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At Inman, we love bringing you stories of agents who are innovating and succeeding in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places. In our Lesson Learned column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.

The best part of connecting with and interviewing agents is finding out that their paths are so different and unique. Some start out in real estate because their parents talked about it each night at the dinner table. Others took a winding path to get there after trying out a variety of other jobs.

In the same way, the key to success is different for different agents. For some, it’s all about people-pleasing while for others, attention to detail and knowing the numbers are fundamental. Some focus on their market while others focus on the transaction or a specific outreach strategy. In short, there are as many ways to do real estate as there are agents doing real estate.

However you do real estate — or if you’re just starting out and looking for some inspiration — you’re sure to find some virtual mentors among these 15 agents. Learn from their stories of both defeat and triumph and apply the takeaways to your own business. You’re sure to come away with a nugget or two you can use to improve your practice in 2023.

Lesson Learned: Celebrate at the closing

When Michael Lorber says he has always been in real estate, he means it, starting out in childhood by dragging his father to open houses. As a broker and global real estate consultant with Douglas Elliman, and one of the original cast members of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a professional career in New York real estate.

As a co-founding partner of the Michael Lorber Team at Douglas Elliman, Alexander Boriskin has represented listings in some of the city’s most iconic buildings. However, he has found that even the smaller deals can have a big impact on your real estate career.

Find out how Lorber learns to temper his enthusiasm for the business with a realistic view of what it takes to succeed long term, and how Boriskin learned to make consistent follow-up pay off big time. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Focus on clients more than transactions

With a background on Wall Street and two decades as a resident of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Compass’s Kimberly Jay offers service that has been recognized for its exceptional impact. She’s the recipient of the Pinnacle Award for excellence and is a Real Estate Board of New York Certified Negotiation Expert.

Find out how she learned that when it comes to real estate, it’s less about the transaction and more about the person standing in front of you. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

Luxury real estate agent Brandon Zellers of Destin, Florida’s Spears Group, has had an exceptional first year in real estate. After earning his real estate license, he was the recipient of an award from Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty for agents who achieved $15 million-plus in sales in 2021.

After moving from Kansas City, Missouri, to Florida’s Emerald Coast in 2019 — after years of spending summers there with his father, who was in the military — Zellers began to pursue a variety of entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors. At the same time, he started working to lose weight, stop drinking and rid his life of toxic energy.

Today, he celebrates his sobriety as the “biggest accomplishment in his life” and that one-way ticket to Destin that was supposed to be “only a vacation” as a game-changing opportunity. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Stop trying to game the market

A native of Miami, Jaclyn Bild learned the ins and outs of the industry early on from her family’s property management and real estate business. With an extensive local network and rock-solid market knowledge, she is a valuable resource to her Douglas Elliman family and a recipient of the Diamond Circle, reserved for DE’s top 3 percent of agents nationally.

Find out why she says guessing games don’t work when it comes to real estate. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Look at every deal as an opportunity to do more business

As the Chestler Jacobs Team at Douglas Elliman, Jess Chestler and Ben Jacobs work with clients from their NYC backyard all the way to sunny South Florida. They formed their partnership based on friendship — with each other as well as with each of their clients — and it has paid dividends in the form of hundreds of millions in sales.

Along the way, they’ve learned time and again that it doesn’t matter how big or small the individual transaction may be; every deal has the potential to grow into something truly extraordinary. Read more.

Lesson Learned: What goes around comes around

Born in New York City and a lifelong resident, Coldwell Banker Warburg Associate Broker Ellen Sykes truly knows the city like the back of her hand. In fact, she’s even made her mark on it in a tangible way, as one of the few Certified Citizen Pruners, licensed to prune the trees on the streets of New York in all boroughs.

Over the years, Sykes has learned that the way you treat people can have an impact far beyond the current moment. Find out how she learned that what goes around truly comes around, especially in real estate. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Put everything in writing

Compass’s Andrew J. Feldman comes by his ability to handle high-pressure situations in not one, but two ways: As the child of a New York City real estate investor, he grew up knowing the ins and outs of the business. As a former chef, he learned to handle it when things get hot in the kitchen.

