Fall 2015 • Volume 9 / Issue 3
PUPPY POWER: Coldwell Banker tugs at the heartstrings with new marketing campaign.
Individual Agent—Sales Volume No. 3 Mauricio Umansky, The Agency
Individual Agent—Transaction Sides No. 2 Greg Kurzner, ERA Atlantic Realty
Individual Agent—Average Sales Price No. 1 Jay Harris, The Agency
Agent Team—Sales Volume No. 1 The DeLeon Team
BEST OF THE
BEST F I N D O U T H O W T H E S E S AV V Y B U S I N E S S P E O P L E T H R I V E DESPITE MARKET AND PERSONAL CHALLENGES.
PLUS: Tech Leader Morgan Carey, Real Estate Webmasters Marketing Whiz: Tracy Ellis, RE/MAX Edge Equestrian Expert: Bonnie Williamson, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty
This issue of LORE magazine was brought to you by RE/MAX International
Fall 2015 Volume 9 / Issue 3
4 6 20
Publisher’s Note This issue’s featured real estate professionals know what it means to work hard and play hard. Find out their secrets to success.
COVER STORY: Committed to Success Success take commitment and passion. These REAL Trends The Thousand top sales associates and teams have both in spades. They’ve built new business models, work ong hours and love what they do.
Feature: Puppies? Did Someone Say Puppies? In a furry campaign sure to tug on your heartstrings, Coldwell Banker partners with Adopt-a-Pet.com.
Professional Profile: Marketing Whiz
Tech Leaders: The Real Estate Webmaster
Personal Passions: Not Horsing Around
With a strong background in sales and marketing, Tracy Ellis of RE/MAX Edge in Weldon Spring, Mo., has marketing products that will knock your socks off.
After a rocky childhood, Morgan Carey, founder of Real Estate Webmasters in British Columbia, Canada, used ambition and ingenuity to overcome those challenges and develop a successful Web company.
Bonnie Williamson, a sales associate with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Huntington, N.Y., has a passion for horse riding. She says her love of competition gives her life balance. LORE
TO THE FULLEST This issue’s featured real estate professionals know what it means to work hard and play hard. Find out their secrets to success.
his is an exciting time of the year for top agents and teams. The annual REAL Trends rankings of the top performing sales professionals across the country were released in late June. What these people accomplish is nothing short of incredible. Inside this edition of LORE magazine, you will read the stories of four of these agents and teams, sharing not only their career secrets but also giving you a glimpse into their personal lives. Coldwell Banker has launched a national campaign to involve its affiliates to save the lives of animals that have been overlooked. You can read about the passion behind this effort and how Coldwell Banker leaders are successfully implementing this campaign on a local level. Read also about Bonnie Williamson, a long-time, successful real estate agent who is an equestrienne extraordinaire. Want to be amazed at resiliency? Read about Morgan Carey, founder of Real Estate Webmasters, and his rise from sleeping in a guitar case on the streets to the heights of the real estate technology arena. Carey shares his story of the drive that it took to recover from an early disadvantage in life to become the leader of one of the fastest growing real estate technology firms in North America. These are interesting people and exciting times. We trust you will enjoy the people of this issue as much we have.
www.loremagazine.com Steve Murray
Publisher email@example.com Tracey C. Velt
Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org David Grassnick
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Stephen H. Murray Publisher 4
Lives of Real Estate
Click Here or call 303-741-1000 firstname.lastname@example.org
SUCCESS S U CC E SS TA K E S CO M M I T M E N T A N D PASS I O N . Th e s e to p s a l e s a ss o c i a te s a n d te a m s h ave b o t h i n s p a d e s . Th ey h ave b u i l t n ew b u s i n e ss m o d e l s , wo r k l o n g h o u r s a n d l ove w h a t t h ey d o. Re a d a b o u t t h e i r c l i m b s to t h e to p h e re. ㈀ 㔀
☀ 吀䔀䄀䴀匀 䘀䔀匀匀䤀伀一䄀䰀匀 吀䄀吀䔀 匀䄀䰀䔀匀 倀刀伀 吀伀倀 刀䔀䄀䰀 䔀匀 渀 匀椀搀攀猀 猀愀挀琀椀漀 刀愀渀欀攀搀 戀礀 吀爀愀渀 嘀漀氀甀洀攀 刀愀渀欀攀搀 戀礀 匀愀氀攀猀 愀最攀 匀愀氀攀猀 倀爀椀挀攀 刀愀渀欀攀搀 戀礀 䄀瘀攀爀
WHISPERER No. 3 Individual Agent by Sales Volume Mauricio Umansky, CEO and co-founder The Agency Beverly Hills, Calif.
I WA S R A I S E D IN MEXICO C I T Y, a n d w h e n I go back and p e o p l e h e a r my l a s t n a m e , t h ey s t i l l te l l m e s to r i e s o f w h e n my g ra n d fa t h e r h e l p e d t h e m .” While his g ra n d fa t h e r i n s p i re d h i m to g i ve, h i s fa t h e r i n s p i re d h i s l ove of business.
