“You have cancer. It’s bad, and we need to move quickly.”
South Jersey resident Erin Kane says that she will never forget hearing those words. The first thing that she thought was: “I’m a mom—and he’s just a little boy.”
Up until that moment, the most stressful factor in Kane’s life had been going through the process of buying a new home. And that, alone, was undoubtedlystressful. But now on top of that big life change, Kane was also facing cancer.
“I knew my diagnosis would impact my involvement [in the home buying process] so I told my Realtor, Angela Hess, of the Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group,” recalls Kane. “Looking back, that moment was the beginning of something huge for me and my journey.”
That’s because the Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group took a step to make a connection—something that they do day in and day out as a Brokerage.
But this particular connection made a tremendous impact on Kane’s life.
That evening (when Kane opened up about her diagnosis), Hess introduced Kane to a friend (and client) of hers— Debbie Smalley—who was on the other side of cancer treatments. She had been through a double mastectomy and reconstruction a year prior and was now navigating life after cancer. Smalley was a familiar client at the Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group, as she had bought and sold three homes through the agency and referred multiple clients, despite having a close relative at a competing agency.
“A few days before Christmas, after my first routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With the support of amazing family and awesome friends, I powered through a double mastectomy and reconstruction. About a year later, we purchased and renovated an investment property. Angela Hess, a good friend of mine, was representing us in the sale of this house. During this process, she introduced us to the Kane family. Erin had just been diagnosed and we struck up a friendship immediately,” recalls Smalley.
In no time at all, Smalley quickly became Kane’s biggest advocate. Kane says that she answered every “terror-filled question” she threw at her, calmed her down through endless tests, biopsies and appointments, and would make her laugh just at the moment she thought she was breaking.
“Debbie continued to inspire me, helping me navigate my son, Dylan,through my cancer as she did for her own children,” Kane adds.
Both women are grateful to Hess for connecting them. Though making connections is definitely part of Hess’ everyday life, she says she felt the magic there, too.
“It was a situation where everything aligned in just the right way,” Hess shares. “It was a pretty special thing to be a part of.”
“At the Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group, we really focus on our clients as people,” Hess says. “I think that’s something that makes our group different. I always tell myclients that once they move in, I don’t want them to become strangers. I want to continue that relationship and connection. I love to see my clients’ families grow and keep up with their changing lives. Sometimes when people move it’s not for a positive reason, and we’re understanding of that and here for our clients. Whether they’re going through something difficult in life or just stressed out by the buying process, we’re here.”
A Truly Unique Group
Nancy Kowalik, founder and broker of the South Jersey-based group, says that this client focus was the exact catalyst for her to launch a boutique real estate firm that could offer something different.
“Our clients are not just a transaction to us,” Kowalik stresses. “When I was in corporate America, everyone talked about a five-star philosophy where you offer the best possible customer service—but nobody practiced it. That was one of the first things I set out to change in real estate.”
Kowalik says she hires Realtors like Hess who are compassionate and who will truly care about the people they work with.
“When you’re buying a home, you end up spending a lot of time with your Realtor,” Kowalik says. “And sometimes people go through really big life changes during the time that they’re clients with us. We want to be a group that is truly there for you. Sometimes that means wearing my therapist’s hat and being there to listenwhen a client needs to vent.”
Going through the home buying process can be stressful—with or without other life changes in the mix, Kowalik adds. That’s why they aim to make it as streamlined and easy as possible.
“As Realtors we have been privileged to stand by our clients through some very big moments in life,” Kowalik continues. “Sometimes they’re not happy moments. Clients may be going through a health battle or maybe they’re moving for an unhappy reason such as a divorce. We’re understanding that this can be a stressful time.”
Even the happiest stories can be more emotionally complicated than people anticipate.
Making the Dream Come True
Going a step even further in terms of caring for clients, the Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group will actually buy your home back if you’re not fully satisfied. That’s an unprecedented differentiator.
“The last thing that we want is someone to end up in a home that they don’t love,” she says. “At the end of the day, we’re out to help people find their dream home.”
Fortunately for Kane, that’s exactly what happened. Her story has a happy ending in more ways than one.
During Kane’s treatments, Hess says that she forged on in the search for the perfect home for this family. Kane’s husband would accompany Hess to showings and ultimately, they found the dream house they had been seeking.
“There were twists and turns along the way, but in the end, we found the home that they truly wanted,” Hess says.
And—the best news of all—is that Kane is also now cancer-free. She says it has given her a better outlook on life.
“I always hear people say things like, ‘Mondays are the worst,’” Kane says. “Monday is my favorite day of the week. I almost didn’t see another Monday. Cancer has taught me a lot; in fact it teaches me something new almost daily. I try not to focus on the things that cancer took from me. Instead I see all the amazing things it brought to me—like the gift of knowing Nancy, Angela and Debbie.”
Real Estate Group
46 N. Main St., Mullica Hill