With her statuesque frame and comely morena features, one who meets Leohrine Joy Casimiro for the first time would think that she is a better fit for the runway than in the world of real estate. It is true that she has been a talent under the Models Association of Cebu (MAC) since 2012 and has walked the runway for the Bride Box Oakridge Bridal Fair and a campaign for Diagold Jewelry. But one may be surprised to find that Joy is also a full-fledged real estate broker, proving that she has a lot more going than just her good looks. As she accurately puts it in a hashtag in one of her modelling posts in Facebook, she is a real estate broker by day and a model at night.
The struggles of a working student
So how did a beauty like Joy end in up in real estate? That story can be traced all the way back to her college days, where she was afforded an opportunity to start early in the industry. She was then enrolled in a two-year course in hotel and restaurant operations at Palm Nouveau School of Hospitality Management in Manila when she was approached by a manager from Horizons 101 to be an in-house sales agent. Curiosity led her to take on the role, but later she developed an interest in what she deemed then as a side-line job only. Since then, Joy resolved to finish her degree so she can become a broker.
But the road from college to her dream career would not always be a straightforward nor an easy path for her. Joy had to juggle school and work, at times choosing one over the other, to get to where she is today. While still in school, she became a sales consultant for Taft Property Venture Development Corporation. But after six months, the need to focus on her studies led her to quit work. Opportunity called again and she became a sales consultant, and then sales manager for Filinvest. She worked there for a year, but had to pause again to study for the real estate broker’s exam. She would eventually take up her bachelor’s degree in hospitality and restaurant management in the Lyceum of Manila, then transfer to Cebu after giving birth. She went on to finish her degree in Southwestern University.
This whirlwind of events may be a lot for anyone to take in, but for Joy, this did not dampen her resolve to reach her goals. “I realized I can do more. I’m a mom. I can work as an agent. I can study and still fulfill my obligations and my duties to my son and family,” Joy explains about what attracted her to be part of the industry.
Building her own realty brand
Traveling the long and winding path to becoming a real estate broker would eventually pay off. Joy is now the founder and director of Leohrine Real Estate Brokerage (LREB), her own realty firm which provides marketing and brokerage services including residential property listings in Cebu for buyers, landlords, and tenants. After being affiliated with a number of brokerage firms, she observed how there is an opportunity for brokers to professionalize the service, thus prompting her to start her own company. Considering that brokers deal with up to millions worth of properties, it was important for her to do business in a place where clients would feel at ease, instead of in coffee shops or restaurants, as what some brokers do. Thus in May 2018, she put up the LREB office at Gov. M. Cuenco Avenue, Banilad, a modest yet comfortable 30-40 square-meter space with a reception area and a meeting room.
Joy helps clients find properties for lease or sale, whether in urban residences in Cebu City in areas like Banilad, Banawa, or Lapu-lapu; or invest in developments like Sundance Residences, The Median, The Reef Hotel + Residences, One Oasis Cebu, The Suites at Gorordo, or Le Menda Residences. Her previous roles in Taft and Filinvest taught her the process of connecting with people, a part of the job she truly enjoys. By providing these services, Joy gets the chance to meet various kinds of clients and learn from them. For instance, she observes how Filipino and foreign buyers have different attitudes in investing in real estate. According to her, with foreigners you need to establish trust because they are wary about investing in property in foreign land. On the other hand, Filipinos tend to be more comfortable in dealing with real estate because they feel that nothing can go wrong. Since they are on their home turf, they tend to find assurance in knowing what to do or who to call in case a transaction turns sour.
The fulfilling aspects of her job are balanced out by the challenges she frequently encounters. For one, managing one’s time to meet clients can prove difficult and even exacerbated by worsening traffic conditions in the metro. Sometimes, there are broker coordinators who don’t show up on time to appointments, which can reflect badly on her even if it’s not her fault. Another challenge she cites is giving her clients enough options by giving them various property listings in Cebu. Yet obstacles like these are easily conquered by a real estate broker like Joy who believes in giving her clients service from the heart. “If it’s something that you really want, and you have respect for this profession, I think you would do the right thing all the time not only for yourself, but for your client. Your goal is not only to earn, but to give good service to the client,” Joy says.
