Katrina Amurao: “As individuals, women should share their experiences”

As individuals, women should share their experiences. Talking about the mom guilt I’ve experienced at times isn’t easy, but I do it in hopes it helps someone else. Open conversations about how mothers can balance a successful career with responsibilities at home and spending quality time with their children are so important. Share your tips! […]

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As individuals, women should share their experiences. Talking about the mom guilt I’ve experienced at times isn’t easy, but I do it in hopes it helps someone else. Open conversations about how mothers can balance a successful career with responsibilities at home and spending quality time with their children are so important. Share your tips! We can all learn from each other. Women with unique talents should feel supported.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katrina Amurao. Katrina is the team leader of Katrina & The Team in the metro Vancouver, BC area. She entered the real estate industry in 2004 and launched her team in 2014. They are the number one overall real estate team in the Fraser Valley, 2020 President’s Club Award winners and number one for units sold, units listed and dollar value. Amurao is a FIlipino immigrant who credits her “immigrant mindset” for much of her success.

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’ve been entrepreneurial since I was a child. My family is from the Philippines, and at 12 years old, I was helping my family manage their finances. I moved to Canada at 17, and my career started in financial planning, life insurance and investments. After my mother had a not so pleasant experience with an agent when buying and selling a home, she advised me to become a Realtor. I have always had a passion for helping people, and I knew I could do that through real estate. Three months in, I hired a coach and set a goal of selling 100 homes in one year and being the number one realtor in our brokerage. We are now the number one team in the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. Our team has been incredibly successful, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.

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 started taking big leaps in my career when I stopped trying to impress other people. At one point early in my career, I drove a BMW. I thought I needed to have a nice car to appear successful to potential clients. But, when we had our third child, money was a little tighter. We bought a used minivan and then decided to turn it into a rolling advertisement by wrapping it with our faces. This was certainly outside our comfort zone and we took some flack from competitors. But this is when our business started to take off! It was worth hearing a few jokes and having a few people think I was a fool, because it worked. We’re here to make a positive impact in our community, and I learned quickly that the best way to do that was to stop being afraid of what other people might say.

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

I’m currently working to grow our team in order to make an even bigger impact in our community. Real estate is a vehicle for me to help people. That is all I’ve ever wanted to do and what I enjoy most about this career. On my own, I can only help so many people. By growing our team, we can reach even more people in our area. Right now, our team is working towards raising 100 thousand dollars for local charitable organizations including BC Children’s Hospital, Surrey Food Bank and our church.

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

We care about the people we work with and work for. It’s not just lip service for us. We teach every member of our team to take great care of the people they serve, and to take time to truly understand what our clients want and need. It all boils down to our desire to make a positive impact in our community. That is something we’ve always been committed to, and it is part of our team’s values. Our motivation to succeed in real estate is so we can continue to give. We recently had a client decide to work with us, despite having another agent in their circle of friends, because they know how we give back to the community. That was important to this family, so they came to us.

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 has been an amazing partner on my journey in real estate. It wasn’t always easy. There were times at the beginning when working together really tested our relationship. It was becoming a contest for us. But, we stuck together, decided we were a team and now compliment each other in the most perfect ways. We are the left and right wings of this business. If one of us were not here, we wouldn’t be flying. I’m always coming up with new ideas and innovations, and he’s figuring out how to implement them. There were times when people tried to make my husband feel bad that my name was in the title of our team and not his. It’s frustrating to have to deal with those kinds of attitudes as a woman, but I’m grateful for my husband and his partnership in this business. The bottom line is we are both here to make an impact in the lives of our clients and our own family.

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 think the biggest reasons are outdated stereotypes and ego. Too many people still feel like a man needs to be the leader or the brand-name. I experienced this when people questioned my husband about why I was the face of our brand.

I do think another factor is mom guilt. So many women feel pressure to fit the “soccer mom” role, and they feel like they aren’t being a good enough mother if they spend a lot of their time and attention on work. The stereotyping that mothers need to be doing all the cooking, cleaning and laundry or they are less of a mom is a big roadblock. Women should be able to feel free to choose. I do things like order dinner instead of cooking it, and I still battle a level of guilt for that. But, I choose to spend quality time with my kids instead of doing the typical household chores. I love my career and have found a healthy balance. All women and mothers should be able to choose the career path that’s best for them, free of judgement and stereotypes.

