‘Real estate comes easy because I love what I do.’ Nina Denson wins global RE/MAX Hall of Fame award

by Tara Gilligan Reimer


In the middle of an unusually bountiful Pacific Northwest winter, Nina Denson is looking out her kitchen window, not at the layers of snow covering her five-acre country expanse in Custer, but at a flowering tree in brilliant bloom, in January.

“My witch hazel doesn’t have the lemon-yellow flowers or the fiery-red ones,” she explains of the tree’s explosion of delicate fireworks in the made-for seasonal backdrop of our Big Cold Dark. “Mine throws off apricot bursts.” The hue’s unexpected warmth, unfurled in confidence, captures Nina (pronounced “nine-uh”) and her proficiency in real estate with RE/MAX Whatcom County.

Nina Denson

She recently won the global RE/MAX Hall of Fame award, because of her ability to cultivate one million dollars in commissions.

The right mix: loyal clients, healthy detachment, and self-discipline

“I should have gone into this profession many, many years ago,” says Nina, with marked assertion, a confidence grounded in 17 years of seen-it-and-heard-it-all in real estate and a tone that assures clients. (Nina’s ease with the nuances of her field will run through our entire interview, a kitchen-to-kitchen visit, shared over the phone and cups of coffee.)

She was a baker (for Fairhaven’s Colophon Café and other eateries), a fiscal auditor (Western Washington University), and along the way, a serious gardener. Baking, auditing, gardening, and brokering all require attention to detail while seeing the whole.

Succeeding in real estate also means building a healthy referral base, something Nina quickly grasped. “I’ve gone to a lot of training. Continuous learning is what I like about this field.” In the digital age, one trainer gave a compelling suggestion:  the old-fashioned newsletter. So, Nina regularly wrote personable newsletters (“not just about market statistics, because everybody does that”) to keep in touch with her clients, hand-addressed envelopes, and stickered with stamps (“if you preprint and meter, people feel marketed to”).

Her genuine, meaningful contact brought clients who depend upon and adore her. Wrote one recent client: “She is wonderful at explaining the complexities of every process.” The writer adds, “My only sadness in having purchased our new home is that we won’t get to see Nina as often. We love her as a person, her sense of humor, her love of life and people.”

When this review is recounted, with admiration from the interviewer, Nina honestly and charmingly responds, “I never read my own reviews.”

Of the unintended career path? “For a time, I was divorced and raising my son. You do what needs to be done,” she smiles, with a pleasant, don’t-pity-me, matter-of-factness.

And of being a self-employed agent, she states, “You have to be disciplined. I don’t procrastinate, especially if it’s something I don’t want to do.”

Growth with mentoring

Nina was recruited by her own personal broker, Cyndy Berry, to Gray Realtors. Guess who was also at Gray? Lori Reece (founder and Chief Executive Officer of RE/MAX Whatcom County), Blake Boatman (co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of RE/MAX Gateway in Anacortes), and Lisa Carlson (Chief Financial Officer of RE/MAX Whatcom County). When these three joined RE/MAX—”a tiny start-up with a big dream,” in the words of CEO Lori—Cyndy followed and so did Nina. Nancy Braam joined, too, giving the company, what Lori calls, “a stamp of approval.” The house of RE/MAX was growing. And no one could have guessed how successful the company would become.

Speaking of Lori, Nina chimes in with recent award-winners Mark Frye (the self-described “guy in the glen”) and Briddick Webb (the one who found his tribe at RE/MAX), both featured in previous articles.

“Lori is unbeatable with education—all the experts like Buffini, Knox—and her connections,” says Nina, now digging in, making sure her point is felt, even over the phone. “Those classes in the basement are the best,” she continues, referring to contract boot camps and roundtables in a drop-down, common space—the chemistry there being the opposite of our newfound remoteness.

“I don’t call Lori much,” continues Nina, unintentionally revealing her own security. “But when I do call, she is there—any time, day or night—with all of her resources.” After the interview, Nina emails not so much an appreciation but a final endnote: “Lori treats her brokers as family. She nurtures, educates, problem-solves, and advocates for her brokers.”

Keeping your head together and looking at all the options

Tellingly, Nina is also unfazed by this never-before-seen market. “Recently, I had this couple, who lost out on 12 homes to cash buyers. These two needed financing.” Nina worked all the corners, to get her clients into a home. “They ended up buying land and building. I firmly believe that the exact right thing comes along, if you keep your head together and look at all the options.”

Witch hazel, in bloom

So here is Nina, with a global award, confidently putting together people and property—with precision, pragmatism, and bursts of insight. In winter, even before the crocus, the witch hazel blazes first, bringing light. And Nina brings the same warmth to RE/MAX, her clients, and our changing market, too.

About RE/MAX Whatcom County

Located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we strive to exceed expectations. Founded and owned by CEO/Managing Broker Lori Reece, this full-service real estate brokerage is known for inspiring excellence and providing the field’s top training for its 90+ Realtors®. To find the best in commercial and residential real estate, visit nwhomes.net.

At the center of our lives are the stories we live out. Tara Gilligan Reimer loves to find the story in place and people. This is my seventh feature on the best brokerage in Whatcom County and the RE/MAX agents who lead expertise and passion.