Monday, July 16, 2018
By Ashlee Maitland
Q & A with Jennifer Blake, Broker

Q. What led you to choose real estate as a career?

A. When I graduated college, I took my first job as the Assistant Dining Room Manager at Highlands Cove. Over the course of the next couple of years, I was promoted to Food & Beverage Director and managed the day to day operations of the restaurant along with lots of fun events including weddings and private catering functions at some of our property owners’ houses. It was during this time that I met the previous owners of our real estate company who asked me to join their team and start a vacation rental program for them. In our first year, we had 8 vacation rental properties which has grown to about 30 now. Not only did I manage our rental program but I also served as the Broker assistant which helped me grow and learn about the real estate industry. I absolutely love selling real estate. In a second home market, I’ve found that I am helping people find something they’ve worked their whole lives for, I am helping them make their dream a reality and that is very fulfilling.


Q. What is unique about selling homes in Highlands/Cashiers area?

A. Well, what is not unique about this area? The Highlands/Cashiers area is so unique compared to other markets. We are selling homes to people from all walks of life who come to us from all over the world. There are so many unique and wonderful properties to choose from in our area, anything from a historic home to a cabin in the woods to an estate sitting on top of the mountain.


Q. What makes your job enjoyable?

A. As the Broker-in-Charge, not only am I building great relationships and helping my customers find that special place that is perfect for them but I am also leading a great team of employees. If I had not chosen real estate as a career, I think I would’ve become a teacher. In leading my team, I’ve found a passion in not only selling real estate but also teaching those around me, watching them grow and creating a very positive and productive work environment.


Q. What are some of the challenges of selling real estate in this area?

A. Finding your customer that perfect home can be challenging at times but once I do that becomes the most fulfilling part.


Q. What do you enjoy most about living here?

A. The weather is absolutely wonderful! I spend time in Atlanta as well and every time I come back, I can feel the temperature drop as I’m coming up the mountain. You can breath, the air is fresh, I can still use my fireplace in July. I love the fact that we experience all four seasons here, each as special as the last bringing something unique with it. I also love the small town charm. I love all of the boutique shops and wonderful dining options that are unique to our area and going somewhere and seeing so many familiar and friendly faces who all know you by name.


Q. What are your hobbies or interests outside of selling real estate?

A. I’ve recently discovered that I love interior design and I have spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years educating myself in that arena. This has been helpful to my clients and rental properties as I am able to provide advice and suggestions for updating their properties. I also love spending time on the lake. I own a lot in the Glenville area where I keep a boat and will spend my time off in the summer enjoying time there. I love spending time with my family and friends, traveling, cooking, and most recently I’ve become involved in learning how to paint.


Q. Do you have experience in other fields or professions?

A. Yes, my degree is in Marketing and I am constantly looking at the best ways to market our properties. The time I spent in Property Management has been helpful as there are so many issues that arise with a property that I can now either fix myself or I certainly have strong connections with the people who can which enables us to solve the problem faster resulting in a more pleasant experience for our guests. I was also the Food & Beverage director at Highlands Cove for three years which has benefitted me when planning events like open houses as we are able to take it to the next level and really offer something special to those who attend from wonderful food, live music and great wine. Although interior design has been more of a hobby to me, it turns out I have an eye for it and that has been helpful to my listings and properties in our rental portfolio.


Q. What makes you stand out from other agents in the area?

A. I think there are many great agents serving the Highlands/Cashiers plateau but I think one thing that makes me stand out is my drive and my ability to listen and understand what my clients are looking for. I think these are very  important traits to be a successful real estate broker as you then have to take your market knowledge and quickly help identify those properties that will be the best match. This saves the client a lot of time and energy and can help them zero in a property that works for them.


Q. What advice do you give buyers who are new to the area?

A. It depends on the client and what they are looking for but if they are not familiar with the area, I will arrange a “Stay and Discover” experience for them which enables me to invite them to stay in one of our accommodations for three nights. In preparation for their arrival, I make suggestions as to the places they should visit, the restaurants they should eat at and things they should see while they are here so that they can experience the area and lifestyle. Clients need to first decide if the area is the right fit for them, then we can move to finding the right property. If they are looking for an investment property, I am the perfect person to discuss this with as I am very knowledgeable as to what most of the renters coming to the area are looking for and have a list of suggested properties.


Q. Describe the most interesting property or client you have worked with.

A.One of the most interesting clients I have worked with was a couple from New Orleans. We spent the first summer looking at several areas and properties they were interested in but never found the exact right place. This couple decided they wanted to rent for a year with the option to purchase the condo they were renting. About 6 months into their rental, another buyer came along who wanted to purchase the condo they were renting. My client was given the first right of refusal and they decided not to purchase the condo. Immediately we began searching for a property as by that time they were completely sold on the area, now we just had to locate the right property. They were a little unsure as to exactly what they were looking for although they had some parameters. I remember at the end of day two, they were having serious regret over not going ahead and purchasing the condo they were renting. They were considering trying to buy the new buyer out of their contract. It was at that point that I looked at them and said, there was a reason you decided not to buy that property. We just haven’t found the right one yet. Since we had spent two days looking at that point, we went back to the drawing board and really tried to pin point what kind of properties would be the best fit for them. They left, I researched the properties available and lined up all the showings for the following day. I met my client the next morning, we started looking at the properties and the moment we walked into one of them, I looked at my clients and their eyes both lit up. I knew this was going to be the one. It was and so much so that we ended up negotiating the deal on site and were under contract before we even left the showing. Those clients were and are still so happy with the purchase they made and it is moments like this that make my job so enjoyable!