As a young woman, Jean Ferris dreamed of being a hard-hitting political journalist, traveling and interviewing world leaders on foreign policy and events. “I read quite a bit about politics, and was even a political science major, but I never desired to be a politician—I just wanted to write about them,” Ferris says.
However, Ferris’s life took a different turn—she married and started a family, and, after several twists along the way, she found her true passion: Helping others.
“I’ve always been a helper—I love to solve people’s problems,” Ferris says with a smile. “I suppose that would make me a soft touch, but it’s what brings me joy.
But it took Ferris several years to find her joy. She worked for Pacific Telephone for 10 years in management, training operators, then, after traveling with her engineer husband (including living in Iran), she began training in social work. Ferris transitioned to a career in the field, working for a state-operated daycare, assisting parents with limited income; however, after going through a divorce, she desired a new challenge and several people suggested real estate.
“It was the early 80s and I thought ‘Why not? Let’s give it a try!,” Ferris says. “And I loved it. I loved making people happy, and working at something I really enjoyed.”
Ferris remarried a fellow realtor, and decided to leave real estate full time to work for a direct mail company, but retained her real estate license and continued to sell some properties. Then, one day she stopped by The Norton Agency and talked to Betty Norton and mentioned that she might like to get back into real estate. The conversation was followed by a call from Frank Norton, Jr. and Ferris found herself again working as a realtor.
“I’ve sold or leased office, retail, industrial and $4.7 million in land,” Ferris notes. “I don’t say no to anything and I am willing to try anything.”
Ferris admits the best part of being a long-tenured realtor is not having to market as much. “The majority of my business now is repeat customers and referrals,” she says. “I used to spend hours sending mailings to every business I could think of in Gainesville, so it’s nice to be in a place where I am benefitting from the relationships I’ve built with satisfied clients.”
At the end of the day, for me if the client is well served and happy, then you’ve done a good job whether you’ve made a dime or not,” she adds.
Now in her 70s, Ferris certainly has her share of advice to impart to those entering the field, but for her, the bottom line is honesty and homework. “You cannot cut any corners with clients—you have to tell them what they need to know, not just what they want to know,” she says. “You also have to do your research and know what you are talking about—a client will know if you don’t.”
In her downtime, Ferris enjoys volunteering—she is an active participant at St. Paul United Methodist Church, Rape Response and Family Promise. She also enjoys spending time with her son’s family—including babysitting his 12 children, 11 of which are adopted—and visiting her daughter and her family, who after serving 13 years in China as a missionary, now live just outside Athens in Winterville, GA.
And even though her career is in sales, Ferris says she doesn’t consider herself a sales person, but thinks of herself as a problem solver who enjoys the challenges and ever-changing nature of real estate. “No two days are the same, so I cannot get bored or tired,” she says with a laugh. “It keeps my mind active—I cannot imagine doing anything else.”
• Multi-Million Dollar Club
• CCIM Candidate
- Member of the founding board of Sojourner House
- Past Kiwanis Board Member
- Rape Crisis Volunteer
- Hospice volunteer
- Has participated in numerous fund raising walks
- Member of St. Paul United Methodist Church where she serves on various committees