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Athena Proudly Announces its Maternity & Paternity Pay Policy

 

Since its inception, Athena Real Estate has stressed the importance of putting people over profits.  Now, with its policy to pay its real estate agents maternity and paternity bonus pay, Athena is leading the charge to support moms and dads who need time off–putting Athena’s agents over its own profits.

Many real estate companies claim to be “family-first.” But after signing the necessary paperwork, agents of these brokerages quickly learn that such “buzz words” ring hollow.  Athena is “upping the ante” with its new maternity and paternity bonus pay policy.  Athena’s “family first” culture means something–as proven by Athena’s new policy of supporting agents at a time when their true family deserves to be put first.

Many Athena agents (and real estate agents in general) are parents who chose this profession for the opportunity to make substantial income while having the flexibility to devote time to their families.  As commission-based independent contractors, however, agents only make money when a sale goes through. And as any new parent knows, providing care for a newborn leaves little time for pursuing real estate transactions, especially in the beginning.

Recognizing this “gap” in care for new moms and dads, Athena now provides its agents with steady income immediately after the child is born. Athena’s management will protect the agent’s role within the company and coordinate with other agents to ensure that existing client relationships are maintained during this important time caring for a newborn.

How does the Athena Maternity/Paternity Bonus Pay Policy compare?

While virtually every brokerage offers some form of “bonus” pay for recruiting agents and doing things that benefit the brokerage, as far as we can tell Athena is the only brokerage in Louisiana to provide maternity or paternity bonus pay to its agents.  Athena is breaking the industry norm and living true to its motto: “Defy the Ordinary.”

Why did Athena adopt a Maternity/Paternity Bonus Pay Policy?

Athena values its agents and does not operate like other brokerages in our industry. While most brokerages accept any agent who wants to join the brokerage thus maximizing profits on a quantity-approach, Athena is different and only works with agents who are exceedingly professional and meet the high standards that Athena developed.  But this cuts both ways: Athena’s owners believe that these agents deserve to be treated like the elite group they are, and Athena views helping them financially after a major life event as a honor, not a burden.

The unfortunate state of affairs in our industry–indeed, in most industries in the United States–is that maternity and paternity pay is the rare exception, rather than the rule.  Athena hopes its ground-breaking policy kick-starts a trend to provide maternity and paternity pay, not just in real estate, but in the workforce in our country as a whole.

For more information on Athena Real Estate and its agents, contact us at (504) 507-8331 and ask for one of the owners.  We’d be happy to talk with you.

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Top Real Estate Agents in New Orleans: Finding the Realtor Unicorn

Buying and selling homes are two of the most significant investment transactions in which most people engage.  With a marginal difference in price (even just 1%) potentially translating into thousands of dollars, no wonder home buyers and sellers in the New Orleans area fret about finding one of the best real estate agents. And with so many agents in the business—literally thousands in Louisiana and hundreds in the New Orleans area alone—finding a top realtor can be a daunting task indeed.  Fortunately, some guiding principles can make narrowing the field of candidates a bit easier.

Here are Athena’s top five tips on finding the realtor unicorn to sell or buy your home in the New Orleans area:

1.  Understand how real estate agents operate. Real estate agents (technically called “Salespersons” under Louisiana law) are required by the rules of the governing authority in Louisiana, the Louisiana Real Estate Commission, to be affiliated with a real estate brokerage and under the supervision of a “broker.”  For this reason, when you list your house for sale, the listing agreement is technically with the brokerage for whom the agent works.

But make no mistake: with most brokerages, agents operate with tremendous independence, rendering your listing contract with the brokerage a mere technicality.  With rare exception, real estate agents are independent contractors and “run the show” in their dealings with clients.  Of course, reputable brokerages like Athena Real Estate have their agents undergo rigorous training.  Just don’t expect that an agent’s broker will be involved in your specific transaction.  For that reason, it is all the more important that you choose a competent, well-trained real estate agent to represent you.

By the way, while most people use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between a real estate “agent” and a “realtor.”  Everyone with a Louisiana real estate license is an “agent,” but only those who are members of the National Association of Realtors are “realtors.”  As becoming a realtor requires additional training and certification, make sure the agent you hire is also a realtor.  (Reputable real estate companies like Athena require that all their agents maintain membership in the National Association of Realtors through a local chapter such as the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors.)

