SAN FRANCISCO — On a warm July morning, Brendon Kearney is in his office at the Coldwell Banker Market Street branch in San Francisco.
It’s 9 a.m. and he is seated in front of his PC, sifting through and responding to numerous e-mails from clients. His pearl-white Blackberry jolts as he receives a text message from a client. As a busy real estate agent, Brendon is constantly communicating by e-mail and text messages and phone throughout the day, as those are the primary forms of communication that his clients use.
Nowadays, with the abundance of e-mails, Brendon says he has a goal to respond within 15 minutes. When he is working out in the field he tries to respond within an hour.
Down the hallway, just a few doors down from his office, Brendon’s brother Kevin — who is also his partner in a real estate team — is checking e-mails, posting homes on the market onto local multiple listing services, his home Web site, and other public-facing sites such as Craigslist. Kevin also tries to keep up with his clients by sending out mass e-mails for new properties on the market, responding to their e-mails and making phone calls.
The brothers have been working as a team at Coldwell Banker’s Market Street office in San Francisco. They have worked in the business for seven years and they are the third-ranked producers at the 49-agent office — they typically sell homes within a price range of $700,000 to $1.5 million.
They both say they enjoy working with the company because of the reputation of the Coldwell brand and because they take pleasure in helping people to buy and sell homes. The Kearney brothers never "double-end" on transactions — or represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction — because, they say, they don’t want to hinder the price-negotiation process.
"We’re kind of a big deal around here," laughs Brendon, who has an upbeat persona. The two spend most of their time in the office unless they are out at open houses and taking clients to see properties. They specialize in two-unit condos in the San Francisco area. Kevin and Brendon’s office is located in the LGBT-friendly (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friendly) Castro neighborhood, with their office being one of five Coldwell Banker branches in San Francisco.
Coldwell Banker is one of the largest franchise brands in the world. Over a century old, Coldwell Banker was founded in 1906 in San Francisco and has an international reach with offices in six continents and 47 countries. There are more than 600 offices located outside of the United States. Coldwell Banker has approximately 120,000 sales associates and brokers, and is a subsidiary of Realogy, which has company-owned and franchise operations through other big-name brands such as Century 21, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, ERA, and Sotheby’s International Realty and many others.
Coldwell Banker’s agents are independent contractors, working at their own pace and managing their own time. Many agents work from home, while others prefer the office environment. On this morning, the office here is less then half-full at 9 a.m., but Kevin and Brendon say they feel more efficient working from the office. They typically arrive between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
The branch manager, Kathy Murphy, arrives in Brendon’s office at 9:30 a.m. to discuss a discrepancy between a potential buyer and a seller. To assure that both parties are satisfied, Brendon asks for Murphy’s advice on a situation where the buyer wants to add a deck to a two-unit condo that can possibly impede the buyer’s compliance to purchase the home. Since this addition of the deck to the home may ruin the view of the city for the potential buyer, and it is the seller’s responsibility to disclose this information, Brendon has to make this clear to the seller.
Murphy recommends that Brendon ensure the buyer and seller are both well informed about this potential purchase, while they both review the phrasing that they will use in communicating with the parties in the transaction. They send off an e-mail to the owner of the condo.
"You got the message across and you didn’t sound too offensive," Murphy reassured Brendon.
It’s "Tuesday Tours" — open house day — which means that Brendon’s schedule is swamped. In an hour, Brendon has to host an open house. He must pick up a client at noon to look at some properties and then return to his office to follow-up with clients and work on closing a sale transaction.
Brendon heads out to the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco, where a $1.8 million condo has dropped in price to $1.7 million. He places his Coldwell Banker open house sign in the front of the property, takes off his shoes — as required by the homeowner — and prepares for visitors to arrive.
Agents file in and saunter around the condo — they open doors, inspect rooms and inquire about the features of the home. He greets other Realtors with a welcoming smile.
