The dynamic, award-winning brokers of Baird & Warner’s Keller Group Chicago, Kara and Jon Keller, are among Chicagoland’s most trusted, top-producing real estate agents. They credit their thriving practice to their creative problem-solving approach to meeting their clients’ needs and ensuring beneficial closings for both buyers and sellers.
Like many in the industry, Kara Keller didn’t always think she would become a real estate broker. In fact, she got her license while still working in corporate America. “I was thinking I could get into investing and become a landlord.” But after her corporate job ended, she found a niche in the industry, doing one real estate deal with a local real estate company before she decided to found her own practice in 2004.
After 10 years with her own firm, Kara elected to join Baird & Warner, eventually transferring to Baird & Warner’s Lincoln Park office. Kara was drawn by the training, leadership, and mentorship opportunities offered by the office. “David Bailey is hands down the best manager I’ve ever had, including my managers in the corporate world,” she says, adding that even after 18 years in the business, Bailey’s guidance and mentorship helped her to take her business to the next level. Kara also credits the great support team at Baird & Warner Lincoln Park, including Diana Duvall, Hunter Andre, Negeen Masghati, and everyone in the office “down to the front desk support. Everyone is always happy and asking ‘what can we do to help you?’”
Jon Keller is a more recent transplant to real estate, starting in the business a little more than four years ago. “I also worked in corporate America in advertising, marketing, and sales. I could see that path was changing in ways that meant it was coming towards an end, and I had a wife who was very successful in real estate.” Together, they have formed a very successful partnership, with both able to play to their strengths and support one another in all aspects of their business.
When it comes to what’s most rewarding about their practice, Kara and Jon agree that helping their clients achieve their dreams of home ownership brings them tremendous satisfaction. As Jon puts it, “helping people with a very highly emotional and highly personal transaction is really rewarding. Sometimes we work with people who are struggling with something, and they need someone to help them understand the process. Even though we do this every day, most people only move once every 8 to 10 years. So when it comes to even the smallest of deals, you are helping someone achieve their lifelong dream.” Kara adds “for the majority of people we work with, regardless of their income, their home is still their biggest asset. Everyone has a different reason why they’re moving, and helping them accomplish those life goals is fulfilling.”
Kara and Jon also enjoy the control their real estate practice offers. “It’s great to be driving our own business,” says Jon, adding “It’s dependent on us. We have lots of help and our managing broker is fantastic, but at the end of the day success or failure is on us. I enjoy being in charge of my own destiny and having the complete freedom to shape our business.”
For new agents considering a career in real estate, Kara and Jon advise a proactive approach. “When you work for yourself, it can be easy to lose focus, so it’s important to do something to move the ball forward every day,” Kara says. Jon continues, “treat it like a business. Have a routine, and stick to it.”
Both Kara and Jon encourage new agents to get in the habit of getting in touch with clients in person, by picking up the phone, meeting clients and networking in person where possible, and focusing on adding an in-person touch to their business. “You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves — you can’t be too fancy for any aspect of the process. We might be selling a $2 million dollar house, and also taking out the garbage at the open house,” Kara says. Jon elaborates: “the key attribute for a successful agent is to not bring problems to your clients — always pair any problem with a solution. You’re not being told what to do, and in the end, the result is what matters. As an agent, you don’t get paid for showing up, working hard, or doing great presentations. What ultimately matters is closing the deal for your client.”
However, both agree that even in the independent and self-sufficient world of real estate, Baird & Warner’s best-in-class training, mentorship, and support makes a big difference, especially for agents just starting out. “For new agents, the first year is critical to building a foundation. If you listen to the advice, counseling, coaching, and mentoring and follow the training program at Baird & Warner for new agents, you can be successful. Picking the right brokerage matters.”
Kara and Jon have used that combination of freedom and support to create innovative, creative solutions to serve their clients’ needs. As the pandemic began, they were one of the first brokerages to use indoor drone videos to make their online listings stand out, creating engaging, compelling content that stood out and allowed buyers to view homes safely. Kara, whose background is in art, prizes her ability to “see through walls,” stage homes to their best advantage, and ensure that both buyers and sellers can see the potential in every home.
When they’re not focused on their business, Kara and Jon turn their attention to their active family and diverse interests, including Broadway shows, getting together with other professional friends, and exploring all that Chicagoland has to offer, including checking out local restaurants and their Chicagoland favorites, including Chicago’s world class museums and the Madison Street Theater.
Ready to find the brokerage that will be right for your growing real estate business? Want to learn more about our Lincoln Park office? Let’s connect!