REALTOR® PROfile - Dominic Pettruzzelli

RE Magazine — Summer 2017

  • Dominic Pettruzzelli
  • Dominic Pettruzzelli and team
  • Dominic Pettruzzelli and team
  • Dominic Pettruzzelli
  • Dominic Pettruzzelli and team

Building success through teamwork… North Puget Sound REALTOR® credits his success to picking the right team.

Dominic Pettruzzelli knows that no man is an island, and he also knows that when those around him are empowered and successful, he is too. “Success through others has been my success,” says Pettruzzelli, a REALTOR® and team leader with Keller Williams Western Realty in Bellingham. The “others” not only include team members and business colleagues—they also include the homeowners and homebuyers that Pettruzzelli helps on a daily basis.

“I see great importance in building net worth through homeownership,” says Pettruzzelli, whose own family faced numerous financial challenges while he was growing up. For this and other reasons, he’s a big proponent of fiscal responsibility, good spending practices, and living within your means. “These are the things that have changed my core, so to speak,” says Pettruzzelli, who has been licensed since 2010.

Rookie of the Year

It didn’t take long for Pettruzzelli’s passion for helping others translate into a successful real estate career. With a 2016 team sales volume of $11.3 million, receiving the 2016 North Puget Sound REALTOR® of the Year award, his appointment as 2016 President for the North Puget Sound Association of REALTORS®, and his appointment as State Director for Washington REALTORS® (2015-2017), this 29-year-old rose up onto the National Association of REALTORS®’ radar screen this year, firmly placing him on REALTOR® Magazine’s 30 Under 30 nomination list for 2017.

Before that, he was named company Rookie of the Year in 2011—an accolade that both humbled and drove Pettruzzelli at the same time.

“Getting that Rookie of the Year award was really exciting,” says Pettruzzelli, “and now with the 30 Under 30 nomination this year, it’s been really great to see the progression of my career.” But as he noted earlier, Pettruzzelli doesn’t claim all of the credit for that career trajectory. In fact, he gives most of it to the team members that he works with on a daily basis at Keller Williams.

Jenna Estefan and Stephanie McNeil, both of whom are licensed, carry much of the workload. Estefan works primarily with buyers and sellers while McNeil coordinates transactions, manages scheduling, and handles other administrative tasks. Heather McNeil joined the team in late-2016 and manages a myriad of responsibilities. Pettruzzelli says his ultimate goal is to have a team where all members make at least $100,000 annually.

That six-figure benchmark circles back to Pettruzzelli’s realization that his success is largely based on the achievements of his team members. “The more that I can focus on their goals, the more mine are naturally going to be ‘checked off.’”

So just how far away is Pettruzzelli from having a full team of six-figure earners? He says that picture is gradually coming into focus. “We’ve come up with steps this year for Jenna to be able to achieve that goal, and there’s a good chance that she’ll get there—or at least very, very close,” says Pettruzzelli. “Then, we’ve laid out plans for Stephanie and Heather to get there within the next couple of years.”

To get there, Pettruzzelli says they’ll continue to utilize systems and tools that help the team work as efficiently as possible. Other strategies include holding one another accountable, he says, and ensuring that everyone is working in the interest of the team (versus just achieving individual goals). As the team leader, Pettruzzelli is also careful to leave “space” for his team members’ success in an industry where it’s all too easy for top brokers to hog the limelight.

“As their bubbles get bigger I need to make sure my bubble gets even bigger so they still have room to grow,” says Pettruzzelli, “and that I’m not holding them back.”

“It Was Just Falling Apart”

One of Pettruzzelli’s favorite deals happened a few years ago when he was working with a pair of buyers who were looking at a waterfront home in Oak Harbor. A bulkhead property whose backside was located about 10 feet away from the ocean, the home was deteriorating and in bad need of repair and rehabilitation. “It was just falling apart,” he recalls. “For the next owner, it was going to be a complete renovation project.”

The buyers that Pettruzzelli was working with were already thinking out of the box, and considering a part-time vacation rental/part-time vacation home setup for the property. They didn’t live far way from it, he says, but thought it would make a “neat getaway.” Working with the buyers, Pettruzzelli came up with a potential rental revenue figure and then estimated the mortgage offset that would come from the rental portion.

That’s when things got scary. “Their cost to renovate almost doubled from what was originally planned,” Pettruzzelli explains. But the buyers stuck with their plan, not really knowing how the beautiful-but-aging piece of property would pay out over time. Their hunch wound up paying off. “Not only did the renovations turn out absolutely incredible, but the vacation rental took off and is raking in about $75,000 a year,” Pettruzzelli says. “It’s covering their mortgage and then some, and is booked out something like two years in advance.”

Those turnaround stories are literally what drives Pettruzzelli to get up and go to work every day, knowing that his advice, expertise, and support make real differences in peoples’ lives. “Seeing just how successful this single deal was for that pair of buyers is very exciting,” he says. “We had our conservative estimates on how everything was going to play out, and those estimates were blown out of the water.”

