Florida’s #1 producer never stops working in his ‘backyard’
By Robin Roenker
Orlando-area Associate Ronald Ziolkowski – better known to clients as Ron the Realtor – takes his job seriously. Flip-flops? He doesn’t own any. He wears a custom suit and tie to work every day – despite the searing Central Florida heat.
“I try to be the sharpest dressed person out in the field,” says Ziolkowski, the top RE/MAX agent in Florida – and in the Top 50 nationally – in 2017. The professional look is part of his brand: Ziolkowski wants clients to know he’s dedicated to providing top-notch service, from start to finish.
“No one will ever outwork me, I guarantee that. Whenever someone hires me, they know for a fact that they have the best fighter in their corner. I work to make sure all their transactions are seamless and that every client feels like they’re my only client,” says Ziolkowski, 46, who joined RE/MAX in 2001 and works as a solo agent without an assistant.
A 20-year real estate veteran and Diamond Award Club member, Ziolkowski sold 168 homes last year for $65 million in sales volume.
“He’s a no-nonsense guy,” says Jodi McMurtrie Zgura, Co-Owner and Office Manager of RE/MAX Properties SW, where Ziolkowski is a Sales Associate. “He’s very professional. He likes to control everything himself, so he knows it’s done right.”
The secret to his success, Ziolkowski says, lies in his commitment to customer service, a value that drove him into real estate in the first place. “When I bought my first house in Orlando, I went through two real estate agents and, my goodness, I saw firsthand that customer service had become a lost art,” says Ziolkowski, who moved from Buffalo, New York, to Orlando as a 24-year-old recent college graduate.
After earning his real estate license, it took him nine months to sell his first house. But in the years since, he’s more than found his stride. “The secret to the volume that I do, and the amount of time that I do it in, is that I have a 99-percent close ratio,” Ziolkowski says.
Ziolkowski says his drive emanates from a single goal: making sure his clients’ expectations are exceeded at every turn. He invests in very little paid advertising, leaning instead on word-of-mouth referrals from former clients who laud his service and accessibility; he responds to client requests often within seconds, but always within an hour or two at most.
His around-the-clock work ethic is no mere marketing ploy. It’s simply how he does business. The father of three teenaged children says he doesn’t require much sleep and credits his wife of 19 years, Kathy, for being a “supermom” to their kids. Each night, he can be found preparing a home-cooked meal for his family, always with phone in hand.
But Ziolkowski doesn’t think of it as work. “I love what I do,” he says. “From the time I wake up in the morning until I go to bed, all I’m thinking about is real estate.”
Weathering the Storm
Surviving last decade’s housing crisis in hard-hit Florida wasn’t easy. “I went from selling $500,000 and $700,000 houses to $40,000 to $80,000 properties,” he says. But the experience sharpened his skills as an agent and forced him to reinvent himself. (During the height of the downturn, he specialized in working with investors.) “It was an eye-opening experience. I had to restructure,” he says. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back on it now, I’ve become a stronger, more driven agent because of those times.”
Today, Ziolkowski puts his hard-won market savvy to use helping middle-class families get every dollar’s worth when buying or selling their home. Having grown up in a single-parent home where money wasn’t plentiful, he understands that for his typical client, “every dollar counts,” he says. His average listing price is just under $400,000 and typically sells in 37 days – well under the local market average of 84 days.
While he may not focus on million-dollar listings, he treats each listing as if it were a luxury estate. Ziolkowski works with a local company to build a custom website for every home he lists, each with its own two-minute tour video and professional photography. “I believe in promoting my properties at a higher level.”
In addition to the mid-level, move-up market, Ziolkowski also specializes in new construction, which currently represents roughly half of his closings. He has a long, solid working partnership with builders in the booming Orlando-area market, thanks to his early work as an MLS agent for a local homebuilder and his current role as an area Realtor liaison with K. Hovnanian Homes.
“I’ve found Ron to be the best of the best in getting things done,” says Pete Valdes, K. Hovnanian’s Vice President of Sales. “The moment we switched over to working with him, our business started booming. Our sales started jumping up, and it just has a lot to do with his sales experience and his expertise.”
In both cases – new construction and existing listings – Ziolkowski prefers to concentrate on homes in his own community of Winter Garden, about 14 miles from downtown Orlando. He believes that’s been another key to his overall success. “I like working in my own backyard,” he says. “I understand the area as well as anyone.”