Being real estate agent Sandy Gulick [Louisville Magazine]

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Being real estate agent Sandy Gulick [Louisville Magazine]

 

“Sign your name,” Gulick says, pointing to a sheet. “I won’t bug you, I promise.” 

Who don’t you know? I ask. “You really do have to stay connected and available to do well,” says Gulick, who currently lists about 35 properties, down from the 60 to 65 she listed during the mid-2000s. “You’re always on, even if you’re not always working. I’ll go out with friends and they’ll bitch about me answering the phone. I tell them, ‘You don’t get mad about it when I’m trying to sell your home.’”

 

Then she laughs that Sandy Gulick laugh, a throaty cackle that’s infectious and fills the room like, well, the smell of freshly baked cookies.

 

Says Suchy of RE/MAX, who’s known Gulick for years: “Being fun and maintaining your sense of humor goes a long way in the real-estate business.” 

 

The open house ends with Kentucky ahead by double-digits and Gulick out of cookies. She probably had 50 people walk through…on a UK basketball afternoon! Of course most of them came to visit with her. 

 

A week later, she informs me that the young family returned for a second look. As of press time, the house hasn’t sold. Yet.

 

Lilly’s for lunch. 1 p.m. Gulick. Matilda Andrews, Gulick’s “cousin-in-law.” Me. A photographer, Natasha Sud, who, naturally, knows Gulick’s daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie). Louisville could really be the Two Degrees of Sandy Gulick. 

 

The Gulick Network began in the early 1980s, when she found herself divorced with two small children and trying to get by on a bookkeeper’s wage. “I had been raised to be married and not have to work,” says Gulick, who was born in Shanghai, China, but grew up in Louisville. “Then I thought, what if I don’t get married again? I don’t want to be poor my whole life.”

 

So she did something you really don’t think people ever actually do — she took a vocation test. The results told Margaret Sandal Honeycutt Gulick that she should be 1) a real-estate agent, 2) a public official, or 3) an IRS agent.

Seriously? That’s how it started?

 

Yep. And then the Gulick connections kicked in. Her first sale was to a good friend. When Gulick objected that she was too new to the business, her friend replied, “How hard can it be?”

 

Gulick sold her friend the first house they looked at together on Franck Avenue in Crescent Hill. The friend still lives there. A few days after that sale, Gulick picked up the phone and the person on the other line said, “I understand you’re an agent.” Yes, Gulick tentatively replied. A month later, she and the caller closed on a $1 million home.

 

“That test was right,” Gulick says now over lunch. “I told myself at the time that if I don’t make any money in two months, I’d get another job. But I sold.”

 

She started at the now-defunct Home Store, then was recruited by John Stough to join Semonin Realtors — then and now home to the largest number of agents (some 450) in the city — where she stayed for 17 years. Eight years ago, Stough, Gulick and several others from Semonin broke out on their own, starting Kentucky Select in July 2004. 

 

“Women are more patient than men,” Gulick says. Between bites of red fish, I’ve asked why so many more women seem to be in real estate these days. She turns to Andrews: “Can I say that for print in Louisville Magazine?”

 

“You’ve never not said what you wanted to,” Andrews replies.

 

“We’re creative problem-solvers,” Gulick continues. “I always think things will work out for the best. I’m filled with platitudes. But, honey, I was living on $8,000 a year at one point. I can say anything.” 

 

Lunch is going on two hours and three courses and it feels more like five minutes. But there are houses to see. 

 

We stop first at a modest craftsman on Ransdell Avenue in the Cherokee Triangle, one of Gulick’s main sales stomping grounds. She’s sold so many properties on Ransdell that she’s lost count, including two houses she owned herself. She’s now in her third house on Ransdell, living next door to a house she used to own. And next door to another house she just sold. And across the street from two more she sold.

 

The property we’re now seeing sits opposite the house where Hunter S. Thompson grew up and, the story goes, blasted a shotgun hole in the roof. The listing came via recommendation. As Gulick puts it, “If somebody is happy with you, they tell their friends. If somebody is not happy with you, they also tell their friends.”

Next stop: Sandy’s place. It’s a small white-brick bungalow with black shutters and a black iron fence around the front yard — a safe area for her 22-month-old grandson, Lizzie’s son Solomon, who calls his grandmother “Googie.”

