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Here’s a riddle for you: How did the short sales real estate agent who began her career during the 2008 financial crisis make a million dollars?
Stumped? Meet Julie Wyss.
(Video Credit: Corinne Rivera / HomeLight)
During the biggest disruption to the U.S. housing market since the Great Depression, Julie’s third and youngest child started first grade—and she decided to get into real estate while everyone else in the industry was jumping ship. “I just needed a career,” Julie says.
Her choice, though risky at the time, eventually paid dividends and led her to an incredible achievement:
Julie is the first agent to close $1 million in commissions from HomeLight referrals, which she estimates accounted for approximately one-third of her business in 2018.
Along the way, she figured out how to harness her strengths, develop “nearly perfect” systems to serve her clients, and still find time for herself every day. We sat down with Julie to find out how she cracked the code on a notoriously difficult business and why she believes in HomeLight’s platform as a trusted service for homebuyers and sellers.
Carving a niche in the worst real estate market of a lifetime
Though she’s originally from Washington state, Julie considers the San Jose, California area, her true home. It’s where she grew up and has resided since she was 14. Before she landed anywhere near the real estate industry, she owned a fitness center in Los Gatos, a town of 30,000 people in Silicon Valley. At the time she had friends in the mortgage business who had built successful careers, which inspired her to change paths.
“They were doing so well financially and I was working so hard owning a small business and just not making the money I wanted to,” Julie said.
So she sold her fitness center and got into mortgages part-time. She’d planned to open her own mortgage company…when the industry completely imploded and the subprime mortgage crisis tanked the housing market.
Even after hearing the stories of real estate agents short selling their own homes, Julie found an opportunity in the chaos. She became an agent herself.
“I went to a free seminar and they said everybody should be getting certified in short sales. So I got the short sales certification and went full on into marketing myself as the short sale expert,” she says. “I became very successful in that market.”
How Julie ended up partnering with HomeLight
Julie still lives in Los Gatos and her physical office is based there, but she does real estate business in the surrounding Silicon Valley area, including the white-hot market of San Jose where she made her way through generating leads in different neighborhoods. She found success in the 95124 ZIP code where she brought up her kids, as well as Cupertino (where Apple’s headquarters are based) and Los Altos.
In late 2016, she came across HomeLight by way of Googling herself (something that she does once a week to see what pops up and check her online visibility). She saw her HomeLight agent profile in the search results and quickly connected with one of HomeLight’s representatives so she could get set up on our platform.
She learned our way of doing business: HomeLight connects home buyers and sellers with real estate agents in their area who have the most relevant experience to meet their needs. We look at performance metrics surfaced through an agent’s transaction history as well as factors like client reviews. With these insights, we’re able to identify those agents who consistently deliver optimal outcomes for their clients.
So unlike other real estate sites that sell ads, Julie couldn’t start buying HomeLight referrals with a credit card. She had to earn them with her actual transaction history (which she’d already started to build) and continual outstanding performance.
And she was up for the challenge.
“The great thing about HomeLight is that consumers trust the platform,” she said. “I think that the system is absolutely brilliant.”
Focus on your strengths, and delegate the rest
So what’s the secret sauce to Julie’s fast rise to success, in real estate and with HomeLight? She shared a few of her brass-tacks business strategies:
1. Focus and execute on the seller’s top priority: return on investment
At listing consultations, Julie aligns her strategy with clients’: getting the most value out of their home. She’s a return-on-investment expert, and every one of her sellers gets an assigned assistant concierge to help them with home prep.
“We just have this process: window cleaning, carpet cleaning, house cleaning, handyman repairs, junk hauling, yard work,” Julie said. “And then finally staging, hitting the market, and jumping right into our marketing plan. Clients love to know that I’ve done this hundreds of times and they feel comfortable knowing that I have the answers.”
2. Complete home inspections in advance
Not all agents do pre-listing inspections, but the benefit is that you can identify any issues with the house in advance, fix it before the buyer’s inspections, and have more certainty during the closing process that you won’t be ambushed by a surprise repair request.
3. ‘Outsource everything but genius.’
“My superpower is lead generation, lead conversion, getting contracts signed, building and maintaining relationships, and then getting a 5-star review,” she explains.
The rest she delegates, like driving buyers to showings or running around with flyers and lock boxes.
She also has two separate phone lines: one for existing clients, lead gen, and negotiations, and another for the MLS so she can have an assistant field calls from agents and appraisers.
With a small team (including her husband, her daughter, plus a few part-timers and transaction coordinators) Julie is able to trust others with tasks that eat up precious time and focus on connecting with more clients.
A day in the life of Julie Wyss
Julie’s typical day goes something like this:
Wake up every day at about 7 a.m. Sit down with a cup of coffee, open the computer, and hammer on lead follow up until about 9 a.m.
“I rotate: Call, text, email. Call, text, email,” Julie says of her lead nurturing process.
During this time, she also reaches out to any clients who are in escrow and might need something on her end.
After that, she works the rest of the whole day and burns the midnight oil.
Julie then exercises for about two hours (from 10 a.m. to noon). She’ll take a five-mile walk with her dog, go for a run, or head to the gym. She sometimes checks her phone at the top of a mountain after a hike to see if anything needs her attention.
Quick shower, a little bit of catch up, and then it’s time for listing appointments which Julie tries to book between 2-4 p.m. She’ll end the work day with a couple more hours of miscellaneous tasks, before heading out around 6 or 6:30 p.m. for a nice dinner and maybe a glass of wine.
“I prefer to work on weekends, rather than evenings, because I need my rest and if I work late, then it just throws everything off,” she said.
The truth about winning clients over
The average price point Julie sells is around $1.3 million, which is considered to be an average home in one of the most expensive markets in the country. But even with sky-high home prices that sound like an ideal get-rich-quick-scheme for an agent, Julie has mastered a system of selling at a high volume—upwards of 100 homes a year.
So while she runs her business like a well-oiled machine behind the scenes, the homeowners she works with are average people who made a smart (or extremely lucky) investment years ago. They may own million-dollar homes, but they aren’t looking for a fancy real estate agent.
Julie’s casual demeanor, then, is a comfort. No need to show up dressed to the nines. A pair of jeans and a nice sweater will do, she advises.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of just being down to earth,” Julie said.
At the end of day of intense negotiations or client presentations, Julie can escape the hustle of the city, retreat to her office in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains, and take in the cherry blossoms outside her office window.
It’s another seven-day work week, but you won’t find her complaining.
Header Image Source: (Sundry Photography/ Shutterstock)