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

1) Individuals and society, as a whole, need to move past the outdated stereotypes about men in leadership roles. I wish I could say those biases don’t exist anymore, but they absolutely do. I learned to stop caring how other people judged me, but it was tough. We also need less judgement of working mothers and more support for them. I was blown away when our good friend told my husband he was wrong for “allowing” me to be the face and leader of our team. It was an unfortunate reminder of how many people still hold these views. If you hear someone talking like this, challenge them. Tell them why they are wrong. We can’t let that type of behavior go unaddressed any longer.

2) Leaders within companies can put a greater focus on family-oriented culture and policies. Have flexible schedules that allow working moms to do it all. I’ve done open houses and brought my kids with me once they were old enough to behave properly. Family-oriented culture is very important to us at Katrina and The Team. We once worked with an employee to add a supplement to her wages that allowed her to pay for daycare so she could work. It was an extra benefit. She knew she wanted to work and knew how that type of challenge would benefit her, but she wasn’t sure how to swing it with childcare. We made it work, because we knew she’d be a great employee for us, and we wanted to help her.

3) As individuals, women should share their experiences. Talking about the mom guilt I’ve experienced at times isn’t easy, but I do it in hopes it helps someone else. Open conversations about how mothers can balance a successful career with responsibilities at home and spending quality time with their children are so important. Share your tips! We can all learn from each other. Women with unique talents should feel supported.

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

Women executives are constantly judged on appearance, and it just doesn’t happen to men in these roles. The tough part for women is we can’t win. If we wear something trendy or spend time getting our hair and nails done because we like how it makes us feel and helps our confidence, we’re judged as being superficial or, even worse, not smart enough. People will say completely inappropriate things about women getting jobs because of their looks. On the other hand, if a woman dresses more casually and wears jeans, she’s much more likely to be called unprofessional than a male counterpart. This happened to me recently in response to an Instagram video I posted on our team account. When our male employees wear jeans in these videos, no one says anything about it. How I look and how that will be perceived is something I think about often, when I wish the focus for women was on our ideas and successes over our appearance. Too often, that isn’t the case.

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

1) Real estate is a land of opportunity. I love coaching and educating the agents on our team. I get excited when I think about the growth that is possible for agents who are hardworking and committed to learning and improving. It’s a domino effect. They improve the lives of their own families by seizing the opportunity in the industry and, in turn, they make an impact on their community by helping people. For our team, it’s never been about commissions or sales. It’s about the positive impact real estate allows us to have on others.

2) Real estate is an asset that keeps on giving. More and more people are beginning to realize and embrace this, and that excites me. When you own a home, you are paying down a mortgage while the property is also appreciating in value. The investment is paying off on both sides. I have a background in financial planning, and I love seeing people benefit from real estate as an investment. There is so much opportunity to leverage equity in one property as a way to purchase an additional property and grow your portfolio. It’s a great long-term investment.

3) Technology in real estate excites me! The rise of video has really leveled up the customer experience. The way we can showcase homes with the technology we have streamlines the entire process. It’s easier for buyers to determine if they are truly interested in a home before walking through it. We’re not dependent on traditional open houses anymore. That’s an amazing convenience for clients. We can showcase homes and promote properties with 3D tours. It helps both us as agents and the end users. It’s great for sellers as well, because better pictures and videos help homes sell for more money. They also decrease the need for people to walk through homes, and that’s a great convenience for sellers who don’t have to vacate for as many showings and open houses.

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) I would love to change the perception that real estate is easy and agents are in it for a quick payday. While there are agents out there who are just chasing commissions, so many people in our industry are very skilled and really want to help. This is why it’s so important to carefully vet an agent before you work with them. A good agent will help to make a very detailed and complicated process feel simple for you. Real estate is a lot more than putting a sign in a yard, and I wish more people knew that before they entered the market. We hear from so many grateful clients who tell us they had no idea the amount of work that is involved in a real estate transaction. Our solution-focused mindset serves us well, and I wish more people knew how necessary it is.