arly in Mauricio Umansky’s real estate career, he sold Kelsey Grammer two different properties. “I always represented the opposite side,” he said. Finally, on the third property, Umansky was representing the buyer. “At that time, I had never dealt with Mr. Grammer directly. But, in this transaction, the buyer decided to pull out … at the last minute,” he says. “Kelsey was very upset. I was on the golf course when he left me a very angry message.” Umansky immediately called the star, who is famous for sitcoms such as “Cheers” and “Frasier,” and asked for a face-to-face meeting. “I went right to his house and spoke to him. I walked out with the listing and sold it three weeks later. Most agents have a fear of rejection but having that experience with someone so powerful helped me conquer that fear. This was early in my career, and it left an impact on me,” says Umansky, who is now used to working with celebrities and powerful people. After all, he’s married to Kyle Richards Umansky, star of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” “I was established in business before she started the show,” laughs Umansky, who notes that the added exposure has been fun. Umansky credits his drive to his paternal grandfather, Abraham Umansky, who immigrated from Russia to Mexico and created an amazing business that still runs strong today. “I was raised in Mexico City, and when I go back and people hear my last name, they still tell me stories of when my grandfather helped them.” While his grandfather inspired him to give, his father inspired his love of business. “He helped me get started in the business,” he says. Winding Roads As with many sales associates, Umansky’s path to real estate wasn’t direct. First, he was in the fashion industry and sold his company. Then, he was working for another fashion company LORE
when he got fired right before Christmas 1996. “My wife and I had little money; we were getting help from her grandfather just to survive. Kyle pushed me to get my real estate license. She even went to school with me, but she never practiced,” he says. At the time, they had two children at home—a new baby, Alexia, now 18 years old, and Farrah, now 26 years old. “I was so down, and Kyle inspired me and got me going,” he says. Umansky immediately made an impact in the real estate world. In fact, when the recent recession (of the early 2000s) hit, he took a tip from his grandfather: “When everyone is buying, you sell. When everyone is selling, you buy.” While Umansky didn’t have the money to buy a lot of real estate back then, he could invest heavily in marketing and sales. “I invested in myself at a time when other real estate professionals stopped advertising. I wanted to give the perception that I was doing business when no one else was,” he says. It worked. In 2005, he submitted his numbers to REAL Trends The Thousand, as advertised in The Wall Street Journal and was surprised to be listed No. 7. When he realized that he had only six more spots to reach No. 1, he was reinvigorated. In 2011, Umansky cofounded The Agency with fellow agents Billy Rose and Blair Chang. “We wanted to disrupt the real estate world. The methods used were archaic. We felt that collaboration and information sharing was important,” he says. So the group developed a business model that encouraged a team approach to sales. “We created this environment, thinking that this approach would make better agents and allow them to sell more.”
Photograph ©2015 by Michelle Thibodeaux, MDesign Photography, www.mdesignphotography.com. 8
Lives of Real Estate
It’s All About Balance While success has been very, very good to Umansky and his family, which, in addition to wife, Kyle, and daughter, Alexia, includes stepdaughter Farrah Aldjufrie, who is a sales associate at The Agency, and daughters Sophia (15) and Portia (7). “I have a large family, I am the CEO of The Agency, and I sell. Balancing all of that is challenging,” he says. However, Umansky notes that he is a skilled communicator, which is vital in both his personal and his professional life. “I believe in communicating in an honest, upfront way, no embellishments, just the truth,” he says. He also believes in giving back to the community through his business and personally. “I serve on the boards of several charities including Giveback Homes, One Night for ONE DROP and A Better LA. In addition, The Agency made a full corporate commitment to Giveback Homes. It’s not mandatory for our agents; however, we have 100 percent participation,” says Umansky. As with many successful businesspeople, Umansky doesn’t prosper on the next dollar. “My true motivation is helping the people who work for us thrive,” he says. “It’s almost a fatherly responsibility toward them. Money comes as a result of great things. The reward today is the people. We’re a growing brand and company. I want to leave a legacy.”
MY TRUE MOTIVATION IS HELPING THE PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR US THRIVE. It’s almost a fatherly responsibility toward them. Money comes as a result of great things. The reward today is the people. We’re a growing brand and company. I want to leave a legacy. — Mauricio Umansky
CONTROL About 13 years ago, in 2002, Greg Kurzner was ready to give up on real estate. “I got tired of fighting over whether the refrigerator was staying or going,” says the president and broker of ERA Atlantic Realty in Alpharetta, Ga. “I always wanted to work more on the corporate side with professionals who were more about numbers than emotions.” And, in fact, he had worked as an REO asset manager and in commercial real estate in the early 1990s. Risky Business So after practicing residential real estate since 1994, he took a risk. “I wrote a script, practiced it and finally cold called the senior vice president for Fannie Mae. She ripped me to shreds,” laughs Kurzner. “I hung up, and my hands were shaking. I was so disappointed.” Like many sales associates, he found it tough to shake off this type of rejection. To Kurzner’s amazement, three days later he got a call from someone at Fannie Mae. “That person said that Fran (the senior VP) had passed my name along,” he says. Needless to say, Kurzner was shocked and thrilled. “I made
Lives of Real Estate
No. 2 Individual Agent by Transaction Sides Greg Kurzner, CRS, GRI, MBA, president/broker ERA Atlantic Realty Alpharetta, Ga.
