Tami Bonnell sold her first house when she was 13. And she hasn’t stopped since.
Bonnell, who grew up in Burlington, was earning money cleaning houses after school and on weekends. She was cleaning a newly built home that was supposed to have an open floor plan on the first floor. But because the selling agent goofed, the house was built with a wall separating the rooms.
“The builder was so angry he put his fist into the wall,” Bonnell recalled.
Bonnell said she asked him “how hard can it be?” to sell a house, and was given the opportunity to do it herself.
She sold the house and received a $500 commission – huge pay for a young girl.
Bonnell continued in real estate as an adult, working for the now defunct Merrill Lynch brokerage and RE/MAX ERA.
Then, in 1999, she heard about a Canadian firm – EXIT Realty – that was launching a new business model for compensating and retaining agents.
EXIT agents who recruit new agents to the company receive 10 percent of the new agent’s gross commission – paid by the corporate office – on each of the new agent’s transactions. Each agent has a 70/30 commission split with the brokerage on their closings.
“This provides financial stability, not just for the agent, but for the brokerage,” Bonnell explained.
The payment plan is aimed at shutting the revolving employment door that hurts conventional real estate brokerages.
And the strategy seems to be working.
EXIT Realty’s U.S. operation has 30,000 agents in 650 offices, mainly on the East and West coasts. Each office is independently owned and operated. Eight new offices opened in New England this year, including ones in Worcester and Newburyport.
In 2001, Bonnell became president of the U.S. operation. EXIT Realty’s U.S. headquarters is in Woburn, but Bonnell spends much of her time traveling, speaking to franchisees, realtor groups and women in business about the real estate industry. She is also a frequent guest on radio business-talk shows, discussing market conditions.
‘Highly Astute Businesswoman’
When Bonnell is not traveling, she said she stays in contact with EXIT Realty regional owners, franchisees, sales representatives and support staff through social media, webinars, video email messages and video conferencing.
In addition to being a sought-after real estate speaker, Bonnell is a self-defense expert. She has taught self-defense classes for at-risk youth and at battered women’s shelters, most recently for a realtor association in Southern California. Along with her husband, Ed, she is teaching a self-defense class at the senior center in Pepperell this summer.
The couple has three children –William, 30, Shane, 27, and Maegan, 24 – and three grandchildren.
Bonnell is also active in the community. She is a past president of Alternative House, a shelter for battered women in Lowell, and served on the board of directors for several years. She has been actively involved in several Habitat for Humanity home builds – both in New England and nationally – and fundraisers, including walks in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“Tami exemplifies the spirit of the self-made woman,” said EXIT Realty Founder and CEO Steve Morris. “She is a highly astute businesswoman who has grown within the organization from a regional owner, to regional vice president to her current position as U.S. president. Tami tirelessly travels the country radiating an upbeat, infectiously positive attitude. She is held in high esteem throughout the industry and is the backbone of our sales community.”
Bonnell said she considers herself lucky to be at the forefront of EXIT Realty’s growth in the United States.
“I really have been so fortunate about surrounding myself with great people,” she said.