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Real Estate Agents Are In High Demand – Learn What It Takes To Be Successful In Today’s Housing Market From Two Superstar Coldwell Banker Agents

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couple hugging in front of home with sold sign

It would be hard to ignore the buzz around housing right now. Homes are selling in the blink of an eye, buyers continue to enjoy historic low mortgage rates and real estate professionals are soaking up opportunities missed from last year’s spring selling season. For many, a career in real estate has never been more enticing as many are seeing the benefits of not having to return to an office in a 9-5 setting, having the ability to create unlimited wealth opportunities, and simply starting something new.

So what does it take to take the leap into a career in real estate and what can be learned from those who are highly successful at it? For two Coldwell Banker Real Estate agents – one a seasoned veteran and one a rookie – their introduction into the real estate industry couldn’t have been more different, but both of their stories offer important lessons for those looking to make it in this competitive but rewarding industry.

Building Strong Foundations

Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Realty in Sarasota, Florida, entered college thinking he wanted to be a veterinarian – real estate was the last thing on his mind. He pursued a double major in biology and chemistry, eventually deciding he wanted to become a medical doctor. But while in college, he became involved in student government and people-oriented projects that allowed him to get his first taste of marketing and promotion.

After graduating college, he got a job as a marketing assistant for a resort called Longboat Key Club, which introduced him to the world of real estate and made him realize he no longer wanted to pursue a medical career. In 1985, Longboat Key Club was acquired by a real estate company that later merged with Coldwell Banker in 2002, and from that day his business has been affiliated with Coldwell Banker. Pettingell has contracted and sold over $2 billion in luxury properties and has been a consistent top producer for over 10 years with Coldwell Banker.

While Erin Lail of Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley in Napa Valley, California, might be considered a “rookie,” as she has four years of experience as a real estate agent, she is far from green. An entrepreneur at heart, she began Honeydew in 2001, a luxury property management agency that provides all facets of estate management and luxury events. Her comfort working with high-net-worth individuals allowed her to build clientele naturally – and soon even local real estate agents were calling for her expertise on how to close deals. After realizing she had passed on $44 million in business over the years, and only had a $50 gift card to show for it, she decided to turn that frustration into action. Through the help of a mentor, she got her real estate license and eventually affiliated with Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley in 2019.

“Boy, was it the best thing I’ve ever done!” Lail says.

As a fifth generation Napa Valley Vintner and with her depth of local knowledge, her insider approach to real estate transactions in the area is unparalleled. Within her first year of affiliation with Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley, she reached the #2 rank, displaying her dedication to making her clients happy.

Technology and Tools Are Essential

No matter which stage of the game you’re in, technology and tools are an essential part of being a successful real estate agent.

Pettingell loves to seek out and test new tools. While not everything has stuck, he likes to try everything to see the options that are available to him – and credits the good ones to his continued success. He likes to visit conferences and trade shows such as the annual National Association of Realtors iOi tech conference and Coldwell Banker’s annual Gen Blue event to get a pulse on the latest trends. “Any time there is an opportunity to be on the cutting edge, it’s where I want to be,” he says.

Lail agrees, and credits Coldwell Banker’s powerful marketing and tech tools with enhancing her client services. She acknowledges that the technology she uses has helped her sell more homes. Tools like Listing Concierge help agents become twice as productive, and agents and teams who added a listing in Exclusive Look saw a 23% increase in gross commission income year over year. Agents like Lail work long hours and being able to streamline services through tech tools helps them save time and be more available to their clients.

Advice from the Experts

Thinking about following in these agents’ footsteps and starting your own career? While real estate is rewarding work, it also takes a lot of hard work. Lail compares being an agent to a 50-layer cake because agents need to be incredibly multifaceted. As an agent, building a stronger sense of community and knowing your local market will take you far because homebuyers are always impressed with rich localized knowledge – something that Lail knows well. “Introduce yourself to people who will become resources – from title companies, banks, insurance companies and construction crews, anyone that will put your name in the local area can become a future client.”

