Real Estate Careers Often Begin When Other Endeavors End
Written by Marilyn Bowden on November 23, 2000
By Marilyn Bowden
Some of the area’s most successful women in home sales found real estate after careers in other fields.
Audrey Ross, whose luxury firm recently merged with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell, said she has a doctorate in education and worked in that field for many years.
"I was a consultant for the US Office of Education & Community Involvement," she said, "on a special project for a school volunteer program that evolved out of my doctoral dissertation."
The program, first implemented in Miami, was used as a model for community involvement in 10 big-city school districts across the US, she said. She traveled to each of the cities to set up the volunteer program.
Ms. Ross said she quit that job to marry.
Missing the constant activity, she said, she then became heavily involved in community service.
"My husband said if I were going to work this hard, why not work for myself and make a little money?"
After getting a real estate license, Ms. Ross said she joined Casey Cousins, "the local queen of high-end real estate in Dade County."
When that agency was sold to Merrill Lynch, she said, she opened a commercial brokerage downtown, but found she enjoyed helping commercial clients find homes.
With her stint at Audrey Ross & Associates and, more recently, with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell, she’s now sold luxury homes for 16 years.
Holly Sanders thought she was headed for a career in psychology.
"I was an internship shy of a doctorate," she said.
Her experience ran the gamut, she said, from drug counseling to treating neurotics to working with patients at Jackson Memorial’s psychiatric ward.
"I was very successful," she said, "but I didn’t like it. It was very difficult to get people to change. Change has to come from within and the waiting period can be long."
Ms. Sanders said she turned to real estate, where the results of her efforts are more immediately visible, and found she loved it.
After working for a few years in existing companies, she started Brickell Bay Realty 13 years ago, and has been selling Brickell Avenue condos ever since.
Born in Egypt of Greek parents, Ditti Steiner, who sells units at the Continuum on South Pointe, was formerly a stockbroker and commodities broker working for a Wall Street firm in Brussels.
"I didn’t like it," she said. "When I came here I didn’t want to do that. And besides, as a newcomer I didn’t know enough people.
"I didn’t do anything for awhile. Then I was convinced by a good friend to get a real estate license."
Ms. Steiner — who said she prefers working with developers selling luxury condos — said she loves the personal contact and the business of selling people their dreams.
"I meet such a wide variety of people coming from so many places," she said. Miami’s multi-culturalism also gives her the opportunity to use her language skills — she speaks eight languages.
Nancy Di Bernardo, director of sales and marketing for Setai Group, which is building a resort at 20th Street and Collins Avenue, said she worked for ABC Inc., parent company of the ABC television network, for 11 years.
Selling units at the Setai will be her first real estate venture.
"I’ve known these developers for a long time," Ms. Di Bernardo said, "and this is an exciting venture. It’s a great opportunity to use my skills in a different way."
She said she’s looking at the assignment as "a long business trip or a mini-adventure — it’s not for the rest of my life but it’s a great opportunity to learn the market and immerse myself in what this is all about."
Audrey Reiche, an associate at The Ocean Club, was with Disney for 14 years.
"At the end I was international wedding coordinator," she said, noting that weddings at Disney World are particularly popular with the Japanese.
"Working at Disney is a people job," she said, "and that translates well into real estate. I was really lucky that developer John Hinson, who usually wants a lot of experience, was willing to take a chance on me."
Ms. Reiche, who studied hotel and restaurant management at Florida State University, has been at The Ocean Club for three years.
Alyeska Semsch, sales executive at The Cloisters, said she also studied hospitality as well as business courses at Florida International University. She opened an Alaska Yogurt concession on Key Biscayne at the age of 23.
"My parents had restaurants in South America," she said. "That’s why I studied it. But it was never my passion.
"For the past three years I’ve focused on real estate," she said, "predominantly working with developers. It fits my personality better."