Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 17, 2021

Enjoying freedom to work more?

Realtor Koszarek thrives on on-call nature of hot RE market

Celina Koszarek is a residential Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center. She says days off are a rarity but she enjoys working nonstop. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Realtor Celina Koszarek (“Celina K” to people who know her personally) is no stranger to hard work. Twelve-hour days and seven-day weeks are the norm for her.

If Koszarek, 51, isn’t driving to view a house for a buyer who’s working, or pouring over the minutiae of multiple contracts, or closing her nth house of the month, she’s taking calls from people who are relocating to Chattanooga, pumping out social media content, or keeping a close eye on the market.

And she thought she worked hard when she was in retail.

“I outworked everyone. Even the kids. I didn’t know when to stop,” Koszarek recalls.

Now Koszarek doesn’t know when to put her phone down, she says – even when she’s cooking or allegedly relaxing.

“I’ll be sitting on my couch, and my French bulldog will try to knock my phone out of my hand. I need to learn to be done, but it’s hard because I love what I do.”

Koszarek says this level of intensity is necessary in the current market. With houses still being snapped up like popcorn on movie night, agents need to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond, she claims.

“When a house becomes available, you have to be ready to go. Fortunately, I can do that.”

With all of this in mind, it’s a good thing Koszarek enjoys her work.

“I love everything about real estate. It’s life changing for people, and I like being a part of the process. It’s not always fun, but I stick with my clients through thick and thin.”

The thick would be the days Koszarek receives a call out of the blue from a fellow agent who says, “The other deal fell through and we’d like to accept your bid.” The thin would be the weeks upon weeks she’s fought to secure a home for first-time buyers, only to come up empty.

The key in both circumstances is a blend of luck and persistence, Koszarek notes. In the first case, she didn’t have to prepare a new offer (this was lucky); in the second, she eventually placed the young couple in new construction (this was due to her persistence).

The one thing both scenarios have in common is buyers. Although Koszarek does list homes and has worked for commercial clients, her preference is residential buyers.

Buyers are also Koszarek’s bread and butter. She recently closed five homes for buyers within a small window of time and is on course to hand house keys to three first-time buyers this month.

Koszarek says she didn’t rely on luck and persistence to serve these clients; rather, she negotiated aggressively.

The results were favorable, she adds.

“I haven’t had a situation where we’ve had to bid high or go over the list price. I’ve been fortunate.”

If Koszarek has a universal piece of advice for her clients, it’s to not allow the current feeding frenzy to draw them into a bidding war but to find a home they can purchase for close to its fair market value.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so don’t pay an inflated price for a home. Its value might drop slightly instead of increase and you’ll end up losing money or being upside down on your mortgage.”

Given how much Koszarek appears to enjoy talking shop, it’s hard to imagine her doing anything but real estate. But even though she began dreaming about becoming a Realtor in her twenties while living in Florida, she didn’t take the leap until her late forties after moving to Chattanooga.

Instead, Koszarek labored in a variety of jobs, some of which she loved (such as working for a dental practice that served over 100 patients a day), and some of which she loathed (such as the retail job she held for five years in Chattanooga).

Whenever Koszarek would grouse about her work, her husband would remind her about her dream. But the more years she added to her years, the more intimidating real estate seemed.

“When you reach a certain age, change is intimidating. I would think, ‘What if I’m not good at real estate? What if it’s too hard for me?’ It was easier to stay in the grind than go for it.”

When a car accident sidelined Koszarek from her retail position (she says another driver struck her vehicle from behind, causing a debilitating back injury), her husband once again reminded her about her desire to become a Realtor.

She finally listened, she says.

“He works in IT at Miller & Martin, so he’s smart,” Koszarek says. “But more than that, I loved that he was still encouraging me after all the years of me putting it off.”

Once Koszarek became licensed in Tennessee and Georgia in 2019 and interviewed several brokers, she settled on Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center.

“When I met [principal broker] Susan Jensen, I fell in love with her. I told her, ‘This is it.’ It felt like home. It was comfortable.”

Koszarek says Jensen and the other agents at the company’s Brainerd office were tremendously supportive as she learned the ropes of the business and have taught her many things.

But she still hasn’t learned how to put down her phone.

“It’s just my husband, a 175-pound great Dane, a 30-pound French bulldog and me. My daughter is working on her master’s degree at [the University of Alabama at Birmingham]. So I’m free to do what I want. But I really do need to learn how to turn off work.

“I just love what I do. Now that I’ve finally become a Realtor, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”