Ray Gernhart, of RE/MAX Executives, has always had his heart set on being a star. For the first 22 years of his life, he pursued that dream in the entertainment business. Yet, as anyone who has tried to find success in that field knows, ‘making it’ isn’t easy. “Trying to survive and paying the bills was difficult, to say the least,” Ray remembers.
Ray’s mother saw he was hitting a dead end and stepped in with some advice; she suggested he give the real estate business a shot. “I always liked houses. I always liked refurbishing furniture. So she said, ‘Isn’t there some way you can do real estate?’”
Ray had no idea what a real estate agent did and no sense of how to get started. Nonetheless, he dove in, and in 1986, he recast himself as a REALTOR®.
Owning His Personality
When Ray got into the business in 1986, he was, as he describes, “an anomaly.” His personality and flair were far from ordinary. Rather than trying to fit in, Ray chose another path; he decided to be completely and fabulously himself. “I was unique and different. I had my leather jeans, my pierced ear, my slightly purple hair, my Adam Lambert eye shadow, and I hung out in clubs,” Ray explains.
Ray sold a house in his first week on the job, and he was hooked. That first $1,800 commission check made him feel rich.
“I have always been passionate about everything I do. I broke my leg during a performance on stage and continued my role throughout the play to the rave reviews of the audience. That translates to real estate, where my clients understand my tenacity will get them the best deal when they buy or sell their home,” Ray says.
Ray was lucky to have a broker who encouraged him to be himself fully. And he truly embraced his role as an unorthodox real estate agent. In a world where print advertising was still king, Ray took out ads in the Washington Post and printed his photo upside down.
“If you try to make everybody like you, you’re going to be so bland that nobody remembers you. If you get 10 percent of a small market, you’re a rich man. So that’s what I concentrated on. I had a good time. I had fun.”
Ray achieved success through a unique take on building client relationships. He parlayed his eccentric nature into referrals and, thus, a blossoming book of business.
“I’ve always looked at every deal as three deals. I’m going to help you buy a house. I’m going to be so fabulous that you wouldn’t think of calling anybody but me when you go to sell the house. And I’m going to be doubly fabulous so you at least refer me to one friend along the way. So every sale is three sales.”
Into the Present
Thirty-five years later, Ray has achieved staggering success in real estate; his career volume sits at over $1 billion. While his eccentricity has softened over the years, he continues to display the same energy that allowed him to catapult to success.
“My tagline has been, “For a Good Time and a Great Deal, Talk to Ray.” So if I’m not having fun, if my clients are not having fun, then I don’t really want to do it,” Ray explains.
Ray describes himself as the type of person who has several interests, but would rather know a lot about a few things than know just a little about a lot of things. “I fully immerse myself into those things I care about, and real estate happens to be one of those things,” he says.
As he looks ahead, Ray hopes to find more ways to work on the business rather than in the business. That includes a greater focus on team-building and coaching so that he can step away and continue to watch his business grow. One day, Ray hopes to move to Italy full-time.
“Honestly, I don’t think I can do anything else. I was incredibly blessed to find real estate. I love helping people fulfill their dreams, and their confidence in me helped make me the man I am today,” Ray says. “I’m FABULOUS and not afraid to show it. Be confident. Don’t emulate anyone. Be true to yourself but turn up the volume so everyone can hear. Don’t be boring. Find your niche and own it.”