Carolyn Stewart

REALTOR® | Sales Associate at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®

From part-time salesperson to full-time award winning residential real estate agent, Carolyn is excited to be debt-free while helping first-time home buyers navigate the biggest decision of their lives.

Carolyn decided to sell real estate after the frustrating experience of buying her first home. She knew that an attentive real estate agent would have made a big difference in the process.

She saw an opportunity to help people transition during a stressful time of life. She thrived off of helping people, and had already built her own successful direct sales business. All she wanted was to sell a house or two every year to put money aside for retirement.

To her surprise, the success of her first sale convinced her to go all-in as a residential real estate agent. Now, Carolyn closes two to three deals each month—even while pursuing her Master’s degree in social work. And of course she specializes in helping first time home buyers!

“I thought I would just do this on the side, but now I can pay off my student loans with real estate,” Carolyn said. “I can have a completely debt free life!”

Advice from Carolyn:

“Nothing great ever comes from sitting on the side lines and waiting. If being a real estate agent has crossed your mind several times, there’s no harm in trying. The Real Estate School teaches you so you can pass the test—and also helps you get a great start on your real estate journey!”

Anthony Caraffa

Sales Associate/REALTOR® at Coldwell Banker Preferred

After working for someone else for 34 years in corporate sales, Anthony was ready for a better boss: himself.

Anthony wanted his own business with no inventory, no storefront, no employees, and low start-up costs. The obvious answer to him was Real Estate.

He didn’t waste any time pursuing his new career. He called The Real Estate School, enrolled in the two week class, and got his license two weeks later.

Anthony chose residential real estate because he wanted to help individuals have a life changing experience.

“My wife says I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” Anthony said. “It’s true. I’ve never been happier in a career. I enjoy being able to manage myself. Making my own choices about how to run my business is a liberating feeling.”

Advice from Anthony:

“The first two years are tough. But as long as you work hard and put in the effort, you’ll see money come in. It’s amazing being able to make money while helping people see their home ownership dreams come true.”

Heather Grasso

REALTOR® at ReMax Hometown

Tired of spending hours at a desk job that left her unable to pursue her hobbies or spend time with family, Heather chose a career in real estate and has never been happier.

Heather had a successful job, but realized she was simply working for a paycheck. She needed to feel a connection with what she was doing and to know that she was helping people. In her limited free time, she was active in theater, where she enjoyed choreographing dances and assisting with the artistic vision of theatrical productions. But she didn’t have enough time to pursue her hobbies without sacrificing time with her family.

Heather always wanted to become a REALTOR® but assumed that she would not have time to go to school due to her current work schedule. The Real Estate School offered her a flexible class schedule that she could manage while still holding her 9-5 job. Because she was good at coordinating details and communicating with clients, her real estate business quickly became so busy that she quit her other job.

“At my other job, I had to be behind a desk for specific hours. I felt guilty doing the things I loved because it took time away from my family,” she says. “With a career in real estate, I can be more flexible. I can do things I enjoy—like choreography for Broadway theater and spend time with my 4-year-old child, who will always come first!”

Heather enjoys taking the stress out of buying a home by handling all the details. She lives up to her hashtag of #NotYourAverageAgent in many ways. Thanks to her experience in theater, her artistic side truly comes out when staging and preparing homes for resale.

“When someone cries and hugs you and says, ‘I couldn’t have done this without you,’ that is success!” she says. “You’ve changed the life for a whole family—you gave them a place to call home. That makes my heart happy. That’s why I do this!”

Advice from Heather:

“Have a pipeline and be prepared to hit the ground running. Real estate is a communication based business. Talk to people, build relationships, be trustworthy. Help people stay grounded and focused through the process and be available when they need you.”

Michele Grimes

Real Estate Agent at Century 21 Advantage Gold - Cherry Hill

As a salon owner and cosmetology educator for 25 years, Michele wanted to add a flexible second career. She chose Residential Real Estate Sales.

Michele was always interested in Real Estate. So once her youngest child graduated high school, she went back to school herself — to The Real Estate School. She wanted a flexible second career that could become full time after she retired from cosmetology.

Because she loved working with people already, a career in residential real estate felt like a natural fit.

“I love helping people find their homes!” Michele said. “I stay in touch with them and enjoy seeing their before and after photos.”

Most importantly, Michele didn’t have to give up her salon while she developed her real estate business. She continues to work at her salon four days a week. In her downtime, she researches houses and schedules appointments with her clients.

Only a couple of years into her second career, Michele has already found success. “I wake up every day with the opportunity to happily work on my goals in a career that I enjoy. I have a healthy balance of family, friends and work, and am setting myself up for the future.”

