Picket Fence Realty Celebrates 25th Anniversary
In early 1997, Sue Duchek had done an appraisal for an Arlington Heights resident living on South Highland Avenue. At the time, Duchek had her Real Estate sales license, but was not actively selling homes. The fact that Sue didn't have an active brokerage didn't dissuade the seller -- she was happy to wait. Shortly thereafter, longtime appraisers Sue and Paul Duchek established a brokerage, listed and sold the house on Highland Avenue, and Picket Fence Realty was born.
Twenty-five years later, the Ducheks still run the business out of their now-familiar office on Arlington Heights Road. Other family members including a niece and son are part of the agency today. It has been a fun, interesting, and challenging quarter century, but the success of Picket Fence Realty stands among the best independent business success stories in the suburban area, with a strong presence in surrounding communities such as Mount Prospect where the firm also had an office for many years.
"It has been exciting not only to own and run a business, but to do it in Arlington Heights especially as the town was evolving into a model of the new urban cityscape for the suburbs," Sue said. "The housing market has changed so much making our story even more unique."
Paul Duchek attributes much of Picket Fence's success to the commitment he and Sue made to community involvement right from the start.
"Being involved in organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Historical Society, and the Downtown Business Association allowed us to make a lot of great friends and contacts in the community," he said. "Over the years we went from being members to taking on leadership roles which helped promote the Picket Fence name."
It wasn't just a business perspective that kept the Ducheks involved in the community, though. Both were raised in the area and were high school sweethearts who went on to raise their family in Arlington Heights as well.
"Arlington Heights is important in our lives," Sue said. "Whether it helps our business or not we wanted to contribute to it whenever we could."
Perhaps the unique element of the Picket Fence story has been the ability for the agency to remain independent. In a growing and successful community like Arlington Heights, the real estate market is very competitive and dominated by national brands. While there have been overtures from the big names, the couple was determined to maintain their independence.
"We're proud of what we have established on a professional level," said Paul. "About 80 percent of our business comes through referrals and we now find ourselves assisting the children or even grandchildren of former clients. We appreciate the interest from the big realtor groups but we've carved out a niche through our personal relationships and that is what matters most to us."
Central to the agency's success has been the brand that has been built around their distinctive for-sale signs. It was Paul and Sue's dad Chuck that built the original Picket Fence sign using, of course, a picket fence. The sign is among the most recognizable brand icons for any business in the suburbs.
The Picket Fence team has helped countless first-time buyers, but Picket Fence has also been recognized with the Senior Residential Specialist (SRES®) designation by the National Association of Realtors.
"Because the industry has changed so much, there can be some challenges for seniors who are considering selling their longtime home, or even buy someplace new," Sue said. "The SRES designation is important in that it signifies we are able to focus particular attention to the unique needs of seniors in the market."
Picket Fence will be celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout the year, and is their nature, by giving back to the community that has served them well. They will be donating $2,500 to SALUTE, Inc.'s Salute to Service Run and Walk coming up in May.
"Our industry has changed so much during our history and we are always excited about the new innovations and trends that we encounter," Sue said. "We're excited to see what comes next and hope to continue serving our clients for years to come. There is nothing more satisfying than to see someone buy the home of their dreams or sell their first home to move into another one in the community. We appreciate the trust people put Picket Fence Realty to help them through the process.