“I’ve moved eight or nine times,” Gulick says. “I love to buy duds, houses that need work.” 

 

She renovated her current address — her “feel-good house” — tearing down walls and shrinking (yes, shrinking) the kitchen and painting the walls an outgoing yellow called “golden laughter.”

 

Gulick takes a seat on a chaise lounge in the open den, posing for photographs, answering questions, checking her Blackberry, talking art like a gallery owner.

 

Her golden-laughter walls are camouflaged with original works from her favorite artists — Tatjana Krizmanic; Crescent Hill mailman-turned-painter Steve Cull; daughter Lizzie’s felt work; Solomon’s Pollock-esque crayon scribblings; Carolyn Gassan Plochmann … . (“Brenda Deemer of B. Deemer Gallery said, ‘You’d buy anything with red in it,’ and she’s right!”) “My house is the antithesis of what you’re supposed to do if you want to sell your house,” she says. “It’s filled with personal stuff.”

 

The day ends — for the photographer and me, not Sandy — at what’s known as the White House of Louisville. It’s the Highlands home of Dottie Cherry, widow of the Humana founder Wendell Cherry. And Gulick will be listing it soon. This is pure photo-op. Sandy Gulick in front of a mansion. She’s sold houses that range in price from $41,000 to $4.7 million in her career; this one will fall closer to that high end. 

She stands in front of the towering white Doric columns, holding keys in one hand, her phone up to her ear, whatever. Get a picture of her bling, she suggests. Or her freshly painted orange fingernails. (“It’s called ‘A Roll in the Hague.’ Isn’t that hysterical?”)

 

Sandy Gulick has definitely come out of her shell.

 

“Honey,” she tells the photographer, “if you give me a fistful of money, I’ll hold that, too.”  

photo

 

 

This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

 

"Why don’t you come to office at 10 and meet people?” the email reads. “They can all roast me!!”

 

Another email from Sandy Gulick (a realtor with Kentucky Select Properties who needs parenthetical identification in this city about as much as Rick Pitino) had invited me to dinner with some of her friends, promising a gluttonous evening of fabulous food and delicious conversation. I could also help her drive her daughter to the airport, if so inclined. It was becoming increasingly clear that my profile subject wouldn’t be difficult to draw out of her shell. (“Hah! Yeah, right. Shell. Good one,” friends of Sandy Gulick might say to that characterization.)

 

On a rainy morning in mid-March, Gulick arrives at the Kentucky Select offices in east Louisville — just south of Brownsboro Road next to the acreage earmarked for the new Veterans Administration hospital — precisely on time, hailing me as a long-lost friend (even though it’s the first time we’ve met) and announcing to all that “Louisville Magazine is going to shadow me today…whatever that means!” (She draws out the first syllable of the word shadow — Shaaa-dow — in that endearing way she has, as if she’s making sure you’re in on the joke and not the butt of it.)

 

She pulls up a chair to the receptionist’s desk and plops down a thick file. “Barbara is the most wonderful person in the world,” Gulick says, nodding to Barbara Osbourne, who’s not the least surprised to find herself suddenly sharing a desk with Gulick.

 

This morning, Gulick is dealing with a client in Florida who lives here and there. The client is selling a condo there so Gulick is filling out paperwork here. She’s faxing, emailing, small-talking, making and taking calls all while giving an interview. If more than 30 seconds passes between cell-phone rings, Gulick checks her BlackBerry, which, Luddite though she claims to be, she says has “made selling real estate five times easier.”

 

Gulick entertains with one-liners (“Eating out and jewelry are my passions.” “I’m allergic to early-blooming trees, late-blooming trees and Christmas trees.”); exchanges banter with other agents who whiz by with the urgency and frequency of residents in an ER (“You’re following Sandy?” agent Macie Nichols says. “Keep your running shoes on.”); sets up appointments for later (we now have a showing at 11:30 a.m. in the Hills and Dales neighborhood); and ponders lunch options while listing her favorite restaurants: Lilly’s, Jack Fry’s, Le Relais, 211 Clover Lane, Mojito and Harvest are currently in the Sandy Gulick Hall of Fame. (She was a foodie before foodies were foodies.) 

 

Her son and business partner, Jay, wanders in while his mother is talking cuisine.

 

“When was the last time you cooked?” Jay Gulick teases. “1987?”

 

“No, two weeks ago,” she replies. “I cut my knuckle. Cooking is dangerous!”

