JoAnne Williams (host)
Senior Sales Consultant
Katnik Brothers Real Estate
Good afternoon to all of you, curious real estate licensees. I'm Joanne Williams, CEO of JWilliams Staffing. We are a temporary staffing, temp-to-hire, and direct placement firm specializing in new home sales, property management, and all associated real estate support services. Our prospective candidates, that we interview for our homebuilder clients, are required to have a real estate license in most states. So consequently, one of the questions we find ourselves answering the most is – “how would you compare selling new homes to selling resale real estate?” Both are residential real estate, providing buyers with their dream homes. There are several parallels between these two careers and there are some differences. My team and I thought it would be interesting and fun to talk about both of these careers with two outstanding superstars, one from new home sales and one from resale. Both of these highly successful individuals love their chosen careers.
Our first superstar is a new home sales legend, Mahtty Kowalik, is a California real estate broker and currently with Toll Brothers. Toll is a luxury national homebuilder. While at Toll, Maddy was recognized as the number one sales manager for two consecutive years and the first member of Toll Brother’s Southern California division to sell and close over one hundred million dollars in new homes in 12 months. She's a two-time winner of the National Association of Home Builders National Sales Professional of the Year Award (this is a big deal), first in 2017 and again in 2020. She's a certified new home sales professional and has received numerous local building industry awards for her accomplishments. Mahtty started her career when she was 20 years old and she continues to thrive and loves the homebuilding business.
Our second superstar is J.J. Katnik, owner and corporate broker at Katnik Brothers Real Estate here in Southern California. J.J. also obtained his real estate and broker's license in his early twenties. He started his company with his brother, Karl, during the financial crisis in 2009. This is your 11th year in business. Katnik Brothers do something I found really innovative and customer-centric. They offer full service to their clients. In other words, they have interior design services, furniture and staging, landscaping, photography, and interior 3D walkthroughs on a floor plan. It just kind of rounds out the whole service. J.J. is very bullish on real estate investing for the long term and has been incredibly successful, ranking in the top one percent of realtors worldwide. And he loves his chosen career in real estate. On a side note, J.J. and his wife are expecting their third daughter in less than a month.
So let's jump in and find out a little bit more about why these two superstars love what they do and what advice they have if you are considering selling residential real estate. So let's start with you, J.J., what is the number one reason that you decided to get into resale real estate and did somebody encourage you in the beginning to get you started?
Well, thank you for such a wonderful introduction. The number one thing that drove me was an interest in real estate from an early age, as far as liking the different aspects. The nice part about if you go into real estate, whether it will be a new home sales, residential. You get to see remodeling taking place. You get to do the valuation aspect there. Just a lot of different pieces to the puzzle. So you could actually specialize in a number of different items. And I always want to work on my brother. So residential real estate brokerage gave me the opportunity to do two things i love. I love an industry that I love and work on my brother, who I love and love working with.
Oh well that's great! Oh, my gosh. How about you, Mahtty? What was the number one reason you got into homebuilding, and did somebody encourage you in the beginning?
Yes, actually, my brother. I was going to school and I was selling clothes for Wet Seal. And I actually was their youngest manager at the time out of 65 stores. So they had me open Main Place Mall. And I was 18 and a half or so. And I had 17 young girls working for me that I was managing. And at one point, my brother said, “You know, you obviously are their top-selling manager at such a young age. Why don't you sell new homes like that nice lady did that we bought a home from in Yorba Linda!?” And I thought, well, that sounds interesting. And at the same time, as God would have it, the security guard at the mall brought me Donald Trump's book, Art of the Deal. And he said, I think you should have this book, which was so interesting that he did that. So I started reading it and I just fell in love with the idea of real estate. And so while going to school, I studied for my license and I decided that I wanted to build big high rises. And I started interviewing with commercial real estate companies. And actually I was interviewing them to find out, you know, what part of commercial real estate I wanted to get into. So actually it was my brother, and the security guard.
