From the peaceful farmlands of Ohio to the fast-paced, high-pressure world of high finance Fortune 500 companies, Tonia Detweiler owner and branch manager of The Realty Lab, a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – North Properties Brand, has seen it all. But at heart she’s still a country girl. With down-home values and a solid middle America work ethic, this mother of four is as versatile as she is resourceful.
“I pride myself on the things I have learned over the years from Midwestern farm work ethics to my role as a supportive wife and cheerleader for more than 30 years, showering others with a mother’s love and the need to consistently learn about my business,” she says.
ON THE MOVE
After marrying the “love of her life” in 1990, Detweiler spent the next several years packing and unpacking as her husband, Rudy, was transferred from one locale to another. While moving from Ohio to Michigan back to Ohio to Illinois and then back again to Ohio before finally settling down in Delano, Minnesota, the couple grew their closeknit family one son at a time.
“After our first son was born, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom,” says Detweiler. Yet even then she balanced family life with a part-time bookkeeping job. “Needless to say, there was a lot going on. My life as a mom was very full and demanding as my husband’s job required quite a bit of traveling.”
After settling into their “forever home” in Delano, Detweiler was ready for a new challenge. “By that time, our oldest was a freshman in high school and our youngest was a kindergartner,” she says. “I started working at the school helping with the Special Ed area. After a couple years of that, I decided I wanted to get my real estate license.”
Real estate was not a spur-of-the-moment idea for Detweiler. Not surprisingly, given all her years of relocating and house-hunting for an expanding family, this was a career she had considered for a long time. Moreover, her interests, talent and skillset also seemed to be an ideal fit.
“What real estate did for me was take everything that I love to do and put in all in one box,” she says. “I love to work with people, I love numbers and I originally was planning on going to school for interior design so real estate allows me to combine and enjoy all of these facets of my life.”
After getting her license in 2012 the energetic mom began interviewing with various brokerages. “I decided to go with one of the smaller companies when I first started out,” says Detweiler. “I was with another big brand in Delano for about five years. In 2017, I tried another big brand, however, neither were just right. It was soon after that, I determined I needed my own office and team, so that I could create my own culture and do things the way I believed they should be done.”
A thorough and intensive search eventually led her to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices North Properties. “I interviewed with every company that I could and that’s how I ended up, quite happily, with BHHS and building my team The Realty Lab. It’s a really great fit!”
Staying close to home, Detweiler found a perfect location in Delano for her new office.
“We set up initially in a model home for about a month while we began renovating the new office,” she says. “My vision was boutique style. It’s an old, historical building with a lot of character and we receive so many compliments. Our location and interests keep us very involved in the community, we hold many events here.
“We’ve hosted several after-hours events for the Delano Chamber of Commerce where we provide music and catering,” she adds. “Also, we open up our back rooms for smaller gatherings such as bible study and book club groups.”
Being involved in her community wasn’t anything new for this busy mom/entrepreneur, as soon as the young family settled in Delano in 2007, Detweiler and her family quickly made this new community their home, becoming involved with their church, school and sports. Detweiler has also found a way to return to her roots by purchasing a sprawling hobby farm where she and the family enjoy time together.
HOME SWEET HOME
“We all just love it here,” she says. “Everyone settled right in and it’s truly become our home.”
Like everything else she’s ever taken on Detweiler seemed to thrive as a real estate agent virtually from the start, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges.
“When I first started, the real estate world was just starting to pick up again,” she says.“There was not an overwhelming number of new agents. You didn’t have so much competition. They seemed to shy away during the recession and as the market started coming back, a new serge of new licensees began coming on board.
“One thing I always remembered was what my mentor told me when I was just starting out,” she adds. “She said to give it three years and that was something that just stuck in my head. So, I worked really hard for three years focusing on learning as much as I could and building my business. It was slow at first, but I stayed focused and it gradually started to come together.”
All agents have their own way of gauging the success of their business, but Detweiler’s barometer was rather unique.
