Kristina, what did you do before becoming a real estate agent? How did you decide to get into the industry?
I have a bachelor’s degree in business management and a MBA with a concentration in finance. For 20 years prior to real estate, I built a career in banking and finance. My last position before going into real estate full-time was an Assistant Treasurer at an oil & gas company in Houston.
The reason I decided to go into real estate is because I wanted to control my upside. I was working so many hours in my corporate job but then each year, my income was capped. I decided that if I was going to work this hard, I wanted to work for myself. Since I love helping and working with people, I always knew I wanted to get into real estate. I just thought it would be when I retired from my job. So instead of waiting, I took the plunge and I love every minute of it.
Have you ever faced any challenges in your current business?
There were many challenges with transitioning into real estate.
The first was leaving behind a great career that I took many years to build and the financial security that came with it.
Second is time management. When you are an employee, there is a structure. You know exactly what you need to do each day. When you are a business owner, there is no one dictating what needs to get done. Time management becomes extremely important. I found myself working on things that were not leading to sales income. They were all great things but not worth spending my time on. So getting clear on the things you need to do each day before anything else gets done is essential.
The third is managing without pay as you ramp up your business. It takes cash to market yourself and when you’re ramping up, there is not a lot of cash rolling in. So it is a major challenge to be patient for the results to come. This is especially hard when you’re accustomed to getting a steady paycheck.
The fourth was building a business from scratch. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my family moved to California where we did not know anyone. Starting a full-time real estate business with no knowledge of the area and no sphere of influence to lean on was definitely a challenge that I overcame.
The fifth challenge is finding the right marketing partners. As an agent, marketing is everything. We are marketing ourselves and our clients. In order to set myself apart, I really wanted a partner who could help me create a digital marketing strategy that not only set me apart from other agents, but also, generated leads.
There are many companies out there using buzz words but, beyond that, show no value and no results. You can easily spend your money in the wrong places during a time that it is crucial to spend in all the right ones.
How many brokerages have you worked with so far? What were the pros and cons of each?
I have worked with 5 brokerages:
#1 Keller Williams (Houston, TX)
(a) Capped Commission – At KW, once you pay the brokerage a certain amount in commissions, you earn 100% of your commission going forward for the rest of the year. It resets each year.
(b) Training – As a new agent, KW offers a lot of training opportunities. My greatest training came from joining a KW expansion team called Xperience Real Estate. I learned so much under the guidance of Chris Suarez and his leadership.
(a) When I relocated from Houston to California, KW didn’t translate well in the luxury market in Newport Beach. Yes, they had offices but it was hard to choose to remain with the brokerage due to consumer perception on the high-end.
(b) Franchise Fee – There is always a 6% franchise fee. So if you have an 80/20 split, it is actually 74/20. Once you cap, you only pay the 6% – so, 93/6 would be your split.
#2 First Team Real Estate (Newport Beach, CA)
(a) Culture – I loved all the agents that I worked with. Everyone was super helpful and very collaborative.
(b) Brand – In Orange County areas, First Team is a well recognized brand with consumers.
(a) No cap on commission paid.
(b) There was a lot of turnover in leadership in the office that I was a part of.
#3 Nook Real Estate (Newport Beach, CA)
(a) Their business model for the agents was great.
(b) Their splits were very fair considering they took a lot of the administrative work away from the agents. They did not have a cap but I didn’t mind because they provided a lot of value so agents could focus on selling.
(c) Great branding – I really liked their branding. It was modern, clean and fresh.
(d) Leadership – they had great leadership.
(a) They were a brand new brokerage so as a new agent it was difficult to leverage their brand as I was developing mine.
(b) I left too soon.
#4 Surterre Properties (Newport Beach, CA)
(a) Brand – A great luxury brand in Newport Beach.
(b) Boutique brokerage – I loved how tight knit the brokerage was. Also, it had a luxury market niche that translated well on the higher end.
(c) Leadership – Gary Legrand, the owner, is amazing! He has an open door to any agent and loves to work with his agents to create a strong business plan.
(d) Experienced Agents – This brokerage had a lot of heavy hitters.
(a) Boutique – Being a boutique brokerage is a pro and con. In non-luxury markets, Surterre was just not as well known.
#5 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty (Cleveland, OH)
(a) Leadership – While Warren Buffet is great, he is not who I am referencing. When I say leadership, I am talking about the owner of my franchise. He is amazingly collaborative and always seeking ways to help the agents be successful.
(b) Culture/Agents – I love the culture and agents at BHHS. We help each other out and it never, never feels competitive in my office.
(c) Experience Agents – I am surrounded by very experienced agents who I can collaborate with and learn from.
(a) No cap on commissions. But actually, I don’t mind because the franchise owner is always investing for his agents and it feels very much like a partnership.
(b) Franchise Fee – I do not like franchise fees if there is no cap.
List and describe any awards, professional achievements, and accomplishments you have received.
- Bachelor’s in Business Management
- Masters in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in finance
- Real Trends – 2019 Best Agent Website
- NAR Green Certification
What has the proudest moment of your career been so far?
My proudest moments are when my clients tell me that I am the best realtor they have ever worked with. It is the most important feedback and best compliment I can get. It is one that never gets old and one that always makes me very proud.
What technology do you use in your business process to improve your customers’ experience?
- My custom-designed website
- CRM – Follow-Up Boss
- Bomb Bomb for video messages
How important do you think getting good online reviews is? How does this factor affect your business, and what effort do you put into receiving good reviews?
Online reviews are everything. It affects my business tremendously. I know some consumers will choose a service simply on the number and quality of reviews.
I have not done a great job on getting reviews. I know I am losing business simply because I do not always ask for a review. This is one area that I am actively trying to improve upon.
List a few primary advantages your clients get when choosing you over your competitors.
- I have partnered with a digital marketing company and they are an extension of my team. As digital marketing strategists, they help create a digital strategy to sell my clients homes faster as well as get more clients for me.
- My clients get me. I go above and beyond for my clients. I am fully dedicated to them and the service that I provide. I hustle for my clients whether it is a $100,000 sale or a $1 million dollar sale. If we choose to work together, I give them everything I have no matter what.
- Communication is key and I communicate with my clients openly and honestly and in the manner they prefer.