“Some of the most gratifying experiences I have had in my career have occurred when I accidentally met former clients while I was out and about town,” Donald Duley, owner of Duley & Associates Real Estate said. “Folks have come up to me and said I sold them their house years ago, and that they still love it! One couple told me buying their home was the best thing that happened to them after marriage and children. Another said, ‘The vacuum cleaner died, we traded the car, but the house you helped us buy is paid for.”
A lifelong resident of Plattsburgh, Duley graduated from St. John’s Academy, earned his B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and an MBA from Long Island University. He met his wife, Kathy, in Rochester when they were both at college. Initially, neither was sure they would like living in Don’s hometown but fate intervened. In 1972 Duley’s parents, who owned the Cumberland Hotel, had health issues and needed assistance with the family business. Don promised Kathy if she would move to Plattsburgh for five years they would return to Rochester. Not surprisingly, she grew to love the North Country, and six years later the Duleys purchased a starter home in the city’s West End.
“Going through the process of purchasing a home was my introduction to real estate,” explained Duley. “I wanted to run my own business and it seemed interesting.” He earned his real estate agent’s license, and worked for a franchise company for six years. He wanted to be his own boss and found his present location on Cornelia Street in 1986. “I was in this building as a seven-year-old,” he said with a laugh. “This space used to be a clothing store where my mom would take me.”
Currently, Duley has seven agents who work with him, including his son Chris. “We’re a family here,” he explained. “Most of my agents have Associate Brokers Licenses and could be working on their own or for another agency. Everyone here works hard and we make good communication a priority. They call me the boss, but they solve their own problems and work in an independent and professional manner.”
Thinking ahead, father and son are in the process of developing a succession plan for Chris to take over the business when Don decides to retire.
CHALLENGES OF THE JOB
When he first entered the real estate business, Duley admits that he thought it would be easy. He soon learned that a commission-based job with no health insurance, paid vacation, or pension is actually quite difficult. Time management, communication, negotiation, and organizational skills are paramount to success. It helped that Duley had a lifetime of knowledge about Plattsburgh businesses from both his parents.
“You must set an effective schedule and create reasonable goals,” said Duley. “In this business, there is no paycheck until you sell a home. My wife’s job as a teacher was crucial in carrying us through. I found that to be successful over time, I had to continue to learn and develop good communication with clients as well as the other individuals involved in the sale: agents, lenders, attorneys, appraisers, and home inspectors.”
Four decades later, Duley is still passionate about his work. “I like helping people make a financial commitment to their future. When you own a home, you build equity, learn cash management and develop home repair skills.” (In fact, when Duley’s son and daughters checked into their college dorms, he gave them each a set of tools.)
REAL ESTATE IN THE DIGITAL AGE
The internet has changed the way Duley interacts with his clients. “Websites, like our company site Realtor.com and Zillow take the pressure off me constantly providing our clients information on newly available listings,” explained Duley. “In the past, I had to show clients the MLS (multiple listing service) and spend significant time helping them select properties. Now they come in with a list already prepared. Websites like Zillow don’t always have correct information in terms of valuation, taxes and prior sale prices so we help clients with that.”
By going online, clients can locate financing options, find home inspectors and get legal advice. At times, however, this information can be confusing and overwhelming for the average consumer. That’s where a real estate agent’s expertise becomes invaluable.
The advent of cell phones and e-mail has made real estate agents more accessible, but these new communication methods present more opportunities for interactions to misfire. “I often talk to my people about choosing the correct method of communication for the situation,” said Duley. “Depending on the type and importance of the message, one must select from text, e-mail, telephone call, letter, and face-to-face visits for the most effective results. It is important to understand when, and with whom, to use each method of communication.”
Most helpfully, Duley’s web site has information and a link to current mortgage rates to inform clients and help them prepare for what is, for most, the biggest financial commitment of their lives.
GIVING BACK TO THE INDUSTRY
As a local expert, Duley has taught classes with the New York Association of Realtors as well as Clinton Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh to educate real estate agents. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with the next generation of realtors. In addition, he has worked to facilitate the Code of Ethics for the National Association of Realtors with the goal of fair treatment between clients and realtors. Concerned about the continued need for more real estate agents in this low unemployment environment, Duley has begun a training program in which he mentors those new to the business.
“My focus is shifting to the next chapter,” he said. “It is very gratifying to introduce and guide people of all ages into a business I love. I am proud of this industry because of its equal pay and equal opportunity.”
“Realtors have the opportunity to represent the buyer or the seller in every transaction. I can advocate for a client regardless of which side of the transaction they are on,” said Duley. “That’s a wonderful part of this business. We treat other realtors as collaborators rather than competitors by sharing our inventory through our best tool, MLS.”