Flying into Real Estate

Excelsior pilots—and mom and daughter—team up to co-captain a real estate business for their latest adventure.
Realtors Kathy Rauth and Sarah Polovitz

These days, pilots Kathy Rauth and her daughter Sarah Polovitz spend most of their time on the ground.

The longtime Excelsior residents travel the Twin Cities as co-captains of a real estate business that has taken off since they teamed up more than four years ago.

Rauth and Polovitz sell for Edina Realty, out of its Chanhassen office. The south lake area is a focus of their personal lives, but they work with buyers and sellers all over the metro and the Brainerd Lakes area, where they have a cabin on Gull Lake.

“There aren’t a lot of Realtors that have their pilot’s license,” Rauth says. “It sets us apart.”

Tying together these two endeavors—flying and real estate—is their play-on-words business slogan: “Landing you in your new home.” The Rauth-Polovitz logo has a small plane doing a flight path, forming an “R” and a “P.”

Rauth first got her private pilot’s license when she was 17. She was 32 when she was hired as a commercial airline pilot for United Airlines, and she flew for another 18 years before taking a leave of absence in 2008.

Polovitz, who has her private pilot’s license and floatplane rating, had her first flying lesson on her 16th birthday, a surprise present from her parents. She grew up flying floatplanes on Gull Lake to help build up her flying hours.

These days, Rauth flies just for fun, while Polovitz’s free time is spent raising her two young children, Johnny and Lauren, with her husband Mark.

They say they always wanted to fly a commercial airline together. And now, going into business as Realtors is just as fulfilling.

How is working together? Polovitz hugs her mom.

“It’s great,” Rauth says.

What’s the key to their success?

“It’s all about trust,” Polovitz says.

Like mother, like daughter. Both, they say, are competitive and goal-oriented. “Our personalities are so incredibly similar that we’re to the point where we can finish each other’s sentences,” Polovitz says.

They also bring different skills to the business. “She has a ton of experience and is a great mentor to me, and I think I bring a different angle, a fresh, new approach to marketing,” Polovitz says. “We do a lot on social media. As an example, we train other realtors across our company on how to run a successful business Instagram page.

Polovitz remembers bringing her mom to school for show-and-tell when she was a little girl. She’d beam with pride as Rauth explained to her classmates about being a pilot—especially a woman in the still mostly male commercial airline industry. “People were amazed when Mom told them what she did,” Polovitz says. “People have always looked up to her and respected her.”

Flying was a great job, Rauth says. Though it was “challenges at times,” she says, she persevered. According to 2016 Federal Aviation Administration statistics, only about 6 percent of commercial pilots in the U.S. are women. “Once I proved myself a competent pilot, it worked out fine,” she says.

During her career, she flew all over the country and overseas to Asia and Europe.

“I don’t miss the all-night flying coming back from Asia,” says Rauth (who is celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary this year with her husband John). “It would just beat me up for a couple of days. And now I have four little grandkids, so I like to be around for them.”

Financial shifts in the airline industry after 9/11 culminated in a pay cut for Rauth. She had sold real estate before flying professionally, and in 2005 she decided to renew her real estate license and start again. “It was always in my back pocket when I was doing my flight training,” she says. Although she hasn’t officially retired from flying, Rauth doesn’t think she will go back.

And after the birth of her first child, Polovitz decided she didn’t want to go back to being a national sales manager living out of hotel rooms. “I talked to Mom about going into business together,” she says.

Polovitz initially attended the University of North Dakota to pursue an aviation degree. After 9/11 and the changes in the airline industry, she opted to study business with an emphasis in marketing instead.

“We always had this dream of flying together,” Polovitz says. “And if you have a good relationship, everybody wants to work with their parent or family member. We love and respect each other. It’s a dream come true to grow a successful business with my mom.”

Business is flying high for Rauth and Polovitz. Last year was the duo’s best selling year; they are both in Edina Realty’s Chairman’s Circle, which recognizes the top three percent of realtors in the company based on production. They have high hopes for 2018, too.

Three words are posted on their office wall: “Consistency, Persistence, Integrity.” Words, they say, that guided them as pilots, and now guide them in real estate. “We’re 50-50 partners,” Rauth says. “We never had to point at each other and say, ‘I’m working harder than you.’ She pulls her weight; I pull mine. And that doesn’t always work out with partnerships. When we were exploring going into business together, somebody told us that mother-daughter real estate teams tend to be successful.”

And as they did as pilots, Rauth and Polovitz use detailed checklists to keep things running smoothly.

“We make sure we are crossing everything off,” Polovitz says. “And that’s a very pilot thing. Everything
in aviation and the cockpit is a flow.”

At the end of the day, this successful, woman-powered business can attribute its success to Rauth and Polovitz’s close relationship and mutual respect. They say they’ve always been not just mom and daughter but also good friends (maybe except when Polovitz was a teenager, Rauth says with a laugh).

 “I think I have spoken to my mom almost every day since I left for college,” Polovitz says.

They also spend plenty of time together outside of work. “We see each other every day of the week for business, but we still hang out at least once a weekend socially,” Polovitz says.

“My husband and I genuinely get along well with our parents. We enjoy spending time with them.”