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20 Under 40 Realtors & Real Life

20 Under 40 Realtors & Real Life

  • This story originally appeared in the April 2024 "20 Under 40" issue of COMO Magazine.

Their advice to their younger selves? See failures as opportunities.

When disaster struck, Megan Walters had to break the heartbreaking news to new homeowners who were packing up a truck for their move to Columbia. An out-of-nowhere storm made their new home uninhabitable.

Mike Grellner also has a litany of stories about his career in real estate, from success and failures to highs and lows, and at least one lingering question: Is it legal to hunt deer from the roof of a building? 

Megan Walters
Megan Walters
Mike Grellner
Mike Grellner

Walters (Class of 2021) and Grellner (Class of 2009) are among the COMO Business Times 20 Under 40 alumni who recently reflected on their real estate businesses and careers. 

One of Grellner’s strongest recollections — and perhaps most humorous — involved a warehouse and manufacturing property along North Paris Road. Grellner, vice president of Plaza Commercial Realty, said that years ago his company had listed the property, which backed up to the rail line. 

“The company in there was shutting down,” he said, “and the manager said, ‘I hate to leave this building. It’s been my best deer stand.’ He elaborated by saying that over the last ten-plus years, he had been deer hunting off the roof of that building — and he’d shot countless large bucks along the woods and rail line.” 

What could Grellner do with that information?  

“Was it legal — or not?” he still asks himself. “We didn’t ask, just focused on the property listing. And we did not mention ‘deer hunting from the roof’ as a building amenity.” 

Conversely, Walters, the owner of The Walters Team, eXp Realty, said one of her most vivid memories is focused on the family making the move to a Columbia house that fell victim to a vicious storm. 

“Imagine this,” Walters says, setting up the challenging scenario. “You close on your brand-new home — sight unseen, by the way — out of state, after months of planning and searching for your new home. Then as you are packing up your truck to head across the country to move in and put down roots in your new community, fate has a different plan.” 

About one hour after the closing, a pop-up storm rolled into town and sent a tree from a neighbor’s yard crashing into the new house — making it uninhabitable. 

“As their Realtor, it was up to me to deliver that gut-wrenching news,” she says. “I can’t even begin to describe the heaviness in my heart as I made that call.” 

What happened next, though, based on what Walters had learned about her team and her community, wasn’t completely unexpected. And it was, indeed, a community response. 

“In the face of adversity, our team sprang into action,” she says. “We knew we had to do everything in our power to help our clients through that nightmare.” 

The roofer got a call, removed the tree, and tarped the house to stave off further damage. 

“From there, we reached out to Veterans United, a company renowned for its dedication to serving military families,” Walters recounts. “And let me tell you: They didn’t hesitate to step up. They generously offered to cover the deductible to get our clients’ home back to new condition.” 

She described the overall response as “nothing short of remarkable.” 

“Our community rallied around this sweet family, offering support in various forms,” Walters adds. “It was a testament to the strength of human kindness and solidarity in times of need.” 

How did the story end? 

“I’m happy to report that our clients were able to move back into their newly restored home only a couple weeks after the disaster,” she continued. “While the journey was far from ideal, they were so excited to move in and plant those roots in Columbia. 

Grellner says Realtors, just like any profession, will have a range of positive and not-so-great experiences. If he could go back and give his younger self some advice based on what he knows now, he knows just what that wisdom would be. 

“Over time, you will experience success and failure, highs and lows — personally and professionally,” Grellner notes. “Don’t dwell on the failures. Recognize their importance in a greater process, reflect on them, learn from them, and make them the opportunities of the future.” 

His advice for new or would-be Realtors is similar — and blunt. 

“Be patient,” he adds. “Success in business is measured over years, not days or months. And if you’re not having fun doing it, then it’s probably not the right profession for you.” 

That leads to Grellner’s observations about his pet peeves for the real estate business and himself. He’s bothered by consumers inaccurately interpreting housing market conditions “based on reports from ‘big media.’” Personally, it’s “lack of work ethic” that irks him. 

“Most things in life don’t come easy, and that is okay,” he says. “That’s a great thing, actually, in that it’s all the more rewarding when you’ve earned it.” 

Meanwhile, Grellner’s “why” for doing what he does is a question that’s somewhat abstract, but he has some concrete ideas. 

“I can’t really explain why I enjoy real estate so much. Perhaps its the people aspect,” he says. “Working with a lot of small businesses, especially in a town like Columbia, it’s just such an enjoyable process and experience. And recognizing that the opportunity to own real estate is one of the founding principles of this country — that inspires me.” 

Grellner concludes, “I feel a responsibility to carry that forward for future generations.”  

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