"I’m my own competition," Brendon jokes. "But in this field, I’d say that every real estate agent is my competition."
At promptly 11:20 a.m. Kevin arrives and inquires about the outcome of the open house. Brendon tells him that a lot of people arrived so far, leaving the rest up to his brother. He hops in his silver Volvo SUV and drives away to pick up a client.
"Having a partnership is great and with a team there is definitely more efficiency. Each one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, and it balances out. With that, we are able to put out a better product," Kevin says.
Brendon began working at San Francisco’s Lakeside Coldwell Banker office in 2001, after receiving his real estate license. Rick Turley, the manager there at the time, says he was very impressed with Brendon right off the bat.
"I wanted to pursue both Brendon and Kevin because they had strong business skills. Immediately after Brendon began working here, I saw early successes (in home sales)," says Turley. "After Brendon got his toes in the water, it helped encouraged his brother, Kevin, to join the team."
Turley is now the president of the San Francisco-Peninsula and North Bay Region’s Coldwell Banker. "Coldwell Banker makes sure that agents receive continuous training to refresh their skills. We work as a team where our new agents go through an intensive training process and even our experienced agents go through ongoing training," he says.
Coldwell Banker University offers certification programs and ongoing education that can be taken in person or online by new agents or experienced agents. The university is an in-house training program for agents that can be attended in person or online and is designed to educate agents about the industry and to enhance their salesmanship. There are also technology certification programs that provide computer software and tech training.
Brendon is taking a class once a week to learn more about different aspects of the real estate industry. He says he hopes the class will help him with personal growth as an agent.
"I haven’t been in school for so long and it feels really weird going back to school after all these years," says Brendon.
Kevin joined with his brother at Coldwell Banker just a couple of months after Brendon started, and he said it had a lot to do with the prestige and the manager of the company.
"Rick made a huge difference in my working at Coldwell. I wanted to work with someone who knew what he was doing, and Rick knew what he was doing," says Kevin. "I like working in a team that pushes you to the next level."
Both Brendon and Kevin are in the office five to six days a week, with Sundays being the best days for business because of potential clients flocking in for open houses. Both of them try to take one day off out of the week to relax.
Brendon and Kevin are both members of National Association of Realtors, California Association of Realtors and the San Francisco Association of Realtors. They have a positive view about the real estate market in their area.
"The market’s really good. Inventory has definitely come down a little bit, (and) the prices have remained stable in a lot of the areas. It really is neighborhood-specific here in San Francisco," says Kevin.
Even though Kevin says that the market is fair, he believes that negative media coverage about the housing market has made clients hesitant, so it takes a lot of convincing.
"The biggest challenge is educating my clients to what the state of the market is, especially with the bad press … and what’s going on with interest rates. I think of how I can help negotiate them with the highest possible price of the listing for sellers and the best possible price for the buyers," Kevin says.
Kevin continues the rest of his day at the open house on Steiner Street. With an ever-ready grin on his face, he welcomes more visitors. On the other side of town, Brendon is behind the wheel, driving around with his client, showing him two properties that are the closest match to his ideal home — with one being over the price bracket.
"This person is really specific about what he wants. I know he won’t go over his price range, but I’m just going to show him the property and see what he thinks," says Brendon.
On his free time, Kevin said he spends as much time as possible with his wife and he also contributes to the community. He is the chairman of the board of directors for Hands on Bay Area, a community volunteer and leadership program.
Brendon is an avid traveler. He has a passion for scuba diving and in his free time he spends time with his friends and his dog, a yellow Labrador. He also sets aside time to take his clients out to thank them for doing business with him and his brother.
"That is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to my clients and showing them that I appreciate their business," Brendon says. "For me, it’s not about selling homes, it’s really about putting people into homes that match their lifestyles and finding a home that meets their needs. I try to do that in a nonthreatening, open manner so that my clients never feel any pressure from me to buy or sell a home when they are not ready to."
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