616 Realty’s Charlene Hammontree Could Write A Book
616 Associate Broker, Charlene Hammontree has seen and experienced a lot in the field of real estate. With nearly 40 years in the real estate industry, including work in appraisals, mortgage lending, title insurance, as well as serving many real estate related boards, she could pretty much write the book on real estate. She even admits, “I am a real estate education junky, which in turn always enhances my career and adds value for my clients.”
Chapter 1: Early inspiration
Charlene’s interest in real estate started at a young age. “My father and grandfather were both builders.” Plus, a real estate agent befriended Charlene’s family and became a powerful influence to her. “I was 10 or 12 at the time. My dad and her were talking, ‘I don’t have money to build a new house until I sell.’ The family friend/agent advised, “let’s go to the bank and get you a short term loan until you sell.’” Charlene admits she was young and impressionable. “My dad took me with him to Sparta State Bank. It was a time when women weren’t quite there (in terms of their power in the workforce), but I watched as this agent/friend professionally talked to the banker. Mr. Banker was in this huge office at his big ole magonony desk. I was just mesmerized by her gift in articulating the needs of her client. She explained my dad’s story about wanting to build a new home for my mom, and that she was going to be selling our old home. Mr. Banker just gave him the loan, (Interest rates were 18-19%) back in the day. I am sure there was more to it than that, but she hooked me. She was really the one who spearheaded my start in real estate. Today, it doesn’t work like that at all!!”
In 1982, Charlene graduated high school but felt college wasn’t for her. “I was offered a job at a local title company and a good word was put in for me by our family Realtor. From there, I did get my real estate license. I was 19. It was when interest rates were 11% and high inflation. I was just not prepared.” She didn’t continue as an agent, but she did stay in the industry working in the title and mortgage professions for many years and advancing in her field.
Chapter 2: The agony of defeat; the thrill of victory
Around 2008, “I had a friend say to me, ‘why don’t you get your real estate license again.’ I said, `I love real estate but, NO.’” Charlene didn’t think it was for her after her first experience. “He said, but you now know what NOT to do.” She thought about it, got licensed again, and it turns out he was right. “I know if there is a problem with the title. I know how to problem-solve mortgage issues. I listen to clients needs and help them discern what is best for them. So, I got my license again, right before it (the real estate market) tanked.”
It was a rough time to be in real estate. “It was difficult selling homes. People were behind on many payments and couldn’t get a loan either. It wasn’t uncommon to see 30 homes with one client and they still couldn’t choose. The lenders and attorneys didn’t have a system and it was bogged down by so many foreclosures on the books it was months and months to close. Helping the clients during this time meant sitting and listening to them and finding them a place they could live until things changed for them. It was depressing and dark.” Charlene speaks of one child crying as they sat on their parents lap because the sheriff was coming to repossess their family’s home tomorrow and they weren’t even packed, they didn’t understand why mom and dad were so sad! This was a very embarrassing time for most. Some lost all their savings and retirements and still lost their home due to downsizing.
“In 2009-10, right before the market started changing, I lost my own home in foreclosure and went through a divorce. I thought, ‘if you are going to sell property, how can you lose your own house?’” In the end, Charlene used it as a positive. “What I learned in this season of life has helped me inspire people in their own darkest season. I have been able to set clear directions in the process of selling homes when emotions can get the best of people. Still, I treat them with grace, dignity and compassion. Divorce and Downsizing I learned well from!”
“It was a dark time. I couldn’t get a sale. I’d even lost my house.” Charlene took on three jobs, one was cleaning toilets. “One day I just prayed, ‘If you want me to stay in this career you will have to help me!’ I got out of bed, the phone rang and I was offered a job.” Even today she turns to prayer, “‘Lord, you know who needs help; you just put them in my life.’”
