California Real Estate November/December 2013 : Page 18
Ý By Heather Skyler Three Exceptional REALTORS ® Presenting the Champions of Home award winners What does it mean to be a Champion of Home? George Kenner Keller Williams | Chula Vista Years as a REALTOR ® : 13 It’s a REALTOR ® who sees a social injustice occurring in a foreclosure, and sets out to ﬁ nd a solution. It’s someone who always ﬁ ghts for what’s right, even if it’s difﬁ cult. A Champion of Home is a California REALTOR ® who changes clients’ lives for the better, who raises the standards for others, leads by example, and possesses unimpeachable ethics. We all know professional REALTORS ® who care deeply for their clients and have helped many home buyers and sellers in their profession, so what makes these three Champions stand out? Time and time again, all three of these REALTORS ® dove into extremely difﬁ cult situations and solved them through determination, tenacity, business acumen, and extraordinary stamina. Dealing with difﬁ cult housing cases wasn’t unusual for these REALTORS ® ; rather, it was par for the course. Each of these REALTORS ® takes on complicated and often heart-rending cases on a regular basis, because they have made it a mission to help those in need. “ is tenacity was just beautiful,” says one for-mer client, describing the way George Kenner helped him keep his home when he faced fore-closure. “He just didn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Not from the bank, or even his own staff. If they ran into a brick wall, he’d say, ‘Find a way around the wall!’” Tenacity is a word used over and over again to describe George Kenner, particularly when he’s working on a tough housing case. Many of the people who have worked with Kenner are awed by his persistence in the face of adversity. Take, for example, the client who had recently lost his Continued on page 26 H Ý 18 CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE • NOVEMB ER /DECEMB ER 2013
Three Exceptional REALTORS®
Presenting the Champions of Home award winners<br /> <br /> What does it mean to be a Champion of Home? It’s a REALTOR® who sees a social injustice occurring in a foreclosure, and sets out to find a solution. It’s someone who always fights for what’s right, even if it’s difficult. A Champion of Home is a California REALTOR® who changes clients’ lives for the better, who raises the standards for others, leads by example, and possesses unimpeachable ethics.<br /> <br /> We all know professional REALTORS® who care deeply for their clients and have helped many home buyers and sellers in their profession, so what makes these three Champions stand out?<br /> <br /> Time and time again, all three of these REALTORS® dove into extremely difficult situations and solved them through determination, tenacity, business acumen, and extraordinary stamina. Dealing with difficult housing cases wasn’t unusual for these REALTORS®; rather, it was par for the course. Each of these REALTORS® takes on complicated and often heartrending cases on a regular basis, because they have made it a mission to help those in need.<br /> <br /> George Kenner<br /> <br /> Keller Williams | Chula Vista<br /> Years as a REALTOR®: 13<br /> <br /> " HIs tenacity was just beautiful,” says one former client, describing the way George Kenner helped him keep his home when he faced foreclosure. “He just didn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. Not from the bank, or even his own staff. If they ran into a brick wall, he’d say, ‘Find a way around the wall!’” Tenacity is a word used over and over again to describe George Kenner, particularly when he’s working on a tough housing case. Many of the people who have worked with Kenner are awed by his persistence in the face of adversity.<br /> <br /> Take, for example, the client who had recently lost his Wife, his job, and his rebuilt home in a fire. Kenner stepped in to assist the man, just a few days before the Trustee Sale. He quickly made a few phone calls, got the sale suspended, then worked tenaciously over the next eight months to help sort out difficulties with two banks and the insurance company.<br /> <br /> Rebecca Ives of Fidelity National Title, who was involved in the case, says, “The winning situation George created for everyone was enormous. The [client] was allowed dignity and a smooth transition, the home sold at a higher than REO value, and all the professionals who aided him were paid. These winning stories could be repeated all day. George is an extraordinary REALTOR®.” <br /> <br /> In another complicated situation, Kenner was able to help a public school teacher who had been forced into early retirement due to a car accident, which left her confined to a wheelchair. This Woman was on the verge of losing her home to foreclosure when Kenner stepped in to help, despite the fact that the woman lived 100 miles away.<br /> <br /> In this situation, Kenner’s past work as a mortgage lender came into play. He was able to find rules the banks were ignoring and worked hard to get the bank’s attention, first by escalating the case to multiple Congressmen, then the Treasury Department, and finally the media.<br /> <br /> He invited reporter Kate Berry of AmericanBanker.Com to interview the woman in trouble, and George videotaped the interview. When it was posted on Americanbanker.Com, the bank was finally ready to work with George, and in the end, a positive solution was found for all parties.<br /> <br /> This was the first time Kenner used a video to call attention to the plight of a client, but since then, this tactic has served him well time and again. Often, he shows the videos to the lender, and only threatens to post it publicly if they aren’t willing to work with his client. “I never try to bully anybody,” George explains. “I just try to Tell a good story. If there’s a reason to pay attention to it, they’ll pay attention.” <br /> <br /> And the banks have paid attention to Kenner, over and over again, allowing him to help numerous clients save both their dignity and their home.<br /> <br /> Robert Smith, Kenner’s current broker, says these cases are typical for Mr. Kenner, adding, “Fortunate are those in need who make their way to Mr. George Kenner, for they will have found a compassionate and formidable servant….” <br /> <br /> We are honored to count Mr. Kenner among our Champions of Home.