Tammy Adams - REALTOR® PROfile Spring 2017

Realtor Tammy Adams on Pier

Olympia REALTOR® and third-generation real estate broker comes full circle to share stories of success and family. After exploring her options in Montana and California, this third-generation broker returns home to Olympia to join her family’s successful real estate office.

Tammy Adams may have been running around her family’s real estate office as a toddler, overhearing the details of the latest home sale and inadvertently learning what terms like MLS and escrow meant, but that doesn’t mean this third-generation real estate broker had her career path carved out for her. In fact, it was quite the contrary. Unlike some family-owned firms, where the segue into work, career, and ownership seems both clear and predetermined, Dennis Adams pushed his daughter to explore other opportunities before joining the team at Virgil Adams Real Estate in Olympia.

“I grew up in the office, where one of my first jobs was ‘weekend secretary,’” recalls Adams. “I always knew that I wanted to get into real estate, but my dad didn’t want me to make that move right away.” After attending Western Washington University and then graduating from Central Washington University with a degree in marketing and purchasing management, Adams ventured out in search of new horizons and opportunities.

“My dad wanted me to get out and use my education, get a work ethic, and figure out what made me tick,” says Adams, who has been licensed since 2006. “Basically, he really didn’t want me to get licensed until I was 30 years old.” But little did he know, Adams’ real estate roots had already been sown back in Olympia, where she absorbed just enough knowledge and expertise to have a head start. Still, Adams followed her father’s advice and went to work for a large, locally-owned retail firm in Washington.

“I was opening new stores for them and doing quite a bit of their purchasing and marketing work,” says Adams, who later worked as an in-house procurement professional for an aeronautics manufacturer in Montana. From there, she moved to California and decided to go back to her roots and get into residential, ranch, and investment real estate sales. “I decided that I didn’t care if I wasn’t 30 yet; I wanted my real estate license,” says Adams. “I was ready for a fresh start, and I had waited long enough.”

Realtor Tammy Adams in front of a bright mural

Surviving the Crash
Anyone who has been in the real estate market for more than 10 years remembers the mid-2000s with not-too-fond memories. And while states like Washington managed to somewhat hold their own during the tumultuous financial and real estate crisis, California’s market didn’t fare as well. According to Adams, her new career started out smoothly—that was, until the state’s real estate market tanked. “I started out doing administrative work for a franchise company with the goal of getting to know the market and the people better,” says Adams, who, upon meeting Jim and Jo Cates of PMZ Real Estate in Oakdale, Calif., decided to join their team. “They offered me a better split and really brought me up and showed me the ropes. Even today, they’re like my second set of parents.”

While working for PMZ, Adams was representing buyers and sellers, and specializing in ranchettes, ranches, residential, and investment properties. She credits the Cates with helping her lay down a solid foundation for a successful career in real estate. “They had my back through it all, even when I was working with business agents who weren’t easy to deal with,” says Adams. “They’re top producers, so I got to learn a lot of the tricks of the trade from them.”

From the Cates, Adams says she also learned the value of strong and consistent community involvement. In Oakdale, for example, she was an active member of both the chamber of commerce and the rotary club. “I joined every stinking club possible—even the Cowboy Museum—in order to get out and meet new people and find new clients,” says Adams. “Before I knew it, I’d be out with the Cates and I wound up knowing more people around town than they did.”

Tammy Adams in front of house with blue door

Going Home
It took a major life transition for Adams to realize that it was time to go home and work for the business that her grandfather, Virgil Adams, had founded in 1971. Having moved to California with her husband (who was a rancher), Adams found herself in the middle of a separation and in need of a new direction at the end of 2010. “I picked up everything and moved back to Washington,” says Adams, “right around the time that the market was tanking here in Olympia.”

If nothing else, Adams says re-starting her real estate career in unfavorable conditions taught her how to work harder and persevere in tough times. For example, she turned to the short sales experience she’d accumulated in California and became the “go to” person in her office for homeowners dealing with financial difficulties. “No one here had dealt with short sales yet,” says Adams, “but I had already gone through the trials and tribulations of dealing with those types of transactions.”

Even more heartwarming was the welcome that Adams received when she returned to Olympia to work at her family’s business, where three different sets of brokers are now second-generation brokers within the company itself. “Coming back here, I was really worried about the big shoes that I had to fill and about the pressure that was on me to become yet another top producer,” says Adams, whose fears were quickly quelled once she got her new business up and running.

