TOP REAL ESTATE AGENTS IN ILLINOIS DEBORAH BALLIS HIRT AND ELIZABETH BALLIS
Making clients happy is Elizabeth Ballis and Deborah Ballis Hirt’s passion, and they work 24/7 to make it happen. As a mother-and-daughter team in a global company, they are all about professionalism and communication—the kind of agents who are still by their clients’ side after the transaction closes. “Every client gets 110+ percent,” Elizabeth says. “We are there for every step of the process, and we go above and beyond to push and fight so that nothing is overlooked.”
Clients agree. They rave about all the resources the team provides and the way they take care of things even when clients are out of town. It’s no surprise that in 2012 Elizabeth received the first Realtor Recognition Award from the Chicago Association of Realtors. “It’s not only about working for yourself, but also the extent to which you help others,” she says. Early in her career Elizabeth became involved with the Chicago Association of Realtors, serving on many committees over the 36 years she has been a Realtor, including chairing the Grievance Committee arm of the Professional Standards Committee and as a member of the Association Education Foundation.
Real estate was a natural career choice for both women. In 1980, when Elizabeth was at home with young children, she had a friend who was a Realtor. She knew a buyer for one of her listings and made the recommendation. The person bought the house, and Elizabeth remembers thinking, “I could do this!” It would give her lots of opportunities to be with her children, so she went for it. Deborah, meanwhile, grew up, graduated college and had a job with the city of Chicago. “I had gone as far as I could go,” she says, “but I still wanted to do something to give back.” Her father was involved in city program that passed savings on to home builders, so she began working with him, running the construction program. Then they switched from residential to commercial. “When the market slowed down again in 2008–09, I needed to pay my own mortgage,” she says. “I got my real estate license and joined my mom. I switched from one parent to the other!”
Once Deborah began working with her mom, she had her most rewarding year ever. “I made an impact,” she says. “Everything goes through Elizabeth, but I like to see that together, as a team, we’re successful.” Her mother agrees. “I’ve had other partners, but there’s nothing better than having Deborah,” she says. “She brings credibility. Even though we have totally different approaches, she’s taught me so much. It’s nice to have someone there to say ‘there are other ways we can do this.’”
This super-strong team has another ace up its sleeve. Elizabeth took the time to educate herself above and beyond the norm. She has designations including ABR, CRS and GRI behind her name, and their clients can rest assured that mother and daughter understand the market and their clients’ needs.
At this point, referrals account for 90 percent of their business. “I believe the most important part of building a career in this business is building relationships,” Elizabeth says. “I started so long ago, when everything was not instant gratification. I became involved in the Board of Realtors, I’ve been in the Presidents Club since my own company merged in 1998, and I’m constantly building relationships within my community of colleagues and clients. A buyer from 23 years ago just shared my name with a friend! We’ve also worked with a three-generational family on seven transactions.”
Elizabeth and Deborah brought a third agent on, Nicole Niermeyer, whom they’re thrilled to have on the team. While mother and daughter are involved in each transaction at any point, they now have a system so that one lead person is available internally at all times.
And that availability doesn’t stop when the keys are handed over. In January following the close of a transaction, Elizabeth and Deborah follow up and send a copy of the closing statement for the client’s taxes. In addition, they keep in touch by sending mailers out during the year about events going on in the city or reminder cards about daylight saving or standard time changes, which they personalize. Elizabeth is a founding trustee of the Coldwell Banker Charitable Foundation for the greater Chicagoland area, and every holiday season she and Deborah make a contribution in their clients’ names.
A portion of every transaction Deborah and Elizabeth close goes to the Foundation—but that’s not the only way the two give back to their area. Two years ago, Deborah became a founding board member of 100 Women Who Care. Four times a year the organization brings 100 or so women together to have a glass of wine and present three charities that serve the Chicago area. “We vote on the spot for the charity, pull out our checkbooks and donate $100,” Deborah says. “The charities cover everything: women’s issues, juvenile issues—there’s a broad scope of them, and the $10,000 we donate really has a huge impact on them.”
While mom “lives to work” and daughter “works to live,” both women make time for balance at their extended family’s second home: 40 quiet acres of an old farm near McHenry. “We bought the retreat 40 years ago,” Elizabeth says, “when Deborah was the only one small enough to fit under the trees on the trails!” Her goal is for Deborah and her family to spend more time there. “Now that we have Nicole as part of the team, we are working hard to be mother and daughter in our private lives as well as in the business,” Elizabeth jokes. Deborah’s family, meanwhile, is into Chicago sports. “We also have a second grandpuppy,” she says, “so we have a lot of dog time.” Not a bad way to rejuvenate.
As the future unfolds, the two always want to have a strong year and continue to reach out and find opportunities. They plan to expand their business use of social media, too, and update their website. And while it’s important to them to run their business in the most efficient and effective way, a key component is work/life balance. With their passion for work as well as dogs, sports, nature and family time, Deborah and Elizabeth have a bright path ahead.
For more information about top real estate agents in Illinois Deborah Ballis Hirt and Elizabeth Ballis of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Chicago, Illinois, please visit www.BallisGroup.com, call 312.867.8166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.