<br /> <br /> PJ Johnsen<br /> <br /> Prudential California Realty | Stockton<br /> Years as a REALTOR®: 8<br /> <br /> BRoker Craig Lewis says when he first heard about the Champions of Home award, he immediately thought of PJ Johnsen out of the hundreds of agents at the brokerage. “The award is meant for someone like her.”<br /> <br /> During her eight years as a REALTOR®, PJ has inspired that feeling in her clients as well. In fact, a recent home buyer told PJ, “If there’s an award out there, you need to get it.” <br /> <br /> PJ has made a name for herself by going above and beyond the role of REALTOR®. Former clients almost always become close friends, and PJ is there for them when they need her, whether it’s to help watch a special-needs child, to provide a ride to the hospital, to babysit so parents can have a night out, or to simply help with moving in.<br /> <br /> After a couple of years working as a REALTOR®, PJ began specializing in short sales and VA loans, doing everything she could for those in need. She liked the challenge of short sales, and the way they could help people keep their homes.<br /> <br /> Her commitment to working with veterans has a more personal origin. “My dad was in the Vietnam War, and my uncle is a retired colonel,” she explains. “A lot of people forget about our veterans, and they’re very important.” <br /> <br /> PJ has made it a mission to assist veterans whenever she can. Earlier this year, she helped a disabled veteran find a home, but that was only half the battle. Once the bid was in, the appraisal came in $30,000 less, and VA loans only back Appraised value. The veteran and his wife were about to give up and just stay renters, but PJ persevered. By working closely with Fannie Mae, PJ got them the home, and at $30,000 less than they offered.<br /> <br /> More recently, PJ helped another veteran and his family in a difficult situation. The daughter of a veteran contacted PJ; she needed help selling her parents’Home and finding them a new one.<br /> <br /> Shortly after, the veteran found out he had terminal liver cancer.<br /> <br /> “From the time I listed the home to the time everything closed, he only had days to live,” says PJ, “and he gave two dying wishes to me personally. 1. I had to tell him that both the houses had closed and tell him in person. 2. He asked me to help his daughter plan the funeral for him.” <br /> <br /> The veteran wanted a home for his wife to live in and to make sure she was safely moved in before he died. They found a home, but the sellers didn’t want to move out and were stalling, claiming they had 45 days to stay.<br /> <br /> In order to speed up the process, PJ pointed out that 45 days was incorrect, according to the contract. On top of that, she paid for a hotel room for them for three nights, out of her own pocket, so they’d leave.<br /> <br /> The dying man was able to sleep in his new home and see his wife safely moved in. Sadly, PJ’s client died three days before she received her award.<br /> <br /> We are honored to count PJ as a Champion of Home.<br /> <br /> Robyn Webb<br /> <br /> OC Real Estate 411 | Orange County<br /> Years as a REALTOR®: 8<br /> <br /> RObyn Webb understands what it’s like to suffer financial hardship. In 2008, she and her husband lost it all in a bad deal with a homebuilder who was supposed to be building their dream home. To top it off, the deal fell apart and they realized they were broke just as she was giving birth to their third child in the hospital.<br /> <br /> Instead of letting this defeat her, Robyn turned her focus toward helping others, and in the process, she helped bring her own family back from the brink.<br /> <br /> Co-owner of a real estate company with her husband, Robyn Webb decided to specialize in short sales at a time when not many people were doing them.<br /> <br /> Many of the cases she took on were difficult, keeping her up all hours or inspiring her to rise at 4 a.m. so she could be the first person to call a client’s bank on the east coast.<br /> <br /> One couple came to her seeking help with a short sale, but there were numerous problems with the house: two loans, four lien holders, and a next door neighbor who was a sex offender.<br /> <br /> Robyn remembers this case in particular because, as she puts it, “I got a little bit out of control on that one. I was spending so much time on a short sale that was only going to yield about $600 in commission after taxes, but it became a mission of right versus wrong.” <br /> <br /> Eventually, she escalated the case to various higher Departments at Fannie Mae four times, then finally had to escalate to the Treasury Department. “I told the bank they could keep my commission, and to please just approve this,” Robyn says.<br /> <br /> After helping the couple for over a year, a solution was reached. The home closed and the couple’s debt was settled.<br /> <br /> One client came to Robyn in the middle of a foreclosure. She’d already been assigned an auction date and the lender was harassing her, leaving auction letters on her front door, which she tried to rip down quickly before her kids came home. The client recalls, “The moment I spoke with Robyn, I knew I would survive the ordeal. Robyn, above anyone else, deserves this award because she actually had my best interests at heart and this showed through every step of the process.<br /> <br /> She treated me with so much respect and compassion, at a time when I needed it the most.” <br /> <br /> Robyn was able to find a buyer and stop the foreclosure.<br /> <br /> These are only two cases out of the 175 short sales she successfully closed over the years. But working on difficult short sales is just a small part of why Robyn Webb is a Champion of Home.<br /> <br /> In 2011, Robyn wanted to find a way to help people who weren’t good short sale candidates, but still needed assistance. Through relationships and contacts she’d built through the years, Robyn created the non-profit organization, Under Water Home 411. It is funded by her and her husband, Matt Webb, and has helped almost as many people stay in their homes and avoid fraud as Robyn helped through the short sale process.<br /> <br /> We are delighted to honor Robyn as one of our Champions of Home. ®<br /> <br /> Heather Skyler is Senior Editor for California Real Estate magazine.