2) I’m concerned by the number of people who are trying to represent themselves in real estate transactions. The growth of online home-browsing sites gives people a lot of control and access to a lot of information. And that is a great thing! But there are a lot of factors involved in real estate transactions that most people don’t have any experience in or knowledge of. I like to say it’s similar to thinking you can perform a minor surgery after watching one performed in an online video. Going the DIY route creates a lot of risk for you. A lack of experience can also cost you money. I actually just talked to someone who sold his home and was so proud that he didn’t have to pay commission to an agent. He sold it for 920,000 dollars, but the property was worth at least 1,050,000 dollars. So, he lost out on 120,000 dollars because he was worried about paying a 30,000 dollars commission. As agents, we need to be able to articulate what we do and the value we bring to the table.

3) I want all agents to take their safety seriously, and safety is a concern. We talk to our team members about trying not to go to appointments alone. Personally, I always bring someone with me. It doesn’t have to be another Realtor. It just has to be another person. There are also a few good apps out there people can use to make sure others know when they are going to appointments. Early in my career, I had a very uncomfortable situation with a client, and I’ve looked at my safety differently ever since.

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

It sounds simple, but I’d say to be a better leader. It’s very easy to look at your team members and think about what they are doing wrong or what they could be doing better. But, I’ve learned how productive it is to take a good look at myself when I want my team to thrive or level up. Inspire your team by continually working to improve yourself. We also need to understand the people we are leading aren’t necessarily like us. Don’t just tell them what to do. Ask them questions. Discover what makes them tick and how they learn best. Learn to listen. I have learned the importance of getting to know my team in a way that I truly understand them.

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. Stop caring what other people think. Focus one what you are about and the right clients will come to you. We get a lot of business from referrals because we care. We offer a 5-star experience for our clients, including home cleaning services, movers, boxes and even moving day sandwiches. But the real reason people work with us is because we care deeply and want what is best.
  2. You don’t have to drive a nice car. I feel like this idea has been believed and adopted by real estate agents forever, and it is so far away from what is really important. I fell into this trap too. But, when I got rid of my car and bought a mini van, it just gave me more resources to sink into the business. In fact, I think it made me even more relatable to some families I was serving. I’ve seen agents be hesitant to take their shot or intimidated by competition with nicer cars. Don’t ever doubt yourself!
  3. Stick to the fundamentals. It’s not always about the next shiny object. I recommend people in the industry find one thing and make sure they are the best at it. I picked open houses when I started and decided I’d do one every week and make sure they were the best open houses around. Once you master your one thing, you can move on. But it’s better to do fewer things really well than a lot of things poorly.
  4. Practice and practice the right way. I’m obsessed with the process, digging into it and making sure our team is doing all the right things. We’re always looking for ways to improve. Once you are confident in your process, practice and stick with it. If you are unsure about your practice, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think coaches are incredibly valuable in this industry. But, the right coach can make sure you are heading in the right direction and push you to get there.
  5. It’s not about you. Your job is not to sell yourself to the client or to tell them why you are great. Your job is to make sure people understand how you are going to help them. Listen to your clients. Ask them questions. This is the value you bring to the table. Don’t ever hesitate when it comes to communication. I once had an agent who was hesitant to reach out and call a client because they didn’t want to seem pushy. But when they finally called, the client let them know they had been missing the emails and they were so grateful this agent took the time to actually call them. In other words, it wasn’t about the agent. Keep the focus on your clients and their needs and communicate.

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. 🙂

If everyone would worry more about making an impact in their community than their own bottom line, the world would be a better place. My husband and I have been through our share of challenges in life, and those experiences further motivate us to give back. We know what it’s like to be in a position where a helping hand can make all the difference in the world. We feel privileged to be able to give back to our community. We believe the money we earn is not ours, and it is our social responsibility to put it back into our community.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!

Thank you for the opportunity!

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