“Real estate is deeply personal and emotional”, With Jason Hartman & Megan Meyer

Real estate is deeply personal and emotional. When you buy a home you’re not just buying four walls and a roof. You’re establishing roots in a community, you’re choosing where your family will make memories, you’re deciding how long or short you’re willing to commute. Logic isn’t always the best answer in those situations — […]

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Real estate is deeply personal and emotional. When you buy a home you’re not just buying four walls and a roof. You’re establishing roots in a community, you’re choosing where your family will make memories, you’re deciding how long or short you’re willing to commute. Logic isn’t always the best answer in those situations — sometimes just being an empathetic ear to your customers is the best you can offer.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Meyer, General Manager of Market Operations at Opendoor. Megan leads a team of approximately 350 and is responsible for all local operations across the company’s 21 markets. Megan joined Opendoor in 2015 as the company’s 20th employee and has assumed a myriad of responsibilities across varied parts of the business in her five years, from tech and pricing operations to product and in-market operations. In her current role, she has been instrumental in helping Opendoor scale sustainably from one to 21 markets nationwide. A veteran of commercial video platform Vessel, Bain Capital, and McKinsey & Company, Megan holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and both a Master of Professional Accounting and Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

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

When I was younger we moved around a lot and so I saw pretty early on how stressful, uncertain, and cumbersome the home buying and selling process can be. I was also influenced by my dad’s work as a real estate developer. I was always by his side as he visited model homes over the weekend, and I remember being especially interested in how they were designed. I actually thought I would become an architect and build new homes like the ones we’d tour — until I took a drafting class. I quickly realized I needed to be halfway decent at drawing!

Fast forward to graduating from business school, and I was talking with a friend (Opendoor’s first employee) about Opendoor’s mission of empowering everyone with the freedom to move. I became very inspired by the idea — especially as someone who experienced the moving process so often growing up — so my friend connected me with our co-founder and CEO, Eric Wu. After interviewing with him and hearing his ideas for how to transform the industry, I knew Opendoor was the place for me. I joined in 2015 and have been here ever since.

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?

About 5 years ago, when I decided I was going to leave my first post-graduate school job and join Opendoor, I assumed I would be able to quit my job in a very fast conversation. I imagined a simple process in which I would tell my boss as well as our CEO that I wanted to join a small, scrappy company and work in real estate, an area I’d always been passionate about, and that would be the end of it. What I learned is that leaving a company is not as cut and dry as I thought it would be. I shared the news with my boss, and soon after, the CEO asked if I wanted to go for a walk. He proceeded to ask how we could make my current role a better fit for me and offered various ways for me to stay at the company.

Until that moment, it had not occurred to me how much I could be in the driver’s seat and help shape what I wanted for my career and in my work environment — even in a time when I was looking to leave. While the conversation didn’t result in me staying at the company, I’ve applied that learning countless times since and shared it with many others throughout my career.

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

Accurate home pricing is critical to our business and a huge focus of mine. More than 60% of people need to sell their former home in order to be able to purchase their next home. Thus, knowing the exact amount they can sell their home for is incredibly important information to start the moving process. Opendoor has built a world-class pricing model that becomes more precise with every home we transact. What that means for our customers is that when they request an all-cash offer from Opendoor, not only will they receive it within 24 hours but they can have confidence that it is a precise reflection of the fair market value of their home.

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

The passion that people at Opendoor dedicate toward creating a better buying and selling experience is palpable every single day. We have team members operating in 21 markets, and many of them have been in the real estate business for the majority of their careers. They know how much opportunity for improvement there is. What we’re doing has a huge impact on people’s lives, and that’s reflected in how deeply we care about making the Opendoor experience as excellent as possible for our customers.

A few years ago we were working with a customer in Dallas-Fort Worth whose dad was ill and lived in Louisiana. The customer wanted to move his family to be closer to his dad, and do so during the holidays so that his son didn’t have to miss any school. By selling to Opendoor, not only did the customer not have to worry about prepping his home and listing it on the open market, we worked with him to identify a convenient closing date so that his son could enjoy a fully decorated and stress free holiday experience at home and start school on time in their new community in January. Stories like these never cease to excite me about the impact our team can have on people’s lives!

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?

Inmy early 20s, I had a boss who had incredibly exacting standards and held me to them. At the time, it was painful, but in hindsight, I’m deeply grateful for their precise feedback and ensuring I met their high bar for quality work. I was able to learn early on in my career what it meant and what was required to deliver results at a consistently high level. It’s now an innate part of my work ethic and something I hold my own team to as well.

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?

Real estate is a very relationship-driven industry and more often than not those relationships are built and strengthened in old-school forums. Handshakes on the golf course are still the norm, not the exception. Thus, it can be difficult for people who don’t have the same hobby preferences as those at the leadership level to foster the relationships that can help them elevate. I think it’s the responsibility of women who hold leadership roles to coach and mentor other women into senior positions even more proactively as a result.