BOLD MOVES ARE NOTHING NEW TO KURZNER, WHO LIVES BY THE MOTTO HIS FATHER TAUGHT HIM: WORK HARD, BUT ABOVE ALL, DO THINGS THE RIGHT AND HONEST WAY. Kurzner’s three children, Collin (16), Cade (13) and Caroline (10)
a bold move [to call Fannie Mae], and it paid off.” From that point on, Kurzner was handling foreclosures for Fannie Mae. Bold moves are nothing new to Kurzner, who lives by the motto his father taught him: Work hard, but above all, do things the right and honest way. “My dad, Howard, was a self-made man. He came from poor surroundings and worked hard to become a medical doctor. His two brothers did too,” says Kurzner, who, because of his father is inspired to “put in more effort than the next guy.” New Business Now, Kurzner has a thriving business working with institutional investment funds, putting properties into his agency’s rental portfolios. Not only that, but he says, “In the last couple of years, the market was so bad that people haven’t come back into it. It’s easier to have more volume because we’re not competing with so many people.” In 2007, he started a property management division. “We were forced into it by Fannie Mae after Hurricane Katrina hit. Once we figured it out, we had 1,400 units under management, and it’s been a good economic feeder for us. It allows us to sell, buy and manage, then sell again.” In fact, his property management division is attracting many international investors. “Some 300 to 400 owners whose properties we manage are from overseas. It’s a wide-open opportunity. We can create a pipeline of potential investors,” he notes. “We have, over the past 25 years, reinvented our business almost perpetually. Sometimes we venture into things that don’t work, and sometimes they work well. I am very good at seeing what is coming before it arrives,” he says. With so much going on, one might wonder how he managed to rank as REAL Trends The Thousand, as advertised in The Wall LORE
Street Journal in the individual category. “That’s my biggest challenge,” he says. “I need to find a balance between selling real estate and running a company. We have grown into a larger organization, and with that come the challenges of managing 40 employees (28 in management roles and the rest in corporate positions).” As the self-proclaimed “idea man” for the brokerage, Kurzner says he’s bored by the day-to-day management. “Putting a new spin on things or pursuing a new angle or business niche is what drives me,” he says. Luckily, says Kurzner, “On the transaction side, I have administrative help.” Wedded Bliss It also helps that Kurzner can count on his wife, Debbie, for support. “We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary,” he says. The couple has three children, Collin (16), Cade (13) and Caroline (10). “Collin is a high school wrestler, and Cade is an accomplished tennis player and is ranked in the top 150 in the state of Georgia (14 years and under). My daughter swims year round, so they’re all into sports.” He says his wife is “the PTA queen for our children’s schools,” and both are involved in their church. However, because of his heavy business load, Kurzner isn’t as active in larger community events as he has been in previous years. Overall, says Kurzner, “I am inspired by a lot of people whom I consider similar to me. Maybe they don’t have the most God-given talent or skill, but they use what they have. They grind out success by hard work and commitment, and they often achieve great things through sheer will and passion.”
I AM INSPIRED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE whom I consider similar to me. M a y b e t h ey d o n ’ t h ave t h e m o s t G o d - g i ve n t a l e n t o r s k i l l , b u t t h ey u s e w h a t t h ey h ave . T h ey g r i n d o u t s u c c e s s by h a rd wo r k a n d c o m m i t m e n t , a n d t h ey o f t e n a c h i eve g re a t t h i n g s t h ro u g h s h e e r w i l l a n d p a s s i o n .
Lives of Real Estate
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MAKING A NAME
FOR HIMSELF No. 1 Individual Agent Average Sales Price Jay Harris, director, estates division The Agency Beverly Hills, Calif. In 2011, Jay Harris had just graduated from college and started working at a private equity firm. Unhappy in that career, Harris, now director, estates division at The Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif., heard that relative Mauricio Umansky (featured on page 7) was starting a brokerage. “His late uncle was married to my aunt and I’ve known Mauricio my whole life. I joined The Agency right when it started and grew my business alongside his,” he says.
Big Sale Harris’ claim to fame is the sale of The Carolwood Estate, a luxury property listed for a whopping $90 million and sold for $74 million in 2014. “It was owned by a family member of mine,” he says. That would be Gabriel Brener, chief executive of private investment firm Brener International Group and co-owner of the Houston Dynamo soccer team. The previous owner of the 35,000-square-foot home in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, Calif., was Walt Disney. “These kinds of homes aren’t easy to sell as there aren’t many people who can spend that kind of money on a home,” says Harris. It took two years to sell, and even though it sold for less than the $90 million listing price, says Harris, “It still sold for over market value.” The new owners, according to Harris, were international buyers who had originally been looking in Orange County. Down Time For Harris, who is 28 years old and single, selling that house helped establish him in the luxury market. “People take me more seriously, and it’s opened doors,” he says. As he 14
Lives of Real Estate
builds his business, Harris says, he’s more than happy to put his hobbies on the back burner. “I’m a golfer. I still go to the [driving] range a few times a week,” he says. And he enjoys keeping up with the world of contemporary art, naming Alex Israel as one of his favorite artists. Harris is involved with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and is helping the organization attract a younger demographic to assist with fundraising.
Jay Harris (center) rubs elbows with celebrities (from left) Andy Garcia, Joe Pesci, Harris, Oscar De La Hoya and a golf pro.
MY FRIENDS AREN’T BUYING HOMES YET, s o I a m p rov i n g m y s e l f t o d eve l o p e r s a n d i n ve s t o r s . I want to be in the business f o r a l o n g t i m e , s o I wa n t t o m a ke s u re m y re p u t a t i o n i s i m p e c c a b l e . I l e a r n e d f ro m M a u r i c i o t h a t yo u h a ve t o b e honest. If you’re a good person and stick to it, business will come.— Jay Harris
As a Millennial in real estate, Harris is open and eager to make a mark on the industry. He looks to Coach Tom Ferry for inspiration. “He’s an amazing speaker, but more than that, I see how driven he was and how he built his business, and that inspired me,” he says. In addition, he gains insight and inspiration from Michael Heyward, a friend who cofounded the social network Whisper, an app that allows users to send and post messages anonymously. “He’s been my best friend since childhood,” he says. For the time being, Harris is focused on building a business that “doesn’t solely rely on family connections,” he says. “My friends aren’t buying homes yet, so I am proving myself to developers and investors. I want to be in the business for a long time, so I want to make sure my reputation is impeccable. I learned from Mauricio that you have to be honest. If you’re a good person and stick to it, business will come.” LORE
EVERYONE IS A
SPECIALIST No. 1 Agent Team by Sales Volume Michael Repka, CEO and general counsel Ken DeLeon, broker (Read about Ken here.) The DeLeon Team DeLeon Realty Inc. Palo Alto, Calif.
