Paul J Cervone – We are Dream Makers

Paul is a MA & NH Licensed REALTOR® and National Military Relocation Professional. He’s been recognized as one of Grit Daily’s Top 10 leading real estate agents to watch in 2023 and he was ranked #47 in the Top Real Estate Agents in Massachusetts by RealTrends. Always putting his clients’ interests at the forefront, he’s known for his honest, ethical, and professional approach. Click here to learn more about Paul.

Show Notes

Welcome to the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast where you’ll hear the good, the bad and the ugly of how real estate agents overcame challenges and grew their business. Check out the Episode Notes at CrushItinRE.com/podcast. Here’s your host, Lindsay Favazza.

Lindsay Favazza: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of The Agents Who Crush It in Real Estate Podcast. I’m your host Lindsay Favazza, and today I have a very special guest returning to our show. The very first person to return to the show in three seasons. I’m pretty excited about that. He was the star of our very first episode back in April of 2021 when the incredible Anthony Lamacchia was still hosting this show. I think that lasted for maybe two or three episodes, and then we were like, “You’re done,” because I couldn’t get the schedules to work.

I took over from there, and he was the very first interview that Anthony did. He is a man of many talents. Not only is he a Mass and New Hampshire licensed realtor, and a national military relocation professional, but he’s also, and this is something I learned today, a classically trained percussionist, composer and songwriter. He’s been recognized as one of Grit top 10 leading real estate agents to watch in 2023. He was ranked number 47 in the top real estate agents in Massachusetts by Real Trends. Always putting his clients’ interests to the forefront.

He’s known for his honest, ethical, and professional approach, and I can attest to that. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving a warm welcome back to the one and only Paul J. Cervone. Welcome back to the podcast, Paul.

Paul Cervone: Well, thank you, Lindsay, for that very, very kind introduction for sure, and it’s always great to share time with you and our audience here at Crush It.

Lindsay: I love it. You are not a stranger to the audience of Crush It, because you were just on stage with us back in February now, was it? It feels like it was yesterday.

Paul: Yes. It really was a great, great experience for me, and one that I’ll cherish, for sure, for many years to come ahead.

Lindsay: I know that our audience learned a lot from you and from your segment. You did such a great job. We’re going to touch on some of the things that you talked about today, but first and foremost, I want to talk to you about TOMA. Last time you were here, that was the name of your episode. I want to cover that, and then move on past it to all the other amazing things that you have to offer, but you always emphasize TOMA, which is top mind awareness. Can you explain its significance to you, to real estate, and how you ensure that you always stay top of mind?

Paul: When I was on the first episode with Anthony, I was very transparent and honest about my relationship to TOMA, and how I had not really aligned with understanding the importance of TOMA, and building those relationships with clients and staying in touch. I had a life lesson that I had to learn. I did a painful exercise that I shared at the Crush It event. Where I realized that because I was not attentive to building those relationships, and it’s what I call rapport maintenance. It’s my buzzword.

Rapport maintenance is what we need to do in our relationships in real estate for sure in our business so that when someone is thinking of you, the realtor, you’re rolling off their lips because you’ve stayed in touch with them. In other words, you’ve created what I call emotional connections with people. That’s what’s the power of relationships and relationship building in TOMA. For me, I’ve realized that after that painful exercise when I first started in the industry, and I didn’t know any better.

You don’t know what you don’t know as a young agent coming into the industry of real estate unless someone’s coaching you about TOMA. That was a buzzword that I’d never really heard in my first many years of being in the business. Then, once I changed brokerages, it was top of mind, and we trained on it. For me today, it is basically all about the rapport maintenance, and the touches, and staying in tune and in touch with your client base from start to finish.

That’s how I think you’ll build meaningful relationships, and that you’ll stay top of mind with them when they’re ready to transact again.

Lindsay: I love that. Take us back a little bit. Usually we start this way and say, take us back, but I wanted you to touch on that TOMA piece first and foremost.

Paul: Sure.

Lindsay: Take us back to your transition from retail in Boston, New York, and then you transitioned into real estate. Why did you make that change, and why was that change so necessary for you at that time?

