Every summer the National Association of Realtors names its 30 Under 30 honorees. These real estate pros demonstrate a high degree of “skill, success, creativity, and leadership in their careers.” This year’s cohort is no exception. Find out what drives these five top agents and what their game plans for the future look like here.

Every summer the National Association of Realtors names its 30 Under 30 honorees. These real estate professionals demonstrate a high degree of “skill, success, creativity, and leadership in their careers.” 

This year’s cohort is, of course, no exception. They are not only successful professionally, but also diverse, representing a variety of backgrounds and interests, from opera singer Alexander Goering to Instagram influencer Rebecca Donatelli

When we started looking at commonalities, one thing became clear: For many of this year’s young stars, family is the foundation of their success.

Whether through the opportunities they’ve provided or through a family interest in real estate and entrepreneurship, many of the 2019 30 Under 30 recipients credited their family for their interest in real estate and their professional drive.

A cultural connection (and a big why)

Jennie Lok, Keller Williams Peninsula Estates, Burlingame, California 

Jennie Lok

For California agent Jennie Lok the American dream is not an abstract concept. This 26-year-old is informed by her parents’ journey and their years of hard work, both as motivation and inspiration for the families she helps. “My parents immigrated from China in the 1980s not speaking English, so I learned Cantonese growing up as it was the only form of communication with my parents,” she said.

“That has allowed me to build trust with many parents of first-time homebuyers I’m working with as I’m able to connect with them on a cultural level,” Lok said. 

Lok’s big why is her desire to help her parents retire as soon as possible, as they have been working almost every day since emigrating to the U.S., both to support Lok and her brother as well as to provide for family back in China. This is an integral part of how she relates on a deeper level with her current and potential clients.

“I share stories of my why with my clients and seek to understand their goals on a deeper, non-transactional level. On social media, I’m always sharing a story and personal touch to connect with the client’s emotional endeavors of buying and selling.”

Lok’s current game plan for success:

  • Be proactively lead generating constantly: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and go out there and knock. Do it consistently and build relationships; people will see the hard work you put in and results will show. 
  • Door-knock consistently in a neighborhood farm and host events for the neighborhood: Events like movie days, community picnics, accessory dwelling unit workshops, local brewery happy hours and homebuying workshops.
  • Work with a team or build a team: The traditional solo agent with an assistant model will not suffice in today’s competitive market. We have a team of 13 people with nine agents; it’s important to be constantly out there to build your brand.
  • Creat a five-year plan: Then working backward to four years, three years, two years and one year. Then six months down to one month, then weekly to daily. People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in five or 10 years, so it’s important to plan this out. 

Motivation and focus

Davis Holt, RE/MAX United, Cary, North Carolina

Davis Holt

For North Carolina’s Davis Holt, the roller coaster of real estate is no match for the roller coaster of a growing family. The 29-year-old and his wife initiated an adoption application, only to find out once they were successfully matched that his wife was pregnant. 

Now, with an adoptive baby due on Oct. 21 and his wife due to give birth on New Year’s Eve, his motivation lies in providing for his growing family.

“In everything that I do, it is my goal to make my children proud of me and to provide them and my wife with an abundant life,” Holt said.

While this is an emotional time, it requires a great deal of rational thinking and decision-making to prepare for such a big change, Holt said.

“From the adoption perspective, it is such an honor to be selected to raise another person’s child. In my opinion, it is truly the most selfless decision that anyone can make, and it is now my obligation to honor her by providing a wonderful life for her child. I want to make sure that all that I do is accomplishing that.”

Holt’s current game plan for success:

  • Effectively market to our database: Using our 66-touch plan and staying in touch with our database on a consistent basis, has allowed us to build a sustainable business on referrals, past clients and our sphere of influence
  • Improve the client experience: We are also focusing on improving the client experience during the transaction so that as a new client becomes a past client, they automatically becoming a raving fan due to the service provided during their transaction. 
  • Provide real value to clients: With the increased significance of iBuyers and real estate technology companies, I think many real estate agents are afraid of losing their business. However, I am of the opinion that if we continue to provide true value to our clients by being experts at what we do, we will always have an opportunity to serve. We must learn to work with the technology and leverage to our client’s advantage rather than complain and be afraid of it. 
  • Embrace technology: As a millennial, I tell people all the time, I could do all my retirement investing online on my own, yet I have no idea what I am doing because that is not my expertise. My financial planner is an expert in that area, and I trust him to make the right decisions for me because of the value he brings to me. The same can be said about real estate. Technology is nothing to be afraid of but it is something we need to adapt to. 

Inspiration and drive

Felicia Mares, Abio Properties, Oakland California

Felicia Mares

For Oakland, California’s Felicia Mares, turning negative experiences into positive motivation is key to accomplishing big things in her real estate career. That can-do spirit helped her to become the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree and helped her fulfill her father’s dream of becoming a real estate professional.

“My dad was a huge supporter of my career,” said Mares, whose father died during her first year in real estate. “He confided in me that he had always wanted to be a Realtor and even took the classes required. He ultimately couldn’t make the leap into a commission-based field because he had three children to support and couldn’t take the risk. He continued in construction, taking me along on some of his projects and inspiring my curiosity in development.”

Mares learned how to work with clients from her mother’s negative experience when buying a home. After her mother worked with a number of agents who were impatient, insensitive and unhelpful, Mares determined to do better, cultivating patience and a willingness to coach her clients through the process.

“I knew there were people out there who needed a Realtor that would listen, educate them, and be patient and understanding,” Mares said. “When I’m educating my clients, I think to myself, ‘How would I explain this to my mom?’”

