Jack O’Connor has been in the real estate game since 1979, and he’s learned quite a few lessons along the way. Jack is the broker/owner for The Denver 100, Inc., an innovative real estate services company in the Denver Metro area. Over the course of his career, he’s been party to more than 2,600 real estate transactions. He’s trained thousands of Denver realtors, both through his company, and through his one-on-one coaching sessions. Jack even wrote a book for his coaching clients on the four disciplines of real estate, called “Building Real Estate Champions.”
Recently, Jack took home SMDRA’s 2018 Realtor of the Year award. We caught up with him to ask about what he’s learned over his incredible four-decade career. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you first get into real estate?
I was playing professional racquetball and I worked at the Denver Athletic Club. I gave a lot of lessons to people who were in real estate and that’s how I became interested in it as a career. I got my license because the owners of one of the largest real estate companies in Denver took lessons from me. He and I talked quite regularly about what they do. He indicated that he thought I had the right characteristics to thrive in this industry. So, it wasn’t really anything that prompted me, as much as I was given a pat on a back and told, “You may want to consider this.” And there wasn’t much of a future in racquetball for me because it’s a really small professional sport. Real estate, on the surface seemed like a real good career. I mean, here I am 38 years later, and I’m still doing it. So I would say it’s worked out pretty well for me.
What’s your favorite part about being a broker?
Well, I think there are two pathways that I have: one is that I own a real estate company; the second is that I sell quite a bit of real estate. There’s joy in both, but they’re different. I have 25 brokers who work for me. And we still bring in newer people to the industry. I give them six-months of coaching, and one-on-one coaching that they couldn’t get any place else. I’ve probably trained several thousand people here in the Denver marketplace. The joy of helping a broker grow and be able to grow their business is very satisfying. And being able to help clients, whether it’s buyers or sellers, to complete the transaction is equally as satisfying. I get the best of both worlds.
What do you wish your clients knew before working with you?
There are so many steps, from the day you decide to sell or buy a home. If the consumer has a high degree of knowledge in those areas, they may not necessarily look to a real estate broker. But because houses are unique, there’s value in having a real estate broker provide positioning, pricing, and an understanding of how this home stacks up against another properties in the sub-division.
I wish that every homeowner would be open to hearing a customized program, because, I think generally real estate has gotten very streamlined, with the technologies available. If you’re buying a home today, you’re probably going to look online, and you’re not going to call or engage a lender or a real estate broker until you’ve satisfied your search to the point where you go, “I like this home.” If we (brokers) could get into the process sooner, we could handle a lot of work for people on the front side.
I think that the consumer often relates to their last real estate transaction as the way things were. And really, about every five years, there are new services, new laws and new forms. If the consumer started with a counseling session, it would likely save them a lot of time, effort and money.
So, you wish they would reach out to a professional sooner in the process, rather than trying to go it alone with Google?
I do. But in all fairness, I don’t think that consumers have been given overwhelming service. So, the reason any consumer in the industry chooses to do their own homework is because their last experience wasn’t really overwhelmingly positive. It was just kind of there. “Yeah, we did it and the broker was fine.” But I will tell you that the future of real estate will be predicated, frankly, on how the consumer’s experience in the transaction is going to be felt. Because there are so many steps that could be done at a better efficiency and at a better price.
The average consumer goes, “Well, maybe we should go buy a home.” And the first thing they do is they look into a zip code on an online aggregator. The online aggregator may or may not have accurate information. I mean, they (the consumer) can get information. But what is the value of the information they’re retaining? If someone came to me and said, “Jack, I’m thinking of starting a search, what would be the first thing you would do?” I’d say, “Let’s go to a site that we know has accurate, real time information.”
It’s our goal to be able to say, “We’re going to provide you with an experience that one, you may not be able to necessarily get any place else, and two, will take the pain of buying or selling a home off of your plate and put it on our plate, because we’re better at it.”
You have completed over 2,600 transactions in your career. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
The National Association of Realtors has buyer and seller profiles each year. They research thousands of transactions. And out of the thousands of transactions, on average, from the day someone buys or sells a property on a contract, to the closing, there’s about 64 steps. That’s 64 communication lines that have to occur, whether it’s with the broker and lender, the broker and the title person, the broker and the appraiser, the broker and the other broker, etc. The more complex the transaction, the more communication steps there are.
But the consumer has no idea that there’s actually that much going on behind the scenes, because the real estate industry hasn’t done a good job with laying out that pathway. So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to make sure that the consumer, whether buying or selling, is aware of the potential pathways it’s going to take to get them to a successful closing. Because then the consumer is aware of what they are actually getting.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m proud of my market knowledge. I keep abreast of exactly how many homes sell every month, how many listings are in the area, and what price range they’re in. I try to pick the trends. And I share my market knowledge through a newsletter, so the agents who work with me can get 38 years of market knowledge in a snapshot, every month. I get the most questions from consumers about where the market’s going, or where the market is today or the price range they’re in. And I can give them clear, concise trends based on facts, not mere opinion.
What do you wish you’d known when you started out?
I would say that I worked harder and probably didn’t worker smarter. I started my real estate career just by going out and creating new relationships. You know, I worked hard the first three, four years of real estate and was highly successful. But the reality is, I worked so hard that I put at risk many personal things just to grow my business. And so, there wasn’t a good balance of business and family and spirituality and workouts. It’s very hard in any sales industry, whether it’s insurance sales, real estate sales or car sales. If you’re just having to build a new relationship every day to sell something, that’s really hard. And if I’d just worked with the network that I already had back then, I probably would have had a less stressful career.
So, I would say, I would’ve gone to the people who already knew me, and knew me as a professional racquetball player. I would have gone back to those people faster. And frankly, when I did that about three and a half or four years into real estate, I became highly successful at a much higher rate.
In that same vein, what advice would you give to real estate professionals who are just starting out?
The biggest mistake I see new agents make is that they think they need to know everything before they take action. Taking action and massaging the action as you go will shorten your learning curve. In the book, “Good to Great,” that’s exactly what they say. You actually shoot, then you aim, then you modify. And so in real estate, I see too many people not taking enough action to get into the game. It’s an action business. So, even though you don’t know everything, what actions are you taking every day that can be consistently measured for you in this relationship-building world? Even if you’re going to a real estate class for three hours a day, there still has to be some portion of your day dedicated to growing relationships with your database.
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