The preamble to the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice begins with a line that reads like it could have been lifted from novelist John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath:”
“Under all is the land.”
The NAR website says this poetic pronouncement “indicates the all-encompassing nature of real estate” and “embodies the idea that land is the foundation of food, shelter and sophisticated aspects of economy.”
The notion that land is the bedrock of prosperity in the U.S. resonates on a personal level with Realtor Diana Seavey, 57, because of her father, Harold Graham.
Graham grew up the son of a sharecropper who had lost his property to misfortune and wound up tending the same soil for the new owner. When Graham reached his early twenties, he purchased his first house and, in the words of Seavey, “worked, worked, worked, worked, worked” as he taught himself carpentry.
Seavey, who grew up in South Florida and worked as an early childhood teacher before she sold houses, can still remember what her father would say as he was passing on the wisdom the land had given him.
“I watched my dad design and build things out of wood and sacrifice and save money to buy land and houses,” she says. “He told me storms and disasters could take away the structures but the land would always remain.
“The words ‘Under all is the land’ remind me of the lessons my parents taught me about real property and the value of homeownership.”
A 13-year Realtor with Crye-Leike in Ooltewah, Seavey has adopted the NAR’s preamble as her pledge to her customers. She says buying a home is more than a financial transaction, it’s the bedrock of her clients’ prosperity, and she tackles each home purchase or sale with the same fervor she saw in her father:
She works, works, works, works, works.
Seavey’s diligence persisted when the coronavirus brought the world to a halt. Instead of hitting the pause button, she doubled down on her Realtor education.
“When COVID-19 hit, five of my contracts immediately fell apart. Nobody knew how to do anything. So, I took every class and earned every designation I could.”
With a few clacks of a keyboard, Seavey loads her business website (dianaseavey.crye-leike.com) on a mounted monitor in her office and scrolls down to a cluster of colorful logos, each of which indicates her successful completion of a course or endorsement.
Included are the emblems for the At Home With Diversity certification, the NAR’s Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) endorsement, the Certified Residential Specialist designation, the Graduate Realtor Institute designation, the Pricing Strategy Advisor certification and more.
While these qualifications allow Seavey to add a long string of letters after her name on her business card, they’re more than the ingredients for an impressive alphabet soup. Rather, Seavey says each one has positively impacted her personally and professionally.
Seavey says earning the At Home With Diversity certification was an especially affecting experience, as it taught her not just how to avoid statements and behaviors other might consider to be discriminatory but to also be more open-minded and sensitive to various cultures and ethnicities.
“South Florida was a melting pot,” she says. “Our neighbors would invite us over, and one would serve Puerto Rican food, another would serve Cuban food and another would serve Haitian food. I didn’t grow up seeing people as being different from each other. But I also had many assumptions that were wrong.
“So that course was huge for me. It expanded my understanding beyond my personal experiences.”
While At Home With Diversity touched Seavey personally, she says the Pricing Strategy Advisor certification has given her a business edge in the still-hectic residential market.
According to Seavey, the course teaches agents how to price homes appropriately – a task she says is more challenging now than it has been since she became a licensed agent in 2003.
Instead of taking houses that have sold in the last six months into account when pricing a listing, Seavey focuses on houses that have sold in the last month to allow for recent fluctuations.
“I wait until just before I list a house to set the price so the seller won’t leave any money on the table,” she explains. “The market sometimes changes daily, so I need to keep a finger on the pulse of recent sales so I can adjust the price accordingly – if the seller agrees.”
While this tactic usually places Seavey’s listings slightly below the highest prices in the neighborhood, she says her clients are usually “shocked” at how much their house is worth after she does her research.
“When I told the seller of the last house I listed how much her home was worth, she said, ‘No way.’ And when I came back the day before we listed it and said, ‘We need to go up $10,000,’ she again said, ‘No way!’”
Seavey was just as surprised when a friend told her teachers make good Realtors and suggested she switch professions. Drawn to the idea of helping people achieve homeownership, Seavey worked as her friend’s assistant for a brief time and then shifted to Prudential RCR after becoming licensed.
Seavey’s early days in the business were the definition of a humble beginning. As she learned to “work, work, work, work, work,” she listed Veterans Affairs foreclosures, hosted open houses for HUD homes with caved-in floors and on one occasion, unexpectedly found herself face-to-face with what she estimates was a ten-foot snake.
“The people who had lived there had left their pet python in the walls. So I walked in, yelled and ran out. My clients, however, went running in and then asked if they could have it.”
Seavey says her buyers adopted the snake and bought the house.
A subsequent and brief dalliance with Bender Realty’s short-lived Chattanooga office ended when the housing market crashed in 2007, and the Cleveland-based brokerage shuttered the branch.
When friend and managing broker Dan Griess invited Seavey to join his team at Crye-Leike in Ooltewah, she accepted.
Even though Realtors have a handle on how to do business during a pandemic and the housing market is still bucking like a wild Bronco, Seavey continues to update her education. She says it’s one of the best ways to serve her clients.
“When I first got into real estate, I was volume driven. But that didn’t make me happy. Now my priorities are different. I want to take care of my clients like I take care of my family.”
Speaking of family, Seavey has a lot of family to speak of. She and her husband, Bill – a Native American she met at Bible College in Minot, North Dakota – have four children, six grandchildren and two more grandchildren on the way.
Seavey relishes being a “Mimi” and looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren in Cleveland, where she and her husband live, or in Soddy Daisy, where the couple have horses, or in Montana, where they vacation yearly.
Wherever Seavey takes her grandchildren, she passes on the wisdom the land once gave her father. “Under all is the land,” she’ll say. “Storms and disasters can take away the structures but the land will always remain.”