Advice from Michele:

“Stay dedicated, organized and consistent. Most importantly, have good people skills!”

Monica Walsh

Director of Client Services at Vantage Real Estate Services

Monica enjoyed working in graphic design and marketing for a small commercial real estate firm. But she wanted more out of her career. She transitioned into commercial real estate brokerage and is now the Director of Client Services at one of the fastest growing firms in the region, Vantage Real Estate Services.

Vantage Real Estate Services provides commercial real estate brokerage services in South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania with offices in Marlton and center city Philadelphia. What Monica likes best about commercial real estate is the moment her clients realize they can achieve their vision for their business. She views commercial real estate as a creative field that involves solving puzzles for business owners. She helps them use their imaginations as they look at a raw space.

“I help clients see past what’s in front of them and see what could be. It’s an exciting feeling to know I had a hand in helping someone realize their business goals and make their community a better place.” she says. “Working with a start-up business is my favorite. They are pursuing their dream!”

Monica’s day-to-day work schedule is always dynamic. She is consistently available to meet the unique needs and challenges of her clients. “You have to be adaptive in this business,” she says. “Adapting to clients’ needs is a huge part of what we do as brokers.”

Her dedication to her industry, team members and persistence in business have helped propel Vantage RES. In just a few short years, the brokerage has tripled in size. As one of the first brokers in the company, Monica has helped establish Vantage Real Estate Services as a force in the industry. Monica’s main goals are to leave a lasting legacy in her community and to create a larger impact by encouraging women to find their passion in commercial real estate.

Advice from Monica:

“Do something that you are passionate about. And, every single day, use that passion to be consistent, persistent and driven.”

Jason Wolf

Founder and Managing Principal of Wolf Commercial Real Estate

With an ambitious vision and commitment to cultivating relationships, Jason founded a commercial real estate firm that is shaping South Jersey and the Philadelphia region.

Before founding Wolf Commercial Real Estate, Jason was a multi-award winning sales agent at a top ranked national commercial real estate firm. Yet he wanted an even greater challenge that would give him more independence and growth. He envisioned a company whose knowledge and resources would rival large firms without losing the personal touch of a smaller, local agency.

Jason excels at envisioning redevelopment projects and putting together just the right team to make them happen. He credits persistence, integrity, focus and teamwork with the success of WCRE. But he maintains that it is ultimately the relationships built that matter the most.

“The best part for me is the relationships,” he says. “Success isn’t always about money, transactions or recognition. The reward is in repeat customers and referrals. I’ve had some clients for 25 years. They become your friends. That’s the part I love the most.”

Today, WCRE is an award-winning commercial real estate firm in South Jersey and the Philadelphia region known for their commitment to the health and success of their community.

Advice from Jason:

“Be prepared for it to be hard the first 12 months. It takes 3 years to get going successfully. Real estate is a game of patience. You need to develop, cultivate, and plant seeds. Don’t become complacent. Have a vision and work toward it.”

Stacy Reiter

VP and Broker at Veritas Real Estate

Stacy’s real estate license gave her more than a job. It gave her experience, confidence and a successful career she loves.

Before she became a partner of Veritas Real Estate, Stacy was a bookkeeper with two small children at home. She had been working in a real estate office but needed a license to manage and lease properties.

Even though she was a bit apprehensive, she enrolled in night classes with The Real Estate School and passed her exams on the first try. Stacy soon discovered that she loved the people side of the business. Her outgoing personality and strong work ethic made her a natural choice as a partner in a new firm that specializes in commercial real estate investment, leasing and management of approximately one million square feet.

Stacy enjoys communicating with tenants and making sure the buildings meet their needs. The best thing her tenants tell her is that she makes their lives easy.

“Real Estate gave me a career that I could call successful,” Stacy said. “I never thought I’d be an owner of a company or in the position I am in. I’m the Vice President of my company. I’ve come a long way from community college and just a job. I meet new people every day and make a great living. The harder I work, the more I enjoy it!”

Advice from Stacy:

“Be thick-skinned, motivated and determined. Be honest and present with people.”

Michael Dariano

Sales Agent at HomeSmart First Advantage Realty

As the owner of a construction company that flips houses, Michael wanted to cut out the middleman and find his own properties. He decided to get his real estate license so he could have greater autonomy.

With his real estate license, Michael now has access to look at properties when it fits his schedule—and gets much earlier access to the homes before anyone else sees them. He can see the neighborhood comps and make better purchasing decisions. He doesn’t have to wait for another sales agent to do any of the work, which means he keeps all his profits.