Paul: My background was in big box retail. I worked for Christmas tree shops, which is now unfortunately defunct for many, many years. They were bought out by Bed Bath & Beyond. Then I went to Target for a period of time and CVS. I was managing hundreds of people, employees, et cetera. I was a business leader. I was a project manager, I was an operations manager out in the field. For me, when my wife and I got married, we moved up to Albany, and we lived out in Clifton Park area of New York and upstate New York.

We then had our son up there as well. We purchased our first home in 2004, 2005. The experience that we went through purchasing the home was very intriguing to me. I’ve always been in customer-centric type mentality. I’ve been in front of the public. I’ve engaged with thousands and thousands of people obviously in the retail space. Whether they’re employees or they’re consumers and customers. I’ve always coined myself as a people person. I don’t have any fear. I enjoy engaging with people. I love learning and stuff.

When we were up there, I was a DIY person. I like to do things, and fix it and learn, and so I start to fix up our home. We’d always get compliments from the neighbors and things that we did. I said to my wife one time, and I said, it was really an interesting unique experience going through this purchase, and I think that I could actually be pretty darn good at this real estate game, and she concurred. We knew that we were not going to be in upstate New York forever, because we were very detached from our family.

Our family was in Massachusetts, both of our families. We were driving two and a half hours on weekends to come home. That got old after we were up there for five years. Finally, we looked for an opportunity to come back to Massachusetts. My wife got a promotion, and then I got out of the retail space, took a couple years off, played daddy daycare. This is a point that I’ll just share with the new folks that are coming into the business. Because I think it’s real to life and important, is that I know how hard it is if you’re trying to be a part-time real estate agent, and you’ve got a career, and you’re trying to figure that balance out.

I was in a very fortunate situation where my wife had gotten a promotion coming back to Massachusetts. She was the earner at the time, and she allowed me to take a few years off to go through some things with rearing our child, Nicholas. It was the greatest experience. Then when we came back to Massachusetts, we weren’t relying on my income as much as her income. I was able to step into the real estate game without having that fear of having to produce immediately, because we know that income does not come tomorrow, it comes months down the road.

We had a great work-life balance, and I would just say, if you can make that transition with your spouse or your significant other, it helps.

Lindsay: Having that support is what really had made that transition so much easier for you.

Paul: Correct. Then I just felt that this was a passion that I wanted to chase down, that I was trying to reinvent myself after doing retail for 20 years, and I had enough of that, and I said, “What else am I going to do? What do I think I could be doing well?” This real estate thing was something that I looked into, and here I am.

Lindsay: You were in the retail side, so you were dealing with customers, and really as a manager in that world. You were dealing with both the management side, employee, staff helping with them, but then also making sure customers were happy, and supporting the top-line investors and stuff like that in the company. How does that transfer into real estate for you? Is it, the customer service side is what’s really helped? Is it the management side that’s really helped? Is it all of it? What specifically do you think you carried from that job into real estate that’s helped you?

Paul: I think that’s a great question, Lindsay. I would say this, I think I’ve always been a strategic thinker, and I think that retail background has given me that problem-solving skill, that forward thinking, that strategist, the mentor, I love coaching, I love teaching, I love sharing. All of those skill sets that I learned, and conflict resolution. You’re going head to head with consumers that are like, “Oh my God, I didn’t get this item.” In our retail space, we say the customer’s always right. The retailers will relate to that that are listening to this. However, in our real estate space, the client and customer is not always right.

Lindsay: We’re actually usually misinformed.

Paul: They’re either misinformed or not. They’re not aligned, or a proper expectation hasn’t been set to get to ground them to reality. That’s our job as realtors, but I think I took a lot of great skill sets from my years and experiences in the retail space to bring me to the business mindset of running my business like a business from day one.

Lindsay: I love that. Talk to me about national military relocation professionals. What unique challenges do military families have that you are able to help overcome for them when you have this designation?

Paul: That’s a mouthful. We just say MRP, keep it nice and simple. Nice acronym. My father served in the military. That’s a little background. He served in Korea. For me, we would always talk about the stories, and I have a special placeholder in my heart for all our military families and military warriors. I feel that they give so much to our great nation and all of us. I think the challenges that I feel that they have is their lifestyle is so transient, because when they get PCS’d or they’re going on a mission, and they could be going into war zones, real-life situations that can be life and death, and if they have a family, they have a wife who’s usually managing things at home or a significant other.