Alright. So if somebody was thinking about getting their real estate license, which I think maybe some of our viewers are today thinking, considering, you know, it's an investment. It takes some time. You know, you've got to put some work into it. If they were going to do that, what advice would you give them about setting their career expectations in new homes? We'll stay with you for a second there, Mahtty.
So, with new home sales, I was actually referred to the industry from one of the commercial real estate guys after being with them for four years. The market took a turn and they said, “If you still want to continue paying your bills, why don't you go sell new homes and join a real estate temp company?” So I actually did temp for a day, and absolutely loved it, and got picked up right away. Now, expectation wise, please do not expect to be picked up right away. However, you are getting exposure [when you temp for new home builders], and you're getting a chance to interview with different builders while you're on site, and I think that's a wonderful thing. And keep in mind, you're interviewing them to see which builder you might like. So have your expectations where you're gaining by being there and they're gaining from you as well.
That's excellent. What about you, J.J.? If somebody was thinking about going into resale real estate, what advice would you give them and how would you help them keep their expectations real?
Probably less watching of real estate TV shows would be step one, and then step two would be, don't expect fast success. It's a process. It does take time. I think the biggest bummer for me is seeing some people start and then stop before they even get the benefit of all the rewards of their hard work that they already put in. So I like to say, extend your time horizon out. This is an absolutely phenomenal career if you stick with it, anybody who sticks with it makes it. And I do really believe that if you extend your time horizon out and plan for [finding success] five years from now and not so much the near term, you're going to end up with a career that you love, you're going to be working with people that you end up really getting to know and loving, and I just think it's wonderful overall, IF you have that extended time horizon. If you think it's going to be like the TV shows, that you know a lot of people you’ll just make some phone calls, and get it all put together. I wish it worked that way. It doesn't.
No doubt. Was there something that you discovered, J.J., about resale that was different than what you expected? I know the time thing is definitely a critical factor because it does take time. Anything else that you discovered?
Yeah. I think in addition to the time factor, I did not realize, coming in, how emotional selling and purchase of real estate is and can be. I mean, you've got a transaction that has a lot of moving parts. You don't control all of it. So, as a realtor and a real estate agent, there's only so much you control. You're moving the process along, but you can't control emotions, one, which you can do everything right, but if the other side isn't playing ball, it can be a pretty stressful process. So starting in the financial crisis and going through that, you're getting to see the emotions and the hard times a lot of people had fallen on during those times and going into those listing appointments and seeing people selling their houses for sometimes less than what they were previously worth. I got a real wakeup call to just how emotional the selling process can be. So I would say that that was something that coming in I definitely did not have a good grasp of. But now being as far along as I am, I do have a really clear understanding, and it really helped. That time allows you to understand what people are going through, you know? A lot of people are selling their homes and leaving a lot of memories. Their kids grew up there, they got married when they were in that house. Those are intense things for people in their lives, and you can understand why it’s so important that when they sell, they feel like they’re leaving their home to another good family or to another person that they like. So, I think that is a big factor.
Yeah, and that's probably one of those things that they have to kind of maneuver through. But having a little advice on the front end is really a great thing. Thank you for sharing that. What about you, Mahtty? Was there anything that you discovered about new home sales that was contrary to what you expected?
I didn't expect to love it as much as I do. Starting out in commercial and being here with top guys in Newport Beach, I had a little bit of an ego at a young age and I though, I don't sell homes. You know, I work with you, you men! And so I really didn't think it was for me, and it ended up being like a fish in water for me. I absolutely loved it, especially working with first-time buyers I loved, and probably because we were about the same age at the time, but just really helping and guiding, and because of the experience I had, I was able to figure out finances for them quickly and get creative. And so, most amazing thing I had, I was able to bring into new home sales and really just help a lot of families, I just fell in love with the industry.
I love it. Was there a particular time or something that happened, where you just sort of said to yourself, I know I made the right decision?
