Dickerson and I climb into her BMW X5, on our way across town to meet her marketing manager, Mike Zarella, who directs the marketing for Dickerson and her fellow Sotheby’s agents in Boston. Though Zarella’s job is to assist every affiliated agent, Dickerson is his star performer. And it’s clear that this meeting has a goal: to help Dickerson gain ground on Campion.
As soon as we’re seated in the marketing department’s Tremont Street office, Zarella turns to her. He scans the list of recent sales and says, “You’re most frequently up against Tracy.” Dickerson has sold 21 properties so far this year: eight single-families at an average price of $4 million and 13 condos averaging $1.9 million. That’s a far cry from Campion, who’s sold 50 listings: seven single-family homes at an average price of $4.9 million and 43 condos averaging $2.4 million.
“She’s got higher-dollar deals, but your number of transactions blows her out of the water,” the marketing manager says, which is true, but only if you count Dickerson’s portfolio of rentals. “How do we get these numbers out there?”
Dickerson takes a swig of Ethos water. As she blithely peruses her brochures, the two of them mull the big questions: What can Dickerson do better? How can she distinguish herself from Number One, and compete on the same level? Zarella wants her to stress the international reach Sotheby’s gives her, something Campion doesn’t have. “She doesn’t have 10,000 agents in her network,” Zarella points out. “Her website doesn’t have our traffic.” Dickerson, he adds, has even sold to out-of-towners (read: Europeans), sight unseen, based solely on pictures. One guy bought a property online from Greece.
It’s an old game — Dickerson’s been competing with Campion for years. Actually, they used to work together at R. M. Bradley. Campion joined that firm in 1984 and was promoted to vice president in 1994. Dickerson started in 1993 and made vice president in 1997.
In 2003 Dickerson launched her own firm, then merged it with Sotheby’s a year later. “I could never work as much as Tracy,” she says, though the truth is that she works pretty damn tirelessly herself, forever returning phone calls and e-mails. Dickerson comes off as instantly likable and open; she’s the high school class president to Campion’s scrappy athlete. Throughout her career, she’s flooded the society pages with her smile and philanthropic efforts, spending her money and time to support causes that — thanks to the high-level connections she develops as a result — ultimately support her, as well.
Compared with the passionate Campion, Dickerson is calm, cool, and collected. No doubt that demeanor can be reassuring in high-stakes negotiations where panic is hardly unheard of. Broker Eve Dougherty of Coldwell Banker says, “It’s no BS with Tracy. She’s the roll-up-your-sleeves, let’s-make-a-deal type. Beth has more finesse. Beth works her sphere of influence, always working the crowd, always at the same parties I go to…. She’s branded, and she’s worked hard for it, but every time I call her, she’s on vacation.” Of course, no matter where she is, Dickerson picks up the phone.
Campion may be real estate’s finest hustler, but Dickerson has nailed the white-glove treatment that certain high-end shoppers seek. She’s good with wives who want to screen properties, then bring in the husbands when they’ve narrowed down the search. And those shoppers aren’t known for being easygoing, or low maintenance. “It’s a very emotional business. You have to be tough,” explains Ricardo Rodriguez, a broker at Coldwell Banker who has worked with most of the city’s top agents, including Campion and Dickerson. “You have to manage all these people — buyers, sellers, other brokers, and I think that’s where a lot of people get lost.” The longer a house sits, the more opportunities there are for the madness to reveal itself, and agents at the top of the market have seen it all. Behind every 360-degree online photo gallery and carefully edited paragraph shouting, “gorgeous,” “meticulous,” and “no detail spared” is a job promotion, a relocation, or a family that’s outgrown its space. And then there are the dozens of other reasons that houses are abandoned: divorce, death, illness, infidelity, substance abuse, aging.
Below: Sold! Tracy Campion’s Real Estate Triumphs