As longtime Vice President of Credit and Investments for Prudential Real Estate, Corine Peterson – who began with the company as a senior accountant – eventually managed a $300 million real estate portfolio and served on the boards of several of the company’s largest affiliates throughout the U.S.
With a portfolio of the largest multi-office real estate brokerages nationwide, she engaged in high level mergers and acquisitions by structuring and making strategic investments involving both debt and equity in the residential real estate brokerage industry.
An expert at determining values of companies, she put together credit memorandums and pro-formas on the potential multi-million dollar deals which she would take to Prudential’s financial committee for approval.
Peterson brings these years of corporate finance expertise – along with her MBA in Finance from Pepperdine University – to her thriving new career as an independent real estate agent in Orange County, California, where she’s lived and worked since 1988.
In a competitive field crowded with agents with minimal background in financial matters and who lack true understanding of the fluctuations in the marketplace, Peterson’s strong and direct communication skills, high level experience, confidence, integrity and dedication to the minutest details set her apart. This includes providing detailed property pricing based not merely on local comps but on objective financial analysis mixed with her subjectivity and keen instincts. She also hires top photographers to capture the visual essence of the high-priced homes she represents, and works with a renowned local marketing company to help advertise them.
“I believe in providing the best services to the consumer because they are paying a lot of money and putting a lot of time and energy into selling their home,” says Peterson, whose “territory” includes the Hills of North Tustin, Lemon Heights, Cowan Heights, Panorama Hill and Barrett Hill.
“The consumer should never be in a situation where their agent just puts out a sign on the lawn and sends out a bunch of flyers. I treat every meeting with clients and potential clients as if it were one of the corporate meetings I was involved in, where I present them with facts and don’t leave them hanging on any unknown details. From my background, they’re aware that one of my strong suits is the ability to put deals together.”
As head of The Peterson Group, her goal with all clients is simple: to guide them through each step of the buying process, including finding out what they can qualify for in today’s financing environment, helping find the perfect home, negotiating their contract and moving in.
Peterson’s home page (www.corinepeterson.com) is filled with inspiring testimonials from clients whose lives were changed thanks to Peterson’s hands-on attention to their needs. Paul and Nancy Johnson’s words of praise are telling: “Corine is the ultimate professional. Smart, personable, organized, pays attention to the smallest details, timely responses and it’s all backed up with years of experience and education. You get the ‘total package’ with Corine – she is such a joy to work with – we highly recommend her.”
After considering for five years the move from the longtime safety net of a high level corporate environment, Peterson chose a curious time to enter the fray as an independent real estate agent, or as she prefers to be known as, “a banker who sells real estate”: when the local market was at the bottom. But her timing proved impeccable. A detailed new report on the state of real estate in Orange County by Steven Thomas of Quantitative Economics and Decision Sciences – posted on Peterson’s home page – says, “With reports of the median sales price up 17.5% in December 2012 compared to December 2011, it is no wonder that there is a lot of excitement centered on the housing market.”
Once Peterson made her decision, she launched her new career quickly. She left Prudential December 23, 2011, secured her license four days later and conducted interviews over the next month with local brokers she would consider working for. She then put together her business plan and “hit the streets” by March – and soon thereafter was securing clients and closing deals. The broker she decided to work with, interestingly, is the Anaheim Hills office of Prudential California Realty, whose owner she had worked with for 20 years when she was in corporate with Prudential Real Estate.
At the time she made her decision to pursue what she likes to call her “own destination,” Prudential Real Estate itself was going through a unique transition itself, having been recently bought out by Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway, which acquired Prudential’s real estate agent network from Brookfield Asset Management.
“I had the option to work for that company, or I could have stayed with Prudential and left with a big severance check,” Peterson says. “I decided to take the check and start doing real estate on my own. I had spent over 20 years working for someone else and working for myself is something I always wanted to do.