 

Jay estimates that his mother eats out 340 days a year, and she doesn’t deny it. Later, I’ll come to find out why. Dining with Sandy Gulick is more than just dining; it’s business. The most pleasant kind of business — conducted the way people did in a bygone era when civility and long, waterfront-covering conversations were important to building relationships — but it is business.

 

Her cell phone rings.

 

“I just faxed it to you. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine. What’s that number? What time? Okay. Bye, honey.”

 

This is Sandy Gulick’s world — a 24/7 multi-task of business-meets-kaffeeklatsch — and has been for 27 years, ever since she earned her real-estate license in the midst of a recession and housing slump in which mortgage-interest rates ran 12 percent. (These days, if you don’t get less than 4 percent, you feel fleeced.)

 

Gulick, 63, has to be the best-known agent in Louisville. And she is formidable. She annually ranks among the top-selling agents in the city. Last year, as a listing and buying agent, Gulick sold homes worth a total of $13.7 million for an average of $351,743 per sale, which ranked her among the top 15 agents in the area. Over the past five years, Sandy Gulick has moved $104,786,868 worth of homes, ranking sixth among all agents. If you combine her numbers with those listings she shared with her son Jay, they would top all agents in sales. (To put that in context, there are some 4,000 agents who belong to the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors.) Since 1997, as far back as Kentucky Select’s records go, Gulick has sold 806 houses, which extrapolates to well more than a thousand during her career. 

 

She sold one house in Butchertown six separate times, and she’s sold one person seven different homes. Another client bought a house from Gulick, moved several times (using Gulick as an agent for each buy), then later re-bought the initial house. 

 

Through Sandy Gulick, naturally.

 

She seems the least likely wheeler-dealer salesperson this side of…I got nothin’. Sandy Gulick is an outlier. How to describe her? Imagine your favorite, tell-it-like-it-is, endearingly eccentric aunt who manages to stay two or three steps ahead of everybody while sending out the vibe that she’s always the last to know. If there’s a phony bone in her body, it must have been surgically inserted an hour ago — and was promptly rejected. 

 

She typically sports three pairs of glasses: sunglasses hooked to the front of her shirt, eyeglasses at all times, and reading glasses that she pulls down over the eyeglasses. The right lens of her eyeglasses looks foggy, as if she’s just come from an air-conditioned office into the humid outdoors, but it is a prescription lens to help her with double vision, a side effect of a thyroid eye disease.

 

When I ask Gulick why she’s been so successful, she says in that scratchy smoker’s voice of hers, “I have no idea. I really don’t.”

 

“The first time I met Sandy, I don’t think my impression of her is something you can put in print,” laughs Alice Legette, another agent at Kentucky Select, who met Gulick when Gulick joined Semonin Realtors (Legette was a veteran there at the time). 

 

I ask Gulick if she has an actual office.

 

“Oh sure, come see it.”

 

She leads me down a short hall into an office sizeable enough for two desks; they’re kissed together, Jay on one side, his mother on the other. On the wall on her side of the room is a framed copy of Casa Grisanti’s ravioli recipe. On her desk sits a computer-obscuring vase of flowers.

 

“Aren’t they GOR-geous?” she says.

 

What kind are they?

 

“I have no idea. Jay, what kind are they?”

 

“They’re lilies,” Jay says.

 

“Lilies,” she explains.

 

Gulick excuses herself to get ready for the 11:30 showing. I sit at her desk and visit with Jay, 41, who seems in several obvious ways the opposite of his mother: He’s organized, technologically savvy and overtly pragmatic.

 

************

 

This is his second tour of duty in the real-estate business. In the late ’90s, he left Semonin and put his MBA to work for Papa John’s in marketing as owner-founder John Schnatter’s speechwriter, a job that took him all over the country as Papa John’s pizza boomed from small business to nationwide chain. He then worked for an ad agency before joining the tech world, eventually running bnet.com, which he started for CNET Networks (now owned by CBS Interactive). But his travel schedule meant too much time away from his sons, Oliver and Dylan, so he reconnected with real estate, and his mother, in 2005. In 2010, Jay began managing Kentucky Select — 75 agents strong, which last year ranked fifth among agencies with $122.4 million worth of home sales. 

