Imagine donning a Washington Redskins cheerleading outfit on Sundays in front of 80,000-plus diehard football fans and then switching gears Monday morning to your business suit and acting as assistant general counsel for the team? This was Melissa Bernstein’s life for one year. What was that like for this Berkshire Hathaway REALTOR®? “I literally ate, slept, breathed, and bled the Redskins. It was amazing!”
As a straight-A, Dean’s List student at the University of Maryland, College Park, she was driven and focused. While being a cheerleader was a hobby, she also said it was an incredibly uplifting experience. “It really kept me inspired during college and law school. I could step out of my studies and be a part of something that was so much bigger, which was wonderful,” she explained, noting that, as a cheerleader, it was all about community service. They visited hospitals and did USO tours. “We were really seen as role models.”
At one particularly notable charity event, Melissa ran into the president of the team, which would land her an interview with the Redskins front office. Obviously, she got the job, and it was an experience she won’t ever forget. What was it like being a lawyer for the Washington Redskins? “It was certainly a dream job for someone right out of law school. I was lucky enough to be there when Dan Snyder took over ownership and was forming his legal staff. He is known for being one of the best marketers and having a brilliant marketing mind, so I was really able to learn not just legal skills, but also how to market.”
For five years, she worked with the NFL team on real estate matters. “Since they own their own stadium, I did the land use and leases, things like that. I really loved that part of it.” This is where Melissa’s passion for real estate presented itself. After the Redskins, she moved on to Shulman Rogers, where she concentrated on commercial real estate. She worked there for a decade. While she loved what she was doing, she realized she needed to flex those entrepreneurial muscles. “I wasn’t being fulfilled. I knew I didn’t want my own law firm. So I made the decision and took the plunge. I decided to take a risk and give up my cushy, six-figure salary and work on 100-percent commission.”
This was a challenge for her, but Melissa pointed out that you cannot be brave without fear. “I believed in myself and had a great network of family, friends, and colleagues who also believed in me.” She knew that her competitive edge would be her background and legal expertise. She decided, early on, that she’d invest in high-level marketing, and while digital is crucial, she is a strong proponent of print. “There is still something to be said for a really good print ad. If you do it right, they will use it as an informational piece. I’ve gone on listings where they will have four of my past mailers on their coffee table, using it as a tool.” Another tool she endorses is working with an amazing stager.
No Place Like Home
Growing up in Montgomery County and living in North Potomac now, she says she’s in love with her community, so it’s an easy sell. “I’m selling a lifestyle. I know the swimming pools, restaurants, memberships…this is my home. I am selling more than just a house; I am selling a home and a community in every way imaginable.” It’s paying off. In 2019, she did $30 million in volume, and for the six years she has been a REALTOR®, she has done over $100 million. Each year is better than the last.
Helping make her house a happy home is her husband Darren. They have known each other since middle school. While they shared the same circle of friends, they never started dating until she got into law school. Darren is also in sales and marketing, and Melissa says it’s fun to have two marketing minds together, where they can bounce ideas off each other. The couple shares the same strong family values, enjoys working out together (Orangetheory and Peloton are her favorites), and have plenty of date nights. As foodies, they enjoy checking out all the great restaurants around town.
One of their favorite things to do together is watch their children play sports. Ethan is 14 years old and plays ice hockey, basketball, and travel baseball. Recently, they celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in St. Thomas. Taylor is 12 years old and a competitive cheerleader and Melissa remarked, “Taylor is, for sure, a little mini-me. She is 100-percent going to be a real estate agent! She will ask me these follow-up questions [after a call] that are so thoughtful and smart; she takes it to the next level. She already knows a lot.”
When it comes to real estate, Melissa says she hardly feels like its work, it’s that fulfilling. “Becoming an agent was the perfect way to put my legal expertise, professionalism, unique marketing, stylistic approach to staging and decorating, strong work ethic, and love for my community together.”
With that positive attitude, she doesn’t like to take no for an answer. “If someone closes a door in your face, climb up a window. And make it your mission to open doors for others! I wake up every day and say ‘thank you.’ I never take anything for granted and will always look for the next open door.”