert helps people buy and sell homes across and outside of Connecticut.
“We just had someone come from the Bahamas to purchase near Greenwich and there are many empty nesters looking to move to Maine, Florida and the Carolinas. Better Homes and Gardens has a global marketing program that exposes listings internationally and we talk every week with other franchise owners. It’s wonderful to share ideas and talk about trends,” Ms. Hebert said.
She continued, “It’s important to feel comfortable with your real estate agent and have confidence in that person. It’s not about money; the market sets the price. What I love about our company is that we have a team atmosphere and that Donna and I stand behind our agents. A client becomes the client of our whole office and we can offer years and years of experience.”
More information about Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Bannon & Hebert is available at www.BannonandHebert.com, by calling 203-758-1300 or on social media.