 

I ask how he likes working with his mom. “For the most part, it’s great,” he says. “I’m very much a pragmatist, and 99 percent of her life is her work. But I have a huge amount of respect and appreciation for her. She’s competitive. She wants to win but never at the expense of doing something sleazy, and there are plenty of sleazy people in this business. I’ve seen her walk away from deals if things weren’t right.”

 

“Oh, here’s the thingy doodle,” Sandy Gulick says, finding the lockbox on the front porch of a ranch-style house in Hills and Dales. Sandy, Jay and I have beaten the clients to the showing by a good 15 seconds. Then Kate Underwood, a former WAVE 3 television anchor, and her husband Jack Underwood roll up, carrying with them a typical Sandy Gulick back story. They’ve known her for years. She’s worked 

with them forever, so now they’re as much friends as clients.

 

The Underwoods are close to selling their beach house on the Carolina coast, and they also want to downsize from their house in the Highlands. But there are snags; the house in Carolina is having “bank issues” even though the buyer is willing to put down close to 75 percent of asking price. 

 

“And that’s the real-estate market right now,” Sandy Gulick says, acknowledging the web of red tape and endless bank queries demanded of even the most qualified borrowers since the housing bubble burst.

 

The days of no-down, interest-only loans and other easy-entry lending gimmicks have gone the way of Bear Stearns. Although Louisville never saw the extreme highs and crashing lows of the coasts or, say, Las Vegas, the market here peaked in 2006-’07 (see chart, page 50) and is just now returning to the pre-bubble days of a decade ago. But the new federal bank-lending regulations are nationwide — so as much documentation is required of gold-standard borrowers in Louisville as San Diego.

 

The Underwoods have been in the market for the last six months, but they’re not complaining. “It’s been a lot of fun,” Jack Underwood says, “and I didn’t think I’d say that about six or seven months in the housing market. But she has an infectious personality.”

 

“And she’ll say things you need to know,” Kate Underwood adds. “She won’t sugarcoat it.”

 

Lunch is at Mojito. The atmosphere is small and intimate and the lunch rush could double as a Sandy-and-Jay reception. It takes a good 10 minutes to get from car to table because it seems as if every diner wants to stop to chat. “Everybody knows her,” Jay says. “She’s the absolute best networker in town.” Indeed, when I would mention to, oh, pretty much anybody that I was doing a profile on Sandy Gulick, the stories and imitations would follow. They’d mimic that hoarse voice. Or pretend to be smoking a cigarette (though Gulick only snuck a couple of American Spirit smokes during our time together). Or they’d note that Gulick sold them a house, or two. When I tell Gulick, she inevitably remembers those sales, and those clients, in detail.

 

“Sandy has a mind like a steel trap with regard to properties she has listed,” says Cheri Suchy, a veteran realtor with Re/Max. “She deals with a high volume of properties, but she can give you pertinent details on each of them.”

 

Example: Gulick met Matilda Andrews (we’ll have lunch with her later) at an open house in 1990. Gulick remembers the house — a little yellow cutie on Napanee in St. Matthews — and other people who dropped by that day. Except there was one drop-by, a judge, whose name escapes her. So she picks up her BlackBerry and calls somebody else who was at that fateful open house 22 years ago. “Who was the judge at that open house?” she practically screams into the phone. She turns to the table. “He says he can’t hear; he’s on a boat.” She’ll remember later. It was the late Judge Ellen Ewing.

 

At Mojito, Jay has the fish and Sandy has a few bites of her palomilla steak between phone calls and emails. She estimates she gets an email every three minutes.

 

She tells war stories, too. One time she walked in with clients to show a house at the appointed time and found the owner at the kitchen table. Stark naked. Her clients didn’t buy. Another time she was showing a house, entered the master bedroom, and discovered the 90-year-old owner asleep in bed. They finished the tour. Quietly. Sale.

 

She’s shown some clients houses regularly for 10 years without them ever making an offer. “Over a 25-year period, one couple looked at the same house every time it went on the market,” she says. “They never bought it. I think they sort of regretted it every time.” Even that kind non-business generates word-of-mouth recommendations, which are the lifeblood of the real-estate game.

 

Open House. Sunday. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 531 Garden Drive, off Lexington Road. 

It’s Cookie Day for the agents of Kentucky Select. Jay Gulick’s idea. Bake cookies before open houses, fill the rooms with the smells of freshly cooked dough and hand out the goodies to potential clients. 

