- Young agents, time is on your side; don't miss opportunities to take risks that can elevate your business.
- Don't bother with smoke and mirrors; you'll attract more clientele by being yourself.
Breckenridge, Colorado, local Leah Canfield was going to represent the U.S. in the International Ski Federation Alpine World Cup. More than a mere pipe dream, this was her goal — her plan A.
Over five knee operations later, her body finally cried foul, and the 25-year-old was faced with a new reality. Real estate soon became her new plan A.
This unexpected change of course turned out to be quite a blessing. As it turns out, Canfield has quite a knack for the job and recently won the gig to represent a $20 million development in her city.
Canfield and fellow 25-year-old, Hamptons-based agent Joseph Piccininni Jr. were recently announced as two of Coldwell Banker’s “30 Under 30” agents.
Their stories show that a bullish sense of confidence and willingness to go for the big deals before you’re “ready” — in the textbook sense of the word — can propel you into real estate success faster than your peers; that taking risks now rather than later is the way to go (you have less to lose); and to stick to your roots, whether they be tied deep to a community you’re qualified to serve or a crazy sense of humor that’s just waiting to be unleashed.
The road that led to real estate
Studying real estate and finance in college definitely paid off because Canfield — along with her boyfriend — took a dive into property management in 2012. She hasn’t looked back since. For some millennials burdened with student loan debt, commission-based professions have no appeal; but Canfield wasn’t phased by that, and now her real estate portfolio includes six properties.
You have less to lose when you are young, she said. “It was a big step, but I think that I was very fortunate to have the feeling of a safety net. … If I failed, [I’d] have people to catch me. If I didn’t make any sales — I couldn’t afford a mortgage — then [I’d] have enough people around me who love me to support me.”
That security gave her an extra layer of confidence, which made it easier to take some risky leaps.
“When I look at it, I’m realistic,” she said. “It wouldn’t be so bad. I could get another job, move in with my parents. I could figure it out.”
Canfield’s trust in real estate also stems from the time she saw it save her parents after the Great Recession. Her father, Chris, is an entrepreneur whose business had gone under; and her mother, Kari, was a stay-at-home mom at the time. Both got their real estate licenses and have been very successful since. Her father has thrived in development, while her mother is a top producer at the Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties office in Breckenridge where Canfield also works.
Canfield and her mother work separately; in fact, she received most of her training from her broker, Stu Van Anderson, not her mother. Although they work apart right now, the two Canfields agree that they may team up in the future.
“When she chose to pursue a career in real estate, I was thrilled that she would take a path beside me here in Breckenridge,” said Kari of her daughter. “I find that my experience as a tenured broker in our local market, coupled with Leah’s boundless energy, smarts and insight into the power of social media marketing, [creates] the perfect recipe for a rewarding and fun time for us both.”
The younger Canfield is a step ahead of her mother in that she has already hired an assistant. “I can’t believe how many sales she has done without an assistant,” she says of her mom.
The 25-year-old has worked up a head of steam for 2017. Last year, she had a sales volume of around $7.4 million — about 80 percent buyers and 20 percent sellers by number of transactions. She is working toward getting more listings this year, which could take her sales volume to over $10 million.
Where being bold can lead you
Canfield and fellow young agent Sinjin McNicholl completed a Ninja Selling course together, loved it and decided to “be bold” and go for a major gig: serving as the listing agents on a $20 million development in Breckenridge, which involved building 52 townhomes for people who work in the county.
Canfield and McNicholl, whose friends and sphere would be ideal buyers, got the job.
These designated homes are also referred to as workforce homes. “Because of the value of real estate, there is a real crisis for people who work here,” Canfield said. “A lot of our job is making sure we are communicating the correct information. We are as much community liaison for the town as anything.”
“I have friends who call me and say, ‘What’s up with this development?’ and a couple of friends are putting in applications,” says the agent, who is hoping for more development projects.
The gutsy pitch could be compared with the 25 year old’s past skiing career.
