A Virginia native who graduated from University of Virginia, Kauffmann secured his real estate license in 2004 and serves on the technology committee for the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. His real estate career began by rehabbing properties in the Charlottesville area. He founded Nest Realty in 2008.
He will talk during a session titled "How two companies built killer Web sites from scratch" at the Connect conference.
Inman News posed a set of questions to Kauffmann:
What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2009?
I’m not going to sit here and predict a bottom to the housing market because I don’t think anyone knows. But we are seeing positive signs on a micro-level in our marketplace. Certain price points are moving quickly; more buyers are pro-actively looking; and some sellers are being realistic about pricing. All of those will help to stabilize the overall market.
I will say that the current real estate market is forcing the industry as a whole to adjust and change. Agents and brokerages are rethinking everything from business practices to business models. Part-timers aren’t able to survive as easily and it’s my hope that the Realtors who do survive will help raise the bar for the industry.
What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?
The main key to success in any market (up or down) is to focus wholeheartedly on your clients. If you are knowledgeable on your local market and you put your clients’ needs first, you’ll more than likely be successful. With every decision we make, we ask ourselves, "Is this good for my client?"
What sparked the idea to start your company?
I realized there was an opportunity for a brokerage with progressive ideas and a strong belief system to make an impact. I think the real estate brokerage world, as a whole, is a bit stale and could use some fresh ideas.
What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?
I’ve started several businesses and the biggest challenge in the early stages is always maintaining a balance between work and family. There’s so much to do in the beginning — with literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes work that needs to be completed in order to get the business up and running functionally. On the flip side, I love spending time with my family and wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s tough to find the perfect balance for both — I wish I had the magic formula.
What new features are in the pipeline?
We’re always working on short- and long-term strategic planning. In the short term, we’re developing some new Web features that will make our Web presence more user-friendly and informative to our clients. We also have plans to test-drive some new marketing ideas later this year and early next year. Although we believe strongly in the power of the Internet, we are actually planning an increase in print marketing and promotions over the next 12-18 months (with a small twist!). …CONTINUED
One of the exciting things about having a nimble real estate brokerage is that we can try new things and fail … and still be better for it.
Can you share any of your future plans, goals?
Our main goal is to always have happy agents and happy clients. So, we’ll continue on that path. However, being a new brokerage in our marketplace, we’re also aiming to expand our brand and presence throughout the region. We’re going to continue to implement new ideas and strategies to further enhance our visibility and to educate the public on how we are different.
What lesson did you learn in the past year?
The biggest lesson I learned (or should I say relearned) is to take control of your own future. Don’t sit on your heels waiting for opportunities to come to you or for other people to follow through on promises. Go out there and be proactive. Generate your own success and don’t wait for it to come to you. In the words of Phil Knight, "Just do it."
What would be your second career choice and why?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so I love building and growing businesses. If I wasn’t in real estate, I would be a business and marketing consultant to early-stage companies. I’m constantly analyzing our business strategies, marketing plans, operations and systems — it would be a blast to look at businesses in other industries and do the same.
What is the biggest problem in the real estate market today, and how would you fix it?
Oh, man. I think the biggest problem is the public’s perception of Realtors. Our agents constantly have to battle with preconceived notions and perceptions of what people think a Realtor is and does. I strongly believe that the industry needs to raise the standards for Realtors. At Nest Realty, we’ve attacked this head on and have minimum standards for all agents who join the firm. I wish others would do the same.
What do you enjoy most about working in the real estate industry?
This is probably cliché, but I love the fact that I’ve never had the same day twice. Boring, mundane days just don’t exist in our industry. I love waking up every morning and wondering what problems I’m going to have to solve, what I’m going to learn, and who I’m going to meet. I may be exhausted at the end of every work day, but I can pretty much guarantee you that I’ve learned something new.
Tell us something we don’t already know about you …
Sports is my release. I’m a huge St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan and college football fan. I see sports as a great getaway for me, and I do whatever I can to avoid working on Saturdays in the fall!
Hear Jonathan Kauffmann speak during the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7.
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