 

Sandy Gulick hates the idea because it means cooking. She picks up her dough from Café Fraiche, has a friend help her work the oven and, when I arrive, she’s taking them out — unburned, mind you — to much fanfare and frustration.

 

“How do you turn this damn thing off?” she asks, staring at the oven as if it were the controls of a 747. Finally, the two of us discover OFF and all is well.

 

“See? I’m a good cook!” she says, sliding the chocolate chip cookies onto a platter.

A couple walks in, eyeballing the kitchen/family room (complete with a big-screen TV tuned to the Kentucky-Baylor regional final). They’re visiting from England. Just browsing.

 

“I like England,” Gulick says, “because they speak English.”

 

Her phone rings.

 

“Which one? Brick one or stone one? We’ve got an offer, and I’m meeting them at five.”

 

A family walks in — mom, dad, two young kids.

 

***********

 

“Sign your name,” Gulick says, pointing to a sheet. “I won’t bug you, I promise.” 

Who don’t you know? I ask. “You really do have to stay connected and available to do well,” says Gulick, who currently lists about 35 properties, down from the 60 to 65 she listed during the mid-2000s. “You’re always on, even if you’re not always working. I’ll go out with friends and they’ll bitch about me answering the phone. I tell them, ‘You don’t get mad about it when I’m trying to sell your home.’”

 

Then she laughs that Sandy Gulick laugh, a throaty cackle that’s infectious and fills the room like, well, the smell of freshly baked cookies.

 

Says Suchy of RE/MAX, who’s known Gulick for years: “Being fun and maintaining your sense of humor goes a long way in the real-estate business.” 

 

The open house ends with Kentucky ahead by double-digits and Gulick out of cookies. She probably had 50 people walk through…on a UK basketball afternoon! Of course most of them came to visit with her. 

 

A week later, she informs me that the young family returned for a second look. As of press time, the house hasn’t sold. Yet.

 

Lilly’s for lunch. 1 p.m. Gulick. Matilda Andrews, Gulick’s “cousin-in-law.” Me. A photographer, Natasha Sud, who, naturally, knows Gulick’s daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie). Louisville could really be the Two Degrees of Sandy Gulick. 

 

The Gulick Network began in the early 1980s, when she found herself divorced with two small children and trying to get by on a bookkeeper’s wage. “I had been raised to be married and not have to work,” says Gulick, who was born in Shanghai, China, but grew up in Louisville. “Then I thought, what if I don’t get married again? I don’t want to be poor my whole life.”

 

So she did something you really don’t think people ever actually do — she took a vocation test. The results told Margaret Sandal Honeycutt Gulick that she should be 1) a real-estate agent, 2) a public official, or 3) an IRS agent.

Seriously? That’s how it started?

 

Yep. And then the Gulick connections kicked in. Her first sale was to a good friend. When Gulick objected that she was too new to the business, her friend replied, “How hard can it be?”

 

Gulick sold her friend the first house they looked at together on Franck Avenue in Crescent Hill. The friend still lives there. A few days after that sale, Gulick picked up the phone and the person on the other line said, “I understand you’re an agent.” Yes, Gulick tentatively replied. A month later, she and the caller closed on a $1 million home.

 

“That test was right,” Gulick says now over lunch. “I told myself at the time that if I don’t make any money in two months, I’d get another job. But I sold.”

 

She started at the now-defunct Home Store, then was recruited by John Stough to join Semonin Realtors — then and now home to the largest number of agents (some 450) in the city — where she stayed for 17 years. Eight years ago, Stough, Gulick and several others from Semonin broke out on their own, starting Kentucky Select in July 2004. 

 

“Women are more patient than men,” Gulick says. Between bites of red fish, I’ve asked why so many more women seem to be in real estate these days. She turns to Andrews: “Can I say that for print in Louisville Magazine?”

 

“You’ve never not said what you wanted to,” Andrews replies.

 

“We’re creative problem-solvers,” Gulick continues. “I always think things will work out for the best. I’m filled with platitudes. But, honey, I was living on $8,000 a year at one point. I can say anything.”

 

Lunch is going on two hours and three courses and it feels more like five minutes. But there are houses to see. 

