Tina Newby became a real estate agent three years ago after working in information technology and being a stay-at-home mom. But she’s already built a unique brand through her creative way of showcasing the homes she sells: She hosts a cooking show inside the kitchens and posts the videos on her Realtor Can Cook Facebook page.
We asked Newby, who is based in Land O’ Lakes but sells homes throughout the Tampa Bay area, about the origins of this idea and how she kept it in the super-fast market. The following has been edited for length and clarity:
How and when did the idea of having a cooking show start?
It was in 2019. I remember it very well because it was almost Thanksgiving, I think it was October, that I decided to do it. I was like, ‘You walk into (a house) and the first thing you want to check is always the kitchen.’ At that time, I was like, “Well, I love to cook, it would be cool if I could cook in the kitchen that I’m selling.” So it was me and my daughter with just a little camera. The first recipe was for Thanksgiving, so I made apple dumplings.
It was so funny because I shared it with people I know and then people started making the recipe and sending me pictures of their Thanksgiving dinner and they were like, “Hey, c is the second batch. I wasn’t fast enough to take the photos of the first batch. It was nice. And then I thought, “Oh, maybe I can do that for every house I list.” This is where it all began.
I understand your family is helping with the videos. Can you tell me more about the roles of each?
The first time was my eldest daughter and I, and we only had the basic camera and a tripod. Then it became more and more (complicated). We have the most sophisticated camera and speakers, then you slowly buy the lighting. My eldest daughter was helping me, and then we realized, ‘Okay, we need help setting up the lights, I need help getting the recipes ready, getting all the supplies ready.’
Because when I go to someone’s house, if my salesman still lives in the house, then we kind of have utensils and things like that, but when I walk into a vacant house, I have to bring pretty much everything – pans and ingredients. So slowly but surely it became a family affair. My husband does the videos, he does all the editing, and then my kids help prep the food, prep things, prep the ingredients, set up the lights. And then when we’re done, they help clean up. It has become very natural for us that each of us has a job to do.
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The real estate market has become extremely fast these days. Do you always do this in all the houses you sell?
Have you ever had the problem where the house sells too fast to have time to put on a show inside?
It becomes very strategic. When I sign a listing contract, I already have a plan on how I’m going to tackle marketing. He’s still listed on certain days of the week, sending postcards, doing Realtor Can Cook, and then hosting an open house. Obviously, if someone lives in the house, I have to plan accordingly with the sellers. But if it’s a vacant house, there are often times when we go in the middle of the night and do it because there’s no other time I can do it. We just arrive at 8 at night and check in until it’s done, clean up, pack up and that’s it.
There are times when I really haven’t finished until 1 or 2 in the morning. But the trick is consistency. I can’t just say, “I’m too busy, I’m not going to do this”, because everyone expects that. If I stop doing it, people are going to assume that I don’t do it anymore or that I’m not a real estate agent anymore. I think for a lot of small businesses or realtors, consistency is one of the hardest things for us to do. Sometimes it’s really hard, but for me, I’ve found that being consistent is what’s going to keep me busy all the time. It’s almost a catch-22, what do you do when the thing you’ve been working on helps keep you busy. But when you’re too busy, you won’t have enough time to do what helps you.
Other agents have asked me, if they were considering doing something similar, how many hours I spent there. And after I walked them through the process, they were like, “No, I don’t have that kind of time.”
How many episodes have you shot so far and what was your favorite?
I think I’m now on my 13th or 14th episode.
I truly believe in family dinners, get-togethers, and having your kids participate in the kitchen. For me, cooking and having dinner with the family is so important and I feel like we are in a time where we are so busy with school activities, work and sometimes people don’t have time and they don’t make family dinner a priority anymore. So for me to share recipes that I often use myself and often cook for my family, each one of them was really fun. Not all episodes have been perfect, like today I forgot a spatula, forgot to bring something to mix my batter. It’s always fun because I always have to improvise.
I think if I have to choose one as my favorite, it would have to be the first episode.
Having a cooking show is obviously mostly about the kitchen of a house. Do you think kitchens give people clues about what the rest of the house is like? Why do you think cooking is so important?
I believe the kitchen is the heart of the home. I’ve noticed while hanging out with friends or visiting my mom, sister – the conversation, no matter where it started, always ends up in the kitchen. When I do open houses, even if the houses are big, the family room, the patio, and everything is as nice or as comfortable, people just end up in the kitchen. I don’t know what it is, but I think for us, as humans, we’re drawn to the kitchen – surrounded by the counter, by the sink, talking, having drinks, and that’s just a natural thing for us.
I felt like if you could imagine yourself cooking, spending time with your family in the kitchen, you know this is going to be a wonderful home for you.