Finding sweet success
Thankfully, all of Joy’s efforts to establish herself in the real estate industry have not been for naught. A testament to Joy’s skills as a broker is her award from Worldwide Central Properties, Inc. which she received in March this year. She was recognized for successfully closing units at The Suites at Gorordo.
And while her brokerage firm has been in business for only a year now, she considers having the guts to open your own business and to have it still standing as feats in themselves. “It takes a lot from a person to open your own company and to do it on your own. Most of the companies as we know, maybe after six months, they close. I think it’s a big achievement for me that I’m still here even after a year,” she proudly says.
Adding to that accomplishment is the positive customer feedback they have been receiving. On their Facebook page for instance, their client Angela Wella Urtizberea gave LREB a perfect five-star rating and wrote a glowing review: “Joy saved me from a potentially disastrous situation with a property I was trying to purchase! My husband and I started paying for a condo unit in the Philippines (via a different agent) and moved to Canada before the unit turnover. A few months ago, we ran into some problems and were very frustrated since we couldn’t be there in person to deal with any issues that came up. When we found ourselves unable to get everything in order for our loan, Joy was able to do it for us. Without her, we would’ve lost all we had already invested in the property; she really went above and beyond and, for that, I’m so grateful! What took weeks (for each step!) to do with our previous broker, took Joy only a few days to solve. We were, and are still, truly impressed by how quick things moved along after we sought her help. Thanks again Joy for everything that you did for us! We will definitely recommend you to our friends and family looking for a reliable and competent broker!”
Though currently she is the only broker at LREB, Joy is open to the idea of getting more brokers in her firm. Yet she believes that growing her company does not have to be at break-neck speed. “I don’t want to rush. One thing I learned is that if you rush and you expand too fast, it could collapse. It’s the same approach that I’m trying to do here. I am trying to take my time to make sure that my company is doing well. I want to make sure that I am also doing my best to offer to my client,” she explains. In the future, she hopes to find brokers who share the same philosophy as her, or those who are not only focused on closing the sale, but have a strong client focus as well. For her, this means giving clients adequate after-sales support, such as ensuring that they do not have a difficult time paying off the monthly amortization.
The business-savvy broker
Aside from being a broker, Joy dabbles in business, too. Since November 2015, she has owned and operated Bangkok Fashion Boutique, a clothing store for women in Maze, Ayala Center Cebu. She conceptualized the store after going on her first solo trip abroad. Upon the recommendation of a friend, she went to Pratunam, a district known for having the largest clothing market in Thailand. Being a model who understood how women love shopping, a business idea came to mind. She realized that she can buy clothes wholesale at a great price and sell these at retail prices for a profit. With her clothing business, she was able to provide for herself while studying for her brokerage exam.
Joy admits that her first foray into business was no walk in the park. She recalls always being anxious when she first put up Bangkok Fashion Boutique, and she had to learn the ropes all by herself. During her first year in business, she used to go to Bangkok four or five times a year to replenish inventory. But after her go-to suppliers realized that she keeps coming back, she was given the option to order from them online and have the items shipped to the Philippines. As time went by, she learned the art of delegating tasks to her salespersons, allowing her to go to the store only once or twice a month to put in new stock and rearrange items.
Ever the business-minded person, Joy also owns a one-bedroom condominium unit in Ayala which she puts on property listings in Cebu through Airbnb. She has been an Airbnb host since 2016 and thus far, she has garnered 69 reviews which earned her the status of a super host. Going into this type of venture also lets her hit two birds with one stone. When clients buy property which they intend to lease out, she can show them the numbers and give them advice based on her real-life experience. When not growing her realty or business empires, Joy loves to play tennis. She tries to go to the gym and squeeze in an hour of playing the sport in spite of her busy schedule. She also loves reading, swimming, and going island hopping.
Joy’s story shows that with resilience, you can surmount just about anything that life throws your way. As the saying goes, if the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal. And when your new plan does work out, chances are, you’ll find joy and success in your chosen field just as Joy did in real estate.