 

We stop first at a modest craftsman on Ransdell Avenue in the Cherokee Triangle, one of Gulick’s main sales stomping grounds. She’s sold so many properties on Ransdell that she’s lost count, including two houses she owned herself. She’s now in her third house on Ransdell, living next door to a house she used to own. And next door to another house she just sold. And across the street from two more she sold.

 

The property we’re now seeing sits opposite the house where Hunter S. Thompson grew up and, the story goes, blasted a shotgun hole in the roof. The listing came via recommendation. As Gulick puts it, “If somebody is happy with you, they tell their friends. If somebody is not happy with you, they also tell their friends.”

Next stop: Sandy’s place. It’s a small white-brick bungalow with black shutters and a black iron fence around the front yard — a safe area for her 22-month-old grandson, Lizzie’s son Solomon, who calls his grandmother “Googie.”

“I’ve moved eight or nine times,” Gulick says. “I love to buy duds, houses that need work.”

 

She renovated her current address — her “feel-good house” — tearing down walls and shrinking (yes, shrinking) the kitchen and painting the walls an outgoing yellow called “golden laughter.”

 

Gulick takes a seat on a chaise lounge in the open den, posing for photographs, answering questions, checking her Blackberry, talking art like a gallery owner.

 

Her golden-laughter walls are camouflaged with original works from her favorite artists — Tatjana Krizmanic; Crescent Hill mailman-turned-painter Steve Cull; daughter Lizzie’s felt work; Solomon’s Pollock-esque crayon scribblings; Carolyn Gassan Plochmann … . (“Brenda Deemer of B. Deemer Gallery said, ‘You’d buy anything with red in it,’ and she’s right!”) “My house is the antithesis of what you’re supposed to do if you want to sell your house,” she says. “It’s filled with personal stuff.”

 

The day ends — for the photographer and me, not Sandy — at what’s known as the White House of Louisville. It’s the Highlands home of Dottie Cherry, widow of the Humana founder Wendell Cherry. And Gulick will be listing it soon. This is pure photo-op. Sandy Gulick in front of a mansion. She’s sold houses that range in price from $41,000 to $4.7 million in her career; this one will fall closer to that high end. 

She stands in front of the towering white Doric columns, holding keys in one hand, her phone up to her ear, whatever. Get a picture of her bling, she suggests. Or her freshly painted orange fingernails. (“It’s called ‘A Roll in the Hague.’ Isn’t that hysterical?”)

 

Sandy Gulick has definitely come out of her shell.

 

“Honey,” she tells the photographer, “if you give me a fistful of money, I’ll hold that, too.”

 

 

This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

 

"Why don’t you come to office at 10 and meet people?” the email reads. “They can all roast me!!”

 

Another email from Sandy Gulick (a realtor with Kentucky Select Properties who needs parenthetical identification in this city about as much as Rick Pitino) had invited me to dinner with some of her friends, promising a gluttonous evening of fabulous food and delicious conversation. I could also help her drive her daughter to the airport, if so inclined. It was becoming increasingly clear that my profile subject wouldn’t be difficult to draw out of her shell. (“Hah! Yeah, right. Shell. Good one,” friends of Sandy Gulick might say to that characterization.)

 

On a rainy morning in mid-March, Gulick arrives at the Kentucky Select offices in east Louisville — just south of Brownsboro Road next to the acreage earmarked for the new Veterans Administration hospital — precisely on time, hailing me as a long-lost friend (even though it’s the first time we’ve met) and announcing to all that “Louisville Magazine is going to shadow me today…whatever that means!” (She draws out the first syllable of the word shadow — Shaaa-dow — in that endearing way she has, as if she’s making sure you’re in on the joke and not the butt of it.)

 

She pulls up a chair to the receptionist’s desk and plops down a thick file. “Barbara is the most wonderful person in the world,” Gulick says, nodding to Barbara Osbourne, who’s not the least surprised to find herself suddenly sharing a desk with Gulick.

 

This morning, Gulick is dealing with a client in Florida who lives here and there. The client is selling a condo there so Gulick is filling out paperwork here. She’s faxing, emailing, small-talking, making and taking calls all while giving an interview. If more than 30 seconds passes between cell-phone rings, Gulick checks her BlackBerry, which, Luddite though she claims to be, she says has “made selling real estate five times easier.”

