Though she is still early in her real estate career, broker Kate O’Neill has already learned a lot of valuable lessons — and earned some impressive successes in less than one full year in the business.
For one thing, Kate has yet to have a buyer of hers pay above list price, “which is pretty big in the current market that we’re in,” she says. “I’m pretty proud of that!”
For another, Kate has quickly earned a glowing reputation around the Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park office for her social media savvy, particularly using Instagram as a channel to speak to her sphere, sow the seeds for long-term referral relationships, and reach her ideal millennial buyers.
“One thing with my social media that I always keep in the back of my mind is to treat it like my business card and my social proof,” Kate says. “That way, when people look me up, any potential new clients or friends of mine who know I just got started in this can see that I’m busy and that I’m actively working. That I’m constantly hosting open houses, or selling a property, or teaching them something that they didn’t know.”
For Kate, getting started with training and getting a feel for the industry has been a particularly swift — and unusual — process. Kate started her journey to real estate in 2020 during the peak of quarantine, after being furloughed and eventually laid-off from her long-time career in sales management.
“When I started thinking about what I was going to do after I was laid off, I was really nervous about the possibility of working for another company that was going to shut down again, or furlough me, or whatever was going to happen,” Kate says. “I wanted to try something a little different.”
It wasn’t long before inspiration struck. Kate owns a multi-unit building with members of her family, and had “managed the tenant acquisition part of it for a long time,” she explains. When both of her building’s tenants moved at the height of the pandemic, Kate sprang into action — and got both units rented within just a matter of days.
“It struck me that real estate was an industry that wasn’t feeling the same effects as so many others,” she says. “I started thinking: I get to be my own boss, I get out what I put in… Maybe this would be a good career change for me.”
Kate soon signed up for licensing classes, though she had to wait to take her test because the state’s system was backed up.
“But that was OK,” Kate says. “Because it gave me time to interview with other brokerages and talk to a bunch of different places to make the best decision. I wanted something ready to go. So I passed my test and I had training in the office literally the next day. I wanted to get started. I’d been sitting on my butt for six months, doing nothing, and that’s not my style.”
Fortunately, after meeting with several different brokerages, Kate knew that the Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park office would be her professional home — and a great place to accelerate her success in her new career.
“When I met with Negeen, I just really liked her personality; I really liked everything that she had to say about the business. And then I met with David, and I really liked what he talked about,” Kate says. “Having worked in sales management, I have had a lot of managers over the years. I’ve had a lot of really good managers, and I’ve had a lot more really bad managers — so that was important to me.”
“Yes, you’re your own boss in this business, but having access to coaching and training from people who want to see you succeed is so crucial. I think having someone there to have your back and to encourage you and to hold you accountable when you need that is really important. Knowing that David, Negeen, and Diana are there, and that they’re supportive, and that they’re so good at what they do was really important to me. It made that decision easy.”
Getting started at an unusual time due to pandemic restrictions, Kate found the hands-on support and training of the management staff incredibly beneficial, while also making it a point to make connections with her fellow brokers in the office — whether virtually or in-person. Quickly, Kate learned that “the relationships you build with your colleagues are just as important as the relationships you build with your clients,” she notes.
“Everyone has been really nice,” she continues. “I think you have this idea that it’s going to be kind of cutthroat, with everyone stealing clients from each other… But everyone I’ve met so far has been really nice and encouraging. Especially when they hear that you’re new, everybody’s like, ‘wow, that’s great, what did you do before?’ I don’t think I was expecting people to be so friendly.”
And making time to be in the office and connect with her colleagues has directly contributed to her business, giving her opportunities that are turning into leads.
“My biggest lead source right now is open houses. I usually host two a weekend — on occasion more, on occasion less, but two is the goal. And that’s been a really, really good route for me to meet people and have real estate conversations,” Kate says. “I’ve only been in Chicago for less than four years, and a year of that we spent inside not meeting new people! So I didn’t come into it with a huge group of local friends and a group of people who were going to purchase from me. So I needed to build that pipeline, and open houses have been a really productive way for me to do that.”
And as she approaches her one year real estate anniversary in the fall, Kate is looking forward to learning more and seeing what comes next, she says.
“I’m really excited to continue to learn more about how the market goes. You know, I worked in the same industry for so long and I knew what times of year were busy and slow, and I knew what to expect,” she explains. “I think it will be really interesting to see how each year is the same, but different.”
In addition to growing her real estate business, Kate enjoys learning more about Chicago and is still discovering her favorite things — a growing list that so far includes the city’s many street fairs and craft festivals, enjoying the dog beach along the Lake, working on renovations and updates to her home, and spending time with her fiance and her dog.
To connect with Kate, you can follow her on Instagram at @kates.real.estate.
Curious about how the training, support, and services at Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park can help take your business to the next level? Get in touch today to get the conversation started.