From left: Michael Harnish ‘10, Anna Bergey, class of ’02, Derik Trissel ’01, Rebecca Crist Shelly ‘15 and Jeremy Litwiller, class of ‘97, are the Valley Roots Team, a Harrisonburg-based real estate group. (Photo by Nikki Trent)

Royal Connections Business Spotlight: Valley Roots Team, five strong, all EMU-connected

The Royal Connections Business Spotlight is a monthly feature about businesses owned by EMU alumni featured in the university’s new interactive directory.

October’s spotlight is on the Valley Roots Team LLC, a real estate team in Harrisonburg, founded and co-owned by Derik Trissel ’01 and Jeremy Litwiller, class of ‘97.

The duo formed the team in 2014. Michael Harnish ‘10 joined them later that year. Rebecca Crist Shelly ‘15 joined in 2017 and Anna Bergey, class of ’02, in November 2018.

The group has an office in downtown Harrisonburg. They specialize in residential homes, farms and land, new construction and downtown Harrisonburg properties, as well as working with first-time home buyers.

Delving into their biographies on the Valley Roots website reveals a variety of talents and backgrounds:

  • Derik and Jeremy grew up on farms,
  • Jeremy is familiar with the “bones” of home construction firsthand from working as a plumber and in construction,
  • Michael has worked as a youth pastor and loves being involved with folks during a major life milestone (buying or selling!),
  • Rebecca has a degree in psychology and enjoys working with couples making change in their lives,
  • Anna has experience in hospitality, landscape design and small business management.

Catch up with the team at their website and on FacebookPinterestTwitter, and Instagram.

Tell us how you became a business owner. 

Derik started in the real estate business with Kline May soon after graduation from EMU. Jeremy joined Kline May in 2011. Though we were individual agents at that point, we recognized the need for collaboration, coverage and support for each other when out of town. There is also the efficiency of sharing some expenses. We formed our company in an effort to serve our clients better while at the same time improving our quality of life.

How did your EMU education impact your choice of career and choice of business? 

The biggest impact was simply the connections made while at EMU.  Neither one of us went to college with the intention of becoming a real estate agent.  However, when we reconnected at Kline May several years later, we realized that our client base was very similar and interconnected.  Our spheres of influence overlapped mostly around friends, acquaintances, and other connections made through our separate times at EMU.

How do your values impact your business operations? 

One of the most important details in the real estate world is “agency” or “who represents whom.” If agents on our team represent both a buyer and a seller in the same transaction, the potential is there for a messy situation.  However, largely because we all share a similar background and belief system, we never have an issue.  There is never a question or concern about whether or not we are going to do the right thing for our clients.

How about some “best business” insights?

The main reason we formed the Valley Roots Team was to provide better service to our clients.  Most real estate agents are sole proprietors so when they are not available, there is no plan B.  With five of us now, we can fill in for one another when needed, bounce ideas off one another, and provide a higher level of service to our clients.

Staying current on education and changes in state laws is also a focus. We think it is very important to be up-to-date on what is happening locally, statewide and even across the nation.  We see a big difference between being a Professional Realtor and simply someone with a license. Providing that professional experience is very important to us.

Technology is drastically changing our business. The big real estate websites can give you a bunch of information, but there is no substitute for having an experienced team by your side to help with all the things those sites can’t and don’t tell you. We are no longer the keepers of the information, so we have adjusted our focus to being trusted advisors and using our collective 25+ years of experience to better serve our clients and customers. We answer calls and texts and emails at all hours of the day and night and strive to create “Raving Fans” out of every transaction.

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