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

  1. Revamp hiring practices: Insist on pipeline parity when hiring for a new role. Before onsite interviews, there should be a fair proportion of candidates from under represented groups (URG) of similar qualification who will all be evaluated at the same time. This means companies must actively make the trade off to take longer and proactively work to fill a robust and representative pipeline. Companies should also ensure each interview panel has a fair URG representation and provide interview training for all panel participants, especially how to acknowledge and navigate unconscious bias.
  2. Enable true work hour flexibility: Create a company-wide culture around in-person meetings that avoids early mornings and late afternoons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with working parents who feel their career prospects are limited because they have to miss important meetings that are inadvertently scheduled too early or too late in the day. I encourage my senior team to lead by example and unapologetically block their calendars for school pick-ups/drop-offs, doctor appointments, soccer practice or whatever it may be — it then creates a culture where team members are empowered to do the same.
  3. Shed light on bias publicly and respectfully: Leaders, especially female leaders, should be empowered to publicly name conscious and unconscious bias so their colleagues can become more aware and accommodating. For example, when I see a female volunteer to take notes during a meeting, I’ll mention how that individual is frequently the notetaker and re-assign the task. Similarly, if I sense there is too much sports talk taking place and female colleagues aren’t participating, I’ll make a joke and insist we talk about wedding dresses to promote awareness in a light hearted way.

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

Both men and women face unique challenges in the workplace. For women, my experience has been that women can sometimes (not always!) have less confidence than similarly experienced and similarly awesome male counterparts. My experience has also been that the reality in the workplace is people often (not always!) respond quite positively to confidence even if it’s not always based on merit. To try to overcome this with my teams I try to set a tone of truth seeking and rigorous debate. I also will moderate my style and feedback based on the natural confidence of my teammates, male or female — a great lesson I learned from a former boss.

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

  1. Non-traditional floor plans: Recently, homebuilders have been coming out with new, non-traditional floor plans that flexibly accommodate many different types of family situations — from aging parents moving in, to children staying in the home longer. It’s great to see the homebuilder industry creating affordable solutions for dynamic family environments.
  2. Multi-use developments: The increasing demand for combined live, work, play developments is opening up opportunities to transform how we build communities and redefine what the traditional idea of the average “day-to-day” can be. In car-centric Phoenix (which is where I live), my friend who recruited me to join Opendoor is now developing what will be the country’s first car-free community.
  3. Self-driving cars: While this is a few years away, the impact that self-driving cars will eventually have on how real estate decisions are made is fascinating to me. Today, commute times are a huge factor that people take into account when choosing where to live. With self-driving cars, will we start building homes farther and farther away from where people work because the commute time can become a productive component of the workday?

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. We are not building houses fast enough to meet the demands of new household formation. We need to make zoning and permitting easier to build new houses and we need to do it fast.
  2. Affordable housing is a problem in a growing number of communities nationwide. This is partially driven by inventory but also because it’s expensive to develop lots and build homes to required safety standards. The impact is that home ownership is inaccessible to a growing number of people. The more we can invest in construction technology to reduce new home development expense the more those savings can be passed on in the form of more affordable home ownership.
  3. In many metropolitan areas we’ve continued to build homes farther and farther from major employment centers but our infrastructure investment hasn’t kept pace. You hear about “super commuters” who travel 2+ hours to get to / from work but there’s a limit to how far and long people will travel. Without sufficient investment in roads and public transportation, I don’t see a future in which we can continue building new communities the way we do today.

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

Bea human! Once you become a people manager or a leader within an organization it’s not as though you become a different species. You can still be a friend and you should absolutely get to know your reports on a personal level. Showing empathy and interest in those you manage fosters camaraderie and builds a strong bond of trust that can be very helpful to achieve outcomes.

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. Be yourself even if that means being very different than everyone around you. Fresh ideas and perspectives deserve to be heard, not hidden.
  2. Listen to your customers and to the agent community. Talk to both groups frequently and understand their needs and motivations. More often than not in real estate, you are not the core customer for what you’re trying to build — ask the people who are.
  3. Real estate is a big ticket purchase. Don’t assume that people can or are willing to pay for the shiniest, the newest, or the most expensive features. Bells and whistles can be a detractor, not a motivator.
  4. Real estate is deeply personal and emotional. When you buy a home you’re not just buying four walls and a roof. You’re establishing roots in a community, you’re choosing where your family will make memories, you’re deciding how long or short you’re willing to commute. Logic isn’t always the best answer in those situations — sometimes just being an empathetic ear to your customers is the best you can offer.
  5. In a well established industry like real estate, the best ideas can seem or even be terrible the first 1 to 100 times you hear or think about them. To innovate, you have to persevere through that.

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. 🙂

This is already a movement in many ways, but I am intrigued by the power of meditation to improve physical and mental health, dispel conflict, improve relationships, and even improve business outcomes. I would love to inspire a movement — both in our personal and work lives — of more deep breaths, taking things in stride, and overall zen.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn!

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!

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