Inman events are the best way to connect. Gain insights and build your network this October at the virtual Inman Connect where we’ll explore the Industry’s Playbook for the Fall Market. Then, join us in January for Inman Connect New York, in person or virtually. Reserve your tickets now, prices will go up!
Nearly 20 years ago Fredrik Eklund, Julia Spillman and John Gomes were young and hungry agents testing the validity of one of Frank Sinatra’s most famous lines: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere; it’s up to you, New York, New York.”
With grit, perseverance and some luck, all three were able to rise to the top of the city’s uber-competitive luxury real estate industry and create one of Douglas Elliman’s top teams, Eklund Gomes.
“I think we’re very lucky, the three of us,” Eklund said with a megawatt smile while seated next to his team members on the Luxury Connect stage Tuesday. “Going back 20 years, when I first moved to New York — that’s how old I am — I was a newbie and I didn’t know anybody.”
“But as soon as I started doing deals, I realized it’s a very lonely business. The highs are high and the lows are low,” he added. “I was alone because I left my family. So meeting John, then eventually meeting Julia and becoming best friends, and this partnership allowed us to have a lot of fun, which I think is really key to success in real estate.”
“Even this room feels very serious. It’s high pressure, big money, and these clients are crazy. If you can’t laugh, you’re going to become bitter.”
Gomes and Spillman echoed Eklund and noted that having fun is a core value for their team, with each member making time to create lighthearted moments inside and outside of the office. “Laughing about things makes everything so much easier,” Gomes said.
Although they’ve certainly abided by the idea that “laughter is the best medicine,” all three said their journey hasn’t been all giggles.
Gomes, Spillman and Eklund have all helped each other through challenging times, such as Eklund struggling with the cost of leaving his family in Sweden to find success in the states and Gomes struggling to handle the thorns of the business as a newbie.
“It’s kind of like getting married,” Eklund said of choosing the right business partner. “It’s like winning the lottery if you get the right person, but it wasn’t easy. Those are not easy things to put into place.”
Spillman was the last to join the bunch with her husband becoming a fan of Eklund during his stint on Million Dollar Listing New York.
“I was so drawn to them and I would always see them,” she said. “One of my favorite stories is John actually took the first picture that I have of Fredrik and myself — it was for my husband [who] was a big fan of Fredrik during the first season and they were just so approachable.”
Equally enamored with Spillman, Gomes and Eklund realized she was the missing piece of their team and recruited her to become the sales director for one of their largest projects.
“All the rest is history,” Gomes said of Spillman, who is now the CEO of their namesake team.
All three said their seamless synergy has enabled them to grow Eklund Gomes beyond their wildest dreams, with Eklund launching REAL, an app that helps real estate agents and clients connect over curated, Instagram-style listing feeds.
“We are in a really good place right now,” Eklund said of the app’s beta launch and his team’s sales volume which hit $4.6 billion last year.
Although the Eklund Gomes team is riding high, Spillman said none of them are taking their success for granted, especially as the market heads into a precarious time filled with uncertainty. With that in mind, she said the team is focused on keeping a diverse book of business that will yield results even in a slowing market.
“I think one of the things that’s very different from the business of a lot of agents, and we talked about this early on, is the new development,” she said. “That really keeps our pipeline very different than the traditional reselling business.”
“The opening and closing both happens pretty fast [and] the pipeline business of these developments is a little bit of like the gift that keeps on giving,” she added. “So this year, while it might be a little hard to keep those numbers, we have some amazing projects in LA in New York that are closing now and will keep those numbers incredibly healthy for us.”
In addition to shoring up their pipelines with various business opportunities, Gomes, Spillman and Eklund said they’re also shoring up their pipelines with opportunities for fun and reflection, including team trips to Italy and Miami.
“I feel like the milestones in our career as a team have come during the market shift, and market shifts create opportunities to sort of take an introspective look at yourself and your business and ask, ‘Where do I want it to be?'” Gomes said.
“I believe that this is just a pause in the market; it just could not continue on that trajectory — I think it was 18 consecutive record-breaking months one after the other,” he added. “But this gives us an opportunity to say how do I really take it to the next step.”
Lastly, all three encouraged agents to reflect on themselves outside of their careers and to make sure they’re happy with not only their career but their lives and who they’ve become.
“I feel like I wasted so many years trying to be what my clients wanted me to be,” Gomes said. ” But spending more time with [Spillman and Eklund] allows me to be unabashedly me. So just focus on being yourself and having fun.”