Pettingell’s biggest tip is to seek out a mentor who can provide guidance as you establish footing in the industry. Networking with other agents is beyond valuable, both locally and nationally. He also recommends that agents seek out new, out-of-the-box ideas when it comes to marketing themselves and their brand. Take it from the expert – when he wanted a new way to optimize his marketing strategies, he started his RealTalk web series, which became a hit among viewers. Additionally, although some people believe it’s an easy business, he stresses that success doesn’t come overnight. “One of the things you need in this business is tenacity and the sweat equity and willingness to invest your time into this career,” he says.

The Stars Align – Affiliating with the Perfect Company for You

Lail’s experience building businesses from the ground up has helped her recognize the importance of a great team. While working at her first brokerage, she found herself forced to learn things like giving presentations and writing offers on her own, because there wasn’t a built-in team to support agents. Since joining Coldwell Banker, community has become a significant part of her career. “I finally feel like I have the support, education and team-oriented environment I’ve been looking for,” she says.

Pettingell also believes it’s essential to have a strong brand behind you to establish credibility in your market. He believes the access to education, technology and resources at Coldwell Banker are unparalleled. “In any market, especially in a market like the one we have currently, you need to be able to cast the widest net possible in the shortest amount of time when you take a listing,” he says. He believes that the only way to maximize the exposure of your listing and not leave any money on the table is through partnering with a brand like Coldwell Banker that provides the advanced technology needed to do so.

If you’re ready to start your career in real estate visit coldwellbankercareers.com.

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Real Estate

Ten Best Outdoor Design Trends Of 2021

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A picnic with rattan chairs, pillows, a table and other accessories in a woody outdoor space.

Summer is finally here. If you’re excited to see friends and family, you aren’t the only one. For many of us, this season is sure to be filled with pool parties, patio picnics, and backyard barbecues. So, there has never been a better time than now to refresh your outdoor space. Whether your backyard needs a major overhaul or just some sprucing up, here are the top outdoor design trends of 2021. From the colors you must accessorize with to the design elements that stayed popular from last year, these are all great ways to upgrade your outdoor space.

Painted Details

Bid farewell to the white picket fence and say hello to pink, aqua or any vibrant hue you choose because painted details outdoors is one of the newest trends of 2021 according to Danielle Blundell, Home Director of Apartment Therapy.

This includes everything from fences painted unique colors to custom murals and even painted pool decks. This is also a great DIY project to try. “Exterior paints can be different colors. And you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear. You might have to refresh it seasonally the same way do with decking or your driveway,” she tells me.

This trend may very well be inspired by the Instagram walls that we so popular prior to the pandemic. 

Rattan

We’ve been seeing rattan for several years right now and there’s no chance this trend is going away any time soon. There’s a good reason for this. Rattan is an eco-friendly, high quality material with a timeless aesthetic, according to Janelle Bowers, founder and CEO of Resol Beach. “Rattan is made from natural, sustainable materials that can weather the elements and will last over time. It has been a major trend in outdoor design because it allows us to spend more time outside while enjoying these products, which in turn creates value through memories and experiences.” 

The only caveat to keep in mind is that it can take a little bit of work to maintain. “The best way to care for rattan is treating it like any other piece of furniture. Proper care will ensure the longevity of the natural materials. To maintain the beauty of rattan, clean regularly with a damp, clean cloth and avoid harsh chemicals or oil-based products. When not in use, use a cover to avoid direct sunlight and store in a cool, dark place,” say Bowers.

Broken Plan Layouts

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the open floorplan home isn’t quite as appealing when everyone is home all day every day. The same rules apply to outdoor spaces as well, interior designer and HomeGoods Style Expert, David Quarles tells me. “This summer, creating designated spaces outdoors is just as important as it is indoors, as broken-plan layouts are rising in popularity.”

Fortunately, building out a separate layout for patios and backyards can be easy. “Just use your home’s interior layout as your inspiration. Designing outdoor kitchens, lounge areas and dining ‘rooms’ can be easy and affordable by shopping stores like HomeGoods. My favorite trick is to mix-and-match chairs within matching outdoor dining sets, like I did with this solid teakwood table set I found at HomeGoods, to creatively bring the indoors to your outdoor oasis” he says.

Yellow

We could all use a little extra sunshine and there’s no better way to do this than with the color yellow.