“It was a very hard decision to make because I have always worked in the corporate world, and I had various offers from other large brokerages that asked me to work for them, some in a CFO capacity,” she adds. “So I could have gone to one of those companies with a good starting salary or start in real estate from scratch. I have always done well in a structured environment, but I am truly enjoying the freedom now of being my own boss and determining the course of my career. As I get older, I also like the idea that I don’t have to worry about being retained when corporate shifts take place. I would rather be in control of my situation than have someone else be in control of it. There are, of course, both rewards and consequences to the choice I have made, but I am very happy so far. The market in Orange County is taking off, but of course I can’t predict how the economy will be over the next five years. All I can do is my best to capture a good slice of market share, and if the economy does turn for the worse, find a way to capture more market share and get more deals to compensate.”
Despite these obvious unknowns, Peterson realized the financial potential of being an independent agent back in her days at Prudential, sitting on the board of directors of the companies she made deals with, which included some of the most successful real estate companies in the U.S. “I was sitting there with the best of the best,” she says, “talking with CEOs about their operations, and about what real estate agents should and should not be doing, learning how much money they make selling real estate. A well-known fact is that about 10 percent of them were making real money – which meant that 90 percent of the agents selling residential real estate were ineffective.
“So there I was in the corporate world, with my salary and bonus,” Peterson adds, “knowing that some agents were netting millions of dollars a year and wondering how well I might do if I ever decided to sell real estate in Southern California. Working intimately with these high end people over the years has proven invaluable because I saw exactly what it would take to succeed. I also think my financial background is a huge part of my successful actions with clients thus far. When you’re dealing with the biggest transaction of your life, would you want to work with an agent that has little formal education and/or experience who just passed the real estate exam – or someone like me who brings all this hands on experience to the table?”
The lofty level of corporate and (now) entrepreneurial success Peterson has experienced takes the Erie, Pennsylvania native far from her humble beginnings as an accounting major at Penn State. The day after she graduated, she moved to California with exactly enough to pay one month’s rent. She began calling accounting firms from the phone book and she got to “H” when she secured an interview for a position as staff accountant. She learned the position had already been filled but was able to convince the firm to hire her too.
“I thought I would become a CPA, but after doing taxes and audits for a few years, I realized it wasn’t for me. I left there and went to work for the investment banking firm Geneva as a financial analyst for a while before getting my first job at Prudential, starting as a senior accountant. The title wasn’t glamorous but in that role I did financial analysis and monitored activities of real estate brokerages all across the U.S. and Canada. In time I was overseeing the entire East Coast, working with over 400 offices. I worked my way up through the ranks, and the key turning point in my 20 year career there was when Prudential started their investment banking division.”
As many like minded businesspeople find when they leave the structured, bottom line bureaucratic corporate environment, Peterson has found a unique joy in the personal relationships she has developed as an independent real estate agent. “I most enjoy how appreciative and happy my clients are at the end of the deal, which confirms the limitless opportunities real estate agents have to facilitate the changing of individual lives,” she says. “There’s a personal impact when I’m working with a consumer, and I want them to feel good about their transaction at the end of the day. I want them to know that they have been dealing with a professional woman with high integrity, which is an important foundational aspect of who I am as a person and agent.
“In some ways, my thoughts about these relationships are very different from the thinking that goes on in the corporate world,” Peterson says. “It’s not just about doing what I can to make a sale, to make the commission and move on. It is very important to me that my clients genuinely like me when the transaction is over and are happy with what I have done. Life is short and it’s important to find the things that bring you joy and touch the world in a meaningful way. This is an ideal career for me because I’m able to make a living doing something I truly enjoy while making a difference in people’s lives. If they’re putting their trust in my hands, it’s important that I treat them with respect every step of the way. I want the consumer to win, and I hope what I am doing will help ‘step up’ the profession and make people feel that real estate agents truly can have their best interests at heart.”
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Corine Peterson is the ultimate professional. Smart, personable, organized, pays attention to the smallest details, timely responses and it’s all backed-up with years... read more
Corine is a very bright and extremely hard-working investment manager. She immerses herself in the nuances of the businesses in her investment portfolio, and does her best to share her expertise... read more