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Inman Diaries is a weekly feature tracking the day-to-day activities of America’s leading real estate agents — in their own words over the course of a seven-day week. In our latest installment, Hillary Ryan, founder of the Hillary Ryan Group in Napa Valley, California, balances work, family and physical fitness in Wine Country one week before Christmas.


8:45 a.m. Wake up, have breakfast with family. I try to take advantage of the relatively calmer weekend days to spend quality time with my husband, boys and our two dogs.

Hillary Ryan | Courtesy Hillary Ryan

10 a.m. Connect with buyer to review all information gathered in due diligence and review final steps in their vineyard estate acquisition. This is a complex $6 million property with an 8,000-square-foot home, guest house, a well, septic system, detached four-car garage, seven acres of vineyard and additional acres that could potentially be developed into a vineyard pending Napa County approvals. There are many complexities to untangle and it feels like a nice accomplishment to finalize the request for credit, which I will present to the sellers later. My excellent assistant drafts the requisite documents and sends for DocuSign on the spot.

10:30 a.m. Coffee with friends before we head over to Orangetheory together.

11:45 a.m. Exercise. I try to mix in online Peloton bike and treadmill sessions with my new favorite class, which is a combo of bike, circuit training, rowing and other exercises. I like the competitive, yet supportive nature of the group classes.

2 p.m. I get word the sellers are not comfortable with the dollar amount of the counter and they counter. I call the buyer to explain the counter offer and help him understand their point of view. I always try to explain the reasoning and perspective behind a given offer, as it often helps both parties find a reasonable compromise. Buyer agrees to credit plus an added $10,000. Fortunately, sellers agree and we are now pending! It has been a challenging transaction and I am elated to see the path towards a successful closing. 

Now all we have left is to negotiate the furniture to be sold. Typically, if the buyer and seller want to include furniture as part of the sale, I try to postpone that tricky negotiation until we’re in pending status. Parties can get emotional about furniture so I work hard to separate the negotiations and remind clients to keep focused on the big ticket item: the real estate.

5 p.m. Toast to my clients with my husband — with my favorite Napa Valley bubbles — and later we have our Sunday family dinner.


8 a.m. Connect with agents from New York regarding exciting winery referral for a contact of theirs in Hong Kong. Also, a good friend and agent based in San Francisco reached out to me to ask if I would represent their long-time friend who hopes to buy a vineyard property in Oakville. The winery referral stemmed from my social media presence. My marketing coordinator helps me stay very active on Instagram and Facebook, and it is great to have direct results!

10 a.m. Clean up my email inbox and return calls.

12 p.m. Head to Orangetheory. One of my personal goals is to exercise six times per week.

2 p.m. Office work. Meet with assistant to design and order holiday card for clients, friends, and referral partners, prepare a listing presentation for meeting scheduled for the day after Christmas. I help choose the pictures, layout, and copy. He will then upload all the addresses and order online. He will also later stamp, seal and mail them. I have amazing support!

4:30 p.m. Get final approval from lender and submit the final contingency removal to get a $4 million-plus deal pending! Working with a new lender presents opportunities for patience, as this particular one was very conservative in giving the green light to remove contingencies and it went several days past our contractual deadline. I worked hard to communicate often with the seller’s agent — the delay brought unnecessary stress to this otherwise seamless transaction. 


7 a.m. Hop on the Peloton bike.

8 a.m. Review disclosures with one of my favorite agents in Napa regarding her private listing, a vineyard property that produces 100-point wines. The property is an ideal match for my new client, the referral I received just yesterday.

9 a.m. Cryotherapy appointment, then hair appointment, as I draft a new listing agreement and revise copy for listing launch. It’s funny but I have to admit, my salon appointments are often when I get the most computer-based work done because I’m stuck without being able to use the telephone for at least an hour! 

10:30 a.m. Drive to San Francisco for annual Realtor luncheon hosted by First Republic Bank. Connect with one past client, one active client, and one excellent referral partner. The speaker explains why he does NOT expect a recession in 2020. I have a degree in economics so I enjoy following trends and keeping current on market dynamics that will impact my clients.

