Eugene F. Pridgett III, owner of CENTURY 21 The Gene Group in Dayton, Ohio, has a long list of roles he’s played: Air Force veteran, stockbroker, software engineer, real estate broker, business owner, husband. Now he can add another – television star.
He was recently featured in an episode of “Military Makeover: Operation Career,” hosted by Montel Williams highlighting Century 21 Real Estate LLC. This special episode explored how the real estate industry and the CENTURY 21® brand provides great opportunities for military service members looking for a new profession as they transition to civilian life.
The CENTURY 21 brand is proud to support veterans who affiliate with a CENTURY 21 brokerage through its exclusive Recruiting America’s Heroes program for newly retired veterans, transitioning veterans, active military, reservists, military spouses and surviving military spouses. Where applicable, participating agents receive up to 40% off the online real estate pre-licensing course, up to 40% off continuing education courses through the CE Shops (in select states) and a welcome gift from the CENTURY 21 brand.
Skills That Last a Lifetime
Gene enlisted in the Air Force after college, specializing in avionics and programming software for F15 fighter jets. “It was my job to get the sorties in the air,” Gene says, which meant being responsible for the jet’s software and fixing things that went awry. He learned skills that have lasted a lifetime – analytical problem solving, quick thinking, working under pressure, teamwork, attention to detail, dedication to serving.
He expected these would translate well to a career as a stockbroker after he left the military, but ironically, it was the sales part that didn’t suit the future real estate broker. “I was too truthful. I’d tell clients, ‘You know, this isn’t a smart move because these fees are crazy. You can’t make the kind of money you’re looking for this way.’ Finance is, obviously, all about the money, but I was more about watching out for my clients’ interests.”
So, he returned to what he knew best, beginning what would become a 20-year career in software engineering for a major aerospace corporation that supported the military. Gene worked in configuration management, ensuring completed software was clean with no backdoors or additional software added in that could create issues.
Looking for a new challenge after two decades, he again turned to those invaluable skills he learned in the Air Force. Real estate had always interested him, so he began investing in and flipping houses. Over time, he developed algorithms to identify the best investment opportunities and how to best evaluate properties. (Because that’s what you do when you’re an ex-military software engineer who goes into real estate.)
What he found was that he loved helping people more than anything.
(Don’t) “Show Me the Money”
“It all came back to that foundation of service, which is what the military is all about – I wasn’t the warfighter, I supported the warfighter. Anything you do consistently over time becomes the baseline, becomes absorbed. Our greatest purpose on this planet is to be of service to others. You never see a
U-Haul following a hearse, because you can’t take it with you. I wasn’t in it for the money.”
So, he earned his real estate and then broker’s license and started his own independent brokerage. As his business grew, the offers started coming in – offers to merge, be purchased, affiliate with a brand. He’d always listen politely to what they had in mind, but he was never interested because they were always just about the money.
“When the CENTURY 21 brand approached me, they talked about a partnership, and that got my attention. My affiliated agents know I’m not sitting in the command quarter making decisions, I’m out on the battlefield with them,” Gene says, peppering his comments with military terms. “The CENTURY 21 brand operated the same way as me. I was talking to the heads of the departments and the president and CEO, Mike Miedler. They have approximately 14,000 offices, but he took the time to get to know me. I could reach out to him if I needed to talk, and that meant a lot. It still does.”
Gene was also attracted to the brand’s 50-year track record and reputation as the most recognized and respected name in real estate1. “The CENTURY 21 name is known around the world, which makes a big difference. They also had a robust tool set and systems that allowed me to plug in and help me grow my business. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel and I didn’t have to use any tools that maybe didn’t align with my approach.”
Military – The Making of a Good Agent
Gene has seen from experience that veterans often make great real estate agents because of their transferable skills. Both the military and real estate are all about service and working toward the greater good. Veterans are dependable and value consistency, so they seek careers with systems and processes in place that create predictable outcomes. They’re very goal oriented and excellent problem solvers. They’re used to quality training so they can continuously improve and grow their skills. They want a reliable source of correction when things start to go off track, so they’re very coachable. They thrive in environments where they work alongside leaders who want to contribute to their success for a mutually beneficial outcome.
“A diamond is coal – the only difference is pressure. Veterans have just been under different pressures. That’s not saying the diamond is better than the coal, because the coal will heat your home. It’s just that we need to be in a different setting to be our best. And I think real estate is that type of setting.”
While he doesn’t specifically focus on recruiting veterans, they naturally find their way to him based on his proximity to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. But he says most of his military-related agents are actually military or veteran spouses, which he considers to be veterans, too. “When your spouse is active duty, you are, too. You’re part of the squadron.”
