WALLINGFORD — Eileen Cardona is a bilingual real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway NE Properties, and for the past four years she has represented home buyers and sellers across the state. Before she got into real estate, she worked with her community for over 22 years as a caseworker for Catholic Family Services and at Rushford, working with families and children.
“It was just a time when I just wanted to pursue real estate. … Everyday is something different and meeting new people and (I can make) people's dreams come true,” Cardona said.
Question: Where did you grow up?
Answer: “I grew up in Meriden, went to school in Meriden, graduated from high school in Meriden,” Cardona said. “My whole life I've been a Meriden resident, both my parents are from Puerto Rico. I'm the youngest of four.”
Q: What was it like growing up in Meriden?
A: “I loved it, actually. I really did. You know, I went to St. Rose from first grade to eighth grade and established lifetime relationships with the kids. I have very fond memories of Meriden, like the Expo back in the late ’70s and ’80s that used to be held downtown, ice skating at Hubbard Park, roller skating at Roller Port 91. I have fond memories of Meriden.”
Q: What was it like being raised in a Puerto Rican household?
A: “Being raised Latina, parents from Puerto Rico are very strict. Education was key and religion was a big thing, and we were a very tight family. My father unfortunately passed away when I was 6 years old in an automobile accident. My mother had to raise four girls on her own which was not easy by herself. We grew up in a very nice neighborhood, in a safe neighborhood. Things back then were so different from how they are today. My father was very hardworking, my mom stayed at home, raising the girls.”
Q: How long have you been a real estate agent?
A: “I’ve been an agent since 2019, and I absolutely love it. I wish I had done this a long time ago.”
Q: Why did you get into real estate?
A: “I love working with the public. I love design. I love different styles of homes. And I like talking and just being part of someone's dream milestones. Working as a caseworker and working with children who had mental health and substance abuse issues, it was just time for me. It was time for a change. But once again, I didn't want to lose that connection working with a community. And I always liked design and houses, different style homes, and it was something that I always wanted to do but felt I didn't have the time to do it. And all of a sudden the opportunity came across for me to pursue, obtaining my Connecticut license … and there's so much behind the scenes of being a realtor that a lot of people don't realize.”
Q: What is it like being a bilingual real estate agent?
A: “Spanish was actually my first language, and English is my second. Working in the mental health and substance field, even with Latinos, it's having that trust. It's gaining that relationship, so they can say, ‘Hey, I could trust you,’ because not all realtors have good names either. You know what I mean? So it's proving who you are, day in and day out.”
Q: What does a real estate agent actually do?
A:“We wear many different hats. Just from the beginning of the contract. On the seller's side, it's different, it's marketing, it's getting the data out there of what to value the home, going to city records and doing a lot of research before a house gets on the market. It's the realtor's responsibility to do a lot of research and do his or her fiduciary responsibility. And as working as the agent for the buyer, it's listening and clearly communicating with your client and what their needs and wants are and making sure that those are met in a realistic time frame and value … it’s holding hands with your clients and communicating. And I always say, ‘You have to be real to be a realtor.’ And I think it's just having that good, solid, trust foundation of communication with your client.”
Q: What is the most rewarding and challenging part of your profession?
A: “The most rewarding part is closing day, when you're able to hand the keys to your clients’ new home and see the smile on their face. And the challenging part is making sure those deadlines are met and making sure you're having that communication with the other realtor, whatever party they are representing ... communicating with the mortgage current with a broker, with a banker, communicating with their client any concerns, any questions they may have. It's open communication across the board, with your attorney, and just making sure that you're doing everything you can for your client to make their dream come true.”
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the profession?
A: “If you're watching on Bravo or ‘Million Dollar Listing,’ it's not like that, it's a hustle. You got to put a lot of steps into this. I would always advise somebody that if they're working full time, start off part time if they're able to. But it's not as easy as TV, it's hard. You got to hustle. It's communicating, it's being a positive person … if you don't have patience, don’t do it.”
Q: How do you balance your work and personal life?
A: “Being a realtor is almost 24/7, but you have to take time for yourself. … By 7 o'clock, I shut the phone down or I have it just go into voicemail. And it's just prioritizing, I have a job but it's prioritizing and being well-organized. Take the time to take care of you and your family, because this could be a very fast-paced environment. You don't want to burn out.”
Q: What is your home buying or selling process?
A: “Listening to the client, hearing what they want, what are their desires, what their goals are. Education for me is a big thing, because there's so many different mortgage programs where one could be better than the other for a particular individual. It’s about educating the client and guiding them in giving them the knowledge because knowledge is power with the clients. … It's stressful when you buy a home. … I never want somebody to buy more than what they should have. It's more than a commission check, it's being part of somebody's dream.”
Q: What is the home buying and selling market like right now in Connecticut?
A: “It's still crazy. It's challenging now, especially with mortgage rates going up, but the market is still crazy, there's still some bidding wars that are going on. But it's not as intense as it was a year or two years ago. I've had clients that we put in 10 offers and those 10 offers were not accepted. Once again, it's reassuring the client, it's being supportive, it's being realistic with them. You’re a counselor, you're an advisor, you’re a consultant, you wear different hats, but you have to have your heart in this and really do it right.”
Q: If you were writing this article about yourself, what is the one thing you would like everyone to know?
A: “It's being real. Even when myself and my husband were buying a home, it was stressful. Understanding what they're going through and being compassionate and understanding and being supportive, I think it's key in order to have the ideal clientele that you want and having your business grow. … My father always said to us, and I remember even as a young girl, ‘You're only as good as your word and if you keep your word, people are going to trust you.’ But I think that's really important. … It’s the biggest purchase that a person is going to make and you have a good solid relationship with them. It's integrity, right?
Berkshire Hathaways NE Properties is at 9 S. Colony St. in Wallingford.