Earlier this month, a group of about 12 real estate professionals and clients met on the outdoor patio of a Danville, California, restaurant on a sunny, warm evening for cocktails and appetizers.
They were meeting to celebrate the culmination of a series of deals — which nearly didn’t happen a number of times over.
From start to finish, the whole process took almost five months, ending with the sale and purchase of three homes in the San Francisco East Bay Area suburbs of Concord and Danville.
Pacific Union team Tricia Soliz and Michael Hall were the hosts of the party.
Soliz led the multiple-transaction deal, which involved difficulties such as a widow client whose name wasn’t on the title and who had, er, stars in her eyes about what her under-maintained home was worth.
It also involved a bank that wouldn’t budge on being flexible about the title situation — which was admittedly complicated — and a low appraisal on one of the properties, causing the chosen bidder to pull out.
And it also relied on the continued patience of a dream buyer capable of fixing up a tired home.
Mark McLaughlin, the Pacific Union International CEO, made a point of dropping in at the event because he knew how much blood, sweat and tears had gone into shepherding through this series of sales of three relatively humble homes in San Francisco’s East Bay Area.
“Mark gets it — he took the time and effort to come to Danville for the little get-together because they did an amazing thing,” said Hall.
“Because this was so complicated, we truly felt that this one took a village,” added Soliz.
A closing celebration to say ‘thank you’ to all involved
“The celebration gave us the opportunity to say ‘thank you,'” Soliz explained — and the group had collectively put up with a lot, so some gratitude was certainly in order.
“In the case of one of the escrow assistants, my client would call her and leave terrible messages,” said Soliz. “I said, ‘Thank you for doing such a good job, for being so professional.’ She said, ‘No one has ever thanked me’ — and she had never been invited to a gathering at the end of the deal, either.”
Soliz, supported by Hall, represented three sides in the string of transactions:
- The widow seller, and
- A couple selling their modest Concord home …
- Who then bought the “duet” Danville property that was owned by the successful buyer of the widow’s home.
Soliz had galvanized the young couple to look at buying in Danville when she won the widow’s listing. The couple’s house sold for $515,000, the duet for $807,000 and the widow’s fixer-upper for $880,000.
McLaughlin likes to call Soliz and Hall, who joined Pacific Union from Alain Pinel Realtors at the end of last year, the “no drama, no trauma” team.
Hall, in his 60s, has a background as an actor, and Soliz, in her 40s, used to be an emergency trauma nurse and still works a couple of days a month in the maternity unit at Kaiser Permanente San Leandro.
Real estate: negotiating a byzantine web
Hall said Soliz was amazing to watch negotiate this “Byzantine web of personalities and transactions.”
“Tricia was, I swear, like a trauma nurse. Something would happen, and I would say, ‘That’s the end of that, then.’
“She would say: ‘No, no, this deal is not going to die. It just needs some CPR. Ah! We have got it back.’
“It’s because of her personality and training that she pulled it off, ” he added.
Said Soliz, who has been in real estate for seven years: “When transactions get away like this, a problem arises, it seems like a big deal, but I will tell them: ‘This is not an emergency, we are going to get through it.’
“Everybody has a pulse, everybody is breathing — it’s allowed me to really see clearly, to work through problems and handle them. The reality is, nobody is dying here.”
Adversity can lead to closer relationships
The intensity needed to keep the deals together has forged some valuable new relationships, said Soliz.
The saviors of the interlinked deals were a number of players, from lenders to title companies to other agents. (Paul Harris from J. Rockcliff Realtors and the escrow operations manager, Wanda del Conte, from Fidelity National Title, Pleasanton, get a special mention.)
The challenge for the title company was as follows: The widow’s husband had sold the property to a friend, so the title was in the friend’s name.
And the bank would not cooperate because the property was not in the client’s name, and there was still a mortgage on the home.
Once it was explained to Del Conte how a whole chain of deals depended on this being worked out, the escrow operations manager was determined to make it work.
