TV: This is Tracey Velt, editor of publications for REAL Trends. We partnered with Quantum Digital to give you a peek into the secret lives of real estate, where we pull back the curtain, to share the personal passions, philanthropic efforts, community spirit, and industry insight, from real estate industry leaders, trendsetters, and legends. Today we’re talking to Patti Gibbons, a sales associate with Baird & Warner Real Estate in Downer’s Grove, Illinois. Welcome, Patt.
Patti: Hi, how are you?
TV: I’m doing well. All right, let’s get started. So, Patty, like most successful real estate professionals, you had to start somewhere. So tell me a little bit about how you got into real estate.
Patti: Well, I just retired after 26 years at a career with a special agent in the Department of Justice. I was on vacation with my daughter and her friends and their moms, and one of them had brought their computer. She was a real estate agent, and she sold two houses while we were sitting on the beach. And I said, “Wow. I could do that.” And that’s what got me started. I went home, took the test, and got my license in real estate.
TV: Great. And what year was that?
Patti: It would have been four years ago.
TV: Okay. Wonderful. So again, interesting previous career. So as a special agent with the Department of Justice, tell me a little bit about what you did, and how did you decide on a career as an investigator?
Patti: Well I was one of the fortunate ones, that was my only desire as a career. I had met someone when I was younger growing up who was a special agent. So I only put in one resume, and I got the job. I loved everything about investigating. The adrenaline flow, search warrants, investigations, testifying in court. I really enjoyed the career.
TV: Okay, and tell me a little bit about what that career involves. I mean what were some of the cases you worked on, what were some of the highlights of your career?
Patti: Well I did my whole career here in Chicago, but I worked in various groups. Our main work was working with the local police departments combating guns, and drugs, and gangs. So I did a lot of guns and gangs investigations. But I also had the ability to do some major investigations that were throughout the United States, like the Unabomber case, I worked on that task force here in Chicago. The abortion city– in Atlantic city there was abortion city bombings down there, I went out there to work on that investigation. So it was a wide-ranging—different investigations that I was able to work on.
TV: So tell me what was involved in that, were you out in the field? Tell me some of the experiences that you had.
Patti: Yeah, I did work out in the field. So for the local investigations, gangs and drugs, I did some undercover work trying to buy some guns and drugs off the gang members, which I found very easy. Being a female they all liked to sell to me. I did some investigations where we actually had a shooting occur. We ended up killing the bad guy, but all the good guys were safe, that was a little more of one of the dangerous moments in my career. Working some arson investigations, on-site, that was one of the more enduring ones, because the first arson that I went on, there was a baby who had died in the fire. And unfortunately you couldn’t even tell, it was one of the other fire investigators that had to point that out to me. We did a lot of interviews. That was very intriguing, and I find that has helped me with my new career, is relating and interviewing people.
TV: Right. And so did you ever feel like you were in danger or give me more details. Walk me through some of the times that you– the drug deals you did.
Patti: Well, as most people in this field, we think we’re fearless. We’re never going to die. So no, I didn’t ever feel that way. I’m sure my family did not feel the same, but I felt fearless and that we would win all. It was at the shooting, where it was very close to us, that made me take a pause because I had young daughters at the time. But I thought we were always doing the good for the community, and the good for the city, so that made you feel better at the end of the day.
TV: Oh, great. Well, what about the Unabomber case? Tell me a little bit about what you did with that. And did you make any major discoveries or–
Patti: Me, personally, no. A lot of investigations, you work as a team. So we were on a task force team because the Unabomber case started here. His first bombing was in the Chicago area, so we followed up a lot of different leads. And that’s what a lot of the major investigations you do. It’s tedious to follow up, but are necessary to solve a case. So no, it was no major breakthrough, but being surrounded by the information coming in, and seeing how it unfolded, was very intriguing. A lot of my work, I really couldn’t bring home because as the investigation’s moving on, you really can’t share it. So that was kind of hard because you were excited seeing what was going on, and how things were unfolding. But you really had to keep most of it to yourself.
TV: And did you have a special clearance that you had to have?
Patti: Yes. Yes, we had our special–
TV: Security clearance?
Patti: Yes, security clearance throughout my career. And as I changed different groups, and went into the intelligence group at the end of my career, the security level had to go up, too. So that was interesting.
TV: Yeah. And now obviously, they depict all of this on TV in various ways. What is different from the way they depict it? Is it as exciting as you see on TV or a mix?
Patti: Well, it’s a mix. I could tell you nothing happens as fast as it does on TV. It’s painfully slow in reality. I think we all kind of laugh and chuckle how TV portrays court cases going on and testimony in court. I find that very untrue. But it is exciting. But I think once you go through it, and see how painfully slow it goes, I think that takes away from what you see on TV.
TV: Well, great. Well, tell me a little bit about– were there any cases that really impacted you on a personal and emotional level, and why?