You just gave me the chills. Yes, yes, yes, yes. You may recall who Dick Austin is. So it was one of my first few communities. I think I was three years into selling new homes. There was a beautiful lady and her daughter who was about 10 years old, and they wanted to buy a home and they didn't qualify. And so I went through six different lenders to try and find them mortgage, and nobody would lend. Finally, I wrote a letter to Dick and I said, listen, you know she's going to increase. This is a beautiful mom and a daughter. This is their home. You've got to believe me. I just laid it all out for him. And he went ahead and filled out the loan application, and ended up getting them a loan for those home, and they moved in and I tell ya, I could have just given birth to triplets. I just, it was the happiest day of my life.
That's great, I haven't heard that story before! J.J., was there a time or a thing or a day that you knew that, "Oh, my gosh, I absolutely made the right decision in going into resale real estate."
Yeah, I think that's a great question, and I think there's a lot of days over the course of time that you realize, wow, this is a significant moment. I'd say probably around that year three mark. Year three is where we really started to feel the momentum, and our clients were really giving us the feedback, "Wow, you guys do this differently," and really were telling us that we're doing a great job. Now, I didn't feel like the full success was there, but by year five, which was probably the next jump, we knew based on the past few years of the feedback from clients and how many referrals they were passing along, that we were really, really starting to move and go the right way. We had one client I can think of specifically around that year three mark that made an impact for me. We shouldn't have even had a chance to interview with this client, but another realtor brought us up in their presentation, and the doctor was a smart guy, and, said you know, "I could bring these Katnik brothers in and see what they're all about." They ended up using us, they had a great experience, and next thing you know, he referred three people over the next three months who ended up going and selling and closing deals with us. At that time, that was a huge, huge win for our business. But it really taught us, you never you never know which client could become your biggest fan. You never know what's going to be the thing slingshots you to the next level. But I really knew at year three, there was no looking back, I was in it for the long haul.
A little confidence builder too, right? So when prior clients, and this is true for both of you, when prior clients either they bought a new home or they purchased a home through you or listed at home with you, J.J., when they refer you business as you just described, how do you think they describe their experience with you? And, you know, it's going to be important because that those are the things to zero in on that could make somebody successful, right?
Yeah. Absolutely. That's I think a good frame of reference to keep is that every client is different and everybody's expectations are different. So when our clients go to work for us later on, it's amazing the different things that people love or take away or tell their friends, "Oh, you won't believe they do this." So it is different across the spectrum, depending on the client that refers. But what we hear most often is everybody on our team, the thing that we overarchingly hear, is, "We know that you care. You guys are always available. You're overcommunicating, you're always texting us, you're always calling us, you're always telling us what to expect." I've never had a client yet who's told me, "I hear too much from you" or, "I don't want to hear from you." So I think a big thing coming into this business, just to be aware of, is you are going to get calls after hours. This is an after-hours business. When everybody else is done with work, they're going to be calling. I can tell you, you talk about mentors or people that supported you early on, I think about my wife, even before when we were dating, but how many times I would leave the dinner table to take phone calls from clients, you know, having that support, to allow me to do that, definitely got me to where I am. And lucky for me, she's my wife and she puts up with a lot more of those calls now. But, I think that that's the expectation level.
Oh, my gosh. No kidding. What about you, Mahtty? What do you think that those referrals are hearing about you, when you're doing business with somebody?
Referrals are such a big part of our business. And I think in the new home world, maybe they don't really see it as a huge part, but it really is. One of the first things I did at the latest community that I'm at right now, is I actually went and doorknocked every home that's existing in our area (it was about 240 homes) and introduced myself and said, "We're your new neighbors," and I created a little referral program and we've actually received sales from it. So referrals are extremely important, and the referrals that we do get, it's always about just how they were treated, what an easy process it was. If there was anything stress full, you know, we were Johnny-on-the-spot and just took care of it. Everybody has my cell phone. It may appear that we are 10:00 to 5:00 or 11:00 to 6:00 in the new home industry, but my phone rings till 10:00 at night and starts at 6:00 in the morning. I get texts and constant emails and so we're just there for them. And that's where they pass on, when you're referring someone that they're going to be taken care.
I guess what I hear is that customer service is absolutely critical, regardless of selling resale or selling new homes, of course. I mean, you're selling the most expensive thing people usually buy. So, let me ask you, Mahtty, is there something about your personality or is there a characteristic about you that you think makes you really successful?
