Inman is interviewing the top producers in real estate. Here’s Roh Habibi, “Million Dollar Listing: San Francisco” star and agent with Coldwell Banker.
Describe your job.
My office is located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco; I help buyers and sellers in San Francisco proper and the Greater Bay Area, from Silicon Valley to Marin and the East Bay. My clients have no “type” — they come from all walks of life, multicultural and extremely bright, ranging from 22-year-old technology professionals to senior citizens.
Where did you start?
I began working as a real estate professional for a boutique firm located here in San Francisco. I stayed with that company for two years and six months before making a move over to a larger international brokerage, Coldwell Banker.
Did you imagine when you were younger that you’d be a top producer?
I have only been in the real estate business for three years; more so than imagining myself being a top producer, I just hoped that I would make it to this point and inevitably to the five-year mark. This is one of the most difficult industries to make it in, especially in the San Francisco old-guard marketplace.
What sets you apart?
I am not afraid to do the things that other agents will not do; I rather enjoy it. You don’t want to door-knock for business … no problem, I will be happy to do it. You don’t want to be all over social media … no problem, I will happily do it. You don’t want to work seven days a week … no problem, I will happily do it.
This business is special in that you can let your personality and individuality shine. People want to work with people they like who are happy, having fun, and getting them top dollar for their properties with unique and customized marketing strategies. That’s what I specialize in.
How did you get there?
I have set my real estate career up as a business, and I treat it that way day in and day out — putting proper systems in place, dedicating the time and effort to being present every day, going to every training possible, and surrounding myself with only the cream of the crop in the game. There is a saying in Farsi that goes like this: “If you put the pony with the stallions, it will have to become a stallion.”
Are you part of a team or are you doing it solo?
I have worked solo my whole career, which I would not recommend to a new agent. Time is of the absolute essence; if you can join an all-star team and be the errand boy or girl, do it. This industry is all about learning, and there is a five-year learning curve just to stand on your own two feet.
Sit, listen, absorb, learn, and then you will be able to soar. I have made a lot of mistakes that resulted in losing business; those things could have been avoided if I had a proper mentor, trainer or worked on a team.
What does your administrative support team look like, or do you have one?
I have done every transaction front- and back-end on my own. As a new agent, the best way to learn your contracts, forms, disclosures, inspections and so on is to read them and study them over and over and over. You need to be able to confidently explain this paperwork to your clients with ease and clarity. Now that I am getting a lot busier, I am having a transaction coordinator help with the back-end paperwork and file compilation. As I start getting even busier, I will hire a full-time assistant.
Who are your heroes?
The prophets of God — peace and blessings be upon them all.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning? What’s the last thing you do before you leave?
I am currently reading a book by Stephen Covey called “First Things First.” It’s about prioritization of life, work, family and so on. I am a big checklist guy; I find that it keeps me on task with high-, medium- and low-priority action items.
I try to do this for the whole week on Sunday and continue adding things throughout the week in order of what needs to get done. First thing I do when I get in after turning on the office lights is review my list.
Real estate does not have any set schedule; you are at the liberty of the market, and also in the service of your clients. You work when they need you to work and that’s that …
Last thing I do before I leave is express gratitude for the job I have and turn off the lights.
What’s the first thing you do when you’re off work for the day?
I call my wife and ask her how her day went. I ask if she’s hungry and would like me to pick up some food on my way home, see if we need anything for the house, tell her about my day. On my drive home, I will listen to a lecture or roll down the windows and just breathe in silence; if any important business calls need to be made, I will attend to them as well.
What’s your favorite place to unwind?
When I need some alone time, I will go surfing. Here in San Francisco, we are pretty close to the ocean, and I can check the surf reports online or on my mobile phone. It is a fantastic place for me to be alone, no phones, emails, computers, clients, just zen in nature waiting for my next wave. Maybe see some dolphins and catch the sunset from the water — what could be better?
What areas of your business do you pay personal attention to? What have you outsourced?
I pay personal attention to every aspect of my business. When you’re building a brand, you cannot leave anything to chance. Everything I do is strategic; I double check everything and make sure the end result is in the benefit of my clients and my brand.
Your reputation is everything in this business, as relationships play such a key role in getting a transaction closed.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to success in today’s real estate industry? How have you overcome it?
Financial ambiguity and ups and downs during a transaction are big barriers to making it in this industry. That’s why there is such a huge rate of failure to make it through the first year to three years.
When I first started, about 14 agents started with me. At the end of two years, only myself and another gentlemen who had previously been working in commercial real estate for 30 years made it to that point. Real estate is a varsity sport, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
You have to have thick skin, you have to learn from every failed transaction, you have to continually master your craft, you have to aim high and set goals and map out how you are going to achieve them. You have to not be afraid to ask questions when you need help or when trying to learn.
It makes me laugh when someone tells me, “I’m going to try real estate.” There is no part-time work in real estate; it’s only a crazy hunger to make it that will get you through.
How do you deal with stress?
Prayer, meditation, yoga, incense, talk through it with my wife, surfing and realizing nothing is in my hands and what’s meant to be will be, I am just along for the ride.
If you could change anything about your career path, would you? Why or why not?
I feel like everything I have ever done with my over-20 jobs has led me to this point. I am first-generation in America; I have not had any mentor figures; I had to learn everything by trial and error. This has built character over time, independence, a strategic business mindset. Everything happens for a reason; this is the hand I have been dealt at this point; this is my fate until whatever the next chapter is.
Catch Roh Habibi on “Million Dollar Listing: San Francisco” every Wednesday at 10/9 CT on Bravo.
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