Record inflation, rising mortgage rates, crumbling affordability and souring consumer sentiment have painted a bleak picture for the upcoming year, with agents and brokerages preparing for the worst.
While its competitors have taken a more somber tone with their recent conferences, eXp Realty’s four-day EXPCON has been bright and punchy, with speakers giving their best advice for success in front of a star-splattered backdrop that reflects the conference’s space theme.
EXp World Holdings CEO Glenn Sanford used Wednesday and Thursday’s general sessions to set himself as the ever-optimistic mission leader, ready to launch his agents and company into greater success even as they navigate a market as tough as the Apollo 11 mission.
“This is a huge moment to come together,” he said during his brief welcome speech on Wednesday. “Some of you heard last night, that 17 years ago as an agent at another company, my first real estate conference was right here at the Mandalay Bay. And now we are here, changing the real estate industry as we know it.”
“Now is the time to build for your future,” he added. “You’ll hear me say this a lot, but as the most agent-centric real estate brokerage on the planet, your success is our success.”
From there, Sanford yielded the stage to a lineup of nearly 50 speakers who shared their best advice for creating success in a down market. Here are the top highlights from what they said:
Lesson 1: Go deep, not wide
Famed real estate coach Jon Cheplak kicked off his session with a passionate recounting of his battle with addiction that threatened his life and business. At one time, Cheplak said, his greatest hope was the possibility of getting and maintaining a janitorial job at Mandalay Bay, the site for EXPCON.
“It was . It wasn’t a really good time,” he said. “I said to myself, 21 years in this business — door knocking, cold calling, FSBOs, expireds and recruiting. Finished. I’m going to be a janitor in that building.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being a janitor. There’s nothing wrong with being a garbage man. There’s nothing wrong with scraping gum off the concrete. What’s important is excellence,” he added. “Then life comes full circle. I’m sitting here on the stage today.”
As a risk of a recession and losing precious progress looms heavy, Cheplak encouraged agents to commit themselves to excellence even if their databases grow thin. In moments of difficulty, he said, it’s more important to go deep than wide.
“We’re gonna go deep because to grow a business, you’ve got to go deep, not wide. You got to go deep within yourself. You got to go deep within your business,” he said. “And that’s where the growth is.”
Cheplak told agents to eschew the trappings of success and focus on how to contribute more to their communities, which he said is a crucial step in building trust and showing people who you are.
“The consumer wants to know front and center how your product or a product and output of your product impacts the community,” he said. “The best marketing is psychological, emotional and bonds with human beings.”
Lesson 2: Change your mindset
The second session of the day featured eXp Realty North America President Dave Conord and top producers Jennifer Jones and Steve Johnstone, all of whom shared tips on how to thrive during a market shift.
Jennifer Jones Team leader Jennifer Jones seemed to captivate the audience the most with her rousing advice about mindset management being the single greatest factor in success.
“The truth is what you’re thinking is actually what you are manifesting. Your brain doesn’t recognize what is real and what is not. Right?” she said. “So who here has been to a horror flick? And what happens to your body as you’re watching the movie? Your palms sweat, and you’re breathing faster. So the truth is that your body physiologically is responding to what you’re seeing, right?”
Jones encouraged agents to stay attuned to market trends and data, but not allow those trends to discourage them from investing all they have into their business.
“You can have a negative thought, but you need to slingshot it off and replace it with a positive thought,” she said. “You need to grow your tree of positive thoughts. And by doing this, I can guarantee you you will have success.”
Lesson 3: Embrace diversity
TEAMFAST founder Kenny Truong has spent the past decade dominating the San Francisco Bay area with billions of dollars in lifetime sales. Although astute business skills and a move to eXp have helped fast-track his growth, Truong said his dedication to diversity is the secret sauce.
“We always promote diversity in our team,” he said. “Just a couple of days ago we did something that’s never been done in the industry before. We had something called an F-it night. The F — you’ve got to know what that is.”
