Meet the Rookie of the Year Finalists: Southeast Region

Following RISMedia’s recent unveiling of the Top 25 regional Rookie of the Year finalists for 2023, this series will spotlight the five finalists from each region, continuing this week with the Southeast finalists. 

The Rookie of the Year program, sponsored by Colibri Real Estate and now in its second year, is designed to honor real estate agents who are new to the business yet already achieving extraordinary results, 

Five regional winners will be chosen from among the Top 25, and announced during RISMedia’s CEO & Leadership Exchange, taking place this September 5 – 7 in Washington, D.C. The national winner will be announced and awarded during RISMedia’s Power Broker Reception & Dinner on November 14 in Anaheim, California.

Nominees for the Real Estate Rookie of the Year award were considered based on their 2022 sales volume and transaction data, investment in professional education, technology prowess and community involvement. 

While this year’s Rookie of the Year finalists hail from varied brokerage firms serving diverse markets across the country, there are undeniable commonalities that have led to their fledgling success, such as a commitment to constant learning, a fierce dedication to helping others, and an unwavering focus on the goals they set for themselves.

“Starting out in the residential real estate business over the past couple of years—during one of the industry’s most atypical and challenging times on record—was a challenge not for the faint of heart,” says RISMedia Founder & CEO John Featherston. “Recognizing new-agent success during these unprecedented times is critical in order to put forth shining examples of professionalism, resilience and success in any market. RISMedia’s Real Estate Rookie of the Year annual award program helps elevate our industry’s reputation, for the benefit of those who work within it as well as for the consumers they serve.”

“We are so excited to continue our presenting sponsorship of the RISMedia Rookie of the Year to celebrate agents who bring to life Colibri’s mission to lead people to achieve more and thrive in their careers,” says Jennifer Dixson Hoff, general manager, Professional Portfolio and Partnerships at Colibri Real Estate. “We are proud to honor those new agents who have demonstrated exceptional work in the real estate profession as well as dedication to the individuals and families they serve. We congratulate the finalists for such a worthy accomplishment.”

Chosen from hundreds of nominations, the Top 5 Real Estate Rookie of the Year Northeast regional finalists are listed below in alphabetical order, along with their thoughts on their rookie year in the business. Stay tuned to to see spotlights on all five U.S. regions finalists. 

Meet the 5 finalists from the Southeast:

Kenisha Ingram
NorthGroup Real Estate
North Carolina

Becoming a regional Rookie of the Year finalist is a testament to Kenisha Ingram’s dedication and passion. “This recognition not only celebrates my hard work, but also affirms that my commitment to helping people find their dream homes is making a positive impact,” she says. “The honor fuels my drive to continue learning, growing and delivering exceptional service to my clients.”

“The most significant factor that truly propelled me during my rookie year was undoubtedly the unwavering support and mentorship I received from my experienced colleagues,” says Ingram. “Their guidance, combined with my dedication and passion for learning, played an instrumental role in steering me towards success.”

Ingram values the power real estate has to transform lives. “I am genuinely excited by the prospect of helping people find their dream homes, watching their faces light up as they envision their future within those walls,” she says. “It’s a business that thrives on creating spaces where memories are made and futures are shaped, and being a part of that journey brings me immense joy and fulfillment.”

Keely McNeal
RE/MAX Legends

Knowing that there are so many amazing agents working hard each day to help buyers and sellers, Keely McNeal is honored to be among those named as regional Rookie of the Year finalists. “I work hard every day to make sure my clients are taken care of to the best of their ability and to be recognized this way is incredible,” she says. “I am grateful for this career and the chance to change lives every day.”

McNeal explains that her broker’s faith in her has been instrumental in her rookie year success. “In real estate, it can be really easy to quit or to compare yourself to others who have been in the business longer than you, but you have to surround yourself with individuals who will lift you up, encourage you and empower you,” she says. “Where you choose to hang your license can make or break you.”

Having the ability to change people’s lives for the better is the best part of her career as a real estate professional, says McNeal. “It is an incredible career where you get to hand the keys of a beautiful home to a hard-working family or assist a homeowner in cashing out on their equity to help them on their next adventure in life,” she explains. “Real estate has the magnitude to change one’s life completely, and I see it everyday—that is what I love.” 

Cindy Perez
Compass FL

“Awards are validation of your hard work,” says Rookie of the Year regional finalist Cindy Perez.  “While the most important part of working tirelessly as a new agent was making real estate a solid career that could financially support me, being named a regional finalist means that I went above and beyond what both my team and customers expected of me,” she says. “It means that I was given the right tools to thrive, and that I was courageous enough to take the opportunity to rise to the top.”

According to Perez, having a clearly defined “why” along with the right mentors were critical to her first-year success. “Anything new can be daunting. You need the perfect combination of desire, tenacity and support. I had all three.” 

Perez loves that a career in real estate is ever changing and is grateful for the growth she’s experienced as a person and a professional. “Learning in this industry never ends, and I truly enjoy that,” she says.

Chaka Sellers
Excel Real Estate
South Carolina

“This nomination is a testament to the fact that I am not only committed to providing exceptional care for my clients, but also that I am a professional who values collaboration and teamwork to get clients to the closing table,” says regional Rookie of the Year finalist Chaka Sellers. “This recognition also shows that even in a small brokerage, you can have success and your efforts will be recognized.”

According to Sellers, the support and encouragement of his wife has enabled him to pursue his dream and focus on his career goals. “She has not only been my partner but also my rock during challenging times, providing reassurance, understanding and a safe haven for me,” he explains.

As an active duty airman as well as a REALTOR, Sellers finds immense fulfillment in helping fellow service members secure a home. “Knowing that my brothers and sisters in arms have put their trust in me, sometimes even from overseas, is incredibly humbling and meaningful,” he says. “The principle of ‘Service before Self’ has always been at the core of my business, and it is an honor to serve those who have served our nation.”

Hudson Willis
LPT Realty

For Hudson Willis, becoming a regional Rookie of the Year finalist is a reflection of the tremendous support he has received as a new agent. “The biggest contributing factor to my success was undoubtedly my unwavering commitment to learning and growth,” he says. “I approached every challenge as an opportunity to learn, and I consistently sought out guidance from experienced mentors in the industry.”

Willis’ focus on clients was also a critical part of his rookie-year success. “My dedication to building strong and genuine relationships with clients played a pivotal role,” he says. “I prioritized effective communication, active listening and a genuine desire to understand and meet their needs.”

Willis says that he loves everything about real estate—”the thrills it can bring, the challenges you face daily and the relationships that are formed out of every single transaction.”

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