When Jeff Cadwallader moved back home from Colorado to help his mom Jeanne with her business, he became a third-generation Realtor.
"I always knew I'd end up in real estate," said Jeff, who remembers helping his mom study for her real estate exam as a child and developed a passion early on for houses and for working with people.
"It was a wonderful opportunity," said Jeanne Cadwallader, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker in St. Charles. She admits Jeff had originally considered going into business with his aunt, a Denver Realtor, before she changed her son's mind.
"I told him 'If you do that, I will write you out of my will,' " said Jeanne, laughing. "I was so busy, I needed him here."
On this Mother's Day, Jeanne and Jeff are one of many mother-child Realtor teams working in the Chicago suburban market. Such partnerships are surprisingly common -- and effective -- according to Tonya Corder, president of the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors and managing broker of Keller Williams Preferred Realty in Orland Park.
"Parent-child teams can have a great synergy," said Corder, who has both mother-son and mother-daughter teams working in her office. "A lot of times the kids are tech savvy and look at things differently, while the parents have the old-school people skills and knowledge of the real estate business."
That holds true for the Cadwalladers, who were ahead of the curve on trends such as QR codes, iPhone apps and mobile-friendly HD video home tours -- thanks to Jeff's technology skills.
He oversees the Cadwallader Group's website and branding efforts while Jeanne rounds out the team with her people skills and gentle touch, taking the lead on clients who might need a little extra hand-holding.
"We were able to combine her old school with my new school," Jeff said.
Being multigenerational also helps parent-child teams appeal to a wide variety of clients.
Karen and Beth Gorz, a mother-daughter team that works out of Keller Williams Premiere Properties in Glen Ellyn, often split clients by age. daughter Beth might take on a first-time buyer in her 20s, for instance, while mom Karen may handle an older client who better relates to her. However, it doesn't always work out that way.
"Senior citizens really seem to like Beth," said Karen. "Sometimes younger people look at me as more of a mother figure. It depends. We'll say, 'OK, this person is responding to you, why don't you take them.' "
For Donna and Jennifer Radke, a mother-daughter team at RE/MAX Center in Grayslake, splitting clients by type seems to work better. Jennifer travels throughout Lake County showing properties to buyers and attending closings and home inspections while Donna sticks closer to home and works with the team's seller clients, who may require a little more counseling.
Donna Radke started her real estate career in 1986, when her daughter was 5 years old, and Jennifer has been involved in one way or another ever since. She worked for her mother as an unlicensed assistant before finally becoming a Realtor herself five years ago.
Donna knew Jennifer was a natural real estate agent. "She had that knack," Donna said. And having the interest and the drive is vital for success.
"Real estate has to be a passion, not just a job," said Jeanne Cadwallader. "It's more than a full-time career. You may get a call from a client at 9:30 at night or be out with them all weekend."
Cadwallader recognized the spark in Jeff, who resembled her father, a Realtor and homebuilder who had strong business skills and always preached good ethics.
"I see a lot of him in Jeff," said Jeanne. "His gestures, the way he's so good with people. Jeff is so much like my dad it blows my mind."
Having that strong family bond also brings strength and unity to their work, say the teams, and is a contributing factor to their success.
"One of the reasons we're so successful is that we share everything," said Jeanne, who is in touch with Jeff on a daily and often hourly basis. "There's a deeper level to our relationship, being a mother and a son."
According to Cadwallader, it is also vitally important to respect each other as professionals. "We'll laugh and (he'll) say 'Oh, you're going to play your mom card.' But really that doesn't happen," she said. "We know when to be mother and son and when to be business partners."
The level of commitment and trust between mother and child is another benefit.
"When I am away, I can feel comfortable knowing that Jennifer is running the business," said Donna Radke. "Who could I trust more than my own daughter?"
"We have way more power and energy as a team," said Karen Gorz. Whether it's working on staging a home or giving a listing presentation, she notes, "we enjoy working together."
Passing the torch
Running a real estate team is like owning a family business. Part of the appeal of involving the next generation is a chance for parents to impart all they've learned while helping their children become successful businesspeople in their own right.
"You have this business you've built," said Karen Cadwallader. "If you have the ability to share it, it's a lovely thing."
"I wouldn't be in real estate if it wasn't for my mom," said Jennifer, noting the clientele and business her mother has built up and the lessons she has shared have been essential to Jennifer's success.
Many parent-child teams also share another attribute -- they are growing. The Gorz Group just hired two additional Realtors to work with them, the Cadwalladers are taking on a new agent and the Radkes are interviewing assistants.
"The market has turned," said Donna Radke. "We're getting more listings, more buyers. Our business has really grown."
Will all that growth mean openings for more relatives?
Absolutely, says Cadwallader, who has six grandkids. "If they show an interest, we're going to scoot them right in and run with it."