By all accounts Gene Cragoe should be retired. At 81, he’s had two full careers — farming for 40 years and real estate for 35 years. The two careers overlapped for 10 years. But he has no intention of retiring. “If you quit, then you settle in and next thing you know you’re gone,” he said. “That’s what happened to my dad; that’s what happened to my wife’s dad.” More than anything, though, he’d miss the work if he retired. “It’s about the people,” he said. “You meet so many people and you form relationships. … I get accused of talking too much.” At Cragoe Realty, he’s built a solid reputation with buyers and sellers — sometimes generations deep, sometimes helping the same families move several times. And through the years, he’s sold some properties several times. That’s what happens with realtors who have established trusted relationships in the community. “I moved one couple four times — and they came back to me each time,” Cragoe said. Over the years, he said he’s learned a thing or two about building success in the business. His advice to newcomers in the field:
•Be available to meet with customers during their time frame. “People work during the day, so you should expect to work after 5 and weekends.”
•Be honest. “Was there ever water in the basement? Do the fuses blow? If the seller tells you, you have to pass that information along,” he said. “Because if something’s wrong after the sale, who’s the first person they’re going to call?”
•Be willing to work. “You have to be energetic to do this job,” he said. “Some homes have lots of steps.”
•Hire good people. “Thank goodness I have her,” he said, motioning toward Renita Enninga, office manager. “She knows these things inside and out,” he said pointing to his computer.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to just be nice. Cragoe can think of dozens of times he’s helped homeowners with simple home repairs or solutions. “They’re just so grateful,” he said. “They don’t forget those things.”
One time he helped a single mother plunge a drain to rid her basement of water. In another instance, he helped a woman understand her electrical wiring so her outlets worked properly. Cragoe was still farming by Kenneth when he got his license to sell real estate in 1983. “Three of us Gerry McGuire, Bob Bailey and I, rode together to Marshall for training,” he recalled. He started selling real estate under Bob Latham, and in 1991 he got his brokerage license and in 1993 bought his own building on East Main Street. It was the former Sears building, now occupied by the Estensen Company. Lowell Binford was his first salesman, and Ida Reverts later became a solid asset to the business. “She knew a lot of people,” Cragoe said. “And she was involved in so many things.” In 1997 they moved their offices to the RockCounty bank building at Main and Cedar, and in 2007 they bought the former City Hall building, their current office location. Along the way his daughter, Peggy, and her husband, Scott Adams, joined the business in 2004. “He worked with us for 12 years,” Cragoe said. “That went very well.” Adams accepted an opportunity in the Rock County Assessor’s Office last fall but still helps out his father-in-law part-time as needed. “I couldn’t do this without some back-up help,” Cragoe said. While this transition may have opened the door for Cragoe’s retirement, he said that’s out of the question. “I’m going to do this as long as I can — as long as my health allows,” he said.