As a real estate attorney, Michael Repka, now CEO and general counsel for DeLeon Realty Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., saw a lot of things that he would do differently. So, in 2008, he decided to leave the law firm he was with and join DeLeon Realty. “Ken and I had similar backgrounds,” says Repka. “He went through a tragic accident, and I remember hearing about it. I watched a news clip where he was being interviewed from his hospital bed. Ken played tennis and was a really active guy. The reporter asked him how he felt about possibly never walking again. Ken said, ‘I can’t focus on what I’m not able to do. I’m alive, and I’ll deal with those challenges as they come.’ That made an impact on me.”
Lives of Real Estate
Michael Repka and Ken DeLeon
Team Business Model Repka is part of The DeLeon Team, a group of 39 people that includes 13 sales associates and 26 specialists such as interior designers, contractors and graphic artists. The Team runs things a little differently than most. For example, if Repka brings in a listing, the interior designer and licensed contractor go in and do a full assessment. “They are project coordinators and make sure the property looks great. They may recommend refinishing the floors or repainting, and they take care of getting estimates, overseeing the work and delivering the client payment to the vendor once it’s done,” he says. From there, the listing gets handed off to the marketing team, who takes care of photography, virtual tours and advertising. “We segment each listing with key dates, where there is a turnover of responsibility,” he says.
WITH EACH TRANSACTION, we want to do that little extra thing to surprise and delight the client.” — MIchael Repka
Of course, says Repka, that includes controls to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. “With each transaction, we want to do that little extra thing to surprise and delight the client. Keeping on schedule is extremely important, and it can be difficult.” One thing they do to delight buyers is perform aerial tours for clients. “I love to fly, although I don’t have the experience to perform the tours,” says Repka. As part of the business model, each buyer’s agent has a territory and is expected to know everything about that territory. “Everything is a collaboration, so if a buyer is looking in three territories, the buyer works with three different buyer’s agents, who are not paid on commission,” says Repka.
Gaining Acceptance For Repka, earning the stamp of approval from his clients and his team is very important. In fact, he remembers that when he first started in real estate, he had a vision for structuring the company. “I built this business model and started the team approach with just a few listings. Eventually, I took over all the listings. At one point, Ken, who is so nice to everyone, saw a 28-page brochure that I did. He shook his head and said, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have to compete with us when I was an individual Realtor®,” Repka laughs. “I knew I had something good right then.” International Now, DeLeon Realty Inc. is expanding to China. “We started a subsidiary in China. I love to travel, so my wife, Rachel, and I have been traveling to China. [Michael and Rachel met in law school and have been married 15 years.] She was hesitant for me to leave my law firm because she wasn’t sure how stable a real estate career would be. Two years ago, she joined DeLeon Realty. That was her stamp of approval,” laughs Repka.
While the company is expanding, it is fully dedicated to the local Palo Alto community. “We support the local schools. Last year, the team gave a $100,000 donation to the schools, and we participate in and sponsor events such as fun runs for the tkids and high school events,” he says. “I feel we have an obligation to stay connected to the community.” Repka says he’s proud of the team and the collaboration that goes into each deal. In fact, one of Repka’s clients told him thank you for delivering a light fixture. “I had no idea what she was talking about. She said the light fixture was a family heirloom and that they were worried about it getting damaged in shipping. Our contractor took it upon himself to pick up the light fixture and deliver it to their new home, which was over an hour away. What impressed me the most was that I didn’t know. He didn’t do it for credit; he did it because he cared. If you do things because you care, clients can feel it.”
WE SUPPORT THE LOCAL SCHOOLS. L a s t ye a r, t h e t e a m g ave a $ 1 0 0, 0 0 0 donation to the schools, and we participate i n a n d s p o n s o r eve n t s s u c h a s f u n r u n s f o r t h e k i d s a n d h i g h s c h o o l eve n t s ,” h e s a y s . “ I f e e l we h ave a n o b l i g a t i o n t o s t a y c o n n e c t e d t o t h e c o m m u n i t y. — Michael Repka
Lives of Real Estate