“Yellow is the color of optimism and a beautiful way to add a bit of cheer to any space. Try adding hints of your favorite shade of yellow with weatherproof throw pillows, ceramic vases, or handcrafted baskets like I have on my deck’s lounge area, that I purchased from my local HomeGoods for amazing prices! Yellow is also one of Pantone’s colors of the year,” says Quarles.

Fire Pits

Fire pits were a major trend last year and at one point most major retailers were seemingly sold out. Whether built-in or freestanding, they’re just as popular this year. According to broker Gerard Splendore of Warburg Realty, these accessories are the ideal way to get groups outside and reunite with friends and family.

“The fire pit is a gathering spot seen more frequently this summer, as neighbors and friends get reacquainted after isolating for much of the year. Lighting a fire for immediate family members is just as satisfying as it is for a larger group,” he says.

Outdoor Speakers

Whether it is a hardwired system or a portable Bluetooth speaker, as we say goodbye to Zoom happy hours, music is a great way to create an ambiance. “Outdoor music speakers or portable sound systems are a part of every summer gathering this season, which may not be to everyone’s liking. Loud music late at night is a part of the summer landscape, both urban and beyond, but is more prevalent this year as people congregate outdoors,” says Splendore. While you might enjoy the music, you should still be considerate of your neighbors unless you want to read about it on NextDoor.

Outdoor Kitchens

If you’re considering selling your home, there couldn’t be a better time to install an outdoor kitchen. And if you plan to stay, they’re an easy way to help entertain friends and families, agent Karen Kostiw of Warburg Realty tells me.

“What’s a party without the food? Outdoor kitchens have been built out with all of the bells and whistles: fancy grills and smokers, pizza ovens, refrigerators, etc. It’s still difficult for many people to travel, so they are making their outdoor living spaces into a special oasis.”

Greenery Everywhere

While plants have been a major trend for both indoor and outdoor spaces, it’s becoming popular to integrate greenery into other aspects of design. “A lot of cool treatments you’re seeing include stones and grass mixed together, or pavers and grass mixed together,” Blundell tells me.

In addition to this, she has seen a lot of people installing checkerboard floors outside with pavers. “That’s kind of another big trend [along the lines of a] return to classical motifs.”

If grass isn’t growing abundantly in your yard, Blundell suggests mixing it with a bit of faux grass “It’s hard to tell what’s real versus fake,” she says. After all, every home has a few secrets.

Bringing The Indoors Out

Bringing the outdoors inside has been one of the biggest design trends in recent years. Now bringing the indoors outside is having a moment. “At Apartment Therapy’s Small/ Cool Experience, it’s one of our top trends for 2021. And it’s all about maximizing your comfort and being cozy outside no matter the season,” Blundell tells me.

To get this look, she recommends accessorizing your outdoor space with throws, lanterns, and bistro lights. “Turn whatever sliver of space you have, into an outdoor living room where you can kick back and relax. And it goes further than just lighting and textiles. We are starting to see mirrors come outside and sculptural pieces on the sides of homes.”

Outdoor Rugs

Outdoor rugs are another example of bringing the indoors outside.

So what’s the best way to integrate this accessory into your outdoor space? “When it comes to styling, I always start with an outdoor rug as it’s typically an indoor element that can bring beautiful texture and familiarity to an outdoor space. Be sure to look for a rug suited for outdoor use: a material that is easy to clean, won’t fade with sunlight and can handle high moisture and heavy foot traffic,” says Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director at Society Social.

Outdoor rugs look great on patios or even to section off an outdoor living space in a backyard with a dining table or a sofa and chairs.

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Real Estate

15 Strategies For Succeeding In A Saturated Real Estate Industry

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Photos of featured members.

Many professionals believe they need to avoid a saturated market because it presents too much competition. However, there are plenty of opportunities for innovation in markets heavy with competitors. Real estate professionals are not immune to an overly saturated market. As such, they’ll need to carefully implement strategies that will enable them to experience successes in their local communities.

Which strategies will allow real estate professionals to focus on standing out from the pack? Below, 15 members from Forbes Real Estate Council offer their best advice on how to succeed in a saturated real estate industry.

