By Elizabeth SanFilippo
Turning the Love of Real Estate from a Hobby into a Business
Kristine Farra of Gold Coast Real Estate loves shopping for condos the way some women love shopping for shoes. But Farra may be the only Chicago agent who started as a part-time dentist before making the move in 2000 to sell luxury properties full-time.
With contacts already established in the real estate industry, thanks to her architect brother-in-law, friends and meeting people from checking out properties for fun, the career move was relatively seamless. After all, she’d studied the market out of sheer enjoyment since she moved to Chicago in 1989. Today, she continues to study the market, because, as she believes, in order to be successful in real estate, “Know your client. Know your market. And utilize all available market resources, including maintaining a strong web presence.”
Her first clients included friends and colleagues, and her network grew from marketing and referrals. From the beginning, she’s been a luxury agent; her first sale was a $1 million new construction condominium. She attributes her first sale – and others – to working with architects and interior designers early on to create a “long-term vision of the space.” That involves setting up the home with decor, a creative aspect of the job that Farra loves.
That’s not to say the luxury business is without challenges. While a $20 million sale is her highest-priced listing ever sold, the highest listing she represents is a $25 million Burr Ridge mansion. But that listing is currently on hold due to flooding while under control of the lender, who is currently in the process of calculating cost estimates and depreciating the price.
“Know your client. Know your market. And utilize all available market resources, including maintaining a strong web presence.”
— Kristine Farra
A flood in a mansion is a very specific challenge, however, there are other challenges to keep in mind with the luxury market in general. “While luxury buyers are less affected by financing challenges,” she says, “there remains a fine balance between ‘wish list’ versus value. All properties, including luxury residential, continue to be extremely price-sensitive. Knowledge of market conditions is key with any misstep in pricing and exposure only delaying market time.”
She also admits that, while accustomed to a smaller pool of buyers since the downturn, the luxury market is stable. As proof, she cites the National Association of Realtors’ finding that luxury residential properties under contract actually increased by 3.9 percent in February 2011.
With that in mind, Farra remains quite busy. She’s currently selling everything, from a $211,000 property to a first-time homebuyer to a $20 million home, which is presently under contract.
Like many real estate agents, Farra typically spends her days coordinating showings, touching base with other agents, marketing, planning, real estate shopping, and, of course, networking with friends, agents and clients. And Farra recommends to any agent, whether moving from a different profession, like dentistry, or looking to realign their real estate business, “the personal connection is key to establishing a long-term relationship with our clientele and obtaining lasting success,” she says. “Clients are working with us based on receptiveness to their needs. Their timeframe. Their expectations. They are looking for guidance and direction regarding realistic market expectations.”