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“If you really want to be successful, you have to be coachable” with Elisha Lopez

For years, many of the women in real estate were moms who were doing it for supplemental income for their family. They were agents who weren’t always doing it full time and weren’t interested in positions of leadership at the time. This is changing. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a big shift where women […]

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For years, many of the women in real estate were moms who were doing it for supplemental income for their family. They were agents who weren’t always doing it full time and weren’t interested in positions of leadership at the time. This is changing. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a big shift where women are looking at real estate as a career, and they are now coming into leadership roles.

Aspart of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry I had the pleasure of interviewing Elisha Lopez of Ocala Realty World.

Elisha Lopez is a real estate broker and owner of Ocala Realty World in Central Florida. Her company was named a Top 10 Brokerage in Marion County for the past five years and, in 2019, was named one of North America’s Top Real Estate Brokerages. Lopez has more than 20 years of experience in real estate and is the founder of the ORW School of Real Estate, which serves aspiring real estate agents seeking licensure in Florida. In her courses and training sessions at the school, which is now thriving virtually, Elisha shares her unique real estate expertise, insider tips and digital marketing strategies honed during her many years in all aspects of the business. In addition to being a longtime real estate licensing instructor, Elisha is also a Certified Distressed Property Agent. This gives her a thorough understanding of complex issues in today’s turbulent real estate market and knowledge of foreclosure-avoidance options available to homeowners. Elisha is a graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in interior design. Elisha’s №1 goal in business and in life is to help others. She operates Ocala Realty World with her husband, Luis Lopez, who encouraged her to start a career in real estate.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

The short answer is that my husband, Luis, brought me into the industry. I graduated from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with a bachelor’s degree in interior design. My husband was in real estate at the time, and he always told me I’d be good at it. I was helping him out when the market crashed in 2008. During that time, I lost some big design accounts, and he told me, “Well, I guess now you have to get your real estate license.” He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time. My husband has been in the industry for 25 years, and he taught me the ins and outs. So many agents are taught the wrong way, and I had the luxury of really learning every part of the business from Luis. I started as a buyer’s agent, worked my way up to being a listing agent and then started a brokerage. My husband jokes about the fact that he got me started in the industry, and now I’m his boss. I’m incredibly proud to be leading this woman-owned minority business.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I’m a mother of three, and before my kids started school, I was that “Realtor mom” who brought her kids to the showings. That produced plenty of interesting stories. Part of the appeal of real estate for me was the freedom and not working behind a desk from 9–5. I had my kids at home and didn’t put them in daycare. Spending that extra time with them was a gift. I quickly learned that clients loved it when the kids were around! They loved seeing them at showings. Buying or selling a home is a major decision in life, and sometimes it was nice to have those moments of levity that children bring. I also learned what I’m capable of. I was able to be a great mom and a great agent at the same time, and both of those roles are demanding! I have great memories of those early days of my career.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I love to help people and to give from my heart. Every morning, I wake up thinking, “Who can I help today?” I really enjoy connecting with people and pouring my effort and knowledge into our agents. I opened the ORW school to train new and aspiring real estate agents. I got to where I am in the industry because I didn’t learn the ropes in the traditional way. My husband took me under his wing and mentored me. That’s what we do for every agent we teach. Right before COVID-19 hit, we opened a new, dedicated training facility for the school. Like so many other things in life, we’ve moved those classes to a virtual model. Our mission at the ORW school is to change how real estate agents are taught. I realized early on that no one was really giving new agents the information they needed. The way I teach, I’m sharing more than 20 years of experience with our students. I don’t teach to a test. I teach with real-world examples.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have a true global footprint. Realty World has almost 2,000 offices worldwide. Those international relationships give our agents an amazing network to use when selling and searching for homes. For sellers, our global footprint increases the number of potential buyers that will see a property. By showing the home to as many people as possible, we’re able to increase the odds of finding a perfect buyer who will offer top dollar. We also recently had a buyer from Dubai who was attracted to Ocala because of our reputation as the horse capital of the world. We got in contact with her through our Dubai office and found her the type of property she was looking for. Our global connections make these kinds of things happen.