“I think there’s something about people who go for something bold,” Canfield said. “They follow their heart, and that’s what skiing was for me — something that I looked up to my entire childhood. It was about following my dream and I did it with everything I had.
“Getting to the level I did was an amazing feat. I was one of the best skiers in the country. I wouldn’t have got to where I have got to if I had not set my sights sky high,” said the rookie agent.
“I won’t ever make the mistake of setting my goals too low,” she vowed.
Figure out what you don’t want
Very rarely is life ever a straight line. For 25-year-old agent Joseph Piccininni Jr. — another member of Coldwell Banker’s “30 Under 30” 2017 class — it’s definitely turning out to be full of twists and turns.
Piccininni has been based in The Hamptons with Coldwell Banker Beau Hulse Realty Group since the start of his real estate career in May 2014. Despite his full induction into real estate, the computer science graduate couldn’t resist the lure of technology and decided to work for a software startup for six months at the beginning of last year.
Fortunately for Coldwell Banker, the experience made him realize that real estate was where he wanted to be.
“The software company was very much what I didn’t want, but I didn’t know it yet,” he explained.
He’d worked as a salesman at the company and was there when it went public. While the buzz was exciting, he was still happy to walk away.
“It gave me the confidence to know this is not what I want,” he said. “I had had a taste of the real estate business and once I came back, I had a full perspective on it.”
Piccininni has the support of Beau Hulse, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Beau Hulse Realty Group. Hulse plucked him out of the deli he was working in during his final year of college to talk to him about a career in real estate.
“I immediately saw that Joseph was a driven young man who conveys a strong sense of honesty that makes people trust working with him,” Hulse said. “He’s someone who can excel in any given environment and has the confidence to embrace the day-to-day changes in this industry. He loves having the freedom to create a personal brand within the Coldwell Banker company and the job suits him well. I see an incredibly bright future for him.”
During the six months he worked in real estate last year, Piccininni closed about $5.36 million in sales volume. He is well on his way to surpassing that number this year.
Oh, and that stint with the software company wasn’t wasted: He has found homes for a couple people he worked with there.
His achievements in 2016 earned him recognition with the Coldwell Banker International Sterling Society award, an honor presented to the top 17 percent of the nearly 88,000 Coldwell Banker affiliated sales associates worldwide.
“There’s guys in their 20s doing $20 million or $30 million dollars a year,” he said. “I know I’ll get there.”
Keep a steady tempo and be yourself
Piccininni has lessons for others coming up behind him.
“I think when I first got in the business, I didn’t realize how important the negotiating was,” he said. Negotiating for sellers is a lot to keep up with; constantly communicating with other agents, calculating numbers and being mindful of what you disclose are all important things to keep in mind, he said.
“I have also realized that every deal is a living, breathing organism,” he added. He said to imagine yourself as the musical director or conductor of this evolving thing. “Lawyers, buyers or sellers, title company … you have to keep a steady tempo and make sure that everybody is talking to each other.”
Piccininni thinks one of the reasons he was selected as one of the 30 is because he puts himself out there: “I wasn’t afraid to be who I am, to create that wacky video,” he said. (In the video, he dresses up as different people and rates himself.)
Once you’ve seen the video, it isn’t surprising to discover that Piccininni, the director of the Long Island Board of Realtors’ Young Professionals Network, is also a proud member of Wall Street Dead aHead, a business networking organization for die hard Grateful Dead fans.
The emphasis is on kindness, networking with authenticity and a real love of the Grateful Dead, of course. The Wall Street group is comprised of a range of people from hedge fund managers, commercial real estate executives, attorneys and Realtors.
“We meet and dance,” he says. “We also have access to all our favorite Grateful Dead songs. I’ve met some really great people. I’m sure some business will come from that.”
Meanwhile, he’ll keep doing what he’s doing. “There’s no other business where you can capitalize on being yourself and be rewarded for it. ”