A lifelong New Yorker, Feldman loves spending time exploring the city and volunteers in organizations for children with cancer and with wounded veterans. Find out how he learned that when it comes to deal-making, getting everything in writing is essential. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Don’t expect a hiccup-free transaction

Award-winning Associate Real Estate Broker Lisa Chajet of Coldwell Banker Warburg started out in PR and marketing and now ranks among NYC’s top producing agents. She has been called an encyclopedia of knowledge about her city and its real estate markets, giving her exceptional expertise in both pricing and gauging market conditions.

Find out why, with all of her experience and expertise, she says there’s no such thing as an “easy” transaction. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Forget the commission

Award-winning NYC broker Leslie J. W. Singer leads a team that has repeatedly been No. 1 in sales for Brown Harris Stevens. She differentiates her services through tough negotiating, tailored marketing and down-deep knowledge of the difficult application processes for New York City nursery schools, secondary institutions and colleges. In fact, she frequently leads workshops on these topics, making her an invaluable resource for homebuyers with children.

Learn more about the roots of Singer’s service-oriented approach and how she found out that putting the commission last can do great things for your business. Read more.

Lesson Learned: There’s only one you

After a decades-long career in publishing, Jane Katz of Coldwell Banker Warburg turned her talents and in-depth knowledge of New York City’s neighborhoods into a career in real estate. Her talents in the field come naturally: Her father was a real estate developer who transformed Rio Rancho, New Mexico, from several barren ranches into the state’s third-largest city.

Find out how Katz turned her experience in sales and marketing into a powerhouse real estate business. Read more.

Lesson Learned: You are the brand

With more than two decades as a full-time Realtor, Dave Nimick, team leader of The Nimick Team and broker with Keller Williams Momentum, has been recognized among the top producers in his Chicago market. He has earned the Five-Star Professional Award all 12 years it has been offered in his area and represented the highest-priced listing in his office’s history.

Find out what lessons he’s learned along the way — and what he thinks other real estate agents need to know to flourish in the always-competitive industry. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Your vibe attracts your tribe

Alexandra Peters brings a truly global perspective to her work with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. She has been selling real estate in Miami for nearly two decades and is bilingual in German and English.

Peters uses her professional background in international sales, marketing and PR to create a customized approach to match the specific needs of her clients as part of the brokerage’s International Division.

Find out how her background created a roadmap that has led her to her current role. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Preparation is the recipe for success

As an exclusive sales executive at ONE Park Tower by Turnberry and an agent with nearly a decade of South Florida real estate experience, Tania Weiss brings a truly global perspective to her practice. Having lived in both Peru and Canada, she offers a world of expertise to her clients with an emphasis on her specialty in development projects. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Put your focus on the follow up

As a previously practicing Doctor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr. Adrian Burke believes that the health of his clients’ investments is second in importance only to their personal health. A native of the island of Jamaica, Burke has lived in Miami for two decades and appreciates the area’s diversity and global appeal.

With a focus on both international client transactions and luxury properties, Burke puts his background and professional experience to work on behalf of clients while representing his city with the Miami Board of Realtors at conventions in China, Brazil and Canada. Find out how he found his passion and what he has learned in his years in the industry. Read more.

Lesson Learned: Stop focusing on the one-hit wonders

Having grown up in the Netherlands, Miami Beach real estate agent Joan Bruggink developed a keen interest in nature and sustainability that still informs her work, with its focus on modern luxury.

A content creator with an extensive background in both development and marketing, she has collaborated with luxury hotels, real estate, interior and lifestyle brands worldwide. Her global authority is a distinct advantage in the far-reaching and always competitive luxury real estate space.

Find out why Bruggink believes that when it comes to nurturing your client base, it’s better to be in it for the long haul than to spend all of your time on one-and-done deals. Read more.

Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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