THE BEST I n d i v i d u a l Ag e n t — S a l e s Vo l u m e 1 . B e n C a b a l l e ro, H o m e s U S A .c o m I n c . , Ad d i s o n , Tex a s 2 . J o h n B u rg e r, B row n H a r r i s S t eve n s , N ew Yo r k , N .Y. 3 . M a u r i c i o U m a n s k y, T h e Ag e n c y, B eve r l y H i l l s , C a l i f. 4 . D rew F e n t o n , H i l t o n & H y l a n d , B eve r l y H i l l s , C a l i f. 5 . S e re n a B o a rd m a n , S o t h e by ’s I n t e r n a t i o n a l R e a l t y/ N R T, N ew Yo r k , N .Y. I n d i v i d u a l Ag e n t —Tra n s a c t i o n S i d e s 1 . B e n C a b a l l e ro, H o m e s U S A .c o m I n c . , Ad d i s o n , Tex a s 2 . G re g Ku r z n e r, E R A At l a n t i c R e a l t y, A l p h a re t t a , G a . 3 . J o e K a d a f, R E / M A X L e a d i n g E d g e , D e a r b o r n H e i g h t s , M i c h . 4 . M a r y B e r r y, C E N T U RY 2 1 A l l - P ro R e a l t y I n c . , O k l a h o m a C i t y, O k l a . 5 . B i l l H owe l l , H o o k & L a d d e r R e a l t y I n c . , S a ra s o t a , F l a . I n d i v i d u a l Ag e n t —Ave ra g e S a l e s P r i c e 1 . J ay H a r r i s , T h e Ag e n c y, B eve r l y H i l l s , C a l i f. 2 . E f i L u z o n , I n t e ro R e a l E s t a t e S e r v i c e s , L o s A l t o s , C a l i f. 3 . L i l y L ew, C o l d we l l B a n ke r R e s i d e n t i a l B ro ke ra g e , S a n F ra n c i s c o , C a l i f. 4 . R i c h a rd H i l t o n , H i l t o n & H y l a n d , B eve r l y H i l l s , C a l i f. 5 . J o h n B u rg e r, B row n H a r r i s S t eve n s , N ew Yo r k , N .Y. Ag e n t Te a m — S a l e s Vo l u m e 1 . Th e D e L e o n Te a m , D e L e o n R e a l t y I n c . , P a l o A l t o , C a l i f. 2 . W i l l i a m s & W i l l i a m s , H i l t o n & H y l a n d , B eve r l y H i l l s , C a l i f. 3 . Th e J i l l s ® , C o l d we l l B a n ke r R e s i d e n t i a l R e a l E s t a t e / N R T, M i a m i B e a c h , F l a . 4 . Th e C re i g N o r t h ro p Te a m , L o n g & F o s t e r R e a l E s t a t e I n c . , C l a r k sv i l l e , M d . 5 . B o b L u c i d o Te a m , Ke l l e r W i l l i a m s R e a l t y, E l l i c o t t C i t y, M d . Ag e n t Te a m —Tra n s a c t i o n S i d e s 1 . R h o n d a D u f f y, D u f f y R e a l t y o f At l a n t a , A l p h a re t t a , G a . 2 . J o h n M u r ray, Key R e a l t y, R o c k f o rd , I l l . 3 . R ya n O ’ N e i l l & T h e M i n n e s o t a R e a l E s t a t e Te a m , R E / M A X Ad va n t a g e P l u s , Bloomington, Minn. 4 . J o e R o t h c h i l d R e a l t y, Ke l l e r W i l l i a m s S i g n a t u re R e a l t y, K a t y, Tex a s 5 . Th e M a r k S p a i n Te a m , Ke l l e r W i l l i a m s R e a l t y N o r t h At l a n t a , A l p h a re t t a , G a . Ag e n t Te a m —Ave ra g e S a l e s P r i c e 1 . Ke m p Te a m , T h e C o rc o ra n G ro u p R e a l E s t a t e / N R T, N ew Yo r k , N .Y. 2 . Th e S i n g e r Ve n e k a m p Te a m , B row n H a r r i s S t eve n s , N ew Yo r k , N .Y. 3 . W i l l i a m s & W i l l i a m s , H i l t o n & H y l a n d , B eve r l y H i l l s , C a l i f. 4 . M a r y a n d B re n t G u l l i x s o n , A l a i n P i n e l R e a l t o r s ® , M e n l o P a r k , C a l i f. 5 . J a n H a s h ey Te a m , D o u g l a s E l l i m a n R e a l E s t a t e , N ew Yo r k , N .Y.
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“MY DOG, BUDDY IS A RESCUE DOG,”
says Michaela J. Kreiser, marketing coordinator for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in San Diego, Calif. “He was abandoned as a puppy and had been abused and neglected. Now, he is an integral part of my family, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.”
Lives of Real Estate
Man’s Best Friend As every dog lover knows, there’s nothing quite like coming home after a long day, opening the door and being greeted by man’s best friend. Dogs and homes go together like peas and
carrots. Piggybacking on that concept, Coldwell Banker launched its Homes for Dogs Project in February 2015 with a national commercial that ran on ABC during the 87th Academy Awards. The 30-second ad spot featured real rescue dogs, such as Max, who was adopted in 2014 after being spotted on Adopt-a-Pet.com. To help more dogs like Max find a forever home, the Coldwell Banker brand simultaneously announced its first-ever “Homes for Dogs Project.” By teaming up with Adopt-a-Pet.com, the largest nonprofit pet adoption website in North America, the campaign aims to find homes for 20,000 dogs in 2015.
Rescuing those dogs and finding them good homes goes hand in hand with helping people find good homes as well. “By using our resources and our visibility as a major real estate brand, we are able to provide local rescue groups, which have partnered with Adopt-A-Pet, a whole new level of exposure and access to potential homes for these rescued dogs,” says Kreiser. Let’s face it; it’s pretty easy to get excited about a marketing campaign centered around dogs, says Rainier de Ocampo, strategic director of marketing (southwest region) for Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills, Calif. “We knew it would resonate with our agents,” says de Ocampo, whose offices have been holding adoption days and working with local shelters and vets to get the message out into the community. Loving Homes “Our network has gone crazy with it,” says David Siroty, vice president, North American communications for Coldwell Banker in Madison, N.J. “They clearly recognized the power of pet adoption in the local communities.” Gina Gullquist agrees. The associate broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Scottsdale, Ariz. immediately met with her sales team to brainstorm ways they could work with the animal rescue located in the building across the street from their office. The team developed a partnership where they would advertise dogs that needed to be
RESCUING THOSE DOGS AND FINDING THEM GOOD HOMES goes hand in hand with helping people find g o o d h o m e s a s we l l .
