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Front Page - Friday, January 4, 2019

DIY mindset is firm footing for Alcantara

ā€œI was ready to do something different, and Iā€™d always been interested in real estate,ā€ Alcantara says of her 2017 career change. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Growing up as daddy’s little helper gave Julie Alcantara a knack for self-sufficiency. Although she’s now fully grown and working in real estate, her DIY nature is a factor in nearly every personal and professional endeavor.

Take, for example, Alcantara’s previous work with Volkert, a consulting firm with a branch in Chattanooga. When she was promoted from a clerical role at the company to contract administration for a new construction engineering division, no one had the time to teach her how to do her job. Rather, she had to figure things out on her own – and she did.

What’s more, the 47-year-old Alcantara is never more of a DIY enthusiast than when she’s at home, where she’s hung drywall, done electrical work, built a deck, jacked up stairs, repaired broken appliances, and more. When Alcantara needs something fixed, she doesn’t Google a handyman; she rolls up her sleeves, grabs her tools, and gets it done.

The same holds true for Alcantara’s full-time career. Since becoming a Realtor in 2017, she’s taken the resourcefulness and ingenuity that enabled her to negotiate contracts for Volkert and applied it to the work she does for home buyers and sellers. The result: a growing list of satisfied clients.

“Julie knows her stuff and made the process of buying a home easier than anyone told us it could be,” testifies a couple who purchased their first home from Alcantara while living out-of-state. “The process went smoothly due to her extensive knowledge and thoughtfulness.”

The same statement, which is published on Alcantara’s website (JulieAlcantaraRealtor.com), also reveals that she sent a staggering number of emails in response to queries from her clients. Alcantara’s buyers say she left no question unanswered, and no problem unresolved.

By the end of the process, Alcantara had won over clients for life. “We felt like we had gained a new friend as well as a home,” the couple wrote.

At times, experience has been Alcantara’s teacher. Her first real estate transaction threw her from dry ground into the deep end of the pool as she negotiated repairs with a mulish homeowner to secure an FHA loan for her buyer.

Alcantara broke a hard sweat convincing the seller on her second deal to come down on the price, but she was eventually successful.

The challenge of those two transactions paled in comparison to Alcantara’s third, which saw her buyer outbid on multiple homes. Although he was on the verge of walking away, she found her client one more suitable residence and then took a calculated risk.

“Buyers were lined up to purchase the home, and the seller told us to bring our best offer to the table,” Alcantara remembers. “But my client and I stayed with our original offer.”

Their gamble paid off, and a buyer Alcantara nearly lost landed a new home at a price he could afford.

Although an astute student of experience, Alcantara says she is a firm believer in professional development and continuing education. As her career has shifted from one phase to another, she’s returned to school time and again to advance her knowledge and skills.

After Alcantara began working for Volkert, she earned an associate in engineering technology from Chattanooga State. The switch to contract negotiation took her to construction sites to inspect the work of contractors, which sparked an interest in environmental regulations. This prompted her to earn a bachelor of science in natural resource management online.

Alcantara also holds an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “My motto is, ‘Never stop learning,’” she says.

Real estate will give Alcantara the opportunity to do just that, as many agents say the learning opportunities are endless. To date, she has earned the ePro designation from the National Association of Realtors and is on her way to securing what some consider to be the master’s degree of real estate – the NAR’s GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute) designation.

Although Alcantara has spent most of her professional years working in engineering, real estate has always lingered in the background.

She grew up in a small suburb in Hartford, Connecticut, where she enjoyed watching subdivisions rise out of former farmland and become communities. Her family moved to South Carolina when she was young, and she remained there after she graduated from high school and married.

When Alcantara’s husband was offered a job in Chattanooga, the city reminded her of the morsel of Connecticut where she grew up, which made the move easier.

Alcantara worked for Volkert for 17 years. As she handled the environmental aspects of various projects, she often found herself doing a balancing act as she negotiated terms between contractors, owners, and the interests of environmental regulators.

From there, Alcantara was bumped up to project manager, and then to manager of the construction department. This was the last position she held at Volkert before making the leap to real estate in 2017.

“I was ready to do something different, and I’d always been interested in real estate,” she says of the transition. “I liked touring homes as they were being built, and I’ve always enjoyed watching HGTV and working on projects at home.”

Alcantara wanted to operate in north Hamilton County, where she and her husband live, so she approached Raymond Warren, owner of Upward Realty in Hixson, about joining his team.

Although Alcantara was confident in her ability to learn the ins and outs of real estate on her own, Warren is a 40-year veteran of the local market and a multi-million-dollar producer, and she wanted to draw on his experience and expertise.

Plus, Warren sold Alcantara and her husband their home in Soddy Daisy, so they already knew each other.

Alcantara modeled her business after Warren’s. Instead of purchasing advertising, she promoted herself to people in her personal network, stayed in contact with past clients, and built relationships with her buyers and sellers. Before long, a client referred her to a friend, and prospective buyers and sellers started to find her online.

“Random advertising doesn’t work,” she points out. “Building relationships with people who know you and the level of service you provide does. Plus, it’s fun to watch families grow.”

Upward Realty, a small firm Warren founded in 2006, wound up being a perfect professional home for Alcantara, who enjoys working in a small environment. “We’re like a family here,” she says.

Although Alcantara is dedicated to real estate, she hasn’t entirely abandoned her former profession. Rather, she teaches construction engineering classes at Chattanooga State as a member of the school’s adjunct faculty. The perpetual student in her enjoys spending time in the academic environment, and she feels like she’s “giving back” to her alma mater.

Alcantara is also contributing to the larger community by serving as an ambassador for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, which allows her to meet the owners of new businesses and help support them. She also volunteers with the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, the Chattanooga Engineers Club, and the Society of Women Engineers.

An avid outdoors enthusiast, Alcantara also spends time taking in “all the beauty Chattanooga has to offer,” whether she’s camping, hiking, or kayaking.

In addition, she plants a large vegetable garden each year, which provides produce for her canning and freezing. “You can’t beat a marinara made with fresh garden tomatoes,” she says.

From the food on Alcantara’s dinner table to the service she provides her home buyers and sellers, her passion for doing things herself – and doing them well – touches nearly everything in her life. This was bound to happen after she grew up as daddy’s little helper.