We also bring invaluable experience to every client and transaction. Between the two of us, my husband and I have more than 45 years of experience in Florida real estate. We also have nearly 100 agents on our team that all bring their own unique skill set and expertise. Our name opens doors. Our agents close deals. We’ve been top 10 in transactions for our area every year for the past five years.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband, Luis, is the reason I got into real estate, and he has been a great partner, teacher and coach at every turn. I owe a lot to him and his family. Luis is the true American dream story. He’s from Cuba. He was 12 years old when his family moved to the United States. His dad was supposed to join the Cuban Armed Forces during the time of Fidel Castro. The night before he was supposed to join, he soaked his arm in a wet towel all night, and he purposely broke it the next morning. Then, he got his family, including Luis, on a boat and moved them to Florida. Luis grew up in Hialeah speaking Spanish and learning in Spanish. It wasn’t easy to learn English on his own, and then, begin climbing the real estate ladder. He worked so hard to get where he is, and I wouldn’t be the successful business owner I am today without his push and guidance.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?

For years, many of the women in real estate were moms who were doing it for supplemental income for their family. They were agents who weren’t always doing it full time and weren’t interested in positions of leadership at the time. This is changing. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a big shift where women are looking at real estate as a career, and they are now coming into leadership roles.

What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?

People need to change the way they think and get rid of the good ‘ol boys network. Women weren’t often thought of as leaders in the past, and that mindset needs to continue to change. Women are naturally more nurturing than men, which used to be thought of as a negative. But nurturing doesn’t mean we aren’t good leaders. In Real Estate, nurturing is a good thing. Clients deal with a lot of emotions because these are huge purchases. I think, if women keep doing what we’re doing, this will correct itself. That old-school way of thought is slowly going away, in part, because men know they are in the public eye, and people are watching and looking at the gender balance in companies.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

It’s expected that male leaders will be direct and tough — not afraid to put their foot down. But too often when women leaders make the same decisions and say the same things they’re looked at as mean. We’re either labeled mean or too soft. I’m a naturally positive and mellow person, but I wouldn’t be where I am in the world today if I couldn’t put my foot down and take charge when it’s needed. But too many people mistake my kindness for weakness.

In some cases, women in leadership roles are also judged as simply the face of the company or a pretty face to put out front. People don’t ever question that with male executives. We’re in executive roles because we’re smart, we’re good leaders and we’ve worked hard to earn the role. We deserve that respect.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?

1- Real estate offers a unique ability to train and mentor people. I love helping others and paying it forward, and this industry offers that ability in such an amazing way. When my husband started in the industry, the broker he worked with had Luis right there on his hip. He taught him the right way to do things. That’s how Luis taught me. We didn’t realize until we started our own brokerage how unheard of that kind of mentorship and training was. Now, it’s the way I work with everyone on our team. It’s very exciting to see our agents learn, grow and have success.

2- Real estate can change lives. Anyone who has the hunger and desire to learn can pursue a career in this business and do well if they set their mind to it. My husband and I didn’t come from much, and we now own our own business and have nearly 100 agents working on our team. Even for people who are financially established, the sky’s the limit in real estate. You have to work hard and learn from the right people, but this is an amazing career for people who want to set their families up well.

3 — The real estate industry offers so much freedom! As real estate agents, we are incredibly busy. But, we’re busy on our own terms. I enjoy having a career where I don’t have to clock in and out or ask if I can take a few hours or a day off. That freedom only works if you’re disciplined and dedicated, but when you are, it’s an amazing thing.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

1- There are too few requirements for a real estate agent to start their own brokerage. To get a broker’s license in Florida, you only need to have an active real estate license with the state for 24 months. In that short a time, it’s impossible to know the business well enough to have the accountability a broker needs to have. I see agents becoming brokers after 24 months and opening boutique shops where they’re the only agent, because then all the commission goes to them. Real estate is a tricky field and until you encounter real world examples, it’s really hard to give clients the right advice. When those brokers without experience recruit new agents, then the new agents don’t get the right training and mentoring and it all snowballs. I recommend new agents do their research before joining a brokerage. Make sure you are going to a team with experience. It will help you in the long run.