Lives of Real Estate
adopted along with new listings. One flier featured a terrier that was up for adoption. “I told one of my clients about the terrier, and she adopted it the next day!” says Gullquist, who has two dogs that have brought much love and joy into her life. “It’s inspired me to work at the shelter. I meet so many clients who moved from another state and couldn’t bring their dog. If I see a dog that fits a family, I will email them.” Strength of Community By partnering with Adopt-a-Pet,” says Kreiser, “we’re giving a platform for local rescue groups and shelters, such as the San Diego Humane Society, to showcase their adoptable dogs. Because our Realtors® have such extensive networks, we are able to direct our connections to Adopt-a-Pet to help the dogs in our community find the forever homes they deserve and to help our clients find loving companions. To us, real estate is about more than collecting commissions; it’s about building relationships and building communities.”
To date, Coldwell Banker offices have facilitated some 3,000 dog adoptions. In addition, offices have held fundraisers to collect blankets and supplies to give to local animal shelters. On August 1-2, Coldwell Banker offices in communities across the United States, along with shelters and rescue groups in the Adopt-a-Pet.com network, will join forces for one of the largest adoption events of the year.
COLDWELL BANKER OFFICES h a ve f a c i l i t a t e d s o m e 3 , 0 0 0 d o g a d o p t i o n s . I n a d d i t i o n , o f f i c e s h ave h e l d f u n d ra i s e r s t o c o l l e c t b l a n ke t s a n d s u p p l i e s t o g i ve t o l o c a l a n i m a l s h e l t e r s .
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Tracy Ellis RE/MAX Edge Weldon Spring, Mo.
With a strong background in sales and marketing, this sales associate has marketing products that will knock your socks off.
n 1996, Tracy Ellis was a mom determined not to send her children to daycare. “I worked for other real estate professionals doing their marketing and making cold calls,” says Ellis, who is married to Rick and mom to four boys, Brett (25), Austin (19), Zack (13) and Drake (11). Ellis, now a top-producing sales associate with RE/MAX Edge in Weldon Spring and Chesterfield, Mo., was doing more than a few cold calls. In fact, working from her home for a top RE/MAX agent, she would page through the Haines Directory, a huge marketing database, and obtain 10 to 15 listing appointments each week. “Business was so good that the agent wouldn’t even follow through with half of the leads,” says Ellis. “I thought I should be doing this for myself instead of for someone else.” So in 2000, she did just that.
“In my first month, I had three closings from cold calling FSBOs,” she said. “I was making great money without a lot of time away from my kids.” A Booming Business In 2000, husband Rick also earned his license. “Although he had a great career with an IT company, we realized that if he were to enter real estate full time, I could push to the next level,” she says. “Rick finally quit his IT job in December 2014 and joined my real estate team.” Like most working moms, Ellis felt the pressure that role entails. Balancing work and family is never easy. “I felt like a failure a lot of days, but at the same time, I wanted to teach my boys the importance of a strong work ethic.” That meant including them in the business, doing things such as putting up signs, handing out fliers and more. Say My Name When it comes to marketing, says Ellis, “I think one of my clients said it best when he interviewed me along with more than 10 other real estate professionals for his listing. He told me that if an agent isn’t marketing him- or herself, how could that person market his home?” The truth is that Ellis is a marketing idea machine. “I love marketing, and I’m thinking of new ideas daily. My poor husband! He knows when I get that look in my eye, the next big idea is coming,” she laughs.
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A Radio Star Is Born While marketing was always a priority for Ellis, it became even more important during the market downturn of the mid 2000s. “I knew I had to do something different to get the word out about my listings. I started doing a weekly radio show with my current broker, and we’d discuss our listings and what was happening in the real estate market,” she says. After a couple of years, she and Rick moved the show to a local talk station. The show features local experts who discuss homebuying strategies, and Ellis talks about her listings. She allows charities to promote fundraising events on the show, as well. “I also try to keep the show personal. My husband frequently co-hosts,” she says. Because of the personal nature of the show, Ellis has been surprised at the number of calls that come from people reaching out for help. “I’ve had women in abusive situations who call me asking for help. They say that they can tell I care,” says Ellis. “And I do care. I will help anyone who calls.” Print Is Not Dead Although radio has been a great marketing outlet, Ellis says, “I realized that not everyone listens to talk radio and that, therefore, I needed more print marketing. When you are selling a $2 million dollar property, the owners aren’t going to be content with an ad in the paper every once in a while.” So Ellis did what any other marketing mastermind would do: in 2013, she started her own luxury property magazine. “It sounded like a great idea at the time,” laughs Ellis, “but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.” Producing a magazine is a huge time commitment. “I sell real estate during the day, and when I’m in magazine mode, I usually work on it until 3 a.m. It takes me about a month to complete each issue. Despite the commitment, Ellis says it’s well worth it. Since launching, she hired a writer “to help me tell the perfect
Lives of Real Estate
I KNEW I HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT t o g e t t h e wo rd out about my listings. I started d o i n g a we e k l y ra d i o s h ow w i t h m y c u r re n t b ro ke r, a n d we ’d d i s c u s s our listings and what was happening in the re a l e s t a t e m a r ke t . — Tra c y E l l i s
story,” she says. Rick and a photographer, Karl Lund, take photos for her listings and the magazine. The magazine is a hit, and she’s gone from twice a year to quarterly publication. The magazines are distributed to local businesses. Ellis also pays to have magazine racks in local grocery stores.
Three of Ellis’ boys, Drake (11), Austin (19), and Zack (13) hanging out with “Million Dollar Listing” star Madison Hildebrand (in tan sweater.) Below: Not content with a radio show and a magazine, Ellis joined forces with a local homebuilder to shoot a television series.
