The Warrenton transplant puts clients first
On her first day as a Fauquier resident in 2002, Dawn Arruda needed to mail a package. As soon as she walked into the post office, the postmaster asked if she was new to Warrenton. That caught her off guard, but the biggest surprise came when she was 12 cents short. Without missing a beat, the postmaster pulled 12 cents out of his pocket and told her he trusted her to pay it back. Dawn immediately knew Warrenton was her kind of town. She indeed returned the change and has been giving back to the community ever since.
Dawn chose Warrenton because she wanted to live in a community that had the same advantages she enjoyed growing up in a Hagerstown, MD. She says, “I came from that ‘It Takes a Village’ kind of mentality where everybody knew you.” When she considered all of the areas in which she and her family could live, she picked Warrenton because she wanted her two children not to get lost in the huge school systems so prevalent in other counties.
With a father and grandmother who were both real estate professionals, she always knew it was only a matter of when, not if, she would follow in their footsteps. She took a little while to enter the business, working as the first female aircraft mechanic at the Air National Guard in Martinsburg, WV, before eventually switching to active duty in the U.S. Air Force. Today, however, she is one of the premier real estate agents in the region. In 2017, her sales volume exceeded $20 million.
The delay in becoming an agent was strategic. Following the advice of her father, she wanted to enter the business during a downturn. He told her, “If you go into a market that is suffering, you’ll learn more as well as be better to and for your clients. You’ll see the good and the bad of real estate, and you’ll see that what you can do for those clients will be much more than selling houses.” In 2007, she felt the market shift downward, and she knew it was time to launch. She consulted with her family to make sure they were ready, letting them know, “I’m going to have to take calls at 10 o’clock at night. I may be at your soccer game, but I might miss a goal because I’m answering a call. I may come home late and I may have dinner late. I may have to adjust schedules according to my clients, but that’s the only way I can make this my career.”
Her first transaction was a short sale, followed by many more in the harrowing years of the housing crisis. With the help of EnTitle Settlement Services CEO Helen Cornwell, Dawn learned to negotiate with banks and contact representatives. When necessary, she would call the Governor’s office on behalf of scared clients who were facing foreclosure. She admits, “those were the hardest three years of my career and I’m glad they came at the beginning because it made it more of a people business than just a business of selling houses. It made me realize that every person who sells a house has a need. It may be a sick mother, a divorce, a death. We don’t all move because we want to move into a nicer home.” This experience shaped Dawn’s mantra, “If you put your clients first, the rest will follow.” She believes, “Don’t worry about your paycheck, worry about your clients.”
For Dawn, reputation is everything. Despite an impressive knack for leveraging the power of marketing, she states, “It doesn’t matter where you advertise or how many people see your face if they don’t think good things when they see it.” She and her assistant, Connie Corwin, work hard to keep that reputation pristine by putting their clients’ needs first every day. Whether a home is at the higher or lower end of the market, all clients have access to professional photography, staging help, a marketing plan, and the latest technology. Dawn understands the criticality of a compelling online presence, explaining, “A house is like a dating app. Buyers swipe left or swipe right.”
In addition to real estate, Dawn is involved in many community organizations and programs, including the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boys & Girls Club of Fauquier. Asked about passions other than work, she eagerly cites family and tennis. There’s one more that’s evident, however: her passion for Warrenton. As she puts it, “We can breathe here.” What an appropriate comment from someone who is a breath of fresh air herself.