2 — Too many agents aren’t taught the right way. At this point, many real estate classes just teach to the test or teach directly out of a book. When I teach at our ORW school, I incorporate what I’ve learned out in the field — real life. I want new agents to have a better foundation. I wish all classes were taught that way. The things taught in many classes aren’t what you encounter in the real world of real estate. With so many new agents entering the business right now, it’s creating a situation where they are out there blind, giving bad advice and making mistakes. That isn’t good for the buyers and sellers or the seasoned agents. Inexperience is leading to carelessness, even if the carelessness isn’t intentional.

3- I think people take real estate contracts too lightly. These are legally binding documents and they are a big deal. If you don’t do something correctly and it goes to litigation, an agent can get in a lot of trouble. Too many agents don’t think enough about that part of the job. There should be a requirement that contracts are approved by the broker or a member of management in the brokerage. I have those rules in place with our team so we avoid problems.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

You have to meet people where they are at. I got this advice a long time ago and it has always stuck with me. This is great advice for life in general. It applies whether you are a leader and working with your agents and employees or a mom talking with your kids. Being on their level makes a huge difference in what you will get out of them. For example, with new team members, even if they are new to the industry, there is something there you can build on that will help them generate business faster. Find their strengths and work with them. You can’t coach everyone the same way. This is true on an emotional level as well. Everyone has bad days and sometimes you need to recognize that and be there for your people.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

1 — Real estate is a people business, and the pushy car salesman routine doesn’t work. Too many people still have that stereotype in their heads and it’s not the best way to be successful. People operate on feeling and emotion. As an agent, we’re there to hold their hand and offer our expertise and emotional support through the transaction. When people feel pushiness, they aren’t afraid to walk away. We have people come to us all the time who were turned off by other agents. I recently had a woman come to us and her guard was up so high because she was used to agents pushing her so they could make a commission. I was there to help, explain the situation and her options and offer support. She was signing to work with us before I even asked her to.

2 — You need a good team and a good place to hang your hat. Teaming up with a good brokerage makes a huge difference in the kind of success you can have as an individual agent. I hear countless stories of agents who got out of the industry because they didn’t work with the right company and things weren’t smooth. They didn’t know why things weren’t working out, so they gave up. You want to be at a place where people in positions of leadership are available and can be there for you — not just holed up in the corner office. It could be help with a transaction, or just someone to talk to when you are having a bad day. This job will get too hard way too fast if you are at a brokerage where you feel alone.

3 — If you really want to be successful, you have to be coachable. Most successful Realtors in the industry are very coachable. If you just want to be patted on the back and told you are doing everything right, eventually you’ll start to wonder why you’re not having success. It doesn’t always feel good to learn something new or to have to try a different technique. But it’s key. I have someone on my team who is in her fourth year of being an agent. This year, she’ll quadruple what she made in her first year. She is very coachable and open to advice on how she can improve. It’s been the catalyst for her success.

4 — Before you join a brokerage or team, study their reputation in the marketplace. You might like the leadership, but if they have a bad reputation in the community or a few of the agents working there are bad apples, it could have a negative impact on you. My husband and I were known as The Lopez Team long before Ocala Realty World, and that reputation has helped us and our agents to this day.

5 — If you’re going to make it in this industry, you need to be tech savvy or willing to learn. So many aspects of a real estate transaction are now being done online. Just think about how people are searching for homes. Everyone starts online. If you’re not willing to ride that wave and embrace the latest and greatest technology, the industry will pass you by.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The thing I am more passionate about than anything else is helping people. I wish everyone woke up thinking about who they could help that day. It’s such a rewarding way to live life, and it fuels me. It’s why I started ORW Cares, our community outreach organization. You never know how many lives you can impact by simply looking for ways to help others. We do everything from providing coloring books and Legos to children who are victims of child abuse to bringing pizzas to firefighters in our area.

There are two agents on our team who used to be social workers. The three of us were talking recently and one of them told me that if she knew she could help so many people through her job in real estate, she wouldn’t have gone through college and wracked up all of that debt. But I pointed out that a huge part of her success in this industry is what she went through — her experiences as a social worker and the training she got in school. She has the kind of attitude where she’s always looking to help others first, and now she’s doing a job that allows her to make a difference for others while also supporting her family with a great paycheck.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me and feel free to drop a line through FacebookInstagramLinkedIn or our real estate school’s Facebook page.

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!

Thank you for the opportunity.

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