Revolutionizing Real Estate at the Jersey Shore: Q&A with Trish Gesswein

Revolutionizing Real Estate at the Jersey Shore: Q&A with Trish Gesswein

Posted on May 24, 2024

Houwzer is about to transform the real estate landscape in Cape May County, and leading the charge is our broker of record Trish Gesswein. Trish’s extensive market knowledge and commitment to customer service make her the perfect person to introduce Houwzer to the shore.

In this Q&A, Trish touches on her career accomplishments, her time at Houwzer, and why she’s excited to bring Houwzer’s signature service to some of New Jersey's most sought-after areas.


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Jill: Hey Trish, thanks for meeting with me! Why don’t you start off by telling me about your time in real estate as a whole?

Trish: Sure! I’ve been a licensed Realtor since 2006, so I’m actually going on 18 years in October. I’ve always been passionate about real estate, even when I was a kid.

Before working at Houwzer, I worked for a company with a similar model. They had salaried agents plus commission—our setup is much better for sellers, though. The big difference between us and them is that they used to offer a 3% listing, but they’d keep 2% and give 1% to the buyer’s agents.

Jill: You’ve mentioned that that company has since gone out of business. How did you end up finding Houwzer?

Trish: I started with Houwzer 8 years ago this July. I had my son and I decided to stay home and sell real estate part-time.

When it was time for me to get back into real estate full-time, there were no opportunities where I would earn a salary. That was a big sticking point—it was a lot of pressure. If I was going to put my son in child care, I needed to make sure I had a consistent income coming in.

In the Summer of 2016, I went on Indeed and found Houwzer. I was like, “This is too good to be true, I can’t believe this.” This was exactly what I wanted in a position. I already had 10 years of experience and was licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania—it was the perfect fit.

Jill: Houwzer was pretty new in 2016—you got in early!

Trish: I was employee number 9, which is crazy to me because we've grown so much since then! I started as a buyer’s agent in Pennsylvania. That December, we opened up our NJ office and I became the first NJ agent. I transitioned over to a listing agent, which has always been my passion.

The first year I was with Houwzer, I was getting a lot of for sale by owners—our model really fit for them. I got around 10 listings in one neighborhood just from a sign that was out. One of those clients was like, “Thank God I found you and your company, I would’ve lost so much money on this home.” 

He was really grateful—I’m actually still friends with him.

From there, I was starting to get a lot of referrals. I had one client see our [for sale] sign, contact me, and then end up referring me to five other families in that neighborhood. It was amazing how there was initially zero presence in NJ and we just started expanding.

Jill: It sounds like you really hit the ground running. How many homes did you end up closing in your first year? 

Trish: My first year [with Houwzer] I closed 40 homes. I had never closed that many houses in a year—it was really exciting. We ended up hiring more agents for the Philly area and I was covering all of South Jersey and Bucks County.

People started learning about us and we really started gaining presence. I was still working hard trying to find business, but the phone was ringing off the hook. I was meeting fire inspectors, doing whatever I needed to do for my clients. I almost doubled my amount of sales in my second year—I closed 75 homes. People were ecstatic!

My third year, I actually sold 80 houses. I was up at 5:30 every morning and didn’t stop working until 9 at night, 7 days a week. I was exhausted, but I loved it and was so passionate about helping people that I didn’t think twice about it. 

Shortly after, I was asked to become the broker in New Jersey. It was something that I had always wanted to do, but I was finally given the opportunity. 

Jill: I don’t know how you could've kept up with the number of houses you were selling. That’s an insane amount, Trish!

Trish: We had friendly competition! I was the only female listing agent at that time—all the boys were trying to keep up with me, but they couldn’t. It kept us motivated. We’d come into the office and be like, “Who’s at the top of the board?” One week Howard squeaked by me and I thought to myself, “Nuh-uh. I gotta pick up my phone and get back on my A game.”

Jill: Being from Jersey myself, I know that type of volume usually comes with accolades. Could you tell me about a few of the awards you’re most proud of?

Trish: The first 2 years I was with Houwzer, I was the company’s listing agent of the year. I worked really hard and went out there and hustled, so to get the recognition for that was so cool. 

I was also recognized at something called the breakfast of champions—anyone that did a certain amount of volume was invited by the real estate association in South Jersey. Little did I know, I had actually won their Superstar Award! That meant that for the last quarter of 2017, I had the most sales volume of any listing agent in Burlington, Gloucester, and Camden counties. I got the superstar award for 2 quarters after that—nothing that I had ever expected to happen. It was a whirlwind.

