The Real Deal
“I have loved every minute of it,” says Eleanor Dowling of her 44 years working in real estate in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. And even after knowing Eleanor for only a few minutes, I know she means it.
Now an agent with Koenig & Strey, Eleanor began her real estate career on the East Coast early in her married life. “My husband worked in pharmaceuticals, and we moved six times in 10 years,” she recalls of living in various cities throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. “The office that gave me my start said that the least I could do after making them show me so many houses was to come and work for them.”
So Eleanor did. “One of the things that’s so wonderful about real estate is all of the friendships and relationships you develop along the way with your colleagues, with your clients. I’ve always been very blessed to be in the right place at the right time,” Eleanor adds. “I remember when my girls were small and one had a fever, someone would take my [office] floor time without question so that I could take care of things at home.”
When her husband’s job brought Eleanor’s family to Chicago, they bought a house in Lake Bluff. “The funny thing is that I still live in that same house,” laughs Eleanor, whose husband passed away nine years ago. “We bought the house from Herb and Phyllis Lister,” she says, telling me that Herb—who now lives in California went on to become the Chairman and CEO of Allstate Insurance. “Each year when I hear from the Listers at the holidays, they give me a hard time about how I still live in their old house—even though I sold them two more houses over the next 10–20 years before they retired.”
There’s only been one time in the 40+ years that Eleanor has lived in Lake Bluff that she was tempted to move. “There was this nice house right on the water in Lake Bluff, but my husband was convinced it was going to fall into the lake,” says Eleanor with a smile. “But it’s still standing. It never fell in.”
More than half of Eleanor’s career was spent in management. She was on the leadership team that took real estate listings from large black binders to a computer-based system. With an iPad at her fingertips, Eleanor muses what real estate would be like today without technology. “You can’t imagine the backlash we received from agents when we migrated our business to computers. Can you even imagine what buying or selling a house today would be like without them?” In fact, a buyer for one of Eleanor’s more recent sales contacted her by email at 10:30 p.m. “Computers have given our clients the ability to comfortably contact us when they need to. Had this same person had to pick up the phone, he wouldn’t have likely called me at that late hour.”
Computers aren’t the only aspect of the real estate business Eleanor has seen change over the course of her career. “When we hired a new agent, we had to train them in every aspect of the business,” she says. “Now, we have all of these amazing experts we can call on to train our recruits in different areas.”
One of Eleanor’s most treasured recruits is Mona Hellinga, Vice President/Managing Broker for Koenig & Strey Real Living. “When I was working for another office and we interviewed Mona, I knew we had to have her,” she says. “She’s the perfect example of what you want a realtor to be. A star salesperson. A professional in every sense of the word. Just a wonderful, smart, caring person. She was one of my best students.”
The feelings are mutual. “When I first met Eleanor, I had left medical sales, received my real estate license, and was searching for a real estate office to join in Lake Forest. After speaking with several other managers, I walked into Eleanor’s office, where she was punctual, dressed for success, well prepared for our meeting, and spoke with me until she had a thorough understanding of my needs. Without hesitation, I decided to work for her. That was in 1995,” says Mona. “Through the years, El has coached me and many others to keep standards high, research every detail, go the extra mile for clients, and not to be satisfied until every facet of every transaction is complete! Her vibrancy and love for the real estate business inspires everyone in our Koenig & Strey office! I feel blessed to call her my mentor, colleague, and very good friend,” she says.
When asked why she continues to come to work each day, in a market that’s struggling to regain the robustness it once had, Eleanor answers without pause. “When you really love what you do, it’s not like going to work at all.”
To contact Eleanor Dowling, call her at 847-615-5070, or email her at [email protected].
—Ann Marie Scheidler