 

Gulick entertains with one-liners (“Eating out and jewelry are my passions.” “I’m allergic to early-blooming trees, late-blooming trees and Christmas trees.”); exchanges banter with other agents who whiz by with the urgency and frequency of residents in an ER (“You’re following Sandy?” agent Macie Nichols says. “Keep your running shoes on.”); sets up appointments for later (we now have a showing at 11:30 a.m. in the Hills and Dales neighborhood); and ponders lunch options while listing her favorite restaurants: Lilly’s, Jack Fry’s, Le Relais, 211 Clover Lane, Mojito and Harvest are currently in the Sandy Gulick Hall of Fame. (She was a foodie before foodies were foodies.) 

 

Her son and business partner, Jay, wanders in while his mother is talking cuisine.

 

“When was the last time you cooked?” Jay Gulick teases. “1987?”

 

“No, two weeks ago,” she replies. “I cut my knuckle. Cooking is dangerous!”

 

Jay estimates that his mother eats out 340 days a year, and she doesn’t deny it. Later, I’ll come to find out why. Dining with Sandy Gulick is more than just dining; it’s business. The most pleasant kind of business — conducted the way people did in a bygone era when civility and long, waterfront-covering conversations were important to building relationships — but it is business.

 

Her cell phone rings.

 

“I just faxed it to you. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine. What’s that number? What time? Okay. Bye, honey.”

 

This is Sandy Gulick’s world — a 24/7 multi-task of business-meets-kaffeeklatsch — and has been for 27 years, ever since she earned her real-estate license in the midst of a recession and housing slump in which mortgage-interest rates ran 12 percent. (These days, if you don’t get less than 4 percent, you feel fleeced.)

 

Gulick, 63, has to be the best-known agent in Louisville. And she is formidable. She annually ranks among the top-selling agents in the city. Last year, as a listing and buying agent, Gulick sold homes worth a total of $13.7 million for an average of $351,743 per sale, which ranked her among the top 15 agents in the area. Over the past five years, Sandy Gulick has moved $104,786,868 worth of homes, ranking sixth among all agents. If you combine her numbers with those listings she shared with her son Jay, they would top all agents in sales. (To put that in context, there are some 4,000 agents who belong to the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors.) Since 1997, as far back as Kentucky Select’s records go, Gulick has sold 806 houses, which extrapolates to well more than a thousand during her career. 

 

She sold one house in Butchertown six separate times, and she’s sold one person seven different homes. Another client bought a house from Gulick, moved several times (using Gulick as an agent for each buy), then later re-bought the initial house. 

 

Through Sandy Gulick, naturally.

 

She seems the least likely wheeler-dealer salesperson this side of…I got nothin’. Sandy Gulick is an outlier. How to describe her? Imagine your favorite, tell-it-like-it-is, endearingly eccentric aunt who manages to stay two or three steps ahead of everybody while sending out the vibe that she’s always the last to know. If there’s a phony bone in her body, it must have been surgically inserted an hour ago — and was promptly rejected. 

 

She typically sports three pairs of glasses: sunglasses hooked to the front of her shirt, eyeglasses at all times, and reading glasses that she pulls down over the eyeglasses. The right lens of her eyeglasses looks foggy, as if she’s just come from an air-conditioned office into the humid outdoors, but it is a prescription lens to help her with double vision, a side effect of a thyroid eye disease.

 

When I ask Gulick why she’s been so successful, she says in that scratchy smoker’s voice of hers, “I have no idea. I really don’t.”

 

“The first time I met Sandy, I don’t think my impression of her is something you can put in print,” laughs Alice Legette, another agent at Kentucky Select, who met Gulick when Gulick joined Semonin Realtors (Legette was a veteran there at the time). 

 

I ask Gulick if she has an actual office.

 

“Oh sure, come see it.”

 

She leads me down a short hall into an office sizeable enough for two desks; they’re kissed together, Jay on one side, his mother on the other. On the wall on her side of the room is a framed copy of Casa Grisanti’s ravioli recipe. On her desk sits a computer-obscuring vase of flowers.

 

“Aren’t they GOR-geous?” she says.

 

What kind are they?

 

“I have no idea. Jay, what kind are they?”

 

“They’re lilies,” Jay says.

 

“Lilies,” she explains.

 

Gulick excuses herself to get ready for the 11:30 showing. I sit at her desk and visit with Jay, 41, who seems in several obvious ways the opposite of his mother: He’s organized, technologically savvy and overtly pragmatic.

 

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