Riverside Real Estate has been in business for 20 years

Chello Lopez will be taking over as the licensed broker as Marilyn Sears plans on spending more time with her grandchildren. (Submitted photo/Patty Brant)

It’s a gift to spend your life in a career you love. Marilyn Sears can attest to that.

She is just beginning to let go of her successful career in real estate and open her life to other pursuits. Marilyn has decided to dial back on her career and spend more time with her five grandchildren, ages 18 to infant.

Marilyn is the daughter of Josephine Roberts, part of the famous pioneer family whose ranch in Immokalee helped open up this whole area. As a child, Marilyn lived in Miami but the family came to Immokalee every weekend to help work the ranch. Years later, living in Kansas City, Marilyn’s first job was with a utility company teaching women to use the new all-electric kitchen appliances that were becoming so popular at that time.

She wound up in LaBelle and changed direction. In 1960 she earned her real estate license and her experience in the field is now extensive. She started out at LaBelle Real Estate, then began Riverside Real Estate in Wayne Rowlee’s building behind the Log Cabin. She later moved Riverside to the tiny Park Avenue building across from Barron Park where her success allowed her to have six full time agents – way more than the building could accommodate comfortably. The office was really taking off so in 1998 Marilyn built the firms beautiful current location at 45 Riverview Street at (SR 80). Today, Riverside has 18 agents, seven of them full time. The office still operates the way it always has – the agents learn from each other, feeding off each other’s energy and commitment to excellence.

Chello Lopez was Marilyn’s first new hire some 20 years ago. She had been working for the health department when she made the change. They have been together almost from the ground up. Her first day was spent helping Marilyn move into the Park Avenue location.

Today, Chello is taking over as broker of record for Riverside. She shares her gratitude for the time she has spent working with Marilyn saying, “Marilyn has taught me a lot since the beginning.”

Yvonne Doll is another of Marilyn’s early colleagues who is still with her. She had been working at the tax office for 11 years and needed a new direction so she called Marilyn to see if there was something she could do there. Marilyn told her to call back when she had her real estate license and hung up!

So Yvonne started thinking – “I could do that!” She took her training, got her license and called Marilyn back. That was 19 years ago. She joined the Riverside family and has enjoyed every moment since. For Yvonne, the most rewarding part is putting a roof over someone’s head.

Marilyn has nurtured many budding real estate agents over the years. She knows what it takes to make a good one:

• You have to like people;

• You have to understand problems and want to fix them;

• You have to be able to think out of the box. As facilitators of real estate transactions, you must be able to work with other professionals to make the sale flow. It takes cooperation and information from a long list of professionals to complete a transaction.

• Finally, you have to be able to keep the customer happy.

Real estate agents spend a lot of time working with title companies like Florida Hometown Title. Melissa Peterson, owner of FHT, is another professional who has great respect for Marilyn and Riverside. She said that Marilyn and her agents “make my job easy!” Stressing the importance of cooperation and dependence between real estate and other professionals, she added that Marilyn and her Riverside agents keep all the elements of a sale on track.

Marilyn is rightfully proud of the reputation she and her agents have built over the years for honesty and shepherding people through complicated and very daunting real estate transactions.

Looking back on her 20+ years in the business, Marilyn is quick to point out that working with great people has been the most gratifying part of her job. Riverside has a great atmosphere, she said. They all look out for each other.

Of course, her least favorite part of the job is the paperwork – which constantly changes. Then there was having to switch from doing everything by hand to mastering the computer. The biggest challenge over the years, though, has been to grow the business and accommodate all the new types of people coming to community.

The real estate office may be losing its longtime anchor, but little will really change. As new broker of record, Chello is the benefactor of Marilyn’s vast knowledge and all-inclusive training style. She said Marilyn has done such a wonderful job bringing all the agents up through training and managing the office that she can’t see a thing she’d like to change in the office.

“It all works so well. Marilyn’s made it so easy for all of us as independent contractors. Besides,” she said, “what other place is better than LaBelle? It’s not hard to sell LaBelle. People want to be a part of our community.”

As Marilyn says, “There’s no success without the community.” Give and give back, that’s her philosophy.

She will leave feeling good about the office and the agents there, knowing it will be in good hands.

Marilyn is looking forward to “retirement” although she will keep her real estate license. She’s not going cold turkey.

The next challenges of her life are in front of her and it’s an open field. She will have time for longer walks and spending time with her grandchildren is a very attractive prospect. She’s ready, but is maybe just a little concerned about what comes next, too. There may be things she’s not quite prepared for.

“I’m not sure how long I can sit down,” she confides.

Patty Brant, can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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