Gail Chevalier Zini is a Pawnee girl. Born and raised in the Village, she said she briefly moved to Auburn once, but otherwise has been in town all her life. She has been selling real estate since 1980 and joined the Snelling Real Estate team in 1976. Real estate has been crazy busy this past year. Gail said, “My phone starts ringing at eight, and I’m often here until ten!”
In the real estate business for the past 45 years, this has been a wonderful career for Gail. “I started here when my son Jeromy was 9 months old,” Gail said. “I came to work for Darrell Snelling and when he died in January of 1985, I took over.”
Gail shared how she got started with real estate in Pawnee, “I had mentioned to Tim Snelling, Darrell’s son, if you need anyone, let me know.”
Soon they called her in, she started out part-time and soon became fulltime. “I had a 9-month-old son and wanted to work locally,” Gail said adding that this worked so well later when she became a single mom.
Darrell Snelling was such a memorable man in the Village of Pawnee. He not only owned the real estate office, but Gail said she has memories of going to Darrell’s Grill in high school for lunch. Located on the corner where About Face, currently sits, she remembers being served by Rosie. “I graduated in 1970 from Pawnee High School,” Gail added.
Gail went on to work at the Bank of Springfield in the financial section, which would later come in handy. “I learned loans, and real estate on the side eventually,” she added.
High school would not be the last education she had because while she started out at Snelling Real Estate as a secretary, she said that Darrell said, “Get your sales license and I did. Then he said, ‘get your Broker’s license, and I did. Then he passed away, so thankfully I had.”
Darrell Snelling originally had his business in the two buildings on the corner of the square on 7th street. “He was more in the other building (where the Scouts are now),” Gail said about when Darrell owned the office.
“I helped his wife settle his estate. They gave me first choice to buy the buildings, I only wanted this 2nd building,” she said. Since then, Gail has also become a Managing Broker which is required by the State of Illinois to run a real estate office.
“Darrell was very good to me. He was a good teacher. I learned what to do, and what not to do. He was big in the Marine’s. He did a lot of good for Pawnee. He would loan people down payments and so on,” Gail said about her mentor.
Things are a bit different today than when Gail first started selling houses. “Mortgage rates were high back then. A lot of houses were selling Contract for Deed.”
This meant that at first sales were quite slow. While back then more people bought Contract for Deed, Gail said that this is not something that happens very often these days. Working in a small-town Gail said, “I have sold several houses four to five times here in Pawnee.”
Over the years, Gail has been involved in the Capital Area Association of Realtors where she served as the President in 2005. She is also a member of the Illinois Association of Realtors as well. “I love working with them, there is so much valuable information.”
Today there is a 2nd generation working at Snelling Chevalier Real Estate Inc. Jeromy, her son, has his real estate license and has been selling real estate for several years too, she said.
Gail has one son, and two grandchildren. “Carly is age 20 and she just bought her own home,” Gail said. “Collin is 14, and he is an awesome kid.”
“There are a lot of good stories,” Gail said about the business and her opportunity to work with family. “My mom, Vivian Smith worked with me for years until her health went down and Delores Estill, Darrell Snelling’s sister-in-law also worked here too.”
When asked what she likes best about the real estate business, she added, “I enjoy most helping people find what they are looking for, especially young people. I like making people happy.”
If there is a downside, she said perhaps it is the hours. Gail commented that she has never seen the market like it is today. “Now it is a sellers’ market. I am concerned how much and how fast the home prices have increased.”
At Snelling Chevalier, they work not only in Pawnee, but the surrounding area as well. In today’s market Gail said that people are not moving so there is a shortage of houses. When a house comes up, it is a sometimes a bidding war. This can make for stressful business. “You really have to watch for things coming on the market.”
“We sell mostly in Sangamon, Christian, Macoupin, Montgomery and occasionally Morgan County,” Gail said. Besides selling real estate, Snelling Chevalier is also a property management company. “I think there are more than 75 units that we manage. We have a lot of out of state owners that I manage for.”
When asked why that was Gail said, “Owners from out of state buy because property in the Midwest is more affordable.”
They also offer notary services at Snelling Chevalier Real Estate.
For information about Snelling Chevalier Real Estate Inc., check out their website at Realtor Springfield IL | Homes For Sale | Real Estate Agent (snelling-chevalier.com) or call Gail at 217-625-2411 or her cell phone at 217-494-8262. Jeromy Chevalier can be reached at 217-415-9021.