1. Always Bring Value To Your Clients

Bring real value to your clients so you are no longer a commodity. In that space, there is no saturation! Keep elevating your knowledge, too, so that you are a few steps ahead of the pack. – Nancy Kowalik, Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group

2. Gain Access To Capital

Finding reliable and cheap capital, which you can execute efficiently, is the greatest obstacle. The CRE space will only get more crowded, and capital allows investors and owners to move faster than their competitors. – Paul Monsen, GSP


Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?


3. Be Innovative And Creative

In these times, you must be able to not just deliver but deliver quickly. To do that, you must be innovative and creative in how you operate and market. – Jammie Jelks, Legacy Home Loans

4. Use Technology To Save Time

Go tech-first. You need to delight your customers and do it on a cost basis that is more efficient than ever required. If you can use technology to automate all the busy work, you have time to focus on what makes you stand out. It will also save you time in the long run. Time is money, so you’ll become more efficient. You’ll be able to focus on providing the important human touch that is critical in real estate. – Chuck Hattemer, Onerent

5. Find Your Expertise In A Specific Niche

The riches are in the niches! Always remember that. By focusing on a specific niche in the market, you will be seen as the expert. Thus, you have much higher chances of success in a saturated market. For example, if you focus on investment sales in the commercial real estate market, you will become an expert in that field and always stand out among other real estate professionals. – Pamela Bardhi, The Mosche Group

6. Answer The Phone And Return Calls

It’s simple: answer the phone or, at the very least, quickly return every call. It’s a No. 1 rule in deal-making 101. I know it sounds obvious, but nowadays, it’s increasingly rare to catch someone on the first try, so use this common frustration to your advantage by leaving voicemails and waiting for a call back. We’ve won more business simply because we picked up the phone or returned calls before anyone else had. – Ronnie Miranda, NewQuest Properties

7. Utilize Credibility Building Tools

Find the thing that sets you apart. We make sure that we are providing as many value-adds as we can for the seller. We also use testimonials and other credibility builders, such as BBB and Google My Business reviews. If you’ve been in the industry for a long time, these credibility builders are the easiest way to set yourself apart and position yourself as an expert with longevity in the business. – Melissa Johnson, webuyhousessanantoniotx.com

8. Build Trust In Local Communities

In an increasingly saturated real estate industry, companies that are mission-driven and generate returns for all stakeholders demonstrate distinct value. We focus on being proactive community partners and building trust in the communities we serve. This helps us maximize our impact and catalyzes success on future projects. – Jeremy Bronfman, Lincoln Avenue Capital

9. Share Knowledge With Industry Experts

Engage industry participants. If there were a magic method, you wouldn’t believe it because of all the get-rich-quick schemes around. If those purveyors really knew what they were selling, why would they share that information? What needs to happen is a concerted engagement effort with clients and industry functionaries. Make a lot of calls. Once you have done that, get updated to expand your own knowledge. – Michael J. Polk, Polk Properties / Matrix Properties

10. Strive For Creativity In All That You Do

Be flexible and creative around how you align the values, desires and interests of all parties in the transaction. This method has the ability to unlock opportunities that are less saturated while maintaining alignment with your clients. In my business for example, we are the creators of radical consistency, which makes our product unique in itself—in what could be called a saturated marketplace. – Alex Allison, D. Alexander

11. Be Authentic With Clients And Investors

Always be authentic in your interactions with your clients and investors. Sometimes, this business can have a sole focus on closing the deal. It’s important to remember to bring value first to the customers you serve and success will follow. – Todd Sulzinger, Blue Elm Investments

12. Prioritize And Delegate Tasks

Do not spread yourself too thin. One of the biggest mistakes is to get involved with too much too fast. Real estate professionals are known for wanting to do it all alone, from marketing to learning about every community in town. It is important to build solid foundations, delegate jobs that are not income-producing and focus on a niche. – Marco Del Zotto, LIV | Sotheby’s International Realty – Breckenridge CO

13. Become An Authority Brand

In a very competitive environment, you must establish a brand with very strong authority. Agents should define a niche, such as first-time buyers, luxury housing or veterans, and master it. Then, everything you do and say comes from that authority stance. Clients want to work with experts, not amateurs. Begin blogging, doing live videos and collecting recommendations. – Lisa Copeland, The Agentcy by Tarek El Moussa by Exp Realty, LLC

14. Be A Compassionate Human

Be a good human. I know that sounds crazy and incredibly simple, but that’s because it is. Now more than ever, people want to be cared for, heard and treated well. Be patient, kind, follow up and follow through. Love is the best thing we do. As romantic as it sounds, I believe in this phrase in business just as much as I do in life. – Chris Turcotte, Centum Financial Group

15. Commit For The Long Haul

Be persistent about staying in it for the long haul. Newbies come and go but to truly succeed, you need to commit yourself to the long haul, during the good times and the bad. Master your craft, and become smarter and more innovative than your competition. – Nick Ron, House Buyers of America

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Real Estate

Why Don’t Alternative Asset Investors Care About Fees?

