Elizabeth, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Acres Homes, on De Priest St. My family was among the first to settle in Acres Homes. Many knew my Dad Chester Watkins because we had a big garden and cows, chickens and even pigs. But most people knew my Dad as the man who would help anyone. He drove a dump truck was always going to pull a car out of a ditch when someone had driven off the road or repair a radiator in his welding shop. My mom Queen Watkins was known for her baking; tea cakes, pound cakes, and her famous coconut cake. She also volunteered for many years at Osborne Elementary School, where my older brother Kenneth, younger sister Merinda, and I attended grade school.
I later went to Fonville Middle School and then the High School for Engineering Professions at Booker T. Washington High School. I graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and minored in Real Estate.
After graduating, I found the computer field saturated with out of work computer programmers, so I began looking at other industries in anticipation of starting my career. During my search, I attended a career fair at U of H for Federal Law Enforcement. I decided to apply for all the agencies as pretty much all needed three things; minorities, females, and Computer Science degrees. I applied with several agencies and had to pass the extensive battery of tests, to include written mental and physical courses. Eventually, I was hired and had to leave my children to attend an even more rigorous training academy. That was very hard for me, as I’d never been away from my parents or my children. But I felt this was an opportunity to give them better options.
At the end of a four-month academy in the Virginia area, I was assigned to Cleveland, OH. I would eventually return to Houston and settle back in the Acres Homes area. After spending another 21 + years in federal government, I retired in 2016 and opened my first real estate office.
My career in real estate began as a real estate investor. I purchased my first home which was a HUD foreclosure in Willow Run. My children and I lived in that home until I relocated to Cleveland, OH. After moving back to Texas in 1998, I knew I wanted to invest in real estate again. I decided to go to real estate school and get my real estate license.
After being asked by friends, family, and others to help them find properties, I realized I enjoyed the customer service side of real estate. It was then that I decided I would transition into real estate full time once I retired from the government.
Since becoming a real estate sales agent in 2006, I’d often dreamed of opening my own office. In 2008, I was awarded my broker’s license, and in 2009, I opened The Watkins Group, as an independent brokerage. About a year before I retired, I begin to search for office space. With the help of the staff at Near Northwest Management District, I found office space at 5450 NW Central Office. I now have four agents and an administrative assistant.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Every career choice has its own set of struggles. For me, it was and still is growing my client base. Because I was not practicing real estate as a full-time agent until last July of 2016, I’ve had to rely on word of mouth referrals and work harder than most to gain exposure in the real estate market. The good thing about that is I have a passion for real estate, so for me, it doesn’t seem like work.
Locating those hard to find properties or selling properties that are unique and take extra effort to find the perfect buyer is what I take the most pride in. In the two years since I’ve retired my client base has more than tripled. Now I get at least 2-3 calls per week of people who want to sell their home or land or purchase a home. These are all referrals from previous clients.
The Watkins Group Realty – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My clients are afforded first-hand knowledge of the Houston-Galveston market, especially the Acres Homes area. I grew up here and have a great sense of pride in our community. My clients don’t have to wonder if I have their best interest at heart, or worry whether or not they’re listing their property at its highest and best value. I still live here, so our property transactions are important to me, as well.
Whether we are selling a property or helping a client buy a property, every client will receive professionally run comparables to let them know what other similar properties are selling for.
We are also well vested in helping families with an inherited property. We work with attorneys who can help families identify and locate heirs, complete heirship affidavits, and assign administrators to the property so that it can be sold.
We help sellers position their properties to get the highest market value by making sure the property is listed at the best price to attract ready buyers. We hire professional photographers to ensure the home is presented in high-quality photos. We advertise the home in both print, social media and other Internet media outlets to ensure the home gets the most exposure. With approval from the client, we also host open houses to advertise the property to potential home buyers and/or investors.
We assist first time buyers to navigate the process of finding a lender, getting loan approval, deciding on a budget and then finding and closing on the home their family will love. We offer seminars on a monthly basis to educate our buyers, sellers, and investors on all aspects of property transactions. These seminars are held in our conference room, and we provide lunch at no cost to the attendees.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The opening of the Home Builders Institute (HBI) School in Acres Homes. As a real estate broker, resident and business supporter of the City of Houston’s Complete Community Program, I was asked to help find a location for the HBI School. The school had to be in Acres Homes and would serve to train young adults in construction carpentry.
After researching the requirements given, I was able to locate the perfect location. After meeting with the City of Houston’s liaison and officers of HBI, I was able to negotiate a commercial lease to everyone’s satisfaction. When the school opened Mayor Sylvester Turner performed a ribbon cutting and the school was open with 14 students.
I also networked with builders and business colleagues in the Houston area to secure on the job training and mentors for the students. I also partnered with my colleague from BankOn and we provided a financial literacy class for the students. We had a very candid discussion about credit, banking, and the home buying process.
We also gave them two books each, the Richest Man in Babylon and Think and Grow Rich as reading material. All the students commented on how much they enjoyed the class and the information given.
As a result, these students will graduate with a very valuable skill set to allow them to enter the job market in construction, with a better understanding of how the banking system works.
- Address: 5450 NW Central Dr.
- Website: www.thewatkinsgroup-tx.com
- Phone: 281-501-2974
- Email: ann(at)thewatkinsgroup-tx(dotted)com
- Instagram: thewatkinsgrouprealty
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheWatkinsGroupRealty
- Twitter: @TWGrealestatetx
Houston, TX 77092