“My files are color-coded,” she says. “At the outset I decided that my buyer files would be blue, and my listing files would be green. I keep them right on top of my desk where I can always see them, and they are top of mind. As a new agent, all my files were blue. That’s pretty standard, as a new agent typically all your clients are buyers and you’re just running around like crazy.
“So, my goal was to have a listing. I just wanted to see my name on a For Sale sign,” she continues with a small chuckle. “Of course, as time went by, I got the first listing and the next and the next. At about the three-year mark I looked up at my files and realized they were mostly green! It hit me that I had turned the corner. That’s when I believed I was doing things right.”
WHITE GLOVE SERVICE
While she’s enjoying undeniable success today, Detweiler is not one to rest on her laurels but continues to set the bar higher. Now she says her focus is on, “What can we do better? What can we offer our clients that other agents might not?”
The answer lies in her unique brand of service forged from her keen aptitude for business, deep-seated work ethic and inherent compassion. This translates to superior service to her clients.
“We provide what I like to call, White Glove Service to every client,” she says. “When I list a home, I take my time and do things right. I know what buyers are looking for so if they are going to come in and expect a discount then we haven’t done our job. If we can circumvent that by spending a couple hundred dollars, then let’s do that.
“That’s the first part of it,” Detweiler continues. “We show them our whole marketing program with a goal of getting top dollar in the shortest amount of time. I’m always very cost aware, and never expect sellers to put a lot of money into prepping, but some of the least expensive small fixes can result in a substantially higher sale.”
Blessed with an artistic eye and a natural inclination for design, Detweiler also can influence a home’s curb-appeal and initial impression on buyers by offering sellers tips on how to stage or present their home in the best possible light.
“Ultimately, my clients become good friends, almost like family,” she says. “Since I’m a transplant myself, I understand how it feels to start over and I make sure to invite them to events and stay in touch long after the sale. I truly value those relationships. I tell new agents, it’s not about the money it’s about the people and if you’re only in it for the money you’re in real estate for the wrong reason.”
EDUCATE. ENCOURAGE. DEVELOP. SUPPORT
Prioritizing customer service means little if your entire team isn’t on board, but Detweiler has successfully built a team of highly qualified and industrious agents whose vision matches her own. Committed to creating a team that’s knowledgeable, creative and service-oriented since the day she launched her own office, Detweiler ensures their and her clients’ success by imparting the insights and wisdom gleaned over years of experience. Bringing together talented, dedicated and enthusiastic agents has always been a priority, but beyond that she provides them the environment and guidance that will not only help them grow and develop their own careers but enhance every client experience.
“When I started this office, it was with the idea of creating a special culture and environment where everyone thrives,” says Detweiler. “I had a vision of how people could work in concert with one another using the best of technology and other tools. As we’ve grown we’ve been able to attract several other professionals who each bring their own special talents and specialization, and while everyone is unique and skilled in their own way we all share the same common goals and philosophy when it comes to standards of professionalism, ethics and customer service.”
A cornerstone of Detweiler’s vision for her team has always been an open-door policy wherein she provides an atmosphere of camaraderie and an open forum for the exchange and sharing of ideas.
“I always treat people the way I want to be treated,” she says, “that applies to my clients, my team members as well as other agents. This is a tough business and things are not always easy, but we make sure that we’re always up-front with other agents. You know, part of being professional and a trustworthy agent, is to make those tough phone calls and be honest and direct.”
Part innovator, part leader and part, as she puts it “mama dog” Detweiler continues to build, encourage and support her team from one success to another.
“We’ve had a very good year as a team,” she says with pride, “and we look forward to growing and reaching new benchmarks together.”
BACK TO HER ROOTS
Finding balance is always a challenge particularly when you’re leading a team of industrious professionals while maintaining your own thriving business, yet the indefatigable Detweiler has seemingly mastered this as well. Never losing sight of her country origins she and Rudy find respite at their charming hobby farm which they have named The Crow River Cottage Farm.
“Our youngest son just entered college so as of a few weeks ago we became empty nesters,” she says. “We’ve been working on the hobby farm getting things up to par so that I can start getting the animals that I want.
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming of for a very long time,” Detweiler adds with a wistful smile. “It’s just a way of getting back to my roots.”