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Confident Businesswoman Working With Laptop In The Financial District

Eliot Bencuya is Co-Founder of real estate investing firms Streitwise and Tryperion Partners.

One of the most interesting dynamics I’ve realized working with retail investors is how little investors, sophisticated or otherwise, focus on fees. From what my team has gathered, only a small percentage of investors even ask questions about fees, profit sharing, the structure of the transactions and other non-property-level questions. 

What’s particularly fascinating about this is that in the public markets, lower fees across all products have been front and center. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs), both passive and active, have been extraordinarily focused on gathering market share by reducing costs and expenses, and that seems to have really resonated with public markets investors. 

In the alternative investing space, which includes private real estate, something is preventing the same focus. For sophisticated allocators, it appears that other incentives in the decision-making process take precedence over fee negotiations (e.g., career risk, or the job safety of allocating capital to known managers, and the lack of daily price changes like in public markets). For retail investors, the lack of information about what questions to ask can be a challenge. 

What’s even more interesting is that investors in many cases are not even aware of who the operator of the real estate investment is and what layers that may add to return dilution. And while an offering may represent a “projected XX% IRR” with ostensibly attractive return targets, the foundation of those projections is largely a black box.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with investing as a limited partner (LP) in a joint venture (JV) with an operator that charges certain fees and waterfall. But if you’re investing through the LP and the LP tells you it’s “fee free” because the fees and profit sharing are being charged within the JV and not directly to you, then it’s entirely detached from reality as it pertains to the investment dollars no matter how technically true the statement might be.

What are the right questions to ask?

It’s not appropriate to tell anybody what they should or should not accept, what is too much risk or not enough risk, or what fees should be or should not be. 

When all is said and done, the market for capital is the same as the market for anything, and if a willing investor is happy to demand an investment allocation from a sponsor, then the sponsor will charge fees until they no longer can. At the very least, one should be armed with the right kinds of questions to ask.

The most obvious question is ‘What are the fees?’

Everyone presumably knows to ask this one. The responses will vary, but in general I’m talking about upfront offering fees, acquisition fees, ongoing asset management fees, construction management fees, leasing fees, disposition fees, guarantee fees and so forth. What one ought to be looking for in the response is two-fold: the effect on net investment returns and the effect on net sponsor co-investment. What’s really important is how much money one makes after fees and how much risk is being shared by the sponsor.

The next question, which pertains to the investment dilution, is ‘What’s the waterfall?’

Investors need to understand the split at different levels of return to truly understand how much potential upside one is forgoing and what the likelihood is of hitting those parameters. In order to put an investment in the context of one’s overall portfolio, upside surprises are as relevant as downside surprises, because the upside surprises are a ballast to downsides. (It also helps to know the track record of the sponsor in delivering and/or the ability to underwrite the real estate itself, but for many investors these are not realistically available.)

The last question, and most importantly the least asked question, is ‘Where are the fees?’

Too often sponsors and other service providers will suggest that they are charging limited fees wherein the fees are simply buried somewhere else in the capital structure. If the investment vehicle in which one invests doesn’t charge fees, but such an entity is the LP of a joint venture where the joint venture is charging all sorts of fees, that dilution is still being passed through. Sponsors love to play tricks with wording where “fee free” simply means “net investment dilution somewhere else in the capital structure so I can claim that ‘I’ am not charging you such fees.”

Even if you’re ultimately happy with a 6% return or a 10% return, or if you’re really shooting for a 20% return, if you don’t understand the fee structure, you won’t understand how much you’re being held back from achieving or outperforming those goals by the dilution of your investment dollars.

The information provided here is not investment, tax, or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.


Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?


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