2:30 p.m. Race back to Napa to meet at title company for signing with clients on $4 million property that went pending yesterday and is set to close before the holidays. They are a local family with two teenagers and I’m so thrilled because this house is a perfect fit!  Meanwhile, my assistant is preparing marketing materials for a new $9 million property we’re bringing to market in the next week.

3 p.m. Take son to orthodontist and order food for the holiday dinners we’ll be hosting this year.

4 p.m. Conference call regarding a hotel listing that should launch in the spring of 2020. Hotel and commercial listings are often customized and require several iterations of review. We’re getting close to terms and I’m excited to get started with our marketing in early 2020.

6 p.m. Dinner with my (very patient) husband in Yountville to celebrate holidays, pending deals and enjoy some down-time.


5:45 a.m. Respond to emails, dress, finish packing, feed sons and self. My older son is in finals and his mood is less than cheery so I tried to pick up his spirits with his favorite foods. Big day ahead!

8 a.m. Drop son at school and return client calls.

9 a.m. Final walk-through with buyers. Closing is tomorrow!

10:30 a.m. Review disclosures and draft purchase documents with financial manager and attorney for vineyard estate buyer. Attorney reviews CAR draft and suggests we extend due diligence and close of escrow, but otherwise we have the green light to submit the offer.

3 p.m. Sign up family for holiday volunteering for families in need. We have an incredible colleague in our Napa Compass office who organizes toys and holiday meals for over 1,000 people in Napa County.


7 a.m. Hop on the Peloton. Only enough time for a short ride this time.

10:30 a.m. Call family buyer to let them know they have closed escrow!

12 p.m. Holiday lunch with my amazing team. Chris, my assistant (or as he calls himself, the vice president or the COO, depending on the day), our marketing coordinator and social media manager, our administrator and our regional manager. I couldn’t survive without them! Frequent positive feedback and special holiday recognition is a must.

3 p.m. Receive a reasonable counteroffer for the large, vineyard property. Review with financial manager, recommend accepting as-is and buyer’s team agrees. Chris sends docs for signature and we are in contract! 


8 a.m. Hop on the Peloton.

10:30 a.m. Unusually quiet morning. A great opportunity to catch up on administrative needs for family and work and respond to clients and colleagues.

12 p.m. Lunch meeting with a potential client. An impressive local developer is interviewing realtors for his next few luxury developments. I have a great deal of experience in the luxury spec-build segment in Napa Valley so it was a great opportunity to share ideas and vet how we would best work together.

1:30 p.m. Meet with a non-profit organization regarding a workforce housing development that is underway. Napa County has a housing shortage and the opportunity to help the community is an honor.

3 p.m. Off to the airport with my older son for a quick vacation in Hawaii. I had three conference calls set up for the drive to San Francisco International Airport (my son knows more about Napa real estate than most!).


9 a.m. It’s the weekend . . . clients must be busy with holiday festivities and so am I! Enjoy time with son in Hawaii while sneaking in an occasional morning call to my assistant who is monitoring all deals.

Ryan is based in the Napa Valley Compass office and focuses on helping her clients transact wine country property including residential, vineyard and land development opportunities. Over the past 22 years, she has had a wide range of real estate experience including brokerage, banking and commercial real estate investment. In 2015, Ryan was recognized as one of the top 100 real estate professionals in the United States by REAL Trends. In 2017 and 2018 she was again named to the Top 200.

Inman Diaries is a weekly feature tracking the day-to-day activities of America’s leading real estate agents and brokers. To submit a diary, please send requests to Diary@Inman.com.

Are you ready for what the industry holds in 2020? Inman Connect New York is your key to unlocking opportunity in a changing market. At Connect you will gain insight into the future, discover new strategies and network with real estate’s best and brightest to accelerate your business. Create your 2020 success story at Inman Connect New York, January 28-31, 2019.

Agenda | Speakers | Past Connect Videos

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

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