Honest to Goodness
For example, Huff advises her clients to have an exit strategy. She wants them to buy a home because they love it but to also make sure it’s a property someone else could love, too. When the recession hit in 2008, she was glad for this pragmatic approach.
“I felt really good about the recommendations that I’d made over the years,” she says. “If they needed to sell the house they could. I didn’t get them in over their head.”
Learning the Real Estate Ropes
Huff started in real estate in 1979, after seven or so years of living the enviable, bohemian Jackson lifestyle of skiing for fun and waiting tables to pay the bills. A friend recommended she try real estate, so Huff found a job in the industry. She was sent to Gillette, Wyoming, to learn the ropes.
“That’s where I cut my teeth and really learned how to sell real estate to first-time homebuyers,” she says. “It was a very good experience.”
After a year, the Connecticut native returned to her adopted hometown of Jackson and became a partner in what was then known as Jackson Hole Realty. It wasn’t the largest brokerage in town by size but rather in market share; the five partners did 60 percent of the business in Jackson. In 2003, the company sold to Sotheby’s International Realty. Huff retains her own team, Mercedes Huff and Associates, within Sotheby’s.
“Sotheby’s wanted to acquire us because we were so successful and that was a great feeling of satisfaction,” she says. “You’ve worked hard, and it’s been noticed. It pays off to do things the right way.”
More Than Just a Job
Referrals and repeat business comprise the majority of her customers. Many are now close friends to Huff, who says she helps educate buyers to find what they really want and not always what they think they want. “I have fun with real estate. It’s not just a job to me,” she says.
Love of the industry may be in her blood. Daughter Laurie has followed in her footsteps. “She’s been in the back seat of the car since she was 6 months old,” Huff says. “She’s known a lot of my customers for most of her life.” Huff’s other daughter Molly is a Cornell-educated veterinarian.
Throughout her career, Huff has made time to give back to the community. She’s been on the board of the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club, the Jackson Hole Community Foundation, and is currently a member of Zions Bank’s Jackson Hole Advisory Board.
“I really want to give back because I’ve had so many great years in Jackson,” she says. “I don’t intend to ever leave the valley, nor do I want to retire anytime soon. I want to actively participate.”