Women Emphasize Financial Independence at Commercial Real Estate Meeting

By Jerry Siebenmark
The Wichita Eagle.

Kristin Stang said the wake-up call for her financial well-being came in the fall of 2009, when she was laid off from her “dream job” at a Houston architecture firm.

Melissa Giordano said hers came when her mother, at 61, divorced her father after 40 years of marriage, and had no job or nest egg.

Stang and Giordano were among several real estate professionals who on Thursday discussed how they got control of their financial lives and futures during a Women in Commercial Real Estate quarterly meeting at the Wichita Area Association of Realtors.

“One of the most profound moments for me came when Colby Sandlian … was accepting his CCIM Lifetime Achievement Award,” said April Reed, a Slawson Cos. commercial real estate broker and WICRE treasurer, before introducing the speakers.

“He stood up there and said, ‘A lot of people like you are making money for people like me. But what are you doing?'”

Stang, who graduated as an architect from Kansas State University, went to work for the Houston firm shortly before the banking and real estate crisis.

Stang had just finished up a project at the firm when she was told she was being laid off.

“I was really angry,” she said. “I was really devastated. I just couldn’t believe they would do something like that to me. It really made me realize how vulnerable I was. I realized I didn’t have any control at all.”

Stang said getting control involved several years of working as a property manager in Houston and flipping a couple of houses in Wichita before she was hired on at J.P. Weigand & Sons as a commercial real estate associate.

It is true, she said, that she is working for someone else. But in December, she bought her first investment property, a duplex that she rents, which is a means of “securing” herself financially, Stang said. “It’s so important to take your financial destiny into your own hands,” she said.

Giordano, vice president at Kansas Secured Title, said she didn’t really think about her own financial security until her mother divorced.

That event prompted her and her husband to begin buying rental properties, starting with their first one in 1998. “Here we are 18 rental properties later and I will tell you it works very well,” she said, but she added that owning rental property is “not all sunshine and lollipops.”

“But we will have a retirement, a good retirement, when we retire,” she said. “When we retire we’ll have a 401(k) and pension plans. …What I like best about the rental properties is we can control it.”

Elyssa Seymour’s road to financial security was a little different. The commercial specialist at NAI Martens said she is a horse lover, and the business where she boarded her horses went up for sale.

Seymour said she and her husband, Tim, discussed it and decided to buy the property. Not just for the free rent for her horses, but the fact that it was on 15 acres of land south of Wichita, but it also had a business with it.

“If I lose my job or Tim loses his job, there is another stream of income,” she said.

“As women we need to be exploring our options to invest,” Seymour said.

She recommended not to look at just any kind of investment, “but something you are passionate about. I can go do this job (at Martens) during the day and go to this second job that I love.”

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