Mares’ current game plan for success:

  • Figure out your goals: There are three main things I’m doing that makes me effective: focusing on the lead generation that I enjoy, educating my clients and taking care of my mental and physical self. That means working out when I feel up for it, spending time with family and friends, and saying “no” to certain clients and opportunities.
  • Focus on enjoyable lead generation: My two main types of prospecting are hosting open houses and social media. I genuinely enjoy those two things, which makes me happy to work on gaining leads, which means it is sustainable. If door-knocking was my biggest source of leads, I’d be miserable because I don’t like door-knocking! So my advice is to find something that works for you, and stick with it. 
  • Educate clients upfront: Before I work with a buyer we meet for an hour to an hour and a half so that I can educate them on the market, the homebuying process, and how I work with my clients. It saves me a ton of time moving forward so I don’t need to re-explain things over and over while we’re submitting an offer. For sellers, your listing presentation should be a mini-class in selling a home. It will gain their trust so that they’ll step back and let you do what you do best — selling their home for top dollar! 
  • Be authentic: I would advise other Realtors to be their true authentic selves, especially with our millennial clients. They will trust you more easily if they feel as though they know you. The younger generation doesn’t want to feel as though they’re being sold to. They want to feel a real authentic connection with someone and to know that someone has their back.

Vision and goal-setting

Alexa Kebalo Hughes, RE/MAX Right Choice, South Windsor, Connecticut

Alexa Kebalo Hughes

With a mother who is a real estate agent — and her partner — you might say that entrepreneurship and real estate are running through Alexa Kebalo Hughes’ bloodstream.

Aside from being a “DOB: daughter of a broker,” Hughes’ father has an electrical business, is a builder, and has a home inspection business. His father came from Ukraine and built a business as a carpenter while her mother’s father still works six days a week in his printing business at 70-plus years old. 

“I really believe being from an entrepreneurial family has greatly informed who I am today,” Hughes said. “We say you either rise to your potential or sink into your comfort zone. Every day you are challenged and made to be uncomfortable — that is where your potential for growth resides. There is no ceiling, and there is no floor to entrepreneurship.”

Hughes compares pushing yourself professionally to doing planks at the gym. “If you’re doing planks and you’re shaking, that discomfort pushes your body to grow stronger,” she said. “It’s the same thing with going and introducing yourself to someone new — if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably the right thing to do.”

Hughes’ current game plan for success:

  • Leverage video: I utilize video communications on a daily basis, not only on Facebook where I send promotional videos to the masses, but with tools like BombBomb where I’m able to send one-to-one videos. In the time it would take for me to write an email, I’m able to more effectively communicate with my clients. It’s the closest you can get to face-to-face communication while allowing you to respond in a timely manner.
  • Create and maintain a strong network: I’ve been in the business for eight years, and right off the bat I got involved in my local Young Professionals Network (YPN). They say your network is your net worth, and that is so true. If you surround yourself with the best in the business, you absorb from the people you spend the most time with.
  • Give back: I believe that the best and the brightest volunteer. By volunteering with your local and state association, you surround yourself with the best and the brightest in the industry.
  • Get involved with your association: When you’re involved with your association you are on top of the latest trends, and you’re always in the know. When you are involved and engaged, you’re able to better represent your clients and have a more fulfilling career.

Cultural perspective and a bridge to the global market

Jing Fang, Climb Real Estate, San Francisco, California

Jing Fang 

Having grown up with her family in a 300-sqare-foot apartment in Shanghai, China, gave Jing Fang a unique perspective on real estate and the different assumptions and expectations that clients from various cultures bring to the table. 

After moving to the U.S. in 2012 to pursue a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, the 29-year-old relocated to the Bay Area and launched her real estate career.

“San Francisco is a global city, and we have a growing market that attracts a lot of international investors,” she said. 

Her background in China and her experience emigrating to the U.S. has helped her “understand the process of purchasing and selling properties from the clients’ perspective, especially if they are foreign nationals,” Fang said.

“I believe the future of San Francisco real estate is going to be global with the help of technology. Having the international perspective translates to understanding different global real estate markets and having the ability to convey that information to sellers and buyers and bridge the barriers to communications.”

Fang’s current game plan for success:

  • Know what is being sold on the market for what price to convert leads into clients: This also helps you communicate with clients to inform them of the best strategies to move forward. 
  • Have a lead funnel system in place: From the first touch point to closing, make sure clients are taken care of every step of the way. 
  • Build trust with clients by looking into the details: Attention to detail sets me apart from a lot of other agents. I pay attention to a lot of details regarding the property’s disclosures and sometimes can uncover information that sellers and buyers are unaware of. This helps me to gain more trust from my clients. 
  • Learn how to work efficiently and use your time wisely: Having a CRM system in place can help you be more organized and follow up with clients more effectively. It’s the brain for the business. 
  • Create a solid business plan, and set goals: I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a goal and plan and to follow through with it. Break down the details to achieve your goal, and believe in the process. 
  • Take care of the financial aspects of the business: Have a tax accountant who specializes in 1099 tax returns. Having someone who can help write off proper business expenses can go a long way toward the financial health of your business.

How do you stay ahead in a changing market? Inman Connect Las Vegas — Featuring 250+ experts from across the industry sharing insight and tactics to navigate threat and seize opportunity in tomorrow’s real estate. Join over 4,000 top producers, brokers and industry leaders to network and discover what’s next, July 23-26 at the Aria Resort. Hurry! Tickets are going fast, register today!

Thinking of bringing your team? There are special onsite perks and discounts when you buy tickets together. Contact us to find out more.


Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook or Twitter.

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