Maintain Relationships — Treat your clients like they are your friends, and referrals will come your way.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thea Tuto, Co-Founder & CEO.
Thea Tuto is co-founder and chief executive officer of RealtyOffer, the first automated bidding platform of its kind, designed to educate and empower consumers looking to buy or sell a home and connect them with top-rated certified agents.
Since becoming a licensed real estate agent in 2015, Thea has represented hundreds of buyers and sellers in southeast Michigan. Her experience as an agent led her to want to modernize and streamline the real estate transaction process for buyers, sellers and agents, fueling the creation of RealtyOffer, which launched in 2021.
Prior to entering the real estate market, Thea and her husband owned and operated the popular Crave Lounge for over a decade in both Dearborn and Ferndale, Michigan. Thea earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Wayne State University, and she currently resides in Northville, Michigan, with her husband and three daughters.
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 initially became a real estate agent due to my interest in design, architecture, décor, and I also always loved working with people. After becoming a mom, I thought working in real estate would be a great way to have my own “thing” again since my focus had largely shifted toward raising two small children. As all new agents seem to think, I saw it as a great career with flexible hours, but I soon found out the flexibility is a misconception.
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?
I have quite a few of those stories! I was showing a beautiful home with a finished basement. We walked downstairs and as I was opening doors looking for the mechanicals room, I turned on the lights to find a life-sized cutout of Jack Black in his Nacho Libre costume staring right at me. Needless to say, there was screech that scared my clients to death, but we had a great laugh after.
Another time, I stepped into a walk-in closet and a cat leaped off a shelf onto my shoulder. My poor clients were practically rolling on the floor with laughter.
Lessons learned: Expect the unexpected!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am! I just recently launched my own company, RealtyOffer, in Michigan. It is an automated bidding platform that streamlines the real estate process and helps homebuyers, home sellers and real estate agents save money.
To be a competitive agent, expensive marketing campaigns have become a normal part of the job. However, there is no guaranteed return on investment. By using RealtyOffer, agents can earn consistent clientele by simply reducing their commission rates to bid against other agents. It’s an opportunity cost, not a marketing cost — a realtor only pays for the leads he or she wins.
Consumers are able to save thousands of dollars on their home purchase by using RealtyOffer. Twenty-four hours after setting up a free online profile, a home seller is notified of three reduced commission offers from agents in their area. For example, an agent may offer to charge only 4% commission instead of the normal 6%. The home seller can pick from any three of those offers if they’d like to move forward.
Similarly, homebuyers who set up a RealtyOffer profile will receive three commission contribution bids within twenty-four hours. Agents offer a part of their commission to use toward a homebuyer’s closing costs, meaning home buyers need to bring less money to closing and can use those funds to furnish and decorate their home. It’s a fantastic opportunity all around.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
RealtyOffer educates and empowers consumers. Not everyone is aware that a realtor’s commission can be negotiated. Even fewer people know that a realtor can give a client a portion of their commission to use toward a purchase. RealtyOffer is the first, fully-automated AI bidding platform of its kind that avoids those awkward negotiations.
The idea of RealtyOffer came about as I was working with a client. She was a single mom with four young boys, living with her parents. She was so excited to buy a house and have a new start with her kids. As we were in the process of looking at homes, one of her kids had a medical emergency and a large part of her housing budget was used to cover medical bills. She found a house she loved, but she didn’t have enough money to cover closing costs. As I was talking it over with my husband, we came up with the idea to contribute a part of my commission to help with her home purchase. I was able to help her buy her dream home, and the idea expanded from there.
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?
My husband has always been my biggest support. I wouldn’t have been able to launch RealtyOffer without his help and guidance. It’s been a team effort and will continue to be.
I am also extremely thankful for the support of my team. Galileo Insights, Tony Mamo and Keith Hearns. They have helped bring my idea to life, and I am so excited to see how RealtyOffer continues to grow.
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 one of the causes is the hesitancy of women to choose demanding senior positions due to family demands or children. We are expected to work as if we are not parents, and parent as if we don’t have jobs.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
The same work ethic should be expected of all employees, regardless of gender.
Companies should standardize interviews, use blind evaluation processes and anonymize resumes. Employees should be hired based on their individual character, not gender.
I think society is slowly making progress in the right direction as most people can acknowledge there is an imbalance. The first step in the right direction is to recognize the problem.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women executives are expected to work just as hard, if not harder, for less pay. That is, in itself, a huge challenge. Women are also often viewed as being too “emotional.” I personally think this is a positive attribute. Leading with emotion and empathy is something that should be done by everyone. Put any mom into an executive position and she will thrive. Multi-tasking pros all around.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
- You can work as hard as you want to.
- There is no cap to your earning potential.
- You help your clients move on to the next chapter in their lives. The overall process may be the same, but every client and every situation is unique. It’s never a boring job!
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?
- There is a lack of higher education requirements to obtain a real estate license.
- Brokers don’t help and support new agents as much as they should. They take a class for a few weeks, and are thrown into the ring, so to speak. As a result, many new agents make mistakes that could be easily avoided if they had more on-the-job training from their broker.
- Technology should be more integrated in the industry. It is slowly going in that direction, thankfully.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
The industry is changing, and we must all adapt. Technology is becoming more and more ingrained in our industry, but looking for opportunities to streamline the process and improve efficiencies will help move the industry forward.
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?
- Maintain Relationships — Treat your clients like they are your friends, and referrals will come your way.
- Stay extremely organized — It’s easy to get overwhelmed and miss deadlines if you don’t.
- Take control of your schedule — Don’t let clients overtake your life. It’s very easy to “be available” at all times, which leads to your personal life suffering.
- Set realistic financial goals — So many new agents expect to make a ton of money super fast. This is not the case. You need to build your business and it takes time.
- Be Patient — Set goals for yourself and work toward them. Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than expected to achieve them, especially when starting out.
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. 🙂
I would hope to inspire more agents to do what is best for the client. Educate and empower them. Buying and selling a home is such a stressful and overwhelming process for most. It’s one of the largest and most significant purchases of a person’s life. That’s how RealtyOffer came to be and I truly hope it will help revolutionize the real estate industry.
How can our readers follow you online?
@RealtyofferUS on instagram
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!