In March of 2015, commercial real estate broker and developer, Dolly Elizondo, CCIM, was running to become the first Latina from Texas to serve in the U.S. Congress. Placing third in a six-way Democratic primary, she narrowly missed the runoff by a mere 1,026 votes out of more than 50,000 cast.
As she continues her commercial real estate career and contemplates her political future, Elizondo appreciates the long path that brought her to where she is now.
“Entering fields dominated by men in my area was certainly a challenge,” says Elizondo, broker and owner of eReal Estate Depot in Mission, Texas. “But it was the confidence instilled in me from my successes as a commercial real estate professional that allowed me to pursue other goals.”
With all the national attention from the election, Elizondo hasn't ruled out a run in 2018. But whether she decides to run or not, she hopes that other women from Texas can find inspiration from her journey in both commercial real estate and politics. She talked to Commercial Investment Real Estate about her experiences.
CIRE: Prior to becoming a real estate professional, you were a teacher. Why did you decide to pursue a career in commercial real estate?
Elizondo: As a single parent of two children and looking for extra income, I took a part-time job selling real estate. In my first year, I sold more than three times the average agent in their first year. In the end, it was just a matter of dollars and sense. I loved teaching, but I realized that I could support my family better with a career in real estate, so I rolled the dice, took a chance, and never looked back. Since then, the Rio Grande Valley has seen explosive growth, particularly in retail leasing and hospitality, with multimillion dollar listings now common.
CIRE: You purchased a real estate company in the late 1990s using your retirement money from teaching. Describe a few of the strategies that helped you set up a successful brokerage in South Texas?
Elizondo: I might have been the top salesperson at my brokerage, but when you start your own business, you don't realize all the overhead costs involved. As a result, I failed at the very beginning. It turned out to be mentorship that would be the key for me. I was fortunate enough to find another female broker in town with more experience, who helped me to formulate a feasible business plan, and I went from there, going from a broker to a developer.
CIRE: How did your experiences as a commercial real estate professional prepare you for running for U.S. Congress?
Elizondo: I served on the CCIM Legislative Subcommittee and it was during the time Dodd-Frank was coming into play. I watched as the local banking systems in our community began to erode because restrictions and regulations that stifled growth. Even I was not borrowing money because the financial environment was just too unstable. We had to come up with new ways to improve real estate revenue. Eventually, the opportunity arose to run for U.S. Congress, and I thought, there it is.
CIRE: Now that the primary election is over, will you continue to participate in local politics?
Elizondo: Absolutely, I still serve on Annie's List, a state level organization whose main objective is to elect women to office in Texas. And I will continue to do what I can in local political groups.
CIRE: What advice would you give to women entering commercial real estate?
Elizondo: Find someone who is willing to mentor you. You must shadow a person that does it day in and day out. There is no better initial education to enter a new industry. You must also expand your knowledge through any educational opportunities available. I was lucky to have found CCIM Institute not only for my advancement in the industry but also for my introduction to local politics. The CCIM designation gives you instant credibility. You can't put a price on that.
CIRE: In 1999, you became the first women south of San Antonio to earn the CCIM designation. How has the CCIM designation enhanced your career in commercial real estate?
Elizondo: When I speak with a client about internal rate of return or doing a 1031 exchange, I'm able to do so with both confidence and experience due to the rigorous coursework and portfolio required to earned my CCIM designation. I completed my first development without my CCIM designation, but after I received my designation, it changed my entire life. Every project I did after, I knew exactly how to negotiate, exactly what my ROI would be, and exactly how to save money on taxes. Having the designation puts me on a different level. And it's helped to bring me a long way so far.