Whether it's a young couple just starting out or a retiree looking to downsize, many people dream of finding just the right home. It is the dream of St. Marys native Melanie Geci to help them find it as an Erie-based real estate agent.
"I absolutely love it, Geci said. "It's just the joy of seeing people getting into a home that they just fell in love with."
Geci is a 1997 graduate of Elk County Christian High School and a 2001 graduate of Clarion University with a bachelor of science in business management. She is the daughter of Don and Char Geci of St. Marys and has five siblings: Shawn, Tracey Geci Duncan, Randy, Tona and Don, as well as several nieces and nephews.
She credits her parents and siblings for being "very supportive" of her and said she enjoys being part of a larger family.
"There's never a dull moment," she said.
In her downtime, Geci said she enjoys exploring the Erie area, which she describes as "a bigger St. Marys - it's nice," and visiting with her family, whether in St. Marys or Erie.
"I like to take some time off to be with my family," Geci said. "We like to go camping and also just enjoy hanging out and visiting."
In addition to camping, she also enjoys outdoor pursuits.
"In the winter, it's snowboarding, and in the summers, it's the beach and kayaking," Geci said. "And I may attempt the Pittsburgh Relay Marathon again with 'Team Geci' - my siblings. Last year was our first year, and we did really well, which is making me want to do it again, even though I am not really a runner."
Currently a realtor with Coldwell Banker Select, Realtors, in Erie, Geci said she became interested in entering the realty business after the purchase of her own house in 2005.
"After buying my house, it just intrigued me. I loved it - the management part of it, of going through the whole process, even though it was very stressful because it's the biggest purchase of your entire life," Geci said.
After some consideration, she decided to pursue becoming a licensed real estate agent. She took classes through Polley Associates in Erie and then tested for her license.
"I sat on the idea for a year, thinking, 'Should I do it or should I not?,' then I thought, 'Well, I'll go for it,'" Geci said. "The timing was never right, and then all of a sudden, I decided on it for a career move and took the plunge. And as it turns out, I'm loving it."
Geci said excellent organization and communication skills are essential to a successful realtor, especially since there is much more to negotiating a sale than people see on the surface.
"There's this notion that real estate agents just show houses and just have an easy day, an easy schedule, and that's not the case at all," Geci said. "There's so much more that's involved with a real estate transaction that most people are not aware of. This is a big legal contract. This is some serious stuff."
She said among those activities are scheduling appointments, writing offers and contracts, helping buyers with applying for a mortgage, ensuring there is a clear title on properties, negotiating a sale or purchase and checking to make sure all paperwork is accurately filled out. Her schedule varies to accommodate clients who are only available at certain times or on certain days, including weekends.
"You have to be available 24/7, basically," Geci said. "People, especially first-time homebuyers, may not know what's going on and what to expect. It can be stressful for them.
I want to make sure that they feel like they are number one -- all of my clients. Whenever I hear something [regarding their property], I call them right away."
Although Geci launched her career as a broker just as the housing bubble was bursting nationwide, she noted that Erie, as well as most of Pennsylvania, did not suffer from sharply declining home values nearly as much as other parts of the country.
"It was a gamble, but I made the most of it. I came in at the lowest point, but I still did well. The Erie market was not that bad. It stayed pretty stable," Geci said.
She said she is seeing a slow but positive improvement in the overall housing market.
"The interest rates are awesome right now, so a lot buyers are coming out of the woodwork. Right now, I'm swamped," Geci said. "I'm very busy and I enjoy being busy."
She said most of today's popular TV shows revolving around real estate improvements and transactions do not accurately represent the sheer amount of behind-the-scenes work on the part of the agent involved.
"It's my biggest pet peeve because it's really not giving you a clear picture of the way things run. It just gives a false impression. People just see the tip of the iceberg, and that's what they see on TV," Geci said.
"In every transaction, there's hiccups. There's bumps, and just working through them and negotiating around them is a big challenge."
Geci said that maneuvering around those "hiccups" is one of the things she enjoys most about being a realtor.
"Getting through the obstacles and making it happen, to see the smiles on the buyers' faces, on the sellers' faces, it makes me even happier about my job, my career," Geci said. "I've sold houses from anywhere between $17,000 and $391,000. It's all across the board. First-time homebuyers are my favorite because I know how excited I was when I bought my home.
"It's the greatest feeling when you're helping along the biggest purchase of their entire life and you're helping them get to enjoy their home."
In addition to her busy schedule as a realtor, Geci is also finishing up classes in preparation to become a broker.
"To study for a broker's license, you need 248 hours of broker's classes. You have to learn everything - business management, finance, investment, new construction, everything," Geci said.
She said earning a broker's license will provide her with more career options.
"If I wanted to, I could manage a real estate office or I could start my own. But I'm not at that point yet," Geci said, adding that she is keeping all of her options open. Right now, she is just enjoying learning everything she can about the business and putting that knowledge to good use.
"You learn something new every day in real estate," Geci said. "It's a challenging business, but I love it."