Giving Real Estate a Shot

Pettruzzelli was just 22 when he hung his license on Keller Williams’ wall, but that doesn’t mean he came into the business without a track record. Prior to getting licensed, in fact, he was working with a liquidation company that focused on purchasing boat manufacturers that were closing up shop during the recession. The company purchased inventory for “extremely cheap,” he says, and then sold it off (mostly online).

One of the liquidation firm’s largest projects involved a Meridian Yachts plant in Arlington, where the manufacturer was building 34- to 58-foot yachts. “The liquidation company bought all of Meridian’s inventory,” says Pettruzzelli, “and I was selling it for them.” Entrepreneurial by nature, Pettruzzelli says he started thinking about how to parlay that sales experience into a real estate career.

“I was thinking, ‘Well, if I can sell all of this stuff, then I can probably sell a house,’” he says, “so I gave it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?” Knowing that the liquidation business had an expiration date (namely driven by overall economic/business improvements), Pettruzzelli began preparing for a transition into real estate.

That decision has paid off well for this ambitious 20-something who enjoys the daily challenges that real estate puts in front of him. “There’s really no limit to what kind of growth you can attain in real estate,” he says. “It’s not a super-technical industry where you need to understand how atoms split. It’s a great opportunity for someone who is willing to work hard and treat people right.”

But that low barrier to entry is also a drawback for reputable brokers who can find themselves co-brokering deals with “fly by night” licensees who don’t always follow the rules or take the time to operate in a trustworthy, reliable manner. Pettruzzelli, who served on the Washington REALTORS®’ Strategic Planning Committee, says he brought that point up at a recent meeting.

“The bar for entry into real estate is very, very low considering that in this state you need 1,900 hours of in-class instruction and testing to be able to cut someone’s hair,” Pettruzzelli points out. “A home is usually someone’s largest financial asset, and if you mess that up you can inflict considerable damage on someone.” The low barrier to entry also creates high turnover among agents, particularly for those that are there to simply test the waters, do a few deals, and then move along to a new opportunity.

“They don’t make enough money so they just get out because they really don’t have much skin in the game to begin with,” says Pettruzzelli. “Yet those few transactions that they did do can negatively impact clients. And that hurts the industry as a whole.”

Asked whether he’s seen any improvements in this situation over the last seven years, Pettruzzelli says the increase in educational requirements for new licensees—from 60 hours to a current 90 hours—was one step in the right direction. But more needs to be done, he says, and “it’s probably not going to change very much anytime soon.”

Combining High-Tech with High-Touch

As a millennial broker, Pettruzzelli knows the value of using technology to reach out to, connect with, engage with, and work with buyers and sellers. Three years ago, for example, his team invested in professional photography and videography equipment that it uses to shoot high-quality images and videos of all of its listings.

“We spent a bunch of money upfront on all sorts of equipment, and then over time we’ve improved that equipment and the related software to meet our needs,” says Pettruzzelli, who also enjoys photography and videography as hobbies. For every listed home, the team creates a full video tour. Using a camera rig that’s situated on a 3-axis gimbal and motorized, they shoot the professional video tours and then use those tours to market the listings online.

“Video is probably one of our more unique marketing strategies, and it’s important because a lot of our business comes through Internet leads (e.g., AdWords, Google, Zillow, etc.),” Pettruzzelli explains, noting that a high volume of clients register on the company’s website. Team members also use online video to communicate directly with prospects. Using BombBomb™ video email, for example, they can easily embed the videos in their online communications.

“In many cases people will ask a lot of questions about a neighborhood, and we can just respond with a quick video,” says Pettruzzelli, who also engages directly with prospects via the web. “We all have webcams on our computers and a quick response time, so people can get to know us.” And while those “virtual” interactions turn into face-to-face meetings, the clients feel like they already know Pettruzzelli.

“I recently had clients fly in from Chicago and say, ‘Dominic, it’s so good to see you again,’” says Pettruzzelli, who had been working with them online for about seven months. “They felt as if they had already met me and known me for this whole time.”

Real Estate has Changed Me

When they’re not busy working with homebuyers and sellers, Pettruzzelli’s team spends at least part of its time giving back to the community that supports it. Working with its local REALTOR® association, for example, it holds charity golf tournaments and encourages agents to participate in “REALTOR® Roundup” luncheons where costs are “rounded up” and donated to charity.

“We organized the Roundup to help make [brokers] in our area more aware of the different groups that our association supports,” says Pettruzzelli. At each luncheon, speakers from the designated groups come in and talk about their organizations and how REALTORS® can get involved.

In 2016, Pettruzzelli’s team started shooting video footage for Habitat for Humanity home-building events as part of Keller Williams’ “Red Day.” In June, they’ll be working on three different house builds for the group and shooting full video of that process. “Our videographer will be there with all of our equipment for the whole day,” Pettruzzelli says. “We’ll interview the brokers who are involved and also different Habitat for Humanity members to help raise public awareness about these very valuable projects.”

As he looks to the future, Pettruzzelli says he plans to continue on his homeownership crusade while ensuring high levels of success for his team members. “When I got into this industry I really didn’t know what to expect, but real estate has changed me,” he says…

“It’s transformed me into someone who isn’t afraid to break through personal barriers, build better relationships, and help others achieve success. It’s all been very rewarding.”



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