It clicked! Jennifer Frontera took to real estate, became leader

“She has a work ethic beyond reproach — that’s what makes her good.” — Tony Smith, Wanda Smith & Associates

When Jennifer Frontera and her husband, Tony, moved to Charlotte in 1997, she was pregnant with their third child, Dante. She thought staying at home with the kids and running the house would be her life.

“I got bored,” she says.

Dante wasn’t born yet — she was eight months along — when she landed a position with late the same

year. She planned to work part-time, but real estate quickly captivated her.

“It clicked with me — it was really what I wanted to do,” she says. “It (selling homes) had always been at the back of my mind. I like the atmosphere, and I like the orderliness of it.”

Real estate also liked her. “She has a work ethic beyond reproach — that’s what makes her good,” says her broker-in-charge (BIC), Tony Smith. She joined Wanda Smith & Associates in January 2009.

Selling properties for lenders

Since early in her real estate career, Frontera has specialized in handling bank-owned properties and foreclosures. There weren’t many in the late 1990s, and the firm rotated them among agents. “No one wanted to do them,” she recalls. “There wasn’t a handbook. I had to figure it out, and wanted to try them because they were different. Within six months, I was handling all we had, and banks began to call me.”

Also early on, Frontera wasted little time getting involved at the association, working on One Special Christmas in 1998. The event raised money for underserved children. When the charitable program ended, she staked herself out with CMLS and went through the Leadership Development Program (class of 2000).

She served on the first CMLS Board of Directors in 2003, something that surprised no one given her previous involvement. She had served three years on the CMLS Advisory Group, had worked on the task force that recommended changing CMLS governance, and had helped update the CMLS Rules and Regulations.

In 2002, she chaired both the search committee that recommended the first Web-based MLS and the design committee for the new system. “That was huge,” Smith says. “I was president-elect that year. She kept us on task, getting us to the point where we could make a selection. At that point, I knew she was a leader and one day would be president.

The TEMPOTM system rolled out in 2003, Smith’s year as president. “She made me look like a star,” he continues. “She’s the one who did the hard work.”

Accessible, dependable

Debbie Wey, assistant director of CMLS policy, says Frontera has been invaluable to the CMLS staff. “I think she does a great job,” Wey says. “I can always get a hold of her, and she’s always willing to pitch in and help. She is very dependable.

“There were times during the design phase of the new Web-based MLS system that Jennifer sat down with me and Steve (Byrd, chief technology officer) for two-to-three hours,” Wey continues. “We needed her input. As a Realtor®, she knows how Realtors® think, and we don’t always have that knowledge.”

Frontera’s commitment can be traced to a major interest: she loves to learn. “You’re constantly evolving and growing,” she says. “I like challenges and staying busy.”

She also easily accepts change, saying it’s vital to growth. “I talk to my children about change; that it’s easy to get in a rut,” Frontera says. “But through change we grow so much. You can’t think about real estate and not think about change.”

She was so excited about the change to Web-based TEMPO that people kidded her about how much she talked about it. “I could go on and on,” she says, recalling how CMLS features that are now routine were then new: emailing clients, saving customer searches, searching by maps and customizing searches to customer needs.

Likes pace of change

Frontera’s unsure where she got her propensity for change (She even moves the furniture around in her house about once a year.). Her father, a retired steelworker, has lived in the same house since he was 14. When Jennifer was growing up there — on a 100-acre farm about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh — family life revolved around tradition and routine.

“I like traditions,” she says, “but I also like the pace of change. It keeps you from getting stagnant.”

Before moving to Charlotte, Frontera worked two years for a mortgage company processing loans. In 1994, her husband, Tony, accepted a position in Silver Spring, Md., and the Fronteras moved there. Jennifer went to work handling payroll and accounting for a nurse-staffing agency. After three years, they relocated to Charlotte because they were looking for a different kind of place to raise their family.

“The D.C. suburbs were too busy for me,” Jennifer says. “I grew up on a farm. I did research and liked what I saw about Charlotte, and I had a cousin living in Matthews. We visited and liked it.”

Tony had no trouble finding a job in his field, nursing, and soon Jennifer began building her career in real estate.

Today, her presidency falls at an opportune time. “We need somebody like her leading the association — it’s a different day,” Smith says. “I think she’ll help move the association and MLS to the next level.”

Read more about Jennifer and her theme in the January/February 2012 cover story.

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