Representation Matters: Older Americans Month Q&A with Sue Wiskowski-Fair

Mainstreet HQ, Downers Grove – As part of a larger, continued effort to promote our members and celebrate their voices, Representation Matters is dedicated to highlighting demographic perspective on the real estate industry.

Each year May is Older Americans Month , celebrating the contributions and influences citizens 65 year and older have on the world. Yes, in real estate but also as siblings, relatives, guardians, grandparents and sources of advice. Wisdom takes years to cultivate and harvest; there are no shortcuts for it.

The theme for 2024 Older Americans Month theme is “Powered by Connection,” which recognizes the profound impact that meaningful relationships and social connections have on our health and well-being.

Mainstreet is proud to spotlight Sue Wiskowski-Fair of Realty-Executives, MRED Treasurer and Board of Managers member. Sue has been working in real estate for more than 45 years.

She sat down with Mainstreet to talk about her experiences ranging from her initial transition as an office secretary to real estate agent, to becoming an association president to what she is up to lately. Read her thoughts and perspectives below.

Q: Sue, you have a long and distinguished career in real estate; how did you get started in the industry?

A: “I got started in real estate because I was frustrated with the business world I was in at the time. I was working for an organization where there were owners who were in the top positions and then eight of us in a junior executive role. I felt I was doing twice as much work as a woman and getting paid less. After some conversations with my friends, they suggested I get into real estate. Working with buyers and sellers was not my first choice. Selling anything to anyone was not a comfortable zone for me. Ultimately - I studied for and earned my real estate license. At first, it was difficult for me to put myself in a sales position. However, once I figured out that I was solving my clients real estate problems, I became comfortable with achieving the correct mindset needed to be successful.”

Q: As the first female president of the Wisconsin Association of REALTORS® in 1986, take readers back to the moment you found out you had been elected. What was it like for you? 

A: “One of satisfaction and great responsibility. I wanted to serve because no woman had ever achieved that position before. I wanted to open that opportunity for us. Women are just as capable of leading that organization as men were. I found that it was a huge responsibility, it wasn’t a notch on the gun or a ‘look what I have achieved’ moment. Instead, the feeling was more like ‘look at the impact women can have on leadership’ in the real estate association executive position. I remember thinking that other male presidents seemed to be having a good time in that role and I saw that role as a more serious responsibility. During my time as president, no one played golf and the women did not go shopping; we worked. Since taking office in 1986, there have been 10 other women in Wisconsin elected as Association President.”

Q: What were your motivations for seeking office in Wisconsin, not just in real estate but as duly elected association President?

A: “I wanted to prove women were capable of leading and our ability to think was far and away strong enough to lead as more than just secretaries. I had a background before real estate of working in government including the governor’s office in Wisconsin. I had a wide background of various industries and systems and bringing that experience into a real estate association proved valuable during my time as President of the Wisconsin Association of REALTORS®.”

Q: Today's real estate market looks a lot different than it did last year. With 45 years of experience, you are no stranger to change. What advice would you give to the incoming generations of real estate agents and REALTORS®?

A: “It is a myth that you can control your time. If you are really dedicated to this business, you are available 24/7. Your clients are available when they are not working. So, your working hours are more likely going to be when they are away from their day jobs. The other myth is that you will be able to make lots of money very quickly. You don’t just sit in an open house on a Sunday afternoon and make $10,000. I think brokers ought to be more open when they are interviewing prospective new agents about the effort it takes to really establish yourself as an independent contractor in the real estate arena.”

Q: You remain highly active in real estate, serving on MRED's Board of Managers. What are you up to this year and beyond?

A: “I will next year have finished out nine years serving on the Board of Managers at MRED and it is time for a break. I currently work as a sales agent under a franchise that I sold 35 years ago. So, my life has come full circle. When I moved from Wisconsin to Illinois, I joined another broker and we built the Realty Executives franchise system in the Chicago market. For a good period of time when I first moved here, I was helping build this system. Now, I work under the license of one of those franchisees and am having a good time.

Q: Lastly, every year May is Older Americans Month, highlighting the importance of citizens 65 years and older. How would you address the rapidly changing topic of technology in real estate to older Americans who may be hesitant about getting involved at the local or state level due to the fast-paced nature of the industry?

A: “I think with all of us, real estate or not, you must be open to changes. When I first joined real estate, the MLS would deliver us a paper copy of new listings. You had to maintain your own files of what was available on the market, knowing the delivery was already two weeks old. All brand-new agents need to know this: you do not have to swallow technology all in one bite. What happens to new agents in the business is that their brokers - provided brokers do adequate new agent training - offer agents a checklist of 25 action items needed to be successful in the business. What they don’t tell agents is to focus on four or five items that feel most comfortable. Build on previous strengths to establish new confidences. You must build a loyal base of customers first. People who will refer friends and family. I believe it is a myth that an agent can get into the business and simply rely on the internet to give them enough leads to make enough money to live a comfortable life. Technology is only a tool; it is not the solution to your business.”

Mainstreet hosts numerous events annually promoting information and resources to REALTORS® looking for ways to better connect and support mature adults. Our course and events page can be filtered to find the event just for you!

One such event is From Confusion to Clarity: Aging-In-Place and Community Associations webinar on June 10.

Click here to view the registration page and sign up today.