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How to Succeed as a Real Estate Agent in Washington, D.C.

If you want to succeed as a real estate agent, you have to learn from the best of the best. Katie Scire, a real estate agent from national real estate brokerage Redfin, has closed on over 55 homes. From January to March 2014, she ranked as the ninth agent in Washington, D.C. with the highest number of home purchases closed. In an interview with Curbed DC, she spoke about real estate trends in Washington, D.C., neighborhoods on the rise and decline, and general advice for those wishing to become real estate agents in Washington, D.C.

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from?

I'm originally from Frederick, Maryland, but I live in Friendship Heights now. I went to undergrad in Pennsylvania and came back to the area. I'm now studying real estate for my MBA at Johns Hopkins here in D.C.

So, how did you get into real estate?

I worked for a new home builder in Frederick, and I thought it'd be a good path to get my Maryland real estate license. That's how I got into the industry. I heard about openings at Redfin and I really liked the Redfin model. I joined Redfin and got my D.C. and Virginia licenses as well.

Are there any specific areas in the D.C. area that you focus on?

Technically, I'm on an agent team for the Eastern half of the city, but I serve clients in all different neighborhoods. Some clients think they want to live in one neighborhood, but once they start searching they end up looking at homes in a completely different area. When you consider square mileage, D.C. isn't all that big, so as an agent here you really need to be familiar with the whole city.

How have you seen D.C.'s real estate market change over the years?

I mean, price is one of the biggest things, of course. Since the recession, year-over-year prices just keep escalating higher and higher. And you see different neighborhoods go in and out of vogue. Shaw is really popular right now. About a year ago, I wouldn't say it was as popular as it is now. And Southwest has attracted a lot of buyer attention thanks to the development along the waterfront. And then there are places like The Hill that are just perennial favorites among buyers.

Are there any other areas in D.C. that are either currently in vogue or that you predict will be in vogue?

I think Anacostia downtown is really going to heat up. Brookland is also really popular right now. Trinidad continues to be hot, but I think that interest is slowing down a bit there as people look to find the new hot spot.

It has a lot to do with affordability. As buyers are priced out of a neighborhood they'll look into the nearby neighborhoods and those become the new hot spots. It seems that development is happening everywhere.

Is there anything that makes D.C.'s real estate market unique in comparison to other cities?

Definitely. D.C. is by far one of the most walkable cities in the country, and you're really seeing a big shift in homeowners wanting that. They want to buy into the lifestyle, and it's worth it to them to pay basically whatever it takes to be able to live in a neighborhood where their family is, their friends are, their job is, close to entertainment and everything they want to get to.

D.C. is also a transient city with a lot of folks moving in and out. That certainly influences the market. We also have a lot of international buyers here. I've sold a couple of homes to overseas buyers moving to the area who never saw the property in person before buying it. We did video tours and spoke a lot on the phone. With the international population and lots of folks in the Foreign Service, working for the World Bank and such, it's not all that uncommon here.

For those who are interested in becoming real estate agents in the D.C. area, what are some of the easiest mistakes to make?

I would say not knowing neighborhoods is a huge pitfall. You really need to know an area to be able to counsel buyers. There are also nuances related to condos and home owners' associations and co-ops that are unique to D.C. We also have a lot of situations with tenants that you probably wouldn't encounter in other cities.

For an agent starting out, it's really crucial to work with an experienced agent who can mentor you and answer questions. It helps to be a part of a team like we have at Redfin. We encounter unusual situations all the time, so it's great to have colleagues who have been in similar situations and can give you advice. Trying to go it alone is not a good idea.

So, what do you think homebuyers really looking for in a D.C. home?

I would say it varies by neighborhood and demographic. Obviously, a family looking for a single-family house prioritizes completely different things than a single bachelor.

Are there any specific characteristics that people tend to looks for? Like, being near the Metro or anything else?

Throughout the city, walkability, again, is huge. As is proximity to transit. But I would think for families, they look more for proximity to parks, their child's schools, things like that versus single people who want to be on 14th Street, close to shopping, close to where they do yoga and those types of amenities.

Are there any real estate trends happening right now that you think may soon end or soon begin in the D.C. area?

Well, I think I've seen condos get less popular. A lot of my buyers are really trying to get into a house even if it is a little bit of a financial stretch for them. I think that will continue. Of course neighborhoods will go in and out of style. Trinidad is very popular now and it's a great area, but I think that the intensity will die down.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you first started as a real estate agent, what would it be?

I feel like I've been pretty lucky and haven't made any major missteps. I've been successful, but I would say really invest time early in maintaining your client relationships. So, the first person you close with, make sure you maintain that relationship with them as time goes on because they will become your most valuable resource in the future. When you have a personal relationship, those will be the clients who keep talking about you and referring you to their friends and family.

Definitely find a mentor who can answer questions.

What are some ways to keep that client interaction alive?

It's pretty normal that we get invited to client's housewarming parties and things like that and I always try to go. Just find ways to stay in touch like Christmas cards, on Valentine's Day, make them cookies, stuff like that. It's all about relationships. It's awesome that I get to be a part of someone's home purchase. It's not something I take lightly.
· Katie Scire, Redfin Agent [Redfin]
· Curbed Interviews archive [Curbed DC]