In addition to highlighting her listings, she also features stories about charities and “our newest addition, where we will recognize a teacher, veteran or first responder,” she says. The magazine’s reach goes far beyond the Missouri borders, according to Ellis. “It’s allowed me to network with top-producing real estate professionals all over the world, including Madison Hildebrand, Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” star. “We featured his Malibu home in the last issue. I’ve also partnered with a style magazine in St. Louis, called Gazelle & Gazelle West. I’m the real estate contributor for their magazine, and they’re contributing their expert style advice in mine.” The Missing Link Now that Ellis could check off radio marketing and a magazine, she decided to explore television. “A local homebuilder asked me about being in a TV show,” she says. Ellis collaborated on the project. “We shot four different episodes to appear over three months on the local ABC affiliate, Sunday mornings,” she says. The show features a local custom homebuilder who explains the different stages of building a home. A representative of a local mortgage company explains the different types of loans available. “Some of my clients’ listings are featured on the show, and I interview past clients,” she says.
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Exhausted yet? Not Ellis. “I work all the time, so it doesn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies. Having a radio show is pretty entertaining and being able to pick what I want to put in my magazine is a lot of fun,” she says. “I’m blessed to have a supportive husband I’ve been with since I was 15 years old.” For the time being, Ellis is content with her marketing projects; however, the wheels continue to turn. Something new is sure to be just around the bend.
MY MOST INTERESTING TRANSACTION “I listed a $1.5 million home in a gated community on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River,” says Ellis. “The property was behind a gate, making it difficult for people to view it. “I decided to plan an event, offering tours of the home to the public. Rick and I sold tickets for $50 apiece. All the money was donated to the Missouri Military Memorial Foundation. “I had no idea what an undertaking this would be. For starters, cars couldn’t drive behind the gate out of respect to other homeowners. So we asked Enterprise Rent-A-Car to donate passenger vans to shuttle guests to the mansion. Next, I needed drivers. I was able to get people to donate their time. I also arranged for a nearby lot to allow the guests to park there. AnheuserBusch and Glazers Distributors of Missouri donated all of the alcohol. I had a company come in with different types of wine. Restaurants donated food. I had live entertainment, and we raised almost $2,000 for the Foundation. “We didn’t sell the home that night, but I did get it sold. That buyer listed his house with me as well.”
Lives of Real Estate
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T E C H N O L O G Y
L E A D E R S
FROM MUSIC AND MAYHEM
TO SUCCESS AND STABILITY
Morgan Carey CEO, Founder Real Estate Webmasters
After a rocky childhood, Morgan Carey used ambition and ingenuity to overcome those challenges and develop a successful Web company.
organ Carey’s early memories in Canada revolve around cold nights sleeping snuggled under blankets in his mother’s guitar case while she played on the streets for change to feed her family. “I grew up in a family of five children with a legally blind mother and no father,” says Carey, now the founder of Real Estate Webmasters, a Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada-based company that specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), Internet Data Exchange (IDX) and custom real estate websites. No Home to Call His Own By the time he was 8 years old, Carey was taken from his mother, who was in an abusive relationship, and placed in foster care. “Unfortunately, abuse of all kinds was common in my family,” he says. At the ripe age of 11, Carey left foster care to live with his older sister, who was about 17 years old at the time. “I was a forgotten child in the system.
Lives of Real Estate
I was in a temporary loop, staying only three to six months with each family until I was permanently placed. There were never any permanent homes available. I was sick of being bounced around, so I left to live with my oldest sister.” Carey was able to pay his own way because he was receiving $500 a month in orphan benefits from the Canadian pension plan. “It used to go to my mom, then to my foster parents. When I moved in with my sister, it came directly to me,” he says. “I also stayed with friends where I could,” he says. School always fell by the wayside. In fact, at age 13, he says, “I was kicked out of school in the eighth grade for one year.” Rising Above During that time (which turned into 2.5 years out of school), he followed his mother’s musical path and played at cafés and on the streets. “I always wanted that connection with her and the music,” he says. In fact, it was while playing a gig with his mother at a local café that he got a call that changed his life. “I left the stage to take a phone call from my then-girlfriend. She told me she was pregnant. I was 15 years old when he (son David, now 20 years old) was born in April 1995,” he says. Knowing that he didn’t want his child to experience what he had as a child, he vowed to finish school, go to university and “grow up,” he says. “My early years taught me that I could never truly rely on anyone but myself. They showed me the kind of world that I never wanted my children to have to experience,” says Carey, who also has a daughter, Ariyah (age 8). Carey is very involved with the lives of both of his children. A Passion for Success Carey enrolled in an alternative program and finished two grades in six months. “I spent all day, every day at school,” he says. Then, he worked at a car wash until he
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was 17 years old. “I knew I needed to go to regular school, so I enrolled in grade 12, taking advanced courses, started university and graduated with a liberal studies degree. “I first thought I wanted to be a scientist because I had an affinity for math and biology, but it wasn’t my personality. I liked liberal studies because you engaged in passionate discussions. It wasn’t teachers versus students. You talked passionately about what interested you.” He also spent some time studying in Florence, Italy. Ironically, Carey was never interested in technology. “I never even owned my first computer until I was almost 20,” he laughs. But he was interested in sales. “I took the real estate licensing course but never hung my license and wondered if I could sell. So I decided to take on the toughest sales job in the world, selling long distance services for MCI WorldCom,” says Carey, who became known as the “guy you never hung up on.” His success attracted the attention of an Internet company. “I was 21 years old, and they wanted me to help