2.  Education and experience matter. The barrier to entry to becoming a real estate agent in Louisiana is relatively low: you have to be 18 years old, have a high school degree or GED, take a 90-hour course (available online), and pass an exam.  Compared to other professional certifications, this is an easy hurdle to jump, enticing droves of candidates to get their real estate licenses with the prospect of making substantial commissions.  Unfortunately, with the floodgates open to all kinds of licensees, the quality of agents in Louisiana run the gambit—from highly-qualified, well-trained, and competent agents with professional degrees, to high-school dropouts who got their GED’s and passed the real estate exam only after failing it five times.

We don’t mean to say that a graduate degree is a pre-requisite to being a good real estate agent, and there are certainly agents out there without college degrees who have been very successful in the business.  But, in our experience, education and experience do matter.

Thus, when you interview agents, ask how long they’ve been licensed.  (And verify what they tell you by searching for their license information on the Louisiana Real Estate Commission’s licensee search page.)  And ask about their educational background and work experience.

Because of the way real estate brokerages operate—with the brokerage taking a cut of every commission dollar an agent earns but paying the agent only when a deal closes—they have every incentive to take on any agent who walks through the door.  For the brokerage, there is only financial up-side to taking on an agent who, despite being less-than-competent, might manage to squeeze in thousands of commission dollars a year.  With the quality of agents on their roster so unpredictable, most real estate “brands” have little meaning to clients apart from the individual agents they hire.

But top real estate companies do things differently.  At Athena, for instance, our doors are not open to any agent who has a license.  To ensure quality representation of our clients, we interview and vet all candidates who want to join our team.  And we bring on board only those who have the education and training necessary to be among the top real realtors in New Orleans.  Above all, Athena agents must exhibit a high degree of professionalism and integrity.

3.  Beware of an agent’s workload. Give a task to a busy person, and it’ll get done?  Not necessarily.

Of course, one of the most significant factors to consider when choosing among the best New Orleans real estate agents is his or her experience and success in the industry.  By and large, there is a reason why the “billboard” agents have been so successful in the industry: they have repeat clients because of a proven track record of success.  But agents are human, and everyone has a breaking point where too heavy a workload causes the stretched-too-thin agent to lose focus on your deal—or pawn you off to an underling.

If you ask an agent whether he or she is too busy to focus on your deal, chances are you will be given a self-serving response: “of course not, you will be my top priority.”  Agents not only sell houses but sell themselves, and acquiring your listing requires a strong pitch about how important you’ll be and how equipped the agent is to handle your listing.

The solution?  Contact a referral service or reputable real estate brokerage who is in touch with each agent’s strengths and weaknesses, workloads, and personalities to ensure a good match with you and your deal.  At Athena, we pride ourselves on strong central management and regularly give clients recommendations for agents who are best suited to a particular deal.  Our clients then have the opportunity to interview candidates and select the best fit among the best agents New Orleans has to offer.

4.  Understand team structures. On a related note, well-informed home buyers and sellers need to understand how real estate “teams” work.  In Louisiana, realtors are allowed to form “teams” who work cooperatively together to service clients’ needs. Each team ordinarily has a leader who assigns work on deals to agents under his or her supervision.

Often, team leaders are the “face” of the team—on billboards, in social media, and generally in marketing to clients—but most of the work is done by other team members.  Like someone hurt in a car accident who hires a “billboard” lawyer but is then pawned off to another attorney, clients who hire mega-agent Tammy Smith may be surprised when they don’t hear from her again until the closing (if there is one).

Don’t misunderstand: teams can be very effective.  If well-organized and not overworked, a team structure can allow agents to be highly responsive to clients’ needs and effective in their representation.   It’s just a double-edged sword; what can make a team structure great—defined roles among team members—can also allow the “leader” you hire to take ride-out your deal in the back seat.

Well-managed real estate companies like Athena mitigate against this “down-side” of team structures by supervising agents’ workloads and matching the right agents with the right clients.  Unlike some individual agents—who fight for every listing no matter if it’s the right fit for the client—top New Orleans realty companies develop management structures that foster “win-win” relationships among the brokerage, agents, and their clients.

5.  Insist on robust social media marketing. Like it or not, social media is here to stay.  If you have any doubt about this, just check out this site on the pervasiveness of social media usage in our country.   Even if you’re not a fan of social media, it’s beyond dispute that social media offers fertile ground for marketing real estate listings.  In fact, the “reach” of social media advertising (number of views per marketing dollar spent) blows print advertising out of the water.  And with the ability to target particular areas, demographics, and people likely to buy or sell a home, the pin-point accuracy of social media marketing is unparalleled.