Patti: I refer to that arson scene, the baby that had perished. And then that had really hit home because I had a young baby at the time, so that was very hard. Some of the other ones, professionally, seeing that we could take some criminals off the street and put them away for doing bad things, of being parts of gangs that would kill people and terrorize people, that really did make you feel good. And then that was the reason why you go into this job, was to try to make the world a better place. On a small level, when we would do these investigations, and take them off the street, and follow them through the court process, and see them get found guilty, that really made you feel like you were doing your job.
TV: As you know, real estate is all about building relationships. And I’m sure you’ve made some interesting and inspiring connections along the way. So tell me a little bit about some of the people who inspired you, those you met, who changed your perspective or impacted you. I’m sure you’ve had some mentors in both the DOJ and in real estate.
Patti: Well, sure first most, as always, it was my mother who told me, at a very young age, I could do anything I want. And I took her to heart on that. And so when I went into law enforcement– there’s nobody in my family who ever did law enforcement, so that really came out of the blue for me and my family, but she said I could anything I wanted, and that’s what I wanted to do. So early on you don’t realize you need the help, but there were some females that were bosses above me in the DOJ that really kind of opened the doors and kind of explained how to be a part in a practically all-male world and survive. So that was helpful, to see there was a few female’s ahead of me that I could kind of lean towards and look towards for some help. The relationships in real estate is also important. To get any kind of deal done, you have to build a relationship. And you have that with lenders, and lawyers, and inspectors. So I think, in any kind of career, you need those relationships, and you have to build on them.
TV: Great. So tell me what motivates you every day. What drives you to keep going in real estate?
Patti: Well, like I said, I kind of see real estate being a part of a public service job. People need homes. You want to help them find them. People need to sell their homes, and you want to see them getting the best and fair deals that they can. I really enjoy doing that. I kind of see the same that I did in public service as law enforcement as I’m doing in real estate. What motivates me every morning is being healthy and getting up. I think that’s really important to me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 17 years ago and that kind of changed. So I just look forward to every day getting up and be able to help someone.
TV: That’s great. So I know we’ve talked about you had a couple of aha moments. So tell me a little bit about your aha moments in life.
Patty: Well, as I just mentioned, the breast cancer kind of changed my perspective that you never know how much time you’re going to have. So I try to enjoy it to the fullest, making time for my family, and working to do better every day. In real estate, my aha moment was, obviously on the beach, when I said, “I want to sell houses,” but also, as my career progressed pretty fast– I think I was in the second year, and my business is doing really well, and I’m talking with clients, and they said, “Well, you’re the expert. You tell us.” I’m like, “Wow. I’m the expert now.” So that kind of made me take pause and say, “Hey, you’d really better know what you’re doing if they’re looking at you as being the expert.”
TV: Absolutely. So what do you feel you do best and how do you incorporate that into your business?
Patti: Well, from my last career as law enforcement, I feel that I’m an honest and trustworthy person. And I think that comes out with my clients. I talk and treat each client differently. I’m able to read them. I think a little better than most. I listen to them. As a good interviewer, it’s more about listening than talking, so I think I do that very well. I was at a listing presentation yesterday with a 96-year-old woman. I was talking with her for, oh an hour and a half, two hours, and we really didn’t talk much about her real estate she was trying to sell. I think I come across as genuine and I think I make the clients comfortable, and they like that. I work with a lot of young buyers that are first time buyers, and I think I take the time to really show them and explain to them this process. I really do want them to find a house that they’re going to like and enjoy and now going to be a lemon. So I think, by me treating everybody differently and finding out what their needs are, I think that helps me in my business a lot. And I think a lot of that comes from my interviewing skills as being a law enforcement officer.
TV: Well great. Sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right. So if you could accomplish just one thing this year, personal or professional, what would that be?
Patti: Well, professionally – we had talked before about building relationships, and I have the relationships with the lenders, and the bankers, the attorneys, and inspectors – what I’m looking for now is to build relationships with builders. They’re kind of like nannies. Nobody wants to give up their builder, they want them all to themselves [laughter]. But I have a lot of land for sale, so I need to build relationships with builders. Personally, like everybody, I would like to make one goal of getting better shape. Taking time away from work and just working out a little more.
TV: Yeah. It’s hard to find time for that. So we’re going to wrap up, Patty, and let’s end with something fun. So what are three things you can’t live without, and you can’t mention family or friends?
Patti: Okay. Well, one thing, probably everybody– cliche, but I cannot live without my cell phone. It’s attached to me, and I need it for my friends, family, and for work, and I read my social media, my newspaper, so I need that. I need my Dunkin’ Donuts cup of coffee in the morning. And then I can’t live without my Pinot Grigio at night [laughter].
TV: That’s great. Well, Patty, it was a pleasure speaking with you and thank you so much for pulling back the curtain and showing us your secret life.
Patty: Thank you very much for having me.