I think there are just so many moving parts when your life is always so transitional. I think what I try to do is ground them with giving them a home base, and to say, “Here’s how we can utilize and leverage your VA benefit, because it’s a wonderful benefit, and they deserve every portion of that benefit. They don’t know what they don’t know. It’s like any other home buyer, and sometimes they come back disabled, sometimes there are other physical challenges that they come back to. We have to try to navigate that. That’s my feel-good moment, to give back to our military folks, and I’m very sensitive and compassionate and empathetic about what they do for us.

Lindsay: They’re lucky to have you on their side.

Paul: Thank you.

Lindsay: What is the most rewarding part of your job? That was a great segue into this because you’re talking about giving back to them, but just in general, overall across all of the clients that you serve, what is, in your mind, the most rewarding part of being a realtor?

Paul: It’s sharing time with great people like you, Lindsay. Honestly, it is really all about the relationships, and I think that’s the most rewarding part because we’re dream-makers. Think about that for a minute. We’re helping people with one of the largest investments of their lives, and they’re uprooting their lives, their families, their dogs, their children, their school system. There’s so many factors that we have to weigh, and we become their fiduciary.

We’re their guide, and we’re trying to bring them to success. For me, it’s all about that TOMA, that rapport maintenance, and those key relationships that at the end of the day when a property closes, whether it’s on the buy side, or the sell side, or rental, or whatever space you’re in, and you have that success with people, there’s that amazing connection that you go from a consumer relationship to a potential friendship.

Lindsay: Friends for life.

Paul: Friends for life or realtor for life, as I say. I think those are the things that really impact me, and make a difference in Paul Cervone’s life, is all the different and wonderful people that I get to meet, and I get to help. That’s really how I meet. I really love helping people. To me, the people that I engage with is really the special moments in my life.

Lindsay: Whenever I talk about you, or introduce you, or talk about you in the department or anything like that, I always bring up this story. I want to make sure I bring this up because it does go back to like, there’s a lot of people that can say they love giving back, and they love helping people. People will say that, but their actions don’t follow it up. I can honestly and truly tell you that from my perspective, you’ve always been that person for us here.

I have a folder in my inbox that I have that says support, and then it has a little heart, and every time someone, agent, a client, a vendor, anybody says, “Hey, you guys made my day, you guys helped us.” I share it with the team, and then I drop it in that folder, because sometimes we just need that reminder of what we’re doing. You get a lot of emails that aren’t that happy and supportive, but when you get those, it hits home. I would say my support folder is probably 20% Paul Cervone emails.

You always take that extra time to tell someone that they’re doing a good job, that you appreciate them. That just goes such a long way. If people learn from me today, I want them to learn that I recognize that in him. If that’s not something that you guys do on a daily basis of giving back and telling people that you appreciate them, do that, because that’s something that you’ve done really well, I think, as far as within the company, outside the company. I’m sure you do that with your clients, and it goes a long way.

Paul: Thank you again for those kind words and that kind sentiment. As you know, I love to pay it forward. I lead with a grateful heart, and a generous heart. I believe that people need to be recognized for their efforts in life, and that’s I think been a cornerstone of, again, building those rapport and that relationship with people, which is critical sometimes when you need their help and their support and their guidance. Thank you for that.

Lindsay: I appreciate you. Next is your most-

Paul: I appreciate you too

Lindsay: -challenging property sale experience. Go back deep into the depths. What has been probably your most gruesome sale that you’ve had to deal with or situation that you’ve had to deal with that you were like, “I’m so glad this is over when it was over?”

Paul: Oh, my goodness. Talking to our audience, I’m sure they can relate to all of these kinds of things. We have a lot of war stories, and a lot of battle wounds and scars unfortunately in our daily life of real estate. We have those tough clients. Then we have those tough transactions where everybody is butting heads. There’s been more than one. I’m sorry to say, unfortunately for me.