them figure out the Internet. That’s when I learned about Internet marketing.” In fact, he learned that he was quite good at it. “In that position, I [helped the company create] an SEO company, which made [the Internet company I worked for] tons of money. They wouldn’t give me a raise, so I walked out and started my own company,” says Carey. During that time, he worked with a few real estate clients and was doing well in the real estate/technology space. He says he spent a lot of time working with unreliable third-party vendors and decided to bring those services in house so that he could maintain quality control and deliver at the highest level. “There was nothing out there that delivered the truly custom experience that I was used to providing for other industries,” he says. He realized that there was a need for custom real estate websites. Now, Carey prides himself on finding “people better than I am to help me. We have a great team,” although he admits that choosing to take on the custom website model was a risk. “I was naïve for choosing that model. I had no thought about profitability or business acumen. I just wanted to be proud of what I built.” He says his success is based on his core 32
Lives of Real Estate
values and his Always Be Awesome (ABA) philosophy. “It’s not about the product being awesome. Our team members have the opportunity to be awesome all the time.” Finding Nirvana What started with five people in Carey’s basement has grown to just under 200 employees in five offices in two countries (Canada and the United States). “Our growth has been a constant average of 40 percent year after year for the past six years,” he says. In 2014, Carey was on “Dragons’ Den,” Canada’s version of the hit television show “Shark Tank,” where he scored “the largest legitimate ask in reality TV history, $2 million for 4 percent of his company, for a 50 million valuation. Carey got the money (albeit for a 5 percent share), with franchise specialist Jim Treliving and merchant banker Michael Wekerle splitting the deal,” according to an article on CanadianBusiness.com. However, Carey did not take the money. Carey’s marketing includes endorsements from celebrities such as ABC’s “Shark Tank” Barbara Corcoran and Fredrik Eklund of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.” In fact, says Carey, “Barbara Corcoran was already a client of mine when “Dragons’ Den” aired. I approached her and pitched her that she would be a better partner (than the “Dragons’ Den” investors) for both strategic and alignment reasons. She agreed, and we immediately partnered on our first web product, called The Barbara.”
MY PERSONAL G O A L is to become the kind of man I want my daughter t o m a r r y.” — M o r g a n C a r ey
It’s clear that Carey isn’t resting on his laurels. He has big goals and plans for Real Estate Webmasters. “The goal for my company is a simple one, a billion dollar valuation,” he says. “Not because I’m looking to sell (he’s not), but because goals are important. I wanted to set one that, if I achieved it, would finally allow me to step back, take a breath and realize I had done something that very few people have,” he says. While building his businesses (there are more; see sidebar at right) forces him to put his love of music on the back burner, Carey still finds time to invest in personal development. “I love to learn,” he says. He and his long-time girlfriend Carly love to take care of their 8-acre farm and spend quality time with the kids. Laughs Carey, “I’m an entrepreneur, so, unless building businesses and making money is considered a hobby, I have no hobbies.” He still maintains a relationship with his mother and older son. For Carey, the story of his life is the traditional rags to riches story about a man rising above his life circumstances to do great things. “My early years showed me the kind of world that I never wanted my children to have to experience. I vowed to never let them have to go through or see what I did, and to this day, that still drives me.”
CAREY’S C R E AT I O N S Morgan Carey is the charismatic passion behind numerous endeavors, including Real Estate Webmasters, and REWSters restaurant, as well as a residential/commercial property company, called Carey Real Estate Holdings. Carey’s net worth is an estimated $70 million, making him one of the most successful people in Canada’s Web technology industry.
At press time, Carey was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
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Not Horsing Around
Bonnie Williamson Sales Associate Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty
Bonnie Williamson’s passion for horse riding and her love of competition give her life balance.
n the 1970s, Bonnie Williamson’s parents gave her riding lessons as a wedding anniversary present. “Within six months, I bought my first horse and started riding,” says the sales associate with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Huntington, N.Y. Now, riding is a family affair, as daughter, Jessica (38), has been riding with mom since she was 5 years old. Bonnie also has two sons, John (40) and Peter (32). Soon after taking her first lessons, Williamson, who started her real estate career in 1980, started competing in equitation (the practice of horsemanship where the rider is judged on his or her ability to ride correctly) and eventing (an equestrian event where a single horseand-rider combination competes against other combinations across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping). “We didn’t get into the high end. It was becoming popular when we were doing it in the early 1990s. The horse and I would jump wagons with hay bales, solid natural fences and stacks of logs. I now realize how dangerous it really
Lives of Real Estate
is,” she laughs. “I loved the challenge, and I was younger and crazy then. It was a lot of fun. My husband, John, daughter, Jessica, and I would trailer all over the Northeast,” she says. The two boys didn’t compete. “Christopher Reeve was in one of the competitions I was in,” she says. The highlight of her career was “going down to Wellington, Florida (host city to the Winter Equestrian Festival and more than 40 weeks of equestrian competitions per year) and competing on the Wellington Winter Circuit. I went there for three or four years. I had this wonderful gray mare that I trusted. To compete on that level was thrilling,” she says. Williamson hasn’t competed in about eight months; however, riding is still in her blood. “Riding is my sanctuary. I’m in a high-pressure business, and riding is a wonderful way to escape,” she says.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, Bonnie Williamson, now a sales associate with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Huntington, N.Y., wanted adventure. She found it as a flight attendant for Pan Am. “Pan Am was looking for Russian-speaking flight attendants for its inaugural flight to Moscow,” says Williamson, who majored in language. “I did the Russian announcements.” The flight was filled with VIPs, ambassadors and journalists.