In the real estate industry, however, there is a gaping generational gap among agents dividing them into two categories: those who are super proficient in social media marketing, or those who don’t (or may as well not) do it at all.  If you hire an agent in the latter category, you are selling yourself—and your wallet—short.

Best to know these types of things up-front: when interviewing a candidate make sure they are apt in social media marketing, and ask to see examples.  Better yet, use only agents with real estate companies like Athena who train and require their salespeople to be proficient in social media marketing.

With so many real estate agents “hanging their shingles” in the New Orleans area, it can be difficult to sort through the pack to find one of the best.  But by considering the guiding principles outlined in this article, you can strike out the vast majority of agents who simply won’t pass muster.

At Athena, we ensure quality representation by screening candidates and working only with competent, qualified real estate agents.  Among our agents are lawyers, MBA graduates, and other qualified professionals.  And, taking nothing for granted, we require that our agents undergo training and keep a close eye on the transactions agents with our brokerage are handling.

To learn more about Athena or be matched with a candidate who best fits your transaction, give us a call and ask for one of the owners.  We’ll work with you to find the best fit among our top agents.

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Athena hosts its second annual crawfish boil

With great food and drinks, caricature paintings for the kids, and a tremendous group of people, Athena’s second annual crawfish boil was a huge success. Team-building events like this–and our commitment to top-quality representation of our clients–are what make Athena Real Estate one of the top real estate companies to work for in the New Orleans area and Louisiana at large.

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Athena’s newest team member David Waldvogel is a smart choice as your real estate agent

David Waldvogel is excited to bring his passion and construction knowledge to Athena home sellers and buyers. “I can help my Athena clients visualize how a home or business can transform into exactly what they want,” he says. “With my construction background, I can also give them an educated estimate of costs.”

David’s roots in real estate and construction are deep: he grew up in a family whose business is real estate development and property management and after graduating from Slidell High School, he focused on real estate courses at the University of Southern Mississippi. When he and his wife moved to New Orleans after Katrina, David went into construction management, where he excelled in project management, documentation and contract negotiations.

“Many of my construction projects were renovations and restorations,” he said, “and I gained an in-depth knowledge of real estate in all the neighborhoods and business areas of New Orleans.”

David decided to join Athena, a top New Orleans real estate brokerage, because of the excellent commission package it offers, strong recommendations from other real estate agents, Athena’s modern branding, and the technology and support it offers its agents.

David, his wife and three children live in Lakeview near her parents. They are active in the Saint Dominic school and church community. His backyard BBQ pit is a favorite meeting place for family and friends.

David is a people-person who is driven by a desire to use his knowledge to help people realize their dreams. For anyone looking at real estate in the New Orleans area, he’s a smart choice.

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For a dose of good advice, talk to Athena agent Gina Baglio

Athena is delighted to announce that veteran agent Gina Baglio has joined our team!

Gina is an experienced real estate agent who knows New Orleans. Born in Metairie, she has been in the area all her life and knows Kenner, Harahan, River Ridge, Gretna, Harvey, St. Charles and St. John Parishes, and everything in between. As the mother of three kids and wife of a football coach, she is particularly good with information on schools and community amenities.

Better yet, Gina knows how to upgrade and renovate a home. She and her husband have built and remodeled three homes, so she knows the process first-hand.

Best of all, Gina never misses a detail. She developed that trait in her 20 years as a Registered Nurse. She is very good at “diagnosing” a home and its potential, and once an offer is made, she makes sure that the documentation proceeds without a hitch.

“I’m easy-going as a person,” she said, “but I’m a stickler for details. Whether I’m guiding a would-be homeowner or minding a sick child, I make sure everything is done exactly right.”

Gina was born in Metairie and went to Archbishop Chapelle before earning a nursing degree at Southeast Missouri State. Her career as a Registered Nurse has primarily been in pediatrics. She started her Real Estate career in 2014. She and her husband, a football coach, have three children. They are active in school and community events.

Gina transferred her real estate license to Athena because of its highly competitive commission package for Louisiana agents, Athena’s reputation as one of the best brokerages in the New Orleans area, and the technology and support offered to its agents.

Gina is not only highly professional, but also a warm and caring person. For buyers and sellers of real estate in the New Orleans area, she is a dose of the right medicine. Call or email Gina to get started!

