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Sissy Lappin: “Live below your means”

Live below your means. I suppose that’s four words! When opportunity knocks, it comes without a paycheck. If I had been saddled with debt, I wouldn’t have the freedom to start my own ventures. I know it’s tough, but save money! When I realized I essentially wanted to self-fund a real estate technology startup, I […]

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Live below your means. I suppose that’s four words! When opportunity knocks, it comes without a paycheck. If I had been saddled with debt, I wouldn’t have the freedom to start my own ventures. I know it’s tough, but save money! When I realized I essentially wanted to self-fund a real estate technology startup, I went through our budget and slashed every extra expense. Everything.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sissy Lappin of ListingDoor.

Sissy Lappin is a real estate entrepreneur with three decades of experience negotiating over a billion dollars in deals. An industry visionary and renegade, Sissy champions innovative, yet easy-to-use real estate products and programs that help homeowners navigate the intricate nuances of real estate. Sissy is the author of three books and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NerdWallet, and other national publications.

A homeowner advocate, Sissy used her extensive experience to launch her real estate technology startup, ListingDoor. Described by Forbes as the Uber of real estate, ListingDoor provides a simple, step-by-step guide to selling your home by yourself. ListingDoor is disrupting the way real estate transactions are completed to transfer 100% of the profit to the homeowner.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a real estate broker in the Houston area for over 20+ years when one of my closest friends came to me in a panic needing to sell her home. Her husband had defaulted on his child support, and left a huge income gap. She was worried for her credit, her ability to make the mortgage payment, and her family’s stability. Over a glass of wine, I mapped out how she could sell her own home. She put the house on the market two days later, sold it, and saved 24,000.00 dollars in commission. This left her with enough money to move, saved her credit, and reaffirmed her pride in herself as a strong woman and single mother.

Weeks later, my friend came over to thank me. She gave me a big hug and said, “You have to help other people in this situation so that they can help themselves.” This was the moment that I decided to write a book showing people how to sell their own home. Most people don’t know this, but the real estate industry is controlled by the second-largest lobbying group in the country. There have been very few innovations in real estate on purpose. Somebody that was in the system needed to stand with the homeowners.

After I wrote Simple and Sold, I was getting emails from readers asking for the actual tools to sell their own home, which is why I started ListingDoor. ListingDoor is an online experience that empowers homeowners to price, list, and market their homes with resources that are superior to those of standard brokerage firms. My husband and I have bootstrapped since day one with day jobs and two children to raise, and we’ve had a blast along the way.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work that you’re doing that is disruptive?

We are disrupting the way homes are bought and sold. ListingDoor teaches you how to sell your home; we unlock pricing information, simplify marketing tools, and deliver professional marketing materials for homeowners to close their own deal and forego burdensome commissions.

There are “discount broker” companies that take a 4.5% commission, but that is not a game-changer. Losing 4.5% to commission could mean you lose your hard-earned equity. It is almost assumed that you need a real estate agent to sell your home, which isn’t true. Right now, that choice is controlled by a lobbying group in Washington, D.C. ListingDoor changes the way real estate transactions are completed to transfer 100% of the profit to the homeowner. It is my mission to empower millions of homeowners to sell their own home, save the commission, and start the next chapter of their lives on a stronger financial footing.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Actually, my interns and mentees have been my best mentors. Let me explain that. Jia Toletino, the author of Trick Mirrors and a contributor for the New Yorker, worked with me when she was 23 years old. Jia was an extraordinary writer and had just finished two years with the Peace Corps in Africa. Jia helped me write my first book Simple and Sold; she was a great mentor to me because she was actually a much stronger writer than I was. Her fresh way of looking at things made my book more approachable.

I have gained quite a few mentors through podcasts and books! Some of my favorite entrepreneurs include Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Roland Fraiser, the serial entrepreneur. Also, the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell should be required reading. It’s incredible how many people share their success stories and strategies online.

Lastly, one of the most impactful investments I’ve ever made is attending the Business Mastery conference with Tony Robbins. This conference will help you level up in every aspect of your life to support your dreams.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think we are quick to call new companies ‘disruptors’ when they are not truly shaking up the system. In real estate, the biggest ‘disruptors’ are companies like RedFin that have allowed people to list their own homes. But they are masking the costs in the fine print. Using a discount broker will still cost you 4.5% of your equity, which can be absolutely devastating for your finances. A commission of 4.5% is simply not a game-changer for the homeowner. The system downplays the percentage rather than looking at the true dollars lost in the transaction. Painting these new companies as ‘disruptors’ actually masks the power of the real estate lobby in Washington. This lobby has blocked disruption in the real estate industry to line the pockets of agents. I truly believe that the financial health of millions can be saved if people educate themselves on how to sell their own home.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Live below your means. I suppose that’s four words! When opportunity knocks, it comes without a paycheck. If I had been saddled with debt, I wouldn’t have the freedom to start my own ventures. I know it’s tough, but save money! When I realized I essentially wanted to self-fund a real estate technology startup, I went through our budget and slashed every extra expense. Everything.

Saving money and being super disciplined enabled me to say no to investors and outside partners from day one. Investors aren’t always a negative, but maintaining autonomy helped keep the ethos of the company. Money always comes with a personality so you better like that personality! I didn’t have to worry about these issues because I had the money saved to forgo outside investment.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Since the beginning of my career, I have been blessed with opportunities to provide high-quality, attentive care to all my clients. I’ve made so many good friends along the way. I share my expertise in real estate with as many people as simply and accessibly as possible.

Next, you’ll see me championing ListingDoor as the tool to sell your own home. It is my mission to empower millions of homeowners to sell their own home, especially in this economic climate.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by woman disruptors that are typically faced by male counterparts?

I was at a seminar and sat next to one of the developers for WhatsApp. We started talking, and I told him about ListingDoor. He swiftly told me four things: I should not quit my day job; women were not CEOs in tech; I was too old to be starting a company; and that I was silly for not taking outside investment. He acted like my husband gave me money for a vanity project. There are obviously still many hurdles for women in business, but I choose to let it light a fire in me to work harder to earn my success and free others to do the same.

The last thing I’ll say is that sometimes friction is a good sign. When the first article came out on Listing Door, I got a phone call from the president of a major real estate firm that was two comments short of a death threat; he told me I needed to pack my stuff and start another business. That’s when I knew that I was really onto something important. Don’t be afraid of the naysayers.

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