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Selling Detroit Lakes

The Real Estate Company of Detroit lakes owners and brokers Maureen Engel (left) and Lynette Conmy left Jack Chivers Realty to start their own business, now located in First Security Bank. The pair say they weren't money motivated, but simply wanted to do things their way.

Real Estate brokers and agents Maureen Engel and Lynette Conmy were selling up a storm working for Jack Chivers Realty in Detroit Lakes.

"Between the two of us we did $23 million (in sales) last year," said Engel, who worked for Chivers for seven years, along with Conmy for five.

Despite a tough economy, the top-earning agents were at the top of their game.

But in the fourth quarter of that game, they decided they wanted to start calling the shots.

Together, the brokers broke off from the large, successful Jack Chivers Company to start one of their own.

"It's called 'The Real Estate Company,'" said Engel, laughing at the simplicity of the name.

Engel and Conmy are now co-owners of their own real estate business, which they've set up in First Security Bank in Detroit Lakes.

So why would the duo venture out on their own when they were proving so successful where they were?

"When I turned 60 in September I thought, 'I'm either going to retire so that I can cut back or I'm going to have to do something different and work the way I want,'" said Engel.

"I just wanted to do something different," added Conmy, who had also been kicking around the idea of retiring, "and I think you get to a point in your life where your focus is a little bit different, your motivation is a little different and you want to do things your way."

Both ladies say they will always have a good working and professional relationship with Chivers, but are taking their experience and their vision out for a spin before they truly feel the pull to hang it up.

"We'll probably end up working harder than we worked before and the joke will be on us, but at least there are some things that we want to do that aren't being done technology-wise in town that we want to implement," said Engel.

Some of those things include tapping into the younger market by utilizing smart phone capabilities and catering more to the information age.

"We're a little bit old to be jumping into it, but nobody else is doing it," Engel said.

They say their plan is to also scrap some of the more traditional methods of marketing that they were forced to partake in working for somebody else.

"After the last farm show, I said I'm sick of sitting out here with the cows," laughed Engel, "The Internet has changed the industry; the model has changed, and if you don't react to that change, you're doing things that worked effectively 10 years ago and aren't working today."

This means you'll not likely see these two ladies at a trade show -- in fact, open houses may even be on the chopping block.

"I question their effectiveness because most people coming through them have seen them online," said Engel.

So just like Sinatra, Engel and Conmy will now be "doing it their way", and according to them, that means keeping it small.

Although there are tentative plans to hire a couple of agents, they say bigger isn't always better, at least for them.

"When you have a company as big as Jack Chivers, you have to have everybody follow the same standard. You can't really let everybody go their own direction and have their own rules," said Conmy. "But if you have a small company you can react quicker to things that are going on; you can maybe do something that's a little different or special; you can tailor how you want to treat your client or treat a specific situation."

Engel says the state of Minnesota calls realtors "independent contractors," and they'll now be getting more of a taste of that freedom.

"I think that what's happened in our industry is that in a lot of these broker companies, they don't recognize that -- you're treated as an employee," said Engel, "so you don't have any of the benefits of an employee and yet you have the demands."

Owning their own business means they'll also get to utilize their own strengths and interests more.

"Jack's forte is commercial -- it is not ours," said Engel, "We've done it and we will do it if our client wants us to, but I'd say my forte is in the condo market, city residential and lakeshore."

And although they say times are tough everywhere for real estate, it's been good to them, and they attribute that to their creativity.

"We're both two old veteran sales people, and it's a very good market if you're creative," said Engel, "Homes are still selling and interest rates are the best they've been in decades."

So while the ladies are busy doing all the things it takes to create a whole new business, they say they've also hit the ground running with clients and properties.

"You know, we're lucky that we're in a position to do this," said Conmy of going for their dreams, "not everybody can go and do their thing, so we thought we'd give it a try. Hey, if we don't like it or it doesn't work out, we can just retire a little earlier," she laughed.

A website for the company is still being constructed, but when it's finished it will be at