A newcomer to the Bastrop County realty scene, Valerie Navejas, an Elgin realtor for Rainey Real Estate with a mindset of volunteerism and just being herself, has won the Best in Bastrop County award for best realtor this year.
This is the second year in a row for Navejas to win this annual award, given by the Austin-American Statesman based on readers’ votes for their favorite business of each type, such as real estate agencies or restaurants.
However, up until recently, Navejas hasn’t been a realtor; winning this award not once, but twice, just after starting out as a realtor was shocking to her. As a first-year realtor last year, when she learned she had won the award, she said she was afraid it was just a scam at first.
“I didn't think it was real,” she said. “In my head, it's not something that you get your first year, but you would hope you get it your first year.”
Navejas’ approach to working in real estate is centered around building relationships with her clients.
“(Real estate is) not just selling houses, not anymore; now it's more than that,” she said. “I've had people that they needed to sell a house and they were in debt, but they couldn't pay me. Well, you can't pay me, but let's get you out of debt.”
She said she still keeps in touch with all of her clients, texting them on a regular basis.
“I like keeping in contact, and you hope you've done a good enough job that they want to stay in contact with you,” she said. “How can you work for somebody if you don't know them. I make a lot of friends; every closing, just another friend.”
However, real estate is only half of Navejas’ engagement with the Elgin community. Her and Rainey Real Estate are often involved in volunteering, raising funds and participating in community activities.
“One of the biggest things with Rainey Real Estate, before day one, was giving back,” she said. “You can start a business in a town and do nothing, or you can start a business in town and make it better.”
They were excited to be able to house their business in the building on the corner of First Street and Main Street, which let them participate in Sip, Shop & Stroll each month.
“We wanted to be involved, get the community down here and use that spot to give back,” she said.
They started by hosting a fundraiser for each Sip, Shop & Stroll. Then, Chris Cannon from Cannon Insurance across the street talked to Rainey Real Estate about collaborating for a fundraiser, and the Battle of Main Street was born.
“The Battle of Main Street was not something where we sat at a table and we thought this through,” Navejas said. “The Battle of Main Street is a group of friends who are all very competitive with each other.”
The first Battle of Main Street in May 2018 was a fundraiser for Down Home Ranch, an organization north of Elgin where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live and work. Rainey Real Estate and Cannon Insurance went back and forth, posting videos on social media promoting the fundraiser.
“Those videos going back and forth, not a single video was planned,” Navejas said. “I don't think any of us thought we could raise $4,000 in three hours.”
Since last year, the Battle of Main Street has raised thousands of dollars for organizations such as Drive A Senior, Relay For Life and Blue Santa.
“Probably about half of (the fundraisers) at the end, one of the four of us is crying because it's done so much good,” Navejas said. “On Sip, Shop & Stroll Thursdays, usually I know when my feet hit the floor, that when I lay back down, it's going to be after midnight.”
As a realtor, Navejas, whose style is more “jeans and converse” than “suit and heels,” wants to set an example for young people to show them that they can do whatever they want to do.
“There are not many realtors that look like me or that do my crazy like I do, but it's okay, you can be yourself and still be successful,” she said. “You don't have to be fake, you don't have to be anybody else. All you have to do is be yourself.”
“More than anything,” she wanted to say to those who voted for her, “thanks for giving my crazy a chance.”