WESTPORT, Conn. -- Fran Rzeznik and Zinka Benton became a "Modern Family" long before the creation of the popular television show. Now, the Westport Higgins Group realtors even have their own modern family venture through Modern Family Real Estate.
Rzeznik and Benton started Modern Family Real Estate when they joined Higgins Group in the spring. The couple, who have been together for more than 25 years, had been working in various real estate capacities. Rzeznik entered real estate as the producer for the HGTV show "House Hunters" in its first two seasons. Benton has restored and renovated houses on both coasts, and in Italy. And Mar Jennings, a lifestyle expert who also works for Higgins, coined the phrase Modern Family Real Estate.
“Buying real estate is about unity, and a sense of safety, home and comfort. That’s what everybody wants.”
“It was a stroke of genius,’’ Rzeznik said. “We were just talking. We’re a non-traditional family, and it just resonated. It fits and we’re rolling with it.”
Benton said while the business name fits perfectly, there is more behind their brand.
“We believe in the whole concept of modern family,’’ Benton said. “Everyone has some kind of modern family configuration. Buying real estate is about unity, and a sense of safety, home and comfort. That’s what everybody wants.”
Rzeznik and Benton took their time before settling in Westport. The women, whose professional careers both started in the television industry, owned homes in New York, Los Angeles and Italy. They moved to Guilford before coming to Westport so they could be closer to family and friends in New York City and raise their twin 6-year-old boys. Their modern family also included Rzeznik's mother, who lived with them for nine years.
“We’ve moved six times in 15 years,’’ Benton said. “We have an empathy for the pain that moving often entails, and buying and selling. It doesn’t have to hurt. It can be fun.”
Rzeznik and Benton are not the first married couple to work together in real estate. They bring a level of expertise, however, that is rare in the field.
Rzeznik has over two decades of experience in buying, selling, renovating and restoring houses. She knows best building practices and has a passion for residential architecture. Prior to becoming a Realtor, she directed for television, film and digital media, garnering multiple Cable Ace and Emmy awards for her original programming.
Benton became an attorney after her career in the television industry and acquired her Realtor’s license this year.
“Real estate has always been in our bones,’’ Benton said. “It got to the point where we thought, 'We love it so much, why don’t we make it our job?' Our passion has become our job.”
“With Zinka’s law background our clients say, ‘Oh, ok, we have a realtor and a lawyer,’’’ Rzeznik said. “They know we’re smart, we’re qualified and we know what we’re doing.”
It’s not surprising that the couple connected with Higgins Group. Rick Higgins, the company’s chairman and founder, is a real estate visionary. It was at his suggestion that the couple formed a working partnership.
“He said if we worked with different agencies we’d be competitors and that could strain our marriage,’’ Rzeznik said. “It made complete sense. He has such cutting edge ideas and out of the box thinking.”
Rzeznik and Benton believe their own personal moving experiences can help buyers and sellers navigate the complex process. Along with their passion, creativity and the timing, the company and the pairing seem perfect. Their journey has been circuitous, but both women are ready to settle in for the long haul as realtors serving Westport and surrounding communities.
“Everybody has been supportive and helpful,’’ Rzeznik said. “It feels right, like this is what was supposed to happen.”