“We had couches, a super intimate setting. People went on stage like a TED Talk. They actually talked about the worst experiences in real estate,” he added. “From that event alone, six agents came up to me and said ‘Hey, I want to join your team. I’ve been looking at your team for a couple of months now.'”
Troung said that event perfectly showcased the diversity of thought and experiences at TEAMFAST, which helps current team members and potential recruits see there’s a place for them to grow as agents and as people.
Although the goal “isn’t really to recruit,” these events have been the catalyst for Truong’s team’s growth, which now includes more than 550 agents and staff who have completed nearly $880 million in sales over the past 12 months.
“You have to create experiences,” he said. “We’ve done a women’s panel, a Black women’s panel, a Latinas in real estate panel, dad’s panel for Father’s Day. We constantly do bring these events to bring people into our environment and bring them together.”
Lesson 4: Don’t let life discourage you
Tarek El Moussa has had a dream real estate career complete with several primetime shows on HGTV and a successful business flipping homes in some of Southern California’s uber-competitive markets. However, a public divorce and two bouts of cancer threatened all that El Moussa had worked for.
“Action creates opportunity. If you’re not taking action, there’s no opportunity. We thought [HGTV] was gonna burn us off the air because one of the executives didn’t think [Flip or Flop] was good for the network. But, something special happened.”
“The next day the ratings came out, and we had broken every record for HGTV in that time slot, and then we became the number one watched house flipping show in history,” he added. “We ran ‘Flip or Flop’ for 10 seasons, and I was diagnosed with cancer.”
El Moussa said HGTV executives encouraged him to stop filming; however, he didn’t want to let an illness stop him from fully living his life.
“I’m a two-time cancer survivor,” he said. “I filmed through the entire thing. If you watch the show, I was like an accordion. I gained 60 pounds, I lost 50 pounds, I gained 60 pounds, but I never gave up. That taught me that you have just to do it and do it for you.”
“You need to make the decision now. We’re not getting any younger,” he added. “This is the youngest we will ever be.”
Lesson 5: Stop searching for ‘magic tricks’
Real estate entrepreneur Elena Cardone seems to have it all — a successful sales and coaching business, a best-selling memoir, and a $5.2 billion real estate portfolio with her husband, Grant.
Although she may seem like an overnight success, Cardone said the key to building a long-lasting career is avoiding shortcuts.
“Interest rates are going up [and] inventory is going to be growing, which means there’s going to be a lot of homes not selling,” she said. “That means there’s an opportunity for expired listings, right? So if I were you, I would focus on expired listings.”
“I would mail them, I would knock them, I would call them 30 to 50 times each and every single day,” she said. “There is no magic trick. Your job is to find the needle in the haystack. You just need to talk to enough people.”
If making 50 calls every day seems like an impossible task, Cardone said that’s the time to build a team that will help you effectively scale.
“Nobody builds an empire alone. I had always thought I had to do it all alone,” she said. “When you cap out [on your production] if you have your team and your people, they are there to help you lift you to higher levels of success.”
Lesson 6: Embrace the process
A new agent once asked Chuck Fazio how to build a business. Fazio, an associate broker and team leader at eXp Realty, recounted the experience Thursday while on stage at EXPCON, saying that he told the agent to “go sit open houses.” But the agent soon came back describing less-than-stellar results.
“They go, ‘it sucked, I have no results,” Fazio recalled.
“I said, ‘how many times did you do it?’” They agent then gave a telling response: “Once.”
Fazio recounted the story in an effort to encourage agents to “embrace the process.” Or in other words, work hard and keep at it.
“Embrace the process, embrace the grind, embrace the work,” Fazio said, adding that working hard and sticking with the process is especially important now, as the market shifts into new and more challenging territory. And he added, there are no quick fixes or shortcuts. “Seize the moment,” he concluded.
Lesson 7: Don’t hold onto the negativity
Before being invited to speak at EXPCON, Houston-based team leader Frank Gray said he had a dream about Grammy-award winner and cultural icon, Tina Turner. In the dream, Gray said Turner sauntered across the stage in her famous red fringe and sequined dress and belted out tune after tune to a nearly empty crowd.