Lindsay: You’ve been doing it long enough now, what 11, 12 years?

Paul: 13 years now.

Lindsay: 13 years. It’s definitely going to happen.

Paul: Yes. It’s going to happen. The more transactions, the more stuff is going to find you in a negative way, unfortunately. It’s just the way life is made, and it’s an odds game. It’s a numbers game. Eventually, you’re going to have a difficult transaction. I would have to say, I think what we struggle with and what I’ve struggled with is that when you have a difficult sale in a house that you thought was going to immediately sell, and I think we’ve all been there where we have this beautiful home, and I had one that was on a cul-de-sac in a beautiful town.

It was a luxury listing of mine early in my career. It was early in my career. Again, sometimes you may not have the tool belt and be equipped for something like that. I think that was where I was at. I was scratching my head, and there’s not a lot of hair to scratch on the head. I’ve lost a few over the years, but ultimately, the sellers were baffled. Why aren’t we getting multiple offers at the time, and this is going back several years, early in my career.

What we realized is that we had some obstacles to overcome. We had a raised septic system. We had a small backyard, we had a funky layout upstairs, downstairs, and how the house. We didn’t really see that because we saw beautiful finishes, all the beautiful finishes, great rooms, and a finished lower level, and the kitchen.

Lindsay: It had a lot of lipstick.

Paul: It had a lot of lipstick, you’re right. It was on a cul-de-sac. It had the location, it had the town. We thought we priced it reasonably, we had an appraisal done. I did all the right things to get in front of what potential, but until the objections started to roll in, we weren’t getting showings. Then at the end of the day, we all know this. What’s going to cure objections? Price.

You can throw incentives, and you can be creative, and you can try to remarket it, take different pictures. We’re doing all of those types of things. I think that was one of the most challenging homes in my career when I was young in the business, to try to figure out, how do I get this thing sold because everybody’s frustrated, and just wondering what’s going on here.

Lindsay: Paul, because it was earlier in your career and you don’t have that experience yet, I think that’s a really good lesson for people listening, that don’t take a listing for granted. Don’t look at a house and go, “Oh, this is going to be an easy, peasy, no problem.”

Paul: A slam button.

Lindsay: Then your guard comes down and you’re not looking for those things. You’re just thinking it’s going to fly off the shelf, and then you are faced with bigger issues though. I think that’s a great lesson for our audience to take in that.

Paul: I think you got to really do a deep dive, and just really understand, and this is what I’ve learned, is just really understand what potential objections are people going to throw at you when you list a home. Are they going to like the location, the yard, the layout, the functionality, price? All those types of things, I think ? That’s the hard lesson that I learned early in my career.

Lindsay: I always say to people that I love to do marketing, and I love to be in the real estate world, but I couldn’t do what you guys do because when it comes down to a negotiation, I think I would be terrible. I’d be like, “Whatever you want. I’m not good at this.” What is a tip or some advice that you would give to agents in the negotiation phase of real estate? Like once you’re down to it, and it’s you and that other realtor, and you’re trying to figure out the best price, and you’re trying to figure out the best deal for your client, what is a tip that you give to help get that for your client?

Paul: I think it’s all about setting clear expectations, especially when it comes to the client base, and you’re trying to negotiate. In negotiation, the art of negotiation is all about finding the weaknesses of your opponent, and how you can find things to leverage in the negotiation, in the conversation. For me it’s all about a conversation. I work at a high level as a communicator, and I try to pride myself on what I call an active listening skill, which is eliciting emotion out of the conversation from people.

When we sit down with sellers or buyers, we know how they’re feeling, they’re feeling apprehensive, or concerned. They have their objections about price and commission and things, so you kind of know. For me it’s a lot of the art of negotiation is about bringing the emotion down, and bringing it down to logic. How do you diffuse situations that can be very tense? We know we do this with other agents sometimes. Some want to be large and in charge, and they want to just be very controlling.

It’s all about them and their client. Not so much about the collaboration, and that’s the difference maker for me. It doesn’t matter what side of the deal that I’m on, I’m a collaborator, and I want a win-win for both sides. Everybody at the end wants a fair deal, the seller and the buyer. I think setting proper expectations is really critical and key, and diffusing that emotion to getting them to reality, and getting to a logical place so you can really have a fair discussion. Makes sense?

