Top marketer Terrie Cox has a clear vision for every luxury listing she accepts – and the drive to see it through
By Amy Milshtein // Photos by Leah Nash
“It always cracks me up that little old Vancouver, Wash., shows up on the Top 100 list,” says Terrie Cox of her No. 57 ranking among the Top 100 RE/MAX Individual Residential Agents in the United States. She’s also the No. 1 Individual Residential Agent in the RE/MAX Pacific Northwest. But don’t be fooled. Vancouver, the southern Washington city across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore., and where the median listing price is around $234,900, didn’t just “show up” on that list. It’s been hoisted there by Cox’s resolve, her love of hard work and her unrelenting refusal to accept the word “no.”
“Life is an objection; overcome it,” she says. “If someone says ‘no’ to me, I always ask, ‘Why?’ so that I’m able to resolve it.”
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That tenacious pluck was apparent early in Cox’s life. She left home at age 18, moving from her small hometown on the coast of Southern Oregon to the “big city” of Eugene. She had no car and just $40 in her pocket. “I talked my landlord into giving me my first month’s rent free,” she recalls.
Cox worked multiple jobs seven days a week, including waiting tables, modeling and working as a secretary. She’s also sold lumber, advertising space and jewelry. She has an uncanny knack for turning unprofitable businesses around, and in the 1970s Cox started and subsequently sold a corporate recruiting business.
How did she do it? “I worked 60 hours a week, living and breathing the business,” she says. She also realized that, regardless of the nature of the work, what she really enjoyed were the sales and interpersonal aspects. In the 1980s, she got her first taste of real estate, selling and delivering manufactured homes. She earned her license in 1992 and quickly realized the RE/MAX philosophy matched her own.
“I knew RE/MAX hired only top agents, and I knew that someday I would be one,” she says.
Her success is undeniable. Her long list of recognitions includes the Chairman’s Club three years running and the RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Everyone wants to be Terrie Cox,” RE/MAX Equity Group Broker/Manager Barbara Zimmerly says. “But they don’t understand the time, money and energy she puts into her business.”
Cox values professional education and has the designations to prove it: Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, Certified Distressed Property Expert, e-PRO and Certified Residential Specialist, to name a few.
“You can never have enough training,” she insists, “because the industry is always changing. What’s good this year will be different in 12 months.”
But it’s the day-to-day interactions with clients and the thrill of the chase that fuel her success.
“I need to be involved in the negotiations,” she says.
A TARGETED APPROACH
Cox prefers to focus on luxury real estate, including niche properties like vineyards, bed and breakfasts and equestrian estates.
“I maintain a huge database of contacts,” she says. When, and most importantly if, she takes a listing, she plots a customized plan for best marketing the individual property. Although Cox prizes her CLHMS designation, she realizes that it’s what you do with it that’s important.
She relies heavily on marketing. Her targeted approach might include a mix of tools such as customized websites, radio and television ads, email blasts and even good-old print newspaper ads.
“I’ll spend anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000 on a single property,” she says. “I’m no discounter.”
Her efforts and investments tend to pay off. A recent $3 million listing in Battle Ground, Wash., for example, sold in just 21 days. Of course, that’s no happy accident. Cox laid out her groundwork before she took the home, mapping out marketing schemes in advance so, when she finally accepted the property, it would have maximum impact.
“I sort potential buyers into groups and market to the people I think will be seriously interested,” she says.
Last May she logged a personal record of $13 million in sold and pending properties for the month.
But Cox doesn’t do it alone. She has a staff of three full-time employees and three part-timers. They manage transactions, paperwork and buyer databases; set appointments; coordinate with the marketing department that schedules and designs their ads; and more. She considers them all to be family, she says, and is always challenging them to excel.
“When my marketing department sees me coming with a new idea, they make crosses with their fingers and say, ‘Back, back,’” Cox says with a laugh. “But that’s why people come to me. I don’t just put a listing on the MLS and call it done.”
“Maintaining all of those databases takes a lot of effort,” admits Zimmerly, a regular witness to Cox’s demanding work style. “We work remotely and she has very exacting systems in place. Nothing ever falls through the cracks, and the way she tracks her business makes it easy for an assistant or colleague to pick up a file and know precisely what’s going on.”
And that’s by design.
“If I’m dead and gone tomorrow, the business should go on,” Cox says, smiling.
She keeps a binder full of information on every client and every property. She tracks every conversation, every showing, all of the marketing data and how many views the property is receiving.
“I even keep files on properties I don’t take just to see how they did.”
ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS
Because Cox invests so much of herself, her time and her resources into getting each property sold, she takes only about one out of every four listings that come her way. She is also not shy about speaking the hard truths.
“We need to talk about objections and obstacles up front,” she says about clients who want to overprice their home or don’t see the limitations of their property.
Self-reflective by nature and with a strong inner coach, Cox is constantly turning a critical eye to her own practices and perceptions. It allows her to remain flexible and ride the ups and downs of the market, she says. For example, she managed to stay successful during the downturn by analyzing the market and changing her tactics.
“I became a short sale expert,” she says of her CDPE designation. Still, she admits that those times were tough. “I had to borrow money a few months to make payroll, but I was not about to let anyone go.”
Cox doesn’t recommend young Realtors try right out of the gate to replicate what she’s built.
“Join up with an established agent first,” she says. “Model others’ good work ethics and take advantage of training opportunities.”
Of course, much of what makes Cox successful – such as her tenacity, drive and discriminating eye for detail – can’t be taught.
“Terrie just looks at a property and instinctively knows what it needs,” Zimmerly says.
Through Terrie Cox Home Concepts, Cox stages newly constructed homes and helps builders with designing and decorating. Cox first honed those skills while working as a builder in the ’90s.
Evidence of her talents also can be seen in her own well-appointed residence – a 3,500-square-foot home she shares with her dog, a surprisingly large Shih Tzu named Cooper. Set just 50 feet from the Columbia River, the home serves as both an oasis of calm and a connection to her community.
In fact, Cox is looking forward to a weeklong retreat in Hawaii with members of her neighborhood book club. There, she will do nothing but sit on the beach, read and unwind – or at least that’s the plan.
“I don’t believe it,” Zimmerly says with a knowing grin. “She’s never completely out of the loop.”