In the fast-paced world of real estate, Crissy Rumford has made her mark. But she is now embracing a new chance to increase the visibility of Native Americans in the industry and become a resource for Tribal members entering the field.
Last year, Rumford became the branch broker for Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate of Vail, Colorado. She hopes to bring an Indigenous perspective to this important position within the company and also to her appointment on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee for the National Association of Realtors®.
Rumford worked for many years as a ski instructor in the resort town, but when she decided to start a family, she wanted a job with more flexibility. Real estate wound up being a great fit for a busy mother with a young daughter.
“In real estate, we don’t work all day every day, but we do work every day of our lives,” Rumford said. “We are at the beck and call of our clients, but the industry is more flexible. It’s not a 9-to-5 job.”
While she built a successful business, she noticed that she did not meet that many Indigenous Realtors®. She saw an opportunity to help change that and jumped at the chance.
“Last year, I applied for an appointment to the National Association of Realtors® Diversity Committee and was selected, which is an enormous honor out of our 1.55 million members across the United States,” Rumford said. “Certainly, in our industry, I haven’t met many Native American Realtors®, not in my (Vail) area. I’ve been traveling for my local, state and national association for the past 10 years, going to conventions where there are 10,000 people. So, I just wanted to be a part of that presentation.”
She is excited to have the chance to possibly shape the industry by encouraging more Native American visibility.
“I do think its important, and its does change the conversation in the room, especially for Native Americans,” she said. “I didn’t sign up to be the poster child for diversity. It wasn’t my goal, but as I started giving more of my time and being more involved, I thought, ‘Wow, there’s an opportunity here that I don’t think I have considered.’ It seems like (the Indigenous perspective is) never a part of the conversation, so I started saying, ‘I think this might be an opportunity that I need to embrace.’ And it’s been great, and it’s been very well received.”
Mentoring new Realtors®
She would love the chance to mentor other Native Americans who are thinking about a career in real estate and has some advice for those starting out in the business. Building a career on integrity is a necessity, Rumford said.
“I think the most important thing is to find a mentor. … Someone who has a great reputation in the industry, who is respected in the community and is known for giving back. I was fortunate enough to be embraced by someone like that and worked directly with him and under his wing for five years at the beginning of my career,” Rumford said.
“It helped me know what type of Realtor® I wanted to be and probably set the tone for what I wanted to do.”
She knows there are particular traits that help people succeed in real estate. She believes most clients respond to a personal touch, which helps build a lasting connection between agents and clients.
“You have to love people. You have to be willing to open yourself up and be vulnerable. Sometimes you have to be interpreter of actions, more than words. You have to be able to read your clients,” Rumford said.
“You should have a genuine care and concern for your clients. You want to build a customer base by forming friendships that are meaningful and trusting so you can be both a friend and trusted advisor, not for just one transaction but all their transactions.”
Rumford said people are surprised to learn that they do not need a business degree to build a real estate career.
“To be honest with you, it’s about relationships,” she said. “There are so many things that you can learn in school, like you can learn how to refine your business or how to prospect for new leads. But if you don’t have the inherent people skills and that care and concern for your clients, the learning won’t help you.”
Rumford believes the industry is less about sales and more about helping people find exactly what they are looking for.
“You can talk someone into buying a gym membership or buying a car,” she said. “You can’t talk someone into buying a house because it’s too big of a purchase. They are either all in, or they’re not. I call myself a matchmaker between homes and people. If the match is there, it works. If not, we move on to the next potential match.”
Industry requires perseverance
While there may be some initial hurdles for people who want become an agent, Rumford hopes they will persevere and ultimately find a rewarding career. With the industry being 100 percent commission-based when it comes to compensation, Rumford thinks that aspect can be discouraging to people who are just starting out.
“When you first start out, you’re putting 100 percent of your efforts into building your business. It’s not like a business where on day one you start making money. It can be a tough industry to get into unless you plan for it,” she said.
Rumford loves meeting diverse people in different stages of their lives, from new homeowners just starting out to senior citizens ready to simplify their life and focus on travel or other interests. More than anything, she relishes the chance to play a part in helping people achieve what can be their lifelong dream — owning a home.
“This is going to sound so corny, but it’s the truth: I help dreams come true,” she said. “I help people find their forever home or their dream home. Or I help them sell a home that maybe wasn’t their dream home but allowed them to build enough equity to move on to the next stage of their lives. Or I can help an elderly client who has lived there 30 or 40 years sell their home and pass that equity along to ensure their heir’s success. That’s the part that feels good.”
She is equally passionate about helping everyone feel rooted in their community. Recently, she helped the Vail Board of Realtors® Foundation award a $8,340 grant to a local trailer park. Rumford serves on the board and knows that the residents of the trailer park were trying to purchase the land where their trailers sit.
“Over 420 people live there; they’ve been renting this land for 45 years,” she said. “Generations have grown up in the park. They wanted to buy it but needed to do an engineering study because many of the utilities had extreme deferred maintenance. An initiative like that makes me go to bed with a smile on my face. I just love being involved with things like that.”
Pride in culture, home
Rumford and her husband, Fred, have been married for 26 years. They have a 22-year-old daughter, Lilly, who works in the cosmetics industry in Los Angeles, California. Rumford speaks with pride as she mentions her daughter wearing her CPN stole during her recent college graduation from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
Rumford is the granddaughter of famed Potawatomi artists Woody and Lillian Crumbo. She is the daughter of artist and filmmaker Minisa Crumbo Halsey and a descendant of the Ouillmette/Wilmette family.
She displays her family’s artwork in her home and office and enjoys discussing each piece with visitors. She hopes it sparks a further interest in Potawatomi culture.
“We are surrounded by my grandfather’s art, my grandmother’s and my mother’s,” Rumford said. “It is fun when people come into my office or home, and they see our family art. It always is a really nice way to open the conversation.”
Her family pride is evident in her own home, where a map of the 1887 Potawatomi allotments reminds her how far her family has come. She is keenly aware of the link between her ancestors working hard to establish a home in Oklahoma and how her work today helps people achieve that same dream.
“One of the things I took home from Family Reunion (Festival) one year was a big map from 1887 where they’ve highlighted your family’s allotments,” she said. “I have that map hanging in my home. When I see it, it speaks to everything that I do every day. We’re talking about land, where we plant our feet, rest our heads and grow our families. That (allotment) was where that started.”