Lindsay: Absolutely true. You got to make sure that it’s, everyone is winning. If everyone feels like they’re winning, then there’s no loser, really. Everyone is getting You’re supposed to be coming to common ground.

Paul: You reduce the conflict, right?

Lindsay: Yes.

Paul: I think that’s what you want to have, is continue the conversation versus trying to be combative. It’s hard because we get all– and I’ve caught myself, we get very emotional. We get wrapped in that moment in that emotion, and you get angry, and you lash out, and you just have to pull yourself back. What I would tell agents that struggle with this is step back and just listen. Just listen.

Lindsay: Everyone’s just trying to do their job, and do that for themselves. All right, what’s one piece of advice that you would give to realtors that are in this business, that are maybe a little experienced, but want to make it to the level that you’re at, which is president’s Club at our company, elite President’s Club at our company, and just crushing sales. What advice would you give to those people that want to make it to that level?

Paul: You have to be relentless, and I think you have to be committed. I was reading a great book called Relentless recently, and it talked about going from good to great, to unstoppable, and then relentless. It’s talking about the cleaner that comes in the Michael Jordans of the world, the Tom Bradys of the world, the people that get things done at a high level consistently, and can elevate.

I think you have to find that warrior spirit inside of you to be relentless every day in your action-taking, the things that you do, the activities, the choice management is critical in your success. I think you’re working that 24-hour cycle clock that we all live by, and you have to decide, how committed am I going to be to my business of real estate? How many hours am I going to commit to that each day? I think those would be my words of advice for anybody who wants to elevate and take the next step to be a top-producing agent in this industry.

Lindsay: Love it. If you were to get an invite to sit down and have dinner with one real estate figure, someone who’s out there, maybe it’s real estate or maybe it’s just like an entrepreneurial figure, who would that person be and why?

Paul: Well, I guess there’s so many great titans of real estate. There’s been a lot of great authors, and influences, and coaches and things like that, but I’d say probably somebody like Brian Buffini, I’d love. He’s been in the business forever, and if I had a tableside conversation with Brian, I think that would be great. Somebody like the late Bob Proctor, who was a great, great mentor, an influencer, author, and talks about wealth, and mindset, and everything, and success in life, and somebody even like Barbara Cochrane, those types of people that have risen above.

They’re the thought leaders in our industry. They’re the rainmakers. Those are the people that I think we can gain knowledge and insight into say, and there’s always little different things that you can tweak and change, so those are some of the people that come top of mind, I guess, for that.

Lindsay: I love it, very cool. What is the best way for you at the end of all of these crazy deals that you have going on, and all these things that are happening day-to-day, how do you unwind? I guess not just, how do you unwind from a personal perspective, but how do you detach? How do you take those emotions and say, “No, I’m not going to let this affect me. I’m going to move forward and sit down with my wife and have dinner, and I’m going to do the whole thing.”

How do you detach it? Because I feel like a lot of the times and it can affect their family life and things like that because they’re stressed for their clients, and it’s rolling into other aspects of their lives. What is your advice on that to realtors out there?

Paul: This is really a great important question that you’re asking me. I think it comes down to what I call the coping mechanism in our lives. Each of us every day go through challenges. Whether they’re personal, physical, mental, and I think you have to identify early on to be a warrior, what are your coping mechanisms, and how do you turn things off? My wife, she’s funny. She’ll get the violin. Every day, there’ll be a a challenge or something, we come home and we talk about in her business life and my business life, and we play the violins together.

Sometimes it’s just like, get over it, get past it. I was able to, I think early in my days, just hit a light switch and just say, “You know what? I’m going to do a reset. I’m counting a five, I’m going for a walk with the dog.” Now I play pickleball. I was really–

Lindsay: pickleball player.

Paul: I was a very talented tennis player in my day. I was a very, very good gifted athlete in my day. Now I’ve taken the iteration of pickleball, and to me, that really sets my mindset, it’s good for the physical wellbeing, as well as the mental, and I’m actually pretty darn good at it.

