Don’t go at it alone! Align yourself with a successful agent team and be a student. The team’s success and reputation can give you instant credibility that might otherwise take you years to build on your own.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Helbig, owner and broker of Experience Realty Partners.
Kathy Helbig has been at the forefront of transforming the real estate industry for the past 25 years. She was an early adopter of internet marketing and virtual tours and most recently became Missouri’s first Certified Divorce Real Estate Specialist to help guide divorcees and their lawyers through the nuances of selling a home.
Once one of the highest-selling Keller Williams franchisees, Helbig now owns Experience Realty Partners and leads a team of 32 people. She’s dedicated to elevating the buying and selling experience for clients and realtors.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the backstory about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
I was in the market to buy a home and heard a broker on the radio giving seminars on building new construction and selling your home. This was back in 1997. He convinced me to get my license to make real estate a part-time job with the promise that 15 hours a week or less would pay big money! Well that wasn’t quite the right depiction of the business, as 15 hours quickly gave way to 50 hours plus, and next thing I knew I had more business than I knew what to do with, and within two years I started my own team.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
There are so many interesting, bordering on unbelievable things, that happen in real estate, from angry sellers who unscrewed every lightbulb in the house just to get back at the buyer to selling a house that was supposedly haunted! The most interesting has to be the amount of completely fraudulent buyers that go through all the motions of going under contract on a home with no ability or intention of ever proceeding. It boggles my mind why anyone would do that, knowing there’s no real win for them in the end game. Even more mind-boggling is that several times the fraud involved two people going along with the pretense.
One time a man believed a ‘government spy’ was purchasing his home, and THAT is why he kept disappearing and not performing his buyers’ duties at deadlines. All the men involved in that fraud bit hook, line and sinker! It was the ladies who weren’t buying it and finally exposed the fraud! I’ve learned to really investigate cash buyers no matter what they claim!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on growing a special niche with an expert focus on Divorce Real Estate. Selling a house can be emotional and traumatic for couples who are going their separate ways. As Missouri’s first and only Certified Divorce Specialist in real estate, I want to create a better experience for divorcing couples. By lending my expertise to judges, divorce attorneys and their clients, I can shed light on the nuances involved in selling a house while going through a divorce.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a boutique Real Estate Brokerage focused on delivering a better client ‘experience’ — something that has been lacking in most real estate transactions for years.
I’m constantly striving to use technology to improve communication and enhance the process for agents, buyers and sellers. Our real estate team aims to create best practices, systems and training to ensure the best possible home buying and selling ‘experience.’ At Experience Realty Partners, we help to eliminate pain points by taking a concierge approach before, during and after the process of buying or selling.
The ‘experience’ also involves building an environment where agents can thrive. I have found that a better agent experience translates to an elevated experience for everyone involved.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Kindle Winton has been on this crazy real estate ride with me for 10 years. She’s the ‘get it done girl’ and the heart of our team. Knowing I have someone like her who is always looking out for me and the team is instrumental to my success. Also, my family for putting up with the constant interruptions and life of a realtor who’s ALWAYS on call!
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?
I’m sad to say, this is right. Although I believe we are seeing more women of late rising up to senior positions. Based on my personal experience in real estate, I would say it has to do with women not truly supporting women in leadership in years past. Real estate is a competitive business and secretly I have found many women still don’t truly want to see another woman succeed.
I also think that women used to always dominate real estate sales because it was more relationship type selling, but the industry has shifted over the years from relationship based to technology based. Men seem to thrive in technology, data mining, buying leads and building out teams to prospect for business, which is why we see more successful male realtors now more than ever, and why there is still that imbalance at the senior levels.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
Women who are thinking of getting into real estate should think of this as building their own business and not just a side hustle or just a job. There is amazing potential for high earnings for females in this industry IF you’re all in and are ready to get to work!
Everyone should study under a mentor or coach who has walked the walk. I believe that proper training combined with a team concept, support and mentoring produces more knowledgeable realtors who can focus on their strengths and maintain work-life balance to stay sharp!
Expose yourself to as much as possible surrounding the business. The more you know about the other aspects that run parallel to real estate, the deeper your understanding will be of not just the ‘how to’s’ but more about the ‘why’s.’ Being able to train your thought process to use the ‘why’s’ will set you apart from the average agent pool. This will make you a strategist, not just a salesperson!