“Her attitude was: ‘I’m not giving up ’til I get somebody willing to take responsibility for this,'” said Hall.
“Their efforts to go the extra mile made it possible,” said Soliz.
“They were just outstanding. We really got to know the parties involved and I learned a whole lot about the pitfalls on title,” she added.
Working well with other agents
J.Rockcliff’s Paul Harris, meanwhile, was very helpful in making the various deadlines mesh and not panicking when things went awry in the chain.
“Paul and I worked so well together; we had never done a deal before. We worked to keep our eye on the goal. We knew our clients wanted to sell or buy, and we knew if we could not get through this obstacle, it was all going to fall apart. We did what we had to do; we made concessions when we had to,” said Soliz.
She thinks they spent around $10,000 to oil the wheels.
“Michael and I paid for the widow’s property preparation, the inspections and some to cover the gap between the buyer/seller difference during negotiations,” she said. “Paul kicked in some for that part.”
“Our listing commission rate was higher to help cover the costs, but we spent more than we ever expected. A lesson learned for sure,” she said.
Although she doesn’t want to repeat this experience — because it was exhausting! — the East Bay agent wants to take something from it.
Valuable takeaways from problematic experience
“I do believe there were many valuable things learned along the way, such as how to seriously negotiate well for each of our clients when faced with complex challenges, the importance of communicating to all parties with a vested interest and working as a team player with the other Realtors and escrow officers involved,” said Soliz.
She also learned the benefits of remaining calm under pressure and during times of crisis, staying focused on each client goal and maintaining an optimistic attitude.
There is not always a huge monetary reward at the end, either.
“Sometimes experience must substitute for the monetary reward,” she said.
Although these relatively modest deals took up a lot of Soliz’s time in the first half of the year, she and Hall work on more high-end deals from their Palo Alto office in Silicon Valley.
Hall and Soliz formed a team nearly four years ago. Hall was at Alain Pinel in Palo Alto, and Soliz was with Alain Pinel in Danville. They worked on a deal together, got along, liked the way the other worked and decided to work as a team.
Two agents from different markets join forces
Joining forces made sense. There is regular movement of families and homeowners from Silicon Valley to Soliz’s part of the East Bay as tech executives change jobs from the large university campuses in Silicon Valley to startups or tech companies in San Francisco.
Danville and San Ramon are known for their excellent schools and have good public transport links into San Francisco, said Soliz.
The team’s sales figures were $19 million in 2014 and $26 million in 2015. It will be something similar (or a bit more) in 2016 once the election is over, said Hall.
“Working as a team has absolutely increased our sales. It allows us so many more opportunities — we always say we try to divide and conquer, not duplicate each other’s work,” said Soliz.
“We put together a partnership that works for us — Tricia’s over here about three or four days a week and lives in San Ramon. We talk anywhere from three to 30 times a day depending on what’s going on,” said Hall.
“Realtors are such lone wolves. You eat what you kill. I have been doing this for 25 years and am having some of my best few years with Tricia. It’s having someone to say: ‘Don’t forget to do this’ — there’s this accountability,” he said.
A team move to Pacific Union
Hall had a business coach through Buffini & Company and Soliz has signed onto Buffini, too. They have a business coach that they talk to twice a month for 45 minutes, or they attend their seminars.
“It’s really worked well,” said Hall.
“One of the reasons we went to Pacific Union was that they assured us that they would help us brand ourselves as a team, which is very important to me — I won’t do this forever, but Tricia can do it for many more years, which will be beneficial to me,” said Hall.
They expected to add to their team, but it hasn’t been necessary so far.
“We have had such good support from the company — we haven’t needed to hire more team members. Our office staff is amazing; they do a lot of things. Our operations manager says, ‘Give it to me — I’ll do that.’
“They are on board for anything you want; it really, really makes a difference,” he said.
Meanwhile, Soliz said she doesn’t mind the “no drama, no trauma” label from McLaughlin.
“He believes our diverse backgrounds complement each other, as do we,” she said.