Charlene continues to help the clients put in her life. “I am pretty protective of my clients. They are my babies. I have clients going through separation, and it is really tough for ALL of them. I had a family with foster kids who would have lost the kids in their care if they didn’t find a house in two weeks. I have endless conversations with family memebers who have to sell their family home for health reasons, saftey or death.” Through prayer, hard work, and dedication, Charlene finds them a home or sells thiers. “It just makes me happy to be able to give back. I am shown daily, the many blessings for NOT giving up when it was the darkest. God directs me wholeheartedly.”
“My biggest reward is my relationship with my clients, now friends; many send me Christmas cards. I even get invited to birthdays, weddings and baby showers!”
Chapter 3: Spidey senses are real
Every good book has a character with special powers! Charlene not only has the trifecta of real estate–title, mortgage, agent experience, and now an associate broker’s license–but she also has a bit of a sixth sense, spidey senses if you will. She has a “knowing” when her clients and she have walked into the home for them. “It’s fun when I walk in a house and just know it is the house. Their house!” I get halfway in and can tell.” She also senses when it is not the home for her clients. “I tell clients, this house is not for you.” Charlene believed so strongly in her senses that she told one client they would have to change agents if they wanted to buy one home. “I told them, you are going to call me in six months when there is six feet of snow and you can’t get out. They thought about it, and they decided not to buy the house. Every Thanksgiving they call and thank me for helping them make the right decision.”
Chapter 4: For the 55+ client
One of the chapter’s in Charlene’s book is her desire to help clients in this demographic; it’s her specialty and one she is passionate about. “I’m taking my knowledge, what I have gleaned from working with these clients, and I am trying to be resourceful.” She has learned what questions to ask to help guide them with the many choices of their current stage of life. “I have a lot of clients at this stage. Some don’t want to be in a community (for seniors), some do. I help them decide if they are willing to spend their whole life’s worth on a home and still have what they need for travel or health concerns down the road.”
She shares the story of one special client who was a great teacher in this process. “He was 80 years old. He and his wife retired too far away from family, so they decided to move back to Michigan. He moved into a high rise (senior living facility) of sorts. He calls me up and says, ‘I don’t want to live here anymore’ because my neighbors are dropping off like flies.’ So I found them a condo. When I asked how he was going to purchase this condo he happily said: ‘A mortgage! Why would I want to be asset rich and cash poor? I’m 80, lenders can’t discriminate against me to get a mortgage because of my age! He giggled at closing saying: ‘Bring a shovel in 30 years!’”
Charlene advises clients to get positioned in HOW they want to live before you get to retirement. “I have these talks daily with kids whose parents waited too long to do something before their health became their lifestyle… in other words they didn’t get to choose where they wanted to live. You have so many options and choices it can be overwhelming, but talking and making the best plan for you can make things less overwhelming.”
Chapter 5: 616 Realty
Charlene has been with a number of real estate brokerages over the years, but her final chapters will take place at 616 Realty. “When I met with Scot (616 Realty Founder and Broker), I asked him, ‘What is your plan for this company? This is the last place I am going. He said he had never been drilled on his 5 and 10 year plan before.’” Six years later, Hammontree is staying true to that proclamation even after getting her own broker license that gives her the ability to open her own real estate brokerage if she chooses. “If I have a problem, Scot will pick up the phone. He knows that I need help when I call, and he always calls back within 10-15 minutes. He’s a great cheerleader and wants you to succeed. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will get it for you. He will sit down with you. He isn’t hands off, but he isn’t a micromanager either.” Scot isn’t the only reason she is sitting tight. She loves the whole team at 616 Realty. “We are family there and support one another.”
Chapter 6: To be continued
“I always thought I would have made it in this profession when I got my name on a pen. I still don’t have a pen with my name on it.” With Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR), the Council of Residential Specialists (CRS), and the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designations, along with a plethora of knowledge and experience in every aspect of a real estate transaction, (not to mention her Spidey senses), it’s safe to say, Charlene Hammontree has made it (someone order the pens).