“We have so many well established brokers here, it’s truly a privilege—and not just a rite of passage—for me to be able to work here,” says Adams. “It was such a breath of fresh air to see how excited everyone was to see me and to get to know the office on a completely different level.”

Navigating Market Dynamics
When she joined her family’s business, Adams also brought an infusion of new energy and ideas she’d learned from her past educational and work experience. “We updated the office, redid the company’s website, and got everything a bit more ‘up-to-date,’ if you will,” says Adams. “The brokers here loved the facelift, and my dad still laughs about how I came home and started spending all of the company’s money.”

But that doesn’t mean everything is easier. As market dynamics go, the fact that things have shifted in favor of sellers, for instance, translates into lower inventory levels and fewer properties for buyers to choose from. It also means there are more bidding wars and less time to make solid buying decisions, for fear of losing out on that “perfect” home or piece of land. “Clients get pretty frustrated when you can’t find them homes,” says Adams, who spends much of her time educating buyers and sellers on the ins and outs of current marketplace dynamics.

“I tell them to take a deep breath and encourage them to listen to me,” Adams says. When working with buyers, for example, she stresses the importance of mortgage pre-qualification before taking them out to see homes. “No one will even look in your direction right now if you’re not a strong buyer,” says Adams. “The market is just too competitive. If you don’t jump on the house you want right away, you’re going to lose it. Plain and simple.”

"I Love That Feeling"
In pondering her successful, 11-year-long (and counting) career in real estate, Adams says she’s most fond of the long-standing relationships that Virgil Adams Real Estate has in the community where the company got its start 46 years ago. “We know so many people, it’s just incredible,” says Adams. “I can’t walk into a restaurant or a grocery store here without having at least one conversation with someone that I know. I love that feeling.”

And even in a world where digital and mobile communications have replaced the face-to-face meetings and phone calls, Adams says she truly built her business on personal contact and regular community involvement. “In today’s age, both of these things tend to get overlooked; people are losing track of their personal relationships,” Adams points out.

“When you can sit down and have a conversation with someone at a fundraiser, an association meeting, or even at the local coffee shop, it means a lot more than those random contacts you get through a site like Zillow,” Adams continues, “where if you don’t answer within five seconds, they move onto the next agent.”

Adams says personal contact also counts within the real estate industry itself, where Olympia’s top brokers are both competitors and colleagues. For example, she says getting to know the brokers she’s working with on specific deals pays off when those transactions get complicated, or when the deals themselves start to unravel at the 11th hour. “If you already have the relationships with those real estate brokers or service providers,” she says, “it makes it so much easier to work through the challenges. Ultimately, everybody works together just a little bit better and a little bit harder.”

Of course, social networking and website marketing are also important to Adams, who says that if you don’t keep your face in front of everyone, “people will kind of forget what you do for a living.” Her favorite online marketing tools include Facebook and Instagram, both of which provide a “fun” outlet for sharing information, communicating with other agents, and even “stalking” brokers in Seattle, Bellevue, and California. “They’re ahead of us, so I like to see what they’re doing,” says Adams. “Then, I work it backwards and try to figure out how we can use those strategies in our market.”

Tammy Adams on a pier with Olympic Mts & Puget Sound Behind her
Feeling the Love
For a boutique office that has just 16 team members, Virgil Adams Real Estate stands tall in its community and is consistently in the MLS’ “Top Five” for sales for her area. Adams says that success can be traced back to her grandfather, who was involved in a large number of real estate developments in the Olympia area. To date, the brokerage has taken part in 44 different developments, many of which Adams remembers fondly. “As a little girl in pigtails, my grandpa brought me around to all of his developments,” she says. “One of my summer jobs was to count trees for a report that was turned in to the county, indicating which ones we could and couldn’t remove.”

Today, Adams says a steady stream of visitors, past clients, and prospective customers crosses the threshold of Virgil Adams Real Estate’s downtown office on a daily basis. Some are there to swap stories and reminisce about the past while others are there to find the home of their dreams. “We’ve been in the same location forever, and I absolutely love to hear the stories about my grandfather and how he paved the way for us by setting up shop here,” says Adams. “It really warms my heart to know we’ve played such a pivotal role in so many people’s lives.”  

To brokers who are looking for new ways to bridge relationships with clients and maintain an “old school” approach to a “new school” business, Adams says her best advice is to not ever lose track of the value of strong, solid relationships. “Basic things like face-to-face contact and regular follow-ups mean a lot,” she says. “Make sure everyone is taken care of and they’ll take care of you. It’s as simple as that.”


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