Lindsay: I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t challenge you.

Paul: I say, I think for most people, you have to be able to turn off the business life. The phone goes off at night, and I’m not answering texts at 8:30 at night and emails, and I set clear expectations for my– when I’m at dinner with my family, the phone is turned down, and I’ll get back to people. Like I said, I think Anthony said this, we’re not fighting ISIS, we’re not in a World War here. Things things can wait. I’ve really learned, Lindsay, this is really something that I’ve learned, and too, fine-tuned for me personally, is I’ve tried to be present.

I’ve tried to be more present in the moment for each individual client because every circumstance is different, and certainly for my family when we’re on vacation, my wife or what have you, because if I’m not present, I usually get the shoe across the room, and it comes in pretty close to hitting the head. I don’t like the projectiles coming at me, but I’m sure some people can equate.

Lindsay: I have met your wife. She’s a lovely human being.

Paul: No she hasn’t–

Lindsay: She might throw a glance.

Paul: She’ll see this, and she’ll laugh at that, and stuff like that. I would just say, really truly, be present for the people that you’re engaging with in the moment, and I think the coping mechanisms are really huge for that to be able to turn off the business life to the personal.

Lindsay: What is going help you do that do that detach, for sure.

Paul: Yes.

Lindsay: My last question was a fun one, and I can’t wait [crosstalk] answer. I think you were somewhat prepped for this, so maybe you thought about it ahead of time, I don’t know, but your background in music, you went to the New England Conservatory for music.

Paul: That’s correct.

Lindsay: This was your path, and this is what you were going to be doing. I’m assuming that was what you thought was going to happen with your life. I know music, I’m assuming is still a big part of that for you. If you were to compose a song about real estate, what would the title of that song be for you?

Paul: That’s a really good question, because I would have many titles, and I’d really have to think about that.

Lindsay: Give us a couple of sample titles.

Paul: If I really wanted to hit song for real estate, I’d have to say okay, A Little Thing Called Real Estate off of the play, a little thing called Or I’d say Rise Up.

Lindsay: Rise Up. That goes with all the advice that you’ve been giving so far, so Rise Up

Paul: Those would be a couple of those quirky song titles maybe that I would consider.

Lindsay: Well, I can’t wait to hear it drop on iTunes.

Paul: I’ll work on that. Something is brewing in the music world for me down the road, so we’ll see.

Lindsay: I love it. Awesome, Paul, thank you so much. Once again, I think that they got some awesome takeaways. I’m also going to link in the show notes your previous episode so that way people can go back and re-listen if they want to. Again, remember that was our first episode ever. Sounds may have not have been as good. Anthony, the host was definitely– no, I’m just kidding. He was great.

Definitely, take a listen to that one if you enjoyed today’s because you’ll learn even more from that segment as well. I cannot say thank you enough. Thank you so much for being our first reboot episode of the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate Podcast.

Paul: Well, I love it, Lindsay. Thank you again for having me back.

Lindsay: I’m going to have a lot of people being like, “We’re doing reboot episodes, wait.”

Lindsay: I’m going to have a lot of people, so thanks for that.

Paul: I love it. We’re kicking off the reboot folks.

Lindsay: I love it. Yes, let’s do it. I want to check back, it’s been three years in between three years. I might as well bring people back in and start to hear how they’ve progressed since. You’ve kept the level of success up. You weren’t a flat in the pan. This is here to stay. You’re doing a great job. Thank you so much, Paul-

Paul: Thank you very much.

Lindsay: -I appreciate it. Thank you guys all for listening and watching. If you’re on YouTube, we really appreciate your time, and make sure to check out all the other episodes of videos for The Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate Podcast. We’ll see you on the next one.

Paul: Keep crushing it.

Thanks for joining us on the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast. We hope you’ve learned some valuable takeaways. Be sure to take action and grow your business. You can check out the Episode Notes and more content from the show at CrushitinRE.com/podcast. And if you’d like this episode, and you’d like to hear more stories, please share with others, post on social media or leave a rating or review. To catch all the latest from Anthony you can follow him on Instagram at Crush It In Real Estate on Facebook and YouTube. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time.