In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
When COVID-19 shutdowns began to affect markets across the country, real estate agents were forced to adjust their marketing, management and operations practically overnight. For those who lacked robust professional networks and support, the transition was, in many cases, more difficult.
For the women of Charleston’s Maison Real Estate — co-founders Leslie Turner, Mary Lou Wertz and Olga Page — the lessons learned from almost a decade of close collaboration were put to good use, keeping deals together and continuing to make real estate dreams into reality. In this email interview compiled by the three co-founders, find out how they put their past experiences to work in the wild new post-COVID world.
How long have you been in the business?
We have about 25 years of collective experience in the real estate business between our leadership team. We all originally got into real estate as a side business at the recommendation of friends or on a referral basis. Leslie was practicing law, Mary Lou was renovating homes, and Olga was in pharmaceutical sales.
In 2011, things were just starting to turn around after the recession, and Charleston was finally on people’s radar screens. Friends of friends were moving here, and we all wanted to personally work with them in finding their new homes. The more we helped friends, we became passionate about real estate and helping others and got so busy with friends and clients moving here that we started focusing more and more on residential real estate and never looked back.
One successful closing — that client who bought the first house you showed them even after they had looked at more than 40 properties — provided the validation that we could translate what our clients wanted, that we knew the market, and we loved being able to be a large part of allowing people to realize their dreams.
The three of us were very lucky to meet each other very early on in our real estate careers. We quickly realized that we shared the same values, work ethic and attitudes about client relationships. We are thrilled that we have been able to start our own firm and brand that reflects those attributes.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
We believe that Maison will be the dominant boutique real estate firm in the greater Charleston market. Especially in this new world, forever altered by COVID-19, buyers and sellers are relying more and more on expertise and service. The three of us work so well together and have assembled a terrific team of agents who all truly stand behind our business model of quality over quantity, not based on volume but on the quality of our transactions, properties and the service we provide to our clients.
Maison has adapted quickly to this new reality as our business model was already about offering a very high level of concierge service, which is something that has always set us apart. This has always been the case, but especially during the pandemic when we have been selling multiple properties sight-unseen, these services have increased; and we have met moving trucks, stocked refrigerators, power-washed exteriors, and replaced HVAC systems — all in a day’s work!
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
Flexibility. Change is the one constant that can be depended on, and nothing is over until it’s over. To this end, transparency and communication are the keys to building trust and achieving success.
How did you learn it?
This has been especially true in 2020, with the year starting out with a bang with robust sales, then hitting the brakes with the COVID-19 outbreak, then rebounding as markets opened back up. When the coronavirus outbreak started, we were just trying to get our pending deals over the finish line.
Both buyers and sellers were nervous and anxious about the market, about their health, and about their homes. Buyers wanted to walk away from multimillion dollar house contracts. Sellers rethought their situation and wanted to stay in their homes. Some people’s financing fell apart virtually overnight.
You have to learn to pivot and to manage a lot of emotions in residential real estate sales. You also have to always be thinking of new and improved ways to communicate, to market, and to provide a valuable service to your clients. Even at the closing table, when you think the deal is done, your relationship with that client continues — and we continue to provide valued service to our new friends and neighbors.
What advice would you give to new agents?
Find an experienced, kind and generous broker as a mentor, and learn everything you can from that person. No two real estate deals are alike, and an experienced mentor can help guide you through potential pitfalls, advise you on any obstacles that come up during the contract period, help you manage clients’ expectations and generally teach you a world of real estate you can never learn except through doing and experiencing the transactions. Work hard, communicate, be kind, and never be afraid to ask questions.
Do you want to be featured on an upcoming “Lesson Learned” column? Reach out to us here!
Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagr