Alumnae Stories from the Pandemic

Marilyn Urso 69 crop

Marilyn Urso is a member of the Class of 1969. She is a strong supporter of the AADC and its mission. She has had several careers and is currently a New York State licensed real estate broker and a NYS Certified real estate instructor. Here is her story, shared on July 30, 2020.

I was inspired to write my story after reading what Jennifer Ansbach ’93 wrote in this series. It really hit home for me in many ways. Being in real estate sales and also teaching continuing education classes for realtors myself made it easy to relate to her headline, “If I Wanted to Work by Myself at a Computer, I Wouldn’t Have Chosen Teaching.”

For me, real estate is definitely a “people business” as is the teaching that I do. After so many months of lockdown, the thought of one more Zoom meeting makes me crazy. Teaching adults via webinars and Zoom meetings may possibly be the new norm in the future, but for me, a live classroom is one of the best ways to make an impact, gain attention of adult students and to truly connect with them.

For me, the irony in Jennifer’s statement, “If I wanted to work by myself in front of a computer…” is because that is what I wanted to do and did when I first graduated from Douglass in 1969. I tease my grandchildren that I worked on “prehistoric computers” with “dinosaurs, not bugs” since it really was the beginning of the computer industry – and it wasn’t called “IT” until the late 1970s. And guess what, there was no Internet either!

My computer life lasted for about 12 years. Then came the role of “Mom” (my favorite job), and now for the last 27+ years it’s been real estate.

Once the pandemic shutdown started, the New York government couldn’t decide whether real estate was essential or non-essential and the restrictions they put on our industry have not been easy to cope with. Having been in the industry for all these years (my husband also is a real estate broker), we have kept up with the trends and technology changes over the years, but the pandemic has thrown us into a whole new avenue of technology.

Technology is not optional anymore, with electronic forms and signatures, high tech and 3-D video tours and floorplans, video conferencing with clients, customers and other agents on a regular basis – no in-person meetings. For me, real estate is a “touchy/feely” business. I couldn’t buy a home without actually going inside and looking at all it had to offer. It seems that many younger buyers today can do it. I’ve heard of several recent sales where the buyers never got into the home until they took possession of it. Wow! Who could have ever predicted this kind of change in our industry?

Thankfully, our current clients were able to cope also during the lockdown months. They understand why we can’t provide the complete services we once did, and we are back to more normal activities now Long Island.

My personal routine changes seem less like a major transformation since I basically worked from home setting appointments, scheduling showings, making calls and sending notes to past clients etc., and yet in many ways it feels like it was a big change. Calls and listings dropped drastically in the end of March and in April. We were not allowed to show homes or even meet with any clients or customers in person. It was all very unsettling to say the least. By June, the face-to-face activities, with a mask of course, returned and we have had a very busy spring-into-summer season!

Being a real estate instructor, I was accustomed to spending about 3-4 days a month teaching classes from 9-5. That role instantly stopped. I hope it will pick up again in the fall if we can maintain good numbers for the pandemic, rather than be a “virtual” instructor.

What I miss the most in my normal routines was not being able to spend as much time with my grandchildren – sleepovers and babysitting had been common. I am not needed now since my children are all home all the time. Since my husband & I are in the higher “at-risk” age range, my children also insisted that I avoid supermarkets and any other places with lots of people. So, I felt trapped in my own home. I had knee replacement surgery done in February 2020, and fortunately I am able to walk again and enjoy getting out for a few miles daily. We are finally spending time with the kids & grandkids and who knows – there might even be a sleepover!

So personally, and career-wise, I am trying to find my “new normal.” Will I go back to live classroom teaching or learn how to be a virtual instructor on Zoom or some other platform? Will all those cards and letters and emails I’ve been sending result in more homes to sell? Calls are starting to come in from previous clients and friends.

The real estate market nationwide is unpredictable right now. On Long Island we are seeing a lot of buyers and renters who are leaving the density of NYC to move to our towns. Inventories are low so prices are holding at 2019 levels or slightly higher. I hope I can take advantage of these changes and move forward as a realtor.

To paraphrase what Jennifer said, no one could have imagined that real estate sales would look like this, but, like my colleagues across the country and around the world, I’m figuring out how to meet my clients’ needs day by day. “And in the meantime, I just keep checking the next thing off my list.”

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