The Texas REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN) named seven REALTORS® to Watch award recipients for 2020. “These young REALTORS® are making a difference in the industry and in their communities despite the new challenges of COVID-19,” says Texas REALTORS® Chairman Cindi Bulla. “The honorees this year are a strong group of leaders who’ve demonstrated a level of professionalism and experience that makes me proud to call them the next generation of Texas REALTORS® leaders.” The Texas REALTORS® to Watch award recognizes Texas REALTORS® under the age of 40 for excellence in leadership, community involvement, and everything else that makes a well-rounded young professional.
Kylee Garza has always had a knack for sales. She began her career at 16, selling everything from cowboy boots to squeeze chutes. After a sales career that would make any Texan proud, she moved to a desk job before realizing her true calling.
“I had always had a fascination with real estate and learned very quickly that I truly loved helping people purchase the biggest and most expensive dream we all strive for,” she says.
Kylee has been actively involved in her community, especially at her state and local Women’s Councils, where she was 2019 and 2020 president. She has volunteered at her local association on several committees and was co-facilitator for the 2018 Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program, of which she is a graduate.
She has also been involved at the state level as 2019-2020 appointee to the Political Involvement Committee and in the state Young Professionals Network, where she sits as committee liaison.
“I am constantly asking questions of the people I surround myself with, striving to be a better REALTOR® for my clients, but also to be better for the industry as a whole.”
Kylee’s commitment to the industry is what she says sets her apart from other REALTORS®. “I will never strive to be the number one agent in my area, because giving back to the real estate industry is just as important to me as selling real estate.”
Ashley Gentry gained early insight into the industry through her mother. “I saw the effect she had on people’s lives, helping them achieve homeownership and financial freedom,” she says. That insight had a lasting effect.
Ashley is serving as director of her local board and vice chair of TREPAC and is a Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program graduate. She is also involved outside of the real estate sphere. She was recently awarded Newcomer of the Year by Collin County’s Women of Influence for her volunteerism. She has been a member of her local Junior League for four years, helping the organization establish a community garden for the Brain Injury Network of Dallas and hosting one of the largest local resale events for underserved members of the community.
“We are not just helping to facilitate a transaction, but in most instances are holding the fate and future of people’s lives in our hands.”
The driving force in Ashley’s career is not sales. “I am the loving mother of a nearly 7-year-old daughter who drives me to create a different world for her. My mom created a lane for my success, and my goal is to create a lane for my daughter to become a game changer in this world. I hope that she can be proud of the legacy I have left for her fueled by hope, hard work, and resiliency.”
Nick is a seasoned agent with over 15 years of experience and an enthusiasm for the industry that is nearly unmatched.
“What I love about our Texas REALTORS® community is we are family,” he says.
“Frequently at our events, it is so fun to meet someone and moments later you’re already hugging. The REALTOR® family is strong. The Texas REALTORS® family is even stronger.”
“Every day you will learn something new in this industry. And that keeps it so interesting and alive and fresh and exciting each day to see what’s in store.”
He has been actively involved in local, state, and national REALTOR® communities. He is a Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program graduate and put that knowledge to good use as president of the Collin County Association of REALTORS® in 2017—the youngest president in the association’s nearly 75-year history. He was co-founder of the Texas REALTORS® Young Professionals Network and several other local networks. He has also been on the Texas REALTORS® Executive Board and Board of Directors in addition to numerous other committees at the state and local level.
Nick continues to serve as a mentor to others, hoping to inspire them to do great things in their careers and make connections within their communities.
“Now I tell new agents what it truly means to be a REALTOR®,” he says. “That it is so much more than helping people buy or sell homes. That you are making a true difference in everything that you touch and participate in. And the key is to participate … to be involved, to vote, to invest, to learn, to teach, and to bring joy to others.
“That is the REALTOR® way.”
Nicole Lopez is a third generation professional in the real estate industry, operating and managing an all-female team of 11 at True Houston Real Estate. She has nearly 10 years of experience under her belt, has graduated from the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program in 2018, and holds an NAR Commitment to Excellence certification.
“As I close my first decade in the industry, it is clear that this is my passion. This is my future. This is my legacy.”
Nicole’s commitment to her community—both the local and broader state community—is what she says sets her apart. She is an active member of her local and state associations and recently earned the 2020 Inman Innovator Award for her work helping local vendors of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo stay afloat despite the event’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe that the largest challenges currently will be navigating our industry successfully through and after COVID-19,” says Nicole. “No doubt we will see long-lasting effects to our residential and commercial sphere, but working together with our membership and truly listening and leveraging our talent as a whole will ensure we come through this together successfully.”
Roman Novian took a decisive step into real estate in 2012, eager to advance to the top, and has not looked back since. He established himself early on with an impressive production volume in his first three years of practice. He graduated from the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Program and has put that knowledge to use at his local and state associations, having sat on his local Board of Directors and chaired several other volunteer committees.
Roman is also actively involved outside of the real estate community. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Waco ISD Education Foundation and contributes to a personal scholarship that supports high school students who have demonstrated community involvement, volunteerism, and character.
“I am a true testament to hard work and determination,” he says. “When I got into the business eight years ago, I started from scratch. I didn’t have a college degree to fall back on, and I didn’t have a second source of income, but what I did have was a strong desire to succeed.”
“For anyone who ever asks me how I did it, I tell them you just have to want it more than you want anything else.”
Samantha Plomer began her career in real estate interning for an apartment locating company in college. She quickly came to realize that this industry was her calling.
“I love to be out in the field and working with people hands-on,” she says.
Over the past several years, Samantha has been an active member at her local and state associations. Her dedication is demonstrated by her consistent involvement on several committees, including the Political Affairs Advisory Leadership Committee and the Katy Planning Committee. She has been a Young Professionals Network Committee member at the local and state level and has been involved with her local Women’s Council for years, making her way to acting president in 2019.
“I would give any agent some of the best advice I was given, which is: Don’t be afraid of change or you’ll never grow!”
One of the things Samantha says makes her stand out from other REALTORS® is her background in interior design. She works with sellers to stage their properties and helps them on any necessary redesigns. She also works with buyers to help turn the house they purchased into the home they always dreamed of.
“This is my favorite part about working with buyers or sellers. I love how creative I can be in this industry!”
Virginia Ann Prazak
Virginia is a third-generation REALTOR® with a family history that has been strongly entwined with real estate for decades.
“My family has helped me learn the values of our profession and to uphold them to the highest standard.”
Virginia lives in Texarkana, so her community involvement stretches across state lines. She is an active member of her local and state associations and was installed as one of the nine Texarkana directors in 2019 in addition to her membership on various other committees. She also has numerous designations and certifications, including the NAR Commitment to Excellence certification.
In addition to actively engaging in the real estate community, Virginia also finds time to help make the broader community a better place through volunteer work and mentorship. During a peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortage in personal protective equipment, she made hundreds of masks for local health workers.
“Operating under new standards due to COVID-19 has been a hurdle to overcome. However, I am committed to continuing to get outside of my comfort zone to succeed.”
Read more about the 2020 Texas REALTORS® to Watch at texasrealestate.com/about-us/awards/realtors-to-watch-award.