Judy's Broker Network Makes the News

Courtesy of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Judy Columbus Couldn't Stay Away from the Biz

Itch to work spurs retired Realtor to begin second-home brokerage

Amy Wu
Staff Writer

(October 13, 2006)—Judy Columbus, entrepreneur and real estate broker, admits that she found it hard not to work.

So in her sprawling Brighton home — the base for her new business — she once again juggles e-mails, e-faxes and phone calls.

“When you're in real estate ... it's really 24/7. I like that routine ,” said the 67-year-old Columbus, who was ready to retire in 1999  after selling Judy Columbus Inc. Real Estate and Relocation to her daughter Jamie.

Columbus played with her grandchildren andtraveled extensively with husband Richard, retired from Eastman Kodak Co. She mentored women entrepreneurs and stayed active in volunteer work.

However, the itch to jump back into the fray didn't go away. “I missed real estate and the relationships,” she said.

She also sensed that the second-home market had promise. She and her husband had recently purchased a second home in Palm Desert, Calif., and friends were doing the same in the Carolinas, Florida and California. So earlier this year she launched Judy's Broker Network, a Web-based company that brings together buyers, sellers and brokers across the country.

Jamie is part of the startup business — she had sold Judy Columbus Inc. to Hunt Real Estate Corp. — and the second act began.

It may be a good thing that Columbus sees a broad potential market, because some Rochester-area real estate brokers say they don't foresee significant growth in the second-home market here. “Rochester is a modest marketplace,” said Bob Miglioratti, chairman of the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors. “We probably have fewer people who have second homes.”

Columbus also has an uphill battle because of the boutique size of Judy's Broker Network. Most large real estate operations have agents specializing in second homes, and some have vast networks even international in scope. Columbus believes her 43 years of industry experience give her an edge over many potential competitors.

“Their referral is a handoff,” she said of large real estate companies. “Ours is a handshake.”

Industry players regard her as formidable. “No matter what, people want to deal face-to-face with a human being when they are buying a home,” said Armand D'Alfonso, chief executive of Nothnagle Realtors. “She'll attract people for that, and she's a pretty smart lady.”

Columbus is running the business both from Brighton and California. That makes the Web site, www.judysbrokernetwork.com, crucial to success. The site will soon include a question-and- answer column, a blog, and even podcasting. Columbus says the way it works is she is the matchmaker between the home owner or buyer and the agent in the market where the home is located. “I'm like a bridge. I know the people from both ends,” she said. “Every single connection is personal.” She shares the commission with the agent.

Judy's Broker Network has closed on at least seven properties, and is now working with 30 agents across the country and 35 clients currently seeking or selling homes in 17 states.

In Rochester's tight-knit real estate world, many people seem to have a Judy Columbus story. They say she is smart, personable and a savvy marketer. Columbus has marketed with tactics including sending bagels to company executives, wrapping homes in red ribbon during the holidays, and inviting newcomers to her home for dinner.

”I would never second-guess Judy Columbus,” Miglioratti said. “She's just too smart. She's very familiar with the marketplace, not just with Rochester but across the country. She wouldn't do anything without some instinct.”


ANNETTE LEIN staff photographer

Judy Columbus, who used to own Judy Columbus Inc. Real Estate and Relocation, has launched a new business, Judy's Broker Network, which specializes in matching buyers and sellers in the second-home market.

Judy Columbus

Career: First job was in real estate sales in Los Angeles. After she and her husband moved to Rochester for his job with Kodak, Columbus worked as an agent before starting her own business in 1978.

Family: Married to Richard. Daughters Tracy and Jamie; two grandchildren.

Hometown: Born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised in Akron, Ohio