Even though Michael had been investing in real estate before receiving his license, the two week course at The Real Estate School filled in the blanks for what he didn’t know. “As an investor, it’s a huge advantage to have your license,” he says. “You’ll be more savvy in your purchases because you’ll understand the process and the market better.”

Michael usually flips three to five houses per year. He joined HomeSmart Real Estate because they pay 100% commissions and have low transaction fees increasing his profit margin by not paying a lot to the broker. He buys the houses in rough shape and does most of the work himself to fix them up. He enjoys seeing the finished project and, of course, seeing a profitable return on his sweat equity!

Advice from Michael:

“It’s important to understand your project and be very thorough in your estimation.”

Wanda McIlvaine

Co-Owner The Budd Group/ Berkshire Hathaway Home Services

After suffering the loss of her 16 year-old daughter in a tragic car accident in 1996, Wanda took a new look at life over the next couple of years and realized… Life is what you make of it. She found happiness and success in a second career as a real estate agent, broker and owner of a real estate firm.

As comptroller of her family’s pool business (Budd’s Pools) for decades, she found the job rewarding but it did not provide the day to day people interaction she desired. She wanted to be with people, help people, help them fulfill their dreams and see them smile. After considering so many potential vocations to fill this desire, she concluded no other business could do that except the real estate brokerage business.

So, off to THE Real Estate School. She obtained her salesperson license in 1999 (and later her broker’s license). She made a deal with her husband, a seasoned real estate broker/owner who said, “do well your first year in real estate and I will consider opening a real estate office with you.” She did VERY well that first year and they opened that real estate company.

Budd Realty, Inc. was born in the year 2000 in a little office located in historic Woodbury. In 2008 they built a larger office and relocated to Deptford. After 17 years of tremendous success and growth, Wanda and her husband became The Budd Group, a team of highly skilled people who opted to affiliate themselves with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Fox & Roach REALTORS®.

The Real Estate School stuck with her and gave her the confidence to become an agent. The stories, comradery and sociability the students and instructors shared were priceless. Many, many fond memories come from those classes.

While Wanda prefers the residential side of real estate, The Budd Group does everything from residential, land, and commercial sales to rentals and property management.

In the past twenty years, Wanda has listed and sold nearly 800 homes. She is excited to keep learning and loves communicating with her clients and being solution oriented. “When someone is looking to buy the greatest asset they will own, they want you to be excited about it, too,” she says. “My job is to take the stress away from buyers and sellers and make it a joyful experience!”

Wanda believes that success is achieving what you hoped for and loving what you do. She says, “real estate has brought me the happiness I sought twenty years ago after tragedy in my life redirected me to a second career.”

Advice from Wanda:

“Attitude is everything. Don’t think selling real estate is fast money. Stick with it. Learn the business. Seek out good mentors. And, like I learned at The Real Estate School, have 3 or 4 transactions pending settlement at all times.”

Tara Schoonmaker

REALTOR® with Nest Complete Home Solutions - Haddonfield

Custom cake decorator and mom of five flips ugly-duckling houses into the most desirable homes in the neighborhood.

Once Tara saw how much equity her hard work created in her own fixer-upper home, she was hooked. She fell in love with the process of gutting and renovating her house from top to bottom.

Tara had made custom cakes for several years but was ready for a change. She wanted to work for herself and have more control over her income. With five kids at home, Tara knew she needed to find a career that gave her flexibility. She didn’t want to be stuck working a 9-5 job and following someone else’s rules.

She realized that pursuing a real estate license would give her more opportunities. But attending real estate school sounded intimidating.

“I don’t usually learn by reading books. I was so scared,” she said. “But my fiance said, ‘Just do it. If you don’t, you’ll overthink it.’ It’s the best decision I’ve made! And it wasn’t as intimidating as you might think. Michelle had a story or acronym for everything. It was easy and fun to learn.”

Tara has already flipped several houses and a 6-plex. She enjoys being able to show houses on her own schedule and counts on the income received from rental properties.

Now, Tara can focus on her family and the things she wants to do.

“Everything in my family has been calmer since I took my career into my own hands. Since I’m not as stressed, everyone else is happier. To me, that is success—for me and my family to be comfortable and happy.”

Advice from Tara:

“Go for it! There isn’t a better career out there. Whether you’re buying, selling, or investing, real estate is an amazing career path. You can make such good money and it is just up to you on how far you can take it.”

Kevin H. Nguyen, PhD

Broker and Owner at Kay & Jay Realty

Kevin jumped into the world of real estate investing at the worst time—just before the market crashed in 2006—but he believes that is how he learned the most. He and his brother began buying apartments as the cost of properties dropped. Then they bought and renovated houses and businesses to sell or rent.

