When Mary Anne Fitch sold her high-end boutique business, Maui Estates International, to Hawaii Life, she didn’t know much about the vacation rentals side of the Hawaii Life business. But Hawaii Life owner, Matt Beall, made a point of introducing her to it early on after she joined the business at the end of January.
- Mary Anne Fitch, owner of Maui Estates International, has sold her company to Hawaii Life Real Estate and joined the business.
- Leaving her broker/owner role behind, she is concentrating on selling high-end property.
- She said she is able to focus on the areas of real estate she really enjoys, and Hawaii Life has the advantage of her footprint and network.
But Hawaii Life owner, Matt Beall, made a point of showing her what they did in the rental process – from making a reservation to giving the client instructions about how to get to the place, she said.
“He’s touching you five times over one rental — they are not going to go anywhere else to buy,” said Fitch.
She was impressed.
“People, after their second or third trip to Hawaii, get inspired to buy here,” she said.
Having a relationship with a rental vacation company that’s attached to a mainstream real estate firm is bound to generate leads for the business.
Beall is an excellent, collaborative businessman and one of the main reasons the top Maui agent joined Hawaii Life, said the former broker/owner.
Beall confided that Fitch is just finalizing the co-listing of a $35 million Oahu property, along with colleague Eric Hinshaw. “This deal is what we get to do by virtue of this sort of union — we get all the smart people in one room,” said Beall.
Fitch, based on Maui, has worked for nearly three decades in real estate, selling more than $580 million in properties.
After nine years as broker-in-charge at Coldwell Banker Island Properties, she’s spent the last seven years running Maui Estates International, targeted at the luxury market in West Maui.
Busy doing the work she enjoys
As for Fitch, she is busy, but she stresses that she is busy doing the work she most enjoys– selling her $130 million inventory of properties rather than managing agents.
The former software sales executive, who was an active sales agent at Maui Estates International, said she does not miss the responsibilities of owning her own business.
She estimated that she probably spent up to 20 percent of her time managing her company — but it felt like more.
“It was causing me to work 115 percent. I just kept adding more hours,” she said
Fitch hopes, once the dust settles, that she will have an average working week of 60-plus hours.
“I am not having to worry about the management, accounting, admin or legal,” she noted. “All of those things that go with ownership have been taken off my shoulders. And I’ve added a network of agents that I’m working with at Hawaii Life.”
She was inspired to make the move when she saw Beall in action four years ago at the Hawaii Life annual conference and was attracted to the fresh and collaborative approach she saw.
Repositioning your career later in life
“It was something that I felt I needed — a change,” Fitch explained. “I wanted to freshen up my business. I was not at the end of my career, and I wanted to look at positioning myself to do exactly what I really love — doing my own sales and negotiating for my clients.
“I felt that running a business was getting in the way of what I did best — selling to a very high-end market. For me, making that decision to let go of running my own show was so I could free myself up to use my best talents.”
Fitch says her firm of nine agents and eight associated staff all came with her. “Everybody that was with me made the move.”
There were some raised eyebrows about her move from a small firm to a much larger company — but she said it’s not a different direction for her because Hawaii Life has the same values she has.
She said she feels part of a much stronger organization while she does not have to do the managerial things she didn’t enjoy.
“The way I do business has not changed at all,” she said. “I went from working with nine agents to over 240, but I don’t feel any different.”
A collaborative partnership
The agent also enjoys the wider coverage she now has. “I was beginning to see my clients were not only looking at Maui — there was some interest in Honolulu and Kauai,” she said.
“I felt the alignment of Hawaii Life gave me a network of agents who were operating in a very similar way and at a very high end, so if I had clients looking off the island, this was a group of people I could work closely with.”
And it works both ways. “They can call on me if they have a client looking on Maui. It’s is a very sharing environment, which is not normal in sales.”
Fitch said she enjoys this dynamic because she enjoys giving strategic advice — “on how to structure a deal, for example.”
Moving to a new operating system in a new company can be taxing, but Fitch has been cocooned by her excellent assistant and her husband, Nam Le Viet, who is her business partner and handles all her tech needs.
“I continue to work out of my home office with a full-time assistant and my husband, who is also licensed,” she explained. “We work as a team. He’s very much focused on the technology that helps build what I do. Working closely with him relieves me from working on the piece of my business that I don’t enjoy.”
A new affiliation with Christie’s for Hawaii Life
Beall sees his role as supporting Fitch, whom he describes as “extraordinarily busy.”
“You add a lane to the highway — you are going to get more traffic. She’s up and running. We are trying to create space around her so nothing is in her way,” he said.
As part of the deal, Hawaii Life has become a Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate for all the islands in Hawaii except Honolulu. Fitch, already a Christie’s affiliate, will serve as Hawaii Life’s liaison to Christie’s.
The big advantage to bringing Fitch on board — aside from the cachet of Christie’s — is that the company will now be able to take its clients to multiple markets across the state, noted Beall. Hawaii Life didn’t have a big presence in the high-end residential market in West Maui before Fitch.
“It’s just more bandwidth, more reach and more availability,” he said.
How else has Fitch’s life changed?
“I find myself traveling much more to do things with other Hawaii Life top agents, Neal Norman and Carrie Nicholson, and spreading the word about Christie’s,” she said. “All things that I like doing instead of chasing up an agent about, ‘Did you do your termite inspection?'”
Fitch enjoys collaborating with a small group of top sellers at Hawaii Life.
“We work very closely together, sharing ideas, marketing concepts, networking — and the face of Hawaii Life, Matt, is part of that,” she said.
Tips on working with luxury buyers
A lot of Fitch’s business involves entertainment with clients, helping them get to know the island, typically taking her out around four evenings a week.
“It’s all part of seeing the lifestyle that attracts them — they are buying a lifestyle,” she said.
She points out the subtle challenge of dealing with high-end clients. The sellers don’t necessarily need to sell — “it’s a discretionary asset” — and the buyers don’t really need to buy, or could easily buy elsewhere in the world.
Her job is about getting them to “want it,” she said.
One of the simplest things ways to be successful is communication with her clients, she said. Ensuring that they are happy with the outcome of their transaction will lead to them becoming a good source of referrals.
Fitch thinks she has plenty more to learn from her Hawaii Life associates. “They motivate me to do better,” she said.