Dreams are delicate things—vibrant and compelling, but so easily lost. Sometimes, it seems that dreams belong almost exclusively to the young and, as time goes by, we lose the knack for them, leaving them behind bit by elusive bit. But Edgar and Melanie Rodriguez disagree. They spend their days realizing dreams—their own and their clients’–facilitating and encouraging with sensitivity and expertise, all the while living up to their business name: My Dream Home In Orlando. After all, as realtors in one of the most active markets in the country, they help people buy and sell homes, but more than anything else, they help people articulate and achieve dreams.
“Edgar and I are really intentional about spending time with people,” Melanie says. “We sit with them at their kitchen table and get to know them—find out their motivation, find out about their background, find out about their children, find out about what brought them to the decision to sell or to buy.” They know that houses are more than sticks and bricks. “A house isn’t just four walls. It’s where you live, love, and do your life. It’s an emotional process and it’s rewarding when they invite you into their life to do that with them.”
“We start off with, ‘What’s your dream home? If you could have everything you want, what would it be?’ They get that opportunity to dream, that opportunity to communicate what they really want. Then, when you get out and start looking at houses, you find it’s got to be a give and a take. Maybe they don’t need a $50,000 swimming pool or three acres—who’s going to cut the grass anyway? You find out what’s realistic and fits in their budget and nine times out of ten, they realize that what they got was what they really wanted anyway.”
Of course, everyone doesn’t expect home buying to be that personal. “Sometimes, someone will just Google it, find the person who has the best ratings, then just call and say ‘I already know how to do all this because I learned it online and all I need you to do is write the contract.’ So we let them believe that, but we still make them sit down at the kitchen table and have that conversation and at the end of the day you always hear, ‘Well, this was really wonderful. It was a great experience, not at all what I thought it was going to be like.”
The Rodriguezes are in a unique position to do this. Not only do they live in Central Florida, a region to which 1500 people per week relocate, but their own backgrounds represent the people they serve. Edgar is Venezuelan, and understands well the problems and expectations of Florida’s large incoming Hispanic population. Melanie grew up in Lakeland and is a native Floridian, which gives her a solid hand on the local pulse in a place where almost everyone originates from somewhere else. They work together as a complimentary team, Edgar’s easy, outgoing nature meshing well with Melanie’s organization and attention to detail.
“It may sound cheesy, but we genuinely love what we do. We keep it foremost in our minds, like ‘We’re going to help someone this weekend.’ That’s our driving force. Who can we help and how can we make it fun?” To do this, they spend a significant amount of time in activities geared to helping rather than direct components of the selling process. “I don’t know if it’s because we have a different worldview because we’re a multicultural team, but I think there’s a stereotype that when you meet someone who’s emigrated, you assume they don’t have money, they don’t have a credit score, they don’t have the means and I’m not going to waste my time. But we really try to tell people how to rebuild their credit and if we can’t help them, we have a credit repair company we work side by side with who will teach them. We hold buyer and seller seminars, mostly done in Spanish, to educate them and let them know, ‘Listen, this is a possibility. Don’t believe you can’t do it.’ And it works.
Melanie recalls one particular situation when she felt like part of something very special. “There are so many stories, but last year, I met a lady who randomly called me saying, ‘I’m on disability, my husband and I are separated, I have three kids and one of them is disabled.’ She’s telling me this horrible story and she really just wanted a place to rent.” After meeting her, having coffee, and listening to her story, Melanie realized that not only did she make enough money to buy a home, but that it didn’t sound like her marriage was truly over. “Within two weeks, she and her husband got back together and I got her approved for a loan and they bought their first house. She cried the whole entire closing, she cried the whole time I was at her house bringing her a housewarming gift, and to this day I call her every couple of months and every single time she tells me, ‘I can’t believe you actually showed me that I could own a home.’”
The root of the Rodriguezes’ desire to help comes organically from their background. After spending eight years working throughout Latin America with an international, non-profit organization called CRU, some days during which they lived on little more than faith, they understand what it is to have few resources and fewer options. As a result, they’ve learned to share their good fortune. They return 15% of each sale they make to an organization determined by their client’s own associations and experience. “We learned a long time ago that it’s relationships over transactions.”
Their relationship with Northgate is no exception. Their association came about when Edgar and Melanie realized that their business was changing in ways they weren’t equipped to provide. “Edgar and I needed help figuring out branding and logos and social media. We were stuck in a rut and couldn’t find our North.” Northgate began by renaming the business and redesigning the logo, but did more. “The process of the questions David asked and the process he walked us through revived and excited us and made us feel ownership.” Northgate is now revamping their social media presence.
For now, Melanie sees a bright future. We may have a global pandemic, but “it’s not a real estate pandemic.” She remembers that Edgar, when he served as Latin American Project Manager for Languages for CRU, learned to forge relationships and to “put the puzzle pieces together to make things happen.” As a couple, they still do the same thing—they “take a dream and figure out how to put the puzzle pieces together to make it come to fruition.” Not a bad day’s work.