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Athena Hosts Its Annual Holiday Party – at Shaya!

Athena recently hosted its annual holiday party at Shaya to mark another successful year with the best realtors in New Orleans!  This is one of the few events that Athena has that is strictly for the agents and significant others, allowing for everyone to have a fun-filled adult evening celebrating a great year.  Stacie Carubba, Lauren Crain, and Katie O’Leary were honored at 2018 top-producers.

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Athena Giving Back: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Fundraiser

Athena proudly paid for all of its agents and guests to attend the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s New Orleans Finest Event held at the New Orleans Fairgrounds.  In order to hold ourselves out as the best real estate agents in New Orleans, we believe there must also be a commitment to giving back to those that need our help.  A big congratulations to our very own Stacie Carubba, an honoree at the event and a leading fundraiser for this important cause!

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Athena Supporting the Community: Elevate USA

Athena Real Estate is proud to support Elevate USA – New Orleans. Lauren Crain, Claudine Christiansen, and Pete Tafaro had the opportunity to meet with the kids, staff, and volunteers. If you are unfamiliar with Elevate, please take a moment to learn about this local organization. The group’s mission is to elevate the life skills and abilities of inner-city student-athletes through mentor-based programs in athletic, academic, and social development. Since 2008, the ELEVATE Leadership Program has sent 100% of alumni to college on partial or full scholarships.
Athena proudly raised funds for this group so that they can continue to positively impact the lives of these children.  To truly be the best realtors in New Orleans, Athena believes that we must also give back to the community.

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Real Estate Listing Previews: When It Might Be Too Soon for the “Coming Soon”

We’ve all seen it. A real estate agent, eager to promote a new listing, proudly announces on social media that the listing is “coming soon.” When used appropriately, good “coming soon” announcements can be effective. Potential buyers are intrigued at the possibility of beating a listing to the market. Like a movie teaser trailer, a “coming soon” announcement can plant the seed of curiosity that might blossom into an offer.

However, preview listings also present hazards for real estate agents and their clients. In addition to running afoul of state and local laws and regulations and the rules governing realtors, a preview listing might not be in the client’s best interest. An agent, overzealous for a full commission, might push the preview listing a bit too hard to quickly snatch an unrepresented buyer and cut another agent out of the deal. When this thwarts the client’s opportunity to fetch a higher sales price through a fully marketed listing, the preview listing serves only the agent’s needs — not the client’s.

Striking a balance between the interests of the agent and client might be delicate in this context, but the rules governing preview listings are not so complicated:

  1. Owner authorization is required. Under Louisiana law, agents cannot market a property without first obtaining written authorization:

No broker or licensee sponsored by said broker shall in any way advertise property belonging to other persons as being for sale or rent or place a sign on any such property offering the property for sale or rent without first obtaining the written authorization to do so by all owners of the property or their authorized attorney in fact.

This effectively requires the agent to have a signed listing agreement before marketing the preview listing. In addition, as with all real estate advertisements, the preview listing must be done in the name under which the agent’s broker does business and under the broker’s supervision.

  1. Realtors must post listings on the MLS in a timely manner. The rules governing realtors often require listings to be posted on the multiple listing service within a certain time after the client signs a listing agreement or the listing otherwise becomes “effective.” Under New Orleans rules, for instance, listings must be posted within 72 hours of the effective date of the listing. 
  1. The agent’s interests must not be put above the client’s. Agents owe a fiduciary duty to put their clients’ interests first. If the “coming soon” announcement is used to “hook” a dual agency — and a higher commission for the agent — at the expense of the client, the agent has breached his or her fiduciary duty.

In short, “coming soon” listing announcements are a good tool when used appropriately. Agents should take care to follow the rules of their local realtor associations — and the law — to avoid violating obligations to their clients.

At Athena, we always put our clients’ interests first — it’s in our culture. To learn more about Athena, call or email us. We’d love to hear from you.

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Athena Supports Local Teams

Athena proudly sponsored the Purple Unicorns (ages 5-7) and the Thunderbolts (ages 7-8) this season at Lakeview Playground. Both teams improved dramatically under the guidance of great coaches. It was a fun season, and we were happy to support the kids.

At Athena, we believe that you can’t be the best real estate brokerage in New Orleans if you don’t give back to the communities that support our realtors, and we will continue to look for opportunities to give back.  If you worked with one our agents and would like us to support your team, give us a call, and we will see if we can help!

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