When Gray woke up, he said he was initially confused by the seemingly random dream. However, after a few days of thought, he realized Turner – who experienced tragedy after tragedy including domestic violence – embodied an important lesson for the current moment.
“Tina Turner didn’t allow negative external factors to influence who she was,” Gray said. We can not get mired and stuck. We will never move forward until we let that go and see the bright future that’s in front of every one of us.”
“Tina Turner knew that,” she added. “Did you know that in her life she experienced literal physical abuse, a cheating husband, and even a suicide attempt? And yet she went on to win 12 Grammy awards, sell $100 million in records and become known as the Queen of Rock and Roll. She proved that what is in front of us is so much more important than what is behind us.”
Gray advised attendees not to absorb negative headlines about rising mortgage rates, record inflation or slowing buyer demand. Instead, he said, it’s more important to focus on building a brighter future.
“It’s time to lock in,” he said.
Lesson 8: Always be collaborating
Terrance C. Murphy Sr. urged agents Thursday to focus on collaboration.
Murphy, an eXp Realty agent who appeared on the EXPCON stage, said that independent real estate brokers are effectively “on an island,” but that being a part of a company like his allows him to focus on “collaboration over competition.”
“The goal is to see all the boats rise, and that’s what we’re building here at eXp,” Murphy said.
He went on to say that everyone wants to be inspired, but that what agents really want is to have access to the same opportunities and tools that their leaders used to achieve success.
“We’re not competing with other people we’re competing with the people in the mirror,” he added.
Keely Rich, another eXp agent who appeared on stage with Murphy, also encouraged agents to collaborate. And she added that agents need to consider who they are and what they’re offering people who might join their teams.
“You want to be the person that you want to attract,” Rich said.
Lesson 9: Authenticity is a must
Top-producing agents Will Grimes, Gogo Bethke and Chastin Miles have all found immense success on social media, each boasting six-figure follower counts.
Although social media has mostly become a game of pay-to-play, Grimes, Bethke and Miles said there’s one thing agents can do that doesn’t cost a dollar: be authentic.
“There’s no hiding me. There’s no hiding my brand. I’m a prior Special Operations Marine and something that’s huge in the Marine Corps is integrity, being consistent and being honest and being a professional at your craft,” Grimes said. “When I first started I was sleeping in a pantry. If you guys go to the very beginning of my Instagram, I was doing Lyft at night.”
Grimes said being transparent about his journey from Lyft driver to the top 1 percent of agents at eXp. “I was insecure. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it or figure it out or whatever it may be,” he said. “But documenting my story is where I found my ability to be consistent.”
Bethke quipped that she skipped the line when “God was giving out filters,” but she said embracing her personality has yielded amazing results for her team, which has grown to more than 1,000 agents.
“I don’t know how to do anything but be authentic,” she said. “I am looking for the people who are looking for me, and only the way they’re going to find you is if you allow them to get to know
Lesson 10: Focus on the lessons
The second day of general sessions concluded with keynote speaker, Nick Santonastasso, who’s risen to international fame through fitness modeling and motivational speeches based on living with a rare genetic disability.
“What I’ve realized over the 23 years of my life, it’s not the physical body that holds us back. But the biggest disability you can have as a bad mindset,” he said before diving into his hour-long session that included meditation and other mental exercises. “So, I’m here to kick you in the butt with my non-existent leg. You ready?”
Santonastasso said his parents helped him forge a mindset that focused on the lessons within difficult times, versus getting bogged down by roadblocks.
“Who am I going to become because I’m going through this,” he said. “Who do I get to become because I’m going through this? What’s the gift? Nick, find the gift. What are the learnings? What’s the lesson?”
Santonastasso said “the lesson” often comes through your community, which often has the ability to see your strengths and weaknesses more clearly than you.
“The majority of things that are holding you back, you can’t see. They’re unconscious,” he said. “Your brain wants what’s comfortable, what’s certain… Sometimes it takes a different person to see the gift in you.”