For the last 19 years, Mike Ficzner has been serving the country as a member of the U.S. Army—first on active duty, now in the U.S. Army Reserve. With plans to retire from the Army next year, he's found a way to be of service locally in a whole new realm: helping Euclidians become first-time homeowners.
Mike Ficzner owns The Ficzner Group with his wife, Sarah, a real estate attorney.“Our business model is based on turning renters into owners, and it's based on educational selling,” says Ficzner, who has co-owned Ficzner Real Estate Group with his wife, Sarah, since 2014. “We educate people on the whole home-buying process—from financing to credit repair to home inspection to title and appraisal.”
He estimates that Ficzner Group does about 80 to 90% of its business in Euclid, which could be a game changer for the city, considering that less than half of Euclid’s residents own their homes (with an owner-occupancy rate of 47.9% as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census).
Though the Ficzners reside in Lakeline in Lake County, their four children attend school at Ss. Robert & William in Euclid, and Ficzner is heavily invested in both the parish and surrounding community. His professional interest in Euclid started when he was getting referrals and business from parishioners, and it solidified when Zillow made Ficzner a premier agent and asked him to pick a geographical focus.
“When I found out about how Zillow was integrating all this cool technology into their platform, I was all in,” says Ficzner. “Now we’ve almost entirely refocused our efforts online with internet leads. It helps me start the conversation with renters [who may not realize they can purchase a home].”
It was via Zillow that Ficzner connected with Rona Jones, a renter who was looking to buy her first home after living in an East Cleveland apartment for 14 years. Ficzner helped her navigate what he calls his “six-month pathway to home ownership” program, and Jones successfully purchased a four-bedroom, one-bathroom home with her daughter on Euclid’s east side in May.
Ficzner helped Rona Jones buy this house in Euclid in May. “Mike was like a beacon for us,” says Jones, who is a single mother with two jobs. “We looked at close to 30 houses, and he helped us stay the course without getting overwhelmed.”
Ficzner says working with first-time homeowners like Jones is one of the most gratifying parts of his job, and the extra time he spends on the education piece is more than worth it—from creating infographics to giving free consultations. "I'll get calls after one or two years from people who say, 'We're ready to buy—thanks for all the tips you gave us,'" says Ficzner. "It's the biggest compliment I can get."
Ficzner doubled down on his Euclid focus this year by opening an office on the lower level of The Green House. He operates the Ficzner Real Estate Group out of the co-working space and plans to offer weekly seminars to leasing agents in 2020.
He’s also working hand in hand with the Euclid Chamber of Commerce (also based in the Green House) and partnering with local property management companies, title companies, lenders, and loan officers to help offset what he calls “the slumlord mentality that has gone rampant in Northeast Ohio.”
Ultimately, Ficzner is hoping he can move the needle and help Euclid reclaim a majority of owner-occupied homes—and enjoy the benefits that would accompany that shift: "Any time when you can give someone the American dream and pride of home ownership, it lifts up the city and lifts up the community."
This article is part of our On the Ground - Euclid community reporting project in partnership with City of Euclid, Euclid City Schools, Tri-C, and Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Read the rest of our coverage here.