Hungry and Humble
CENTURY 21 The Gene Group currently has 40 affiliated agents in Dayton and four in Cincinnati, with another 30 in the queue waiting to affiliate. But he’s very selective about who he chooses to partner with.
“They have to be hungry and humble. When I meet with prospects, I tell them real estate is work, it’s effort. You have a great responsibility and there will be challenges. But you’re the one that helps clients work through the emotions of buying and selling a home. You are their trusted advisor, and you have to be committed to that.”
Gene lives by three rules, both in business and in life:
- Do what’s right because it’s right.
- Trust can’t be granted – it must be earned.
- Give more than you expect to receive.
“If you’re not in alignment with these, you won’t be a good fit for my brokerage.”
Many of the agents Gene affiliates are new to real estate, which is by design because he can mentor them on the right way to do things. He developed an onboarding system that helps agents move from “green to gold” quickly. There’s a team that walks them through the affiliation process, helps with the paperwork, orders business cards and guides them on all aspects of real estate. His goal is to remove obstacles and decision fatigue, so they remain excited about their new profession and do not become overwhelmed.
He also plugs them into everything the brand offers, from C21 University® to the marketing and productivity tools. “If they want to go into commercial real estate, build a team – whatever direction they want to head in, I know the CENTURY 21 brand and I can help them.”
Working with agents and supporting them as they build a business has been a perfect match with Gene’s focus on service. “I’ve always met sales milestones and that’s been great. But helping an agent make an income she never thought was possible, enough to take her kids to Disney World – that means so much more to me.”
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the typical agent handles 9-10 transactions a year2. “Those statistics are based on the wind shear agents face. But what if I could take that wind shear away? That’s what I’m trying to do – create an environment where challenges are minimized so agents can grow faster and go farther with the right systems and tools. My philosophy is, ‘If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, go with a team. If you want to go real far and real fast, go with us!’”
Wind shear… Spoken like a true aerospace engineer.
Serving Those Who Serve
The Realogy Military Rewards program, available through Anywhere Real Estate Inc. (formerly Realogy Holdings Corp.), the parent company of Century 21 Real Estate LLC, supports military and veteran family homebuyers and sellers by offering $350-$7,500 in cash back3 after closing when they buy and/or sell a home with a participating agent, based on the home sale and/or purchase price.
CENTURY 21 The Gene Group is also invested in supporting members of the military who are relocating to or from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Gene believes having a veteran leading the agency adds a level of confidence because they know he understands their unique challenges.
Gene’s team has a special process in place to help military clients with a PCS (permanent change of station), who typically have a very limited time to find a home and a tight deadline to move. Prior to the client arriving, they have several phone conversations to understand their needs and aspirations. The agent blocks several days off and prepares a showing execution plan so properties that meet their criteria are lined up and ready to view. His team shows them how to apply for VA financing, walks them through making an offer, and ideally, they leave with a contract so there’s one less thing to worry about.
Gene quotes Chaka Khan lyrics to illustrate his relentless approach to service, whether it’s to relocating military families, non-military clients or agents: “Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall.”
And that perfectly sums up how Gene rolls.
1 Study Source: 2021 Ad Tracking Study. The survey results are based on 1,200 online interviews with a national random sample of adults (ages 18+) who are equal decision makers in real estate transactions and active in the real estate market (bought or sold a home within the past two years or, plan to purchase or sell a home within the next two years). Brand awareness question based on a sample of 1,200 respondents. Results are significant at a 90% confidence level, with a margin of error of +/-2.4%. Recognition question based on consumers aware of brand in question. Results are significant at a 90% confidence level, with a margin of error of +/- 2.4%.
The study was conducted by Kantar Group Limited (formerly Millward Brown), a leading global market research organization, from November 9-27, 2021.
2 2021 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile.
3 The cash back bonus is offered in most states. In some states, a gift card or commission reduction at closing may be provided in lieu of the cash back bonus. The program is not available for employer-sponsored relocations or transactions in Iowa or outside the United States. The cash back bonus is not available in Alaska and Oklahoma. In Kansas and Tennessee, a MasterCard MAX gift card will be issued. In Mississippi, New Jersey, and Oregon, a commission reduction may be available at closing. The cash back bonus is only available with the purchase and/or sale of your home through the use of a program-introduced real estate agent. The actual amount you receive is based on the purchase and/or sale price of your home. The program award is not available in certain transactions with restricted agent commissions (including many new construction, For Sale by Owner, or For Sale by iBuyer transactions). Your assigned agent can help you identify any transactions where the award would not be available. All real estate commissions are negotiable. Other terms and conditions may apply. This is not a solicitation if you are already represented by a real estate broker. Please check with a program coordinator for details. Program terms and conditions are subject to change at any time without notice. Additional terms, conditions, and restrictions apply.
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