Wingert Real Estate Company is not your typical brokerage firm. Founded by Jason Wingert in 2011, the company is still in the early stages of development but is already forging new paths in the real estate industry.
Out of 21 agents currently employed at Wingert, seven are SMU alumni and one is an SMU student. Although Wingert attended Centenary College, Wingert feels a strong connection with SMU after growing up in Highland Park and having SMU alumni as parents. Five of the SMU alumni Wingert hired are recent graduates who have responsibilities unheard of for entry-level real estate positions.
SMU graduate Jay Neikirk ’13 has been an associate at Wingert for three months and believes he has learned more working at Wingert than he would at a bigger firm.
“I feel like I’ve already accumulated a year’s worth of knowledge [that I wouldn’t have] had I joined at a bigger shop,” Neikirk said. “Being smaller means that we don’t always get the national brands as clients, but it allows for us younger associates to see the process from start to finish, which is not the case at bigger firms where recent graduates are used to do[ing] the busy work of cold calling.”
The company specializes in both commercial and residential real estate as well as apartment locating and residential leasing. When it was first founded, Wingert hired experienced do-it-yourself types who really didn’t need much help from him. Although the experience was there, Wingert said there wasn’t much of a heartbeat.
However, that changed unexpectedly when he decided to hire interns.
“I just randomly put a post on MustangTRAK looking for interns in December and didn’t hear anything until March,” Wingert said. “It was the craziest thing, we had seven or eight people reach back and they were all SMU students who knew each other but didn’t know they all applied. That’s when I thought maybe we should do more than just an internship.”
Wingert ultimately hired seven interns, six of whom attended SMU. Originally, the company hadn’t planned to do apartment locating but Wingert saw the opportunity to capitalize on the interns’ close connection with other SMU students and graduates.
“At the time Gordon Kellerman was the only one of them who was licensed and we did about $21,000 to $22,000 of commissions of apartment locating and lease deals. We feel like if they had all been licensed that could have been around $40,000 to $60,000,” Wingert said. “As I’m training them for commercial, they can be helping their friends by offering them a legit[imate] service in real estate and finding them a place to live.”
Wingert’s dedication to training his younger associates is one of the things that set the company apart. He never imagined when starting his own firm that as CEO he would also take on the role of mentor. SMU graduae Gordon Kellerman ‘11 and senior associate at Wingert worked two years at other firms before moving to Wingert where he feels like he has greater opportunities.
“Through my experience at these larger corporations I have found that individually your talents can be neglected by being pigeon-holed into a role that isn’t best suited for your personality and/or technical ability,” Kellerman said. “It is extremely important in the real estate business to find a niche that excites you and that you can truly specialize in. However, you must have the chance to have your hand in the various real estate sectors and markets until you are able to decide the best position that suits your traits.”
Wingert makes a point to provide his associates with the chance to experience all areas of the business in hopes of finding their passions. Not only does he provide them with hands-on experience, but also the opportunity to take certified commercial investment member classes, advanced classes for investment real estate not typically taken by entry-level associates.
“I want to help these guys develop what they’re passionate about,” Wingert said. “What gets them out of bed? As they build their network they have the opportunity here to dive in and [find] out what they like.”
Although the company is small, its size plays an important role in providing the younger associates with more opportunity.
“I was looking for a position at a real estate company that would allow me to actually be [a] part of deals and everyday interaction and transactions, not just cold calling behind a computer all day as most entry level associates would be doing at bigger companies,” commercial associate and SMU graduate Joey Arsenio ’13 said. “I love that Wingert is a smaller shop. The small shop environment is extremely helpful to learn at a quick rate.”
Wingert knows that many of the younger associates he hired will move on to other jobs at other firms. His goal is to help get them to that other position while using their skills to help grow his company.
“I want to help them get to that next job,” Wingert said. “We know these guys aren’t going to be here forever but we want this to be a win-win where they go on to a better job because of their experience here and they can look back and say Wingert is here because of my time there.”
After seeing the energy and team spirit that came with the interns, Wingert hopes to continue its connection with the SMU community.
By having SMU graduates on staff that know the area, it makes it easy for them to help other graduates and students find a place to live.
“Being a graduate, I know the market very well in terms of apartment locating for students around campus or helping people that are looking to transfer away from campus to find a house or apartment,” Neikirk said.
Not only does hiring SMU students help from a business perspective, having associates on staff that know each other gave the company the heartbeat Wingert was looking for.
“It’s an unreal opportunity to work in an environment where you have the ability to win business and become successful while working with your close friends,” Kellerman said. “We like to have a lot of fun, but at the end of the day our individual goals to become established in the real estate community as reputable, knowledgeable brokers results in an environment that is truly focused on becoming better each day. Our goal is to work together as a team and hold one another accountable for doing everything in our power to ensure the company’s overall success.”
Looking to the future, Wingert would love to recruit more SMU students to fill internship positions. The company also plans to open branches in Fort Worth, Houston and Austin.