I would love to see more women trained in leadership and more women leaders at the helm!
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women have to do it all — raise children, support their spouse, climb the ladder and this year add homeschooling to the mix, and yet not miss a beat in order to make their career the TOP priority to advance. This is a huge struggle being pulled in so many different directions. I know in my experience it was just assumed that if the kids were sick, it was me who had to juggle my career. That causes a lot of stress, and a lot of self inflicted guilt and worry that you may not be able to be all things for all people.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
It’s always been about the people for me! Being a part of someone’s biggest purchase or sale of their life is so personal to them, and that gives me a huge sense of importance. Also, I love design and architecture, so I love being in and around beautiful homes. Lastly, I love educating clients and my agents on real estate. The strategy behind it all still gets my blood pumping.
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?
The first thing I would change is raising the barrier to entry. It’s just way too easy to get a real estate license, and there is not nearly enough oversight!
The traditional brokerage model is about numbers. License as many people as possible, turn them loose with minimal training and if 3 out of 10 sell a few homes a year, the brokerage profits. It’s always about recruiting instead of building bigger businesses with well-trained agents.
I personally think every agent should have to apprentice under other successful agents for at least two years before they’re allowed to do business on their own.
This is most often someone’s largest purchase or sale of their life, and many times it’s put into the hands of a novice; I mean everyone knows at least three agents, right? But, most people don’t know the agents’ track records, if they’ve had formal training or how much experience they have. Sadly, this industry sets untrained agents loose on the consumer to learn as they go.
If I could wave a magic wand, I’d abolish part-time agents. It does a disservice to the client, and it takes food off the table of those agents who have committed to a career in real estate. I think that rule change, along with having to train under another successful realtor, would alleviate a lot of the issues that the industry suffers from today.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Hold your team accountable and over-train them! That’s the problem in this industry, not enough field training and too many people in it who don’t treat this business as their own business. Holding agents accountable is the best favor you can do for them, and cut them loose if they need to be.
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?
First know going in that it may not happen overnight. You are building a business that’s typically based on trust and respect, and that comes from experience. Also, having a network to pull from will get you up and running faster than if you don’t know a soul!
I interview so many people thinking of getting into the business who think it’s glamorous, with a flexible schedule, and that it will be easy. It’s actually NONE of the above! Unless you think dragging big heavy signs around, hammering them into yards or corners with traffic flying by at 50 mph, and taking a buyer to 50 different homes over 6 months’ time only for them to tell you that they’re going to use their realtor 4th cousin to write the offer is glamorous!?
Also, the flexibility aspect is a little misleading. Yes, being an independent contractor technically means you don’t have to punch a clock. But, you still have to work insanely hard and many, many hours to be successful. My answer to agents who say this business is attracting them because they want to get away from the 9–5 day is, ‘Yes it’s flexible; flexible around everyone else’s schedule!’ You are truly on call 24/7 in real estate and must be prepared to drop everything when that perfect house for your buyer hits the market, or YOU may be the reason that buyer lost out on their dream home.
I can tell you personally that I experienced the ultimate inconvenient timing in my career. Two out of the three times I gave birth I was working contracts during the entire labor process — dealing with getting signatures and setting inspections just after delivery. Nothing waits for a real estate deal!
I can also say it’s so rewarding! If you truly build a business on making people’s dreams come true, or helping them ease the pain or emotions of a not so happy move, instead of counting the commission dollars, it will show and people will be attracted to you. We have the ability to impact the ‘experience’ one way or the other for each client we touch. When you make it all about that, the people will always come back to you.
Unfortunately, so many agents are transactional sales people rather than relationship builders and real estate advisors. It’s a lot easier to grow when each transaction could trigger repeat business and referrals. One deal could have a lifetime residual of 7–10 deals minimum. You’d have to work so much harder and spend a lot more money on marketing to find 10 new prospects if you’re a one and done type agent. Deliver an above-average experience for each client you have, and let them be your ambassadors.
Another tip is don’t go at it alone! Align yourself with a successful agent team and be a student. The team’s success and reputation can give you instant credibility that might otherwise take you years to build on your own.
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. 🙂
We all have to stop judging others through our own lenses. Until we’ve walked in other’s shoes, we don’t truly know what we think we know. We all need to give each other more grace and understanding.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on LinkedIn.
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!