Eventually, Kevin’s broker encouraged him to get his real estate sales license to earn commission from both buying and selling. “At first, I didn’t think that sounded like a lot of money,” Kevin says. “But he helped me see how much commission I could make on each home.”

Kevin worked for his broker while also completing his PhD. During the week, he researched cancer and on the weekends he renovated homes and managed his rental portfolio. Before long, Kevin wanted even more flexibility and independence in his real estate career. After four years as a sales agent, he pursued his brokerage license.

“As a broker, I have more weight in my negotiations,” Kevin says. “Investors take me more seriously because my reputation is even stronger as an owner of a real estate company. I can manage not only my own properties, but others’.”

When Kevin graduated from his PhD program, he took a year off from research to focus on real estate full time. “When I made the shift from part time to full time, my business grew. It not only doubled—it tripled!” Kevin says. “I could focus my time on making better decisions and better deals. Investors trusted me more. My one year break turned into five years.”

Kevin and his brother now own a construction company to handle renovations, a real estate management company, and several restaurants. “At the end of the day, I don’t settle for mediocre. I try to be the best!” He says.

Advice from Kevin:

“Use what you’re good at to your advantage. I’m good at analyzing numbers, so I know what is actually a good deal. If you become a broker, first work for someone as a broker agent for a year. And make sure you advertise that you’re a broker—it’s the highest degree you can get. You will stand out!”

Rayna Denneler

REALTOR® at Berkshire/Hathaway Home Services - Fox Roach REALTORS® - Mt Laurel

Before selling real estate, Rayna was a special education teacher for grades K-8. As her children grew older, Rayna wanted more flexibility to set her hours around her kids’ busy sports and school schedules. She decided to pursue real estate part time, while continuing her part-time teaching position.

But three months into her real estate career, Rayna knew she wouldn’t be satisfied without giving it 100% of her focus. “I am painfully competitive,” she says. “I love to challenge myself, whether it’s running marathons, body-building, or selling real estate.”

When Rayna made the switch to full-time residential real estate sales, she went all in and quickly climbed to the top. Within her first year, she became a Circle of Excellence Bronze Level Award winner for 2018 and continues to win the Superior Performer award each quarter. 

Rayna credits much of her success to following her mother’s example as a successful real estate agent for the past 32 years. “She taught me how to work hard, cultivate relationships, and never give up. She’s been my mentor, role model, and best friend,” Rayna says.

The switch from education to real estate was very natural. Now, Rayna uses her teaching skills as a REALTOR® to educate first time home buyers, and is a powerful advocate for her clients. She keeps learning because “in real estate, nothing is ever exactly the same. There is always something new to learn with each transaction,” she says

Rayna enjoys the freedom that her career provides. Seeing people smile when they purchase their first home makes all the weekend and evening phone calls worth it. To her, the relationships she builds with her clients are the most important part. She says, “you’re not just selling a house – you’re building relationships!”

Advice from Rayna:

“Make sure you have a really good mentor who will teach you the proper way to interact with customers and agents. Remember, you’re not just selling a house, you’re building relationships.”

Patricia “Patti” Blosfelds

Sales Associate - Coldwell Banker Preferred - Moorestown

Patti became an empty nester after being a non-stop volunteer and stay-at-home Mom for 26 years. She wanted a career that would use her skill sets without compromising the flexible schedule she craved.

When her youngest child moved out, Patti was ready to begin a different career – but she didn’t want to give up the flexibility to set her own schedule. She knew that her experiences as PTA President, founder of a charter school, top earner in a direct sales company and board member  for a swim club gave her a unique set of skills – not to mention, a huge contact list.

Above all, as a people-person, she wanted to work with people! She quickly found her home in residential real estate rentals and sales.

Patti completed the intensive two-week salesperson course at The Real Estate School and passed the state exam that same month.

“I got everything ready to go right away after I passed the exam,” she says. “When I started, I had no problem pounding the pavement, putting up fliers around neighborhoods, and mailing hand addressed letters to my sphere. Even though I am part of a company, it is still my own business. What you put into this career is what you get out of it.”

Her hard work paid off when she earned Rookie of the Year for all of Coldwell Banker Preferred in 2018. 

Patti recommends starting with rentals, like she did.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a great way to get your feet wet. You learn how to fill out contracts, talk to other REALTORS®, walk through houses. Do a good job, keep in touch with your clients, and they will contact you when they are ready to buy. This job is all about follow up!”

Patti enjoys the variety in her job and her ability to work from anywhere. But she especially enjoys helping first time home buyers. Their excitement is contagious!

Advice from Patti:

“If you want to be successful in this job, you have to be willing to put the work in. It’s not easy money, but it’s very rewarding when you help a person.”