So I've been told, and I believe it also, that I have a servant's heart and I don't mean, go serve people as in, be taken advantage of, but serve for the sake of serving so that good comes of it for all in. So just have a servant's heart and know that when you give it, it's good for all. And I always think about how I want to be treated. So for me, when a guest walks in the door, I equate it to them walking into my home as if I was having a birthday party or a gathering at my house. How am I going to greet them from the time they're in the parking lot and actually walking up to the door? I'm usually greeting people before they even walk in, before they even got to the door, because everyone's experienced it, when they walk into a party and no one says hello, then you feel a little awkward. I don't ever want any guests walking into our new home sales office feeling awkward in any way. I want them to feel welcome and I want them to feel any feel just drop right off of them, because it is very scary. Whatever aspect of real estate that they're choosing to invest in, it's scary. And we want to be right there, letting them know that we are.
I love it. What about you J.J., was there anything about just about who you are that you think if somebody is considering this, you know, this is definitely gonna be part of their makeup?
Yea, I love Mahtty's answer. Having a service heart is huge, and that's obviously what's made her so successful. I, I always point to, you have to like people. If you don't like people, don't get into any type of real estate. I can promise you you're gonna have to deal with a lot of people and you have to want to serve other people. So I think that second part of it is, you're serving others not for your benefit, but to serve others. So, there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t work out. So for people who think there’s going to be commission at the end of the line – not always. You are serving others, and if you keep in mind, that you are serving others, and you do like dealing with people, even through challenges, I think this is the best career path for you, is anything in real estate.
Oh my gosh, that’s great, both great answers, I love it.
JoAnne, I just have to jump in for a second. I came across an award that I won 30 years ago. It was a Miss Congeniality Award from the contestants in the Newport Beach pageant. That is probably thee most important award I’ve ever received to date, because that was chosen by the contestants. I remember the girls saying, “Gosh, Mahtty. You actually care if our hair is out of place, or you’re teaching us how to do our turns or how to walk, when maybe some contestants might by trying to figure out how trip you!” So I’ve always just had that heart of helping others, and that good comes to all from it.
Yea, well and I love the point too, that J.J. made, that you both face this. Not everybody that comes in, or that you deal with or that you’re serving, results in a commission, but the effort is always there because it has to be. Otherwise, you’re just not who you are. Okay, final question for each of you. Tell me what it is you like very most about choosing New Home Sales. What do you like best about the career?
For me, I love the industry and the people in it. I have the most amazing friends in the industry. I stepped out from it for a while in 2000, and it was Toll Brother’s that brought me back in. When I came back in, it was the same friends, including you, that were there, and I love having that industry wise. As far as what I’m getting out of it right now, where I’m at in live, is mentorship. I love training sales representatives. It’s not that they’re of a certain age. They could get into new home sales at a more mature age, and when people are new to the industry, I love to help coach and just share what I’ve learned. If they have any questions, I love that they come and ask. I get a lot of joy out of that right now.
And you’re good at it! I’ve experienced that with some of our people. What about you, J.J.? Anything in particular that you just love about your career? I mean, as crazy and chaotic as it is.
Yea, the nice thing about it is you get to learn about so many different parts of the industry the more that you go along. You’re dealing with more homebuilders, developers, you get to see people that are flipping homes, so the thing that brings me to work is the same thing that brought me to work when I was starting, which is, you’re never going to have the same day, and you get to see new things all of the time. The other thing is that you’re meeting new people all of the time. So you’re making friends, I mean, I live in the area I serve, so when I’m out grabbing a coffee or dinner (well, pre COVID I guess), you run into people from the community, which is fantastic. You get to share in the joy that is this community, and you get to talk about things and life, everybody gets to connect. That’s just an awesome thing about resale, is that if you build the business around where you live, you’re always going to be around people that you know and you’re constantly making new friends, which is fantastic.
Well, I can’t thank the both of you enough for your input, your insight, and for your encouragement and inspiration for all of the people that might be interested in getting their license and trying to decide what they’re going to do with it, so thank you so much for joining us today!