Once I became a broker, the association was like, “Oh, sorry, you can’t get these awards anymore”. I was fine with it—I was happy to take being a broker over getting my Superstar Awards. 

Jill: As a broker you were still eligible for the NJ Circle of Excellence Awards, right?

Trish: Yes! My first full year with Houwzer, I got the NJ Circle of Excellence Silver Award. In 2018, 2019, and 2020, I was Platinum.

Jill: 2020? That’s even more impressive considering what was going on with lockdowns.

Trish: So in January 2020, I was promoted to the listing sales manager for our Philadelphia team. And then March 13th, 2020 hit…

The governor of Pennsylvania decided nothing could be done in person after a certain date. It was like survival mode. I was working just as much as I was before, but it was like being a therapist for the agents on my team. I was guiding them through, overcommunicating, doing whatever I could to support them. On top of that, I still closed 50 deals in 2020.

Once things opened back up, we did great. In January 2021, I was promoted to the overall director of listing sales. One of our other Philly agents stepped into my old role, we had our sales manager in the DMV, and we had a new market manager down in Florida.

Jill: And all this time you were still living in Jersey, right?

Trish: I was born and raised in NJ. I'm a Jersey girl through and through. I love the fact that we’re close to 2 cities but can also go down the shore or go to Great Adventure. Jersey tomatoes and corn are amazing, which a lot of people don’t realize.

I went to college at the University of Maryland and came back because Jersey is my home. Until I retire, I can’t picture myself being anywhere but Jersey.

And of course, I love the fact that we don’t have to pump our own gas!

Jill: How would you say Cape May County compares to other shore areas in Jersey?

Trish: The whole Jersey shore is nice but that area is just absolutely beautiful. I love Cape May, Stone Harbor, Cape May Court House…we used to go to the zoo with my family, we’ve taken the ferry which was cool, the food is amazing. The charm of Cape May…you just don't see that elsewhere. You go to Seaside and it’s crazy, but Cape May is like this hidden gem that’s tucked all the way down in South Jersey.

The county is very close-knit, everyone kinda knows each other. Mike [Houwzer’s CEO] is from Cape May Court House and he knows everyone down there. I've sold a lot in that area.

Jill: I know the real estate market is unique down there. Could you speak to that a bit?

Trish: I’ve sold all over the state at this point. It’s different in each part of the state—north Jersey is all about attorneys, South Jersey isn’t, and the shore uses attorney-drawn contracts. A lot of things are done in-house, which is different than other areas of Jersey.

For one of our recent listings, I had put the sign up around 5pm and almost immediately got a call. I already had an offer by 10pm that same night—it was insane. I thought to myself, “It’s a 6.5 million dollar property and you didn't even look at it!” And then [the buyer’s agent] sends me this offer for $50k over asking price.

I’m glad we’re launching at the shore because we can really save sellers a lot of money—I mean, we’re charging 1% while the traditional agents are still charging what they always have. We put up a sign, it sold within hours, and I’m doing work for it but there’s no reason I should be charging those high commissions. I was surprised to see that all the multi-million dollar properties are still charging higher percentages.

Jill: We know agents do a lot of work, but sellers spending like $300,000 in commissions? That’s an entire house in other areas of the state. It’s unbelievable!

Trish: It is, it really is. I've always said that we need to get down the shore. I’ve been saying this since the beginning, we just didn’t have the resources to until now.

I’m so excited to be able to expand down there and show that we can save sellers a lot of money that they can use for their next investment or their next property. Definitely excited to have a presence down there, especially with Mike being local. I know this is something that he’s always wanted. We’re trying to get everything in place so we can be fully equipped to help out in that market.

Jill: Being from Jersey, I agree that the shore is a great opportunity—but you have to do it right.

Trish: Right. And now we’re in a great position, 8 years later. I’m feeling really excited about it and I think we’re gonna do great down there. We’ve had wonderful experiences and most of the houses down there sell quickly. It’s very desirable—people go on vacation, fall in love with the beauty of the area, and decide to buy a house.

Jill: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Trish! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Trish: Houwzer’s been a dream come true, I’ve been saying it from the beginning. I really think we’re the wave of the future, especially with what’s going on [in the real estate industry]. I have agents calling me all the time because they know we’re in a position to thrive. We’re one of the only companies that aren't part of the [NAR] lawsuit because we’ve never inflated commissions. We’ve always been transparent about what were charging, and our fees were always a lot less than other agencies—but we still provided that full service.

I’m so proud of being a top agent, but also proud of saving clients money. There was an article written about me a few years ago saying that I saved over a million dollars in commissions for our sellers. I love being able to help people, and I know the industry isn’t like it was when I started 18 years ago.

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