Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 5, 2020

Carrasquillo still helping clients, only now as a Realtor

Jessica Carrasquillo is a residential Realtor with Keller Williams Realty Greater Chattanooga. She became an agent after working as a federally accredited Social Security disability representative for 28 years. - Photograph provided

Unlike Realtors who become agents because they love houses or want a better life, Jessica Carrasquillo began selling real estate by request.

At the time, Carrasquillo was working as a federally accredited Social Security disability representative at the Cleveland-Bradley Business Incubator. In this role, she helped to secure government benefits for clients who were unable to work.

As Carrasquillo assisted individual clients for up to three years, she would come to know them on a personal level and, in time, consider them to be friends.

“People in that situation are frustrated because they had a career and are now very ill and can’t work, and it’s a long process to get on disability,” she says. “During that time, you form a relationship with them, and you almost become like family. You understand their pain and really want to help them.”

The industrious Carrasquillo also flipped and sold houses to earn additional income. When her clients learned about her side gig, they began to ask her to help them sell their homes as well.

At first, Carrasquillo turned them down and referred them to a Realtor. But as more of her clients sought her help with their real estate needs, she reconsidered her position. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, Jessica, why don’t you get your license?’” she recalls.

Six years later, Carrasquillo is riding the wave of her best year of selling homes. Even the coronavirus has failed to slow her.

“April was my best month in real estate,” she says, her enthusiasm evident as she speaks by phone from her home in Ooltewah.

Carrasquillo credits her current success to her move last year from a brokerage in Cleveland to Keller Williams Realty Greater Chattanooga. There, her productivity coach, Realtor Lisa Padgett, helped to spark an 85% jump in her business.

“The accountability made a difference,” Carrasquillo says. “I set goals during weekly sessions with a group of agents and then spoke with Lisa once a week on the phone. She held me accountable to the goals I had set.”

The bilingual Carrasquillo says she also owes her success to her deep ties to the local Hispanic community, which she formed while doing disability work.

“My M.O. was to come from a point of contribution,” she explains. “People have enough to deal with when they’re sick, so I would ask my clients, ‘What can I do for you? How can I help you make this transition?’

“Having a servant’s mentality helped me to established relationships with people who then knew I would help them with whatever they were going through.”

Two generations of one Hispanic family relied on Carrasquillo to guide them through both the disability and real estate mazes. After securing benefits for the mother, she helped the woman’s son purchase his first home. Two years later, he and his wife sold the house and bought another one.

“Real estate is about caring about people and understanding where they are in life,” Carrasquillo adds. “Someone might be selling their home because their spouse passed away, or because they’re starting a new life, and you have to be able to navigate those situations and not allow the transaction to be about you.”

The pandemic has presented Carrasquillo with even more opportunities to operate within her “M.O.” For instance, instead of focusing on lead generation, she’s been making care calls to her special-needs clients.

“I ask, ‘What can I do for you? Is someone picking up your prescriptions? Do you need groceries delivered to you?’ I can’t do that for everyone, but I’m putting myself out there. Most of the time, people say they don’t need anything, but the phone call makes a difference.”

Carrasquillo might be forgetting to mention some of the other factors that have perhaps helped her to succeed, including what appears to be a strong work ethic and marketing savvy that opens enviable doors.

For example, while raising two sons as a single mother, Carrasquillo left the comfortable confines of a Cleveland law firm and the security of a regular paycheck to start her own disability business. “I wanted to treat clients differently,” she says.

Carrasquillo launched this endeavor – Social Security Advocates – at the incubator with a $500 investment. Even though she didn’t break even for six months, she persevered and found resourceful ways to promote her business, such as making public service announcements about disability benefits.

Eventually, Carrasquillo became a well-known local authority on the subject, with regular, long-running appearances on local radio and television shows, including “This & That” on WTVC and “3 Plus You” on WRCB.

She entered the real estate arena part time in 2014 at the behest of her disability clients. After juggling both businesses for three years, impending changes in disability convinced her to commit to real estate full-time.

Carrasquillo hasn’t looked back since. Instead, she concentrates on helping her buyers and sellers look forward.

“I try to give my clients a vision of what their life is going to be like, whether they’re sellers who are downsizing or relocating, or first-time homebuyers who don’t have a clue about what to do with a house,” she says. “And I absolutely love it.”

Carrasquillo speaks with an Hispanic accent that’s as evident as her enthusiasm for real estate. Born in Puerto Rico to a pair of New Yorkers, she grew up in Orlando, where she developed a love for H2O that persists today.

“This Florida girl needs water,” she says with a laugh. She then adds that her favorite leisure time activities involve traveling and spending time on an ocean, lake or river.

Carrasquillo’s first career started to take shape when she interned at a public defender’s office while in high school. After the firm hired her, she earned a paralegal degree and then went to work for a different firm that handled Social Security disability claims.

Carrasquillo and her first husband eventually moved to Cleveland, where she initially served as an administrator for Christian musician Phil Driscoll and Mighty Horn Ministries. She returned to the disability field when she joined the law firm of Logan-Thompson in Cleveland.

“I loved seeing someone who had no hope get something for which they had worked so long,” she points out.

Carrasquillo’s long journey as a single mother is over now that her sons are in their twenties and she’s remarried. She and her husband, David Fields, tied the knot in March at a courthouse after the pandemic forced them to cancel the wedding they’d planned.

Carrasquillo isn’t complaining, though, even though marrying Fields made her an instant stepmom to four teenagers. Instead, she’s loving her new family and looking forward to when she and her husband can throw a wedding and celebrate their union with family and friends.

In the meantime, Carrasquillo and Fields are planning to form a real estate team at Keller Williams, and she’s spending time “giving back” as a member of the board of the Cleveland-Bradley Business Incubator.

“I love helping others achieve their dreams, whatever they are,” Carrasquillo says. “Helping someone’s business succeed boosts the local economy and allows us all to thrive.”

It’s just another way in which Carrasquillo operates in her “M.O.”