By Kayla O’Brien
RISMEDIA, Nov. 17, 2007-Spend five minutes with the Medaris family and you’ll find yourself just as enthused about the real estate industry as the family of four is. Since day one of owning and running the Medaris team, before becoming EXIT Advantage Realty in Fairfax, Virginia, it’s been all about family. Parents John and Linda Medaris have found great success working side by side of their 20-something children, Kerry and Christopher John. Here, the family discusses their secret to real estate success and what it takes to move forward in today’s market-as a family.
Real Estate magazine: First thing’s first-Kerry and Christopher, when did you know that you wanted to enter real estate?
Kerry Medaris-Potter: We were never the silver-spoon type of real estate family. Both Christopher John and I got our licenses when we turned 18 because our parents said that either they could pay for college or we could. My tuition was $20,000 per year. I earned my tuition in those three months before college so I could have a good night on the weekend. I paid my way through college, seven years ago, graduating with a degree in real estate and international politics, with no debt, $40,000 in the bank and driving a Lexus.
Christopher Medaris: I graduated with a degree in marketing and business management. We went back and forth about my role-the marketing guy. When [my parents] thought about their kids, it was kind of like, rather than give a man a fish, we’ll actually teach them how. I actually lucked out in having nice clients as my first clients. They were taking pictures of me writing the contract, etc. It wasn’t until six years later that I got a call from them saying, “Hey, remember us? We want to sell our home with you as well.” It was pretty flattering-six years later and they still remembered me.
RE: How does it feel to have been so successful at such a young age?
KMP: We were in a perfect situation. Our parents never pushed us. All through our lives they’ve said, “If this is something you want to do, go with all your heart.” We did it because we loved it, because we enjoyed it and wanted to do it.
CM: People are excited to work with young people who are passionate and know what they want to do. I would wear my glasses on purpose at 18 to meet with buyers because I didn’t want to have to deal with the age question.
RE: John and Linda, were you surprised your children wanted to enter into the industry?
John Medaris: We home-schooled both of our kids all the way through. It was an interesting opportunity because I would drag them to open houses, to see lenders, etc., so they’ve been around. They used to dress up and go to conventions to collect candy, pens, and tape measures from vendors.
Linda Medaris: Well, we also did use an inducement-a car; and Starbucks cards and gas cards. Initially, we bought a little BMW. We let them use that to work with their clients.
RE: What makes your family team work?
LM: We bought the first EXIT office in Virginia and opened it a year ago. The four of us have had each other to rely on. There’s nobody that will look out for you like a family member. When things come up-crisis, emergency-somebody always has your back.
JM: We are different in that we tell agents we will take away their freedom to fail and give them a track to run on. Some people respond to accountability, some people really want the freedom to fail and then we release them back. You have to try out to get on the team. Our band of 30 people is producing as many as four times more than people near us because we are committed.
KMP: As an industry, we’re a dime a dozen, so we’re truly trying to raise the bar on professionalism and expertise. At last count, there have been over 130 people that have tried out for our team.
RE: How do you keep your agents motivated?
LM: We present the power of focus. We were talking about goals with Brian Buffini and what gets written down, gets done. We had agents make scrapbooks or goal boards-it was fascinating to see not only small things, but things in all areas of life. For us, you want to improve and impact people’s lives to see the changes in agents. Those people are busy, getting buyers and great success.
RE: How have you developed and molded EXIT Advantage into the business you are today?
JM: We have found that probably the most important element is having a coach. Everyone needs somebody to hold them accountable, to measure progress, check in with, and make sure they’re making forward headway. It’s a requirement in our office to participate in Brian Buffini’s “100 Days to Greatness.” I’ve been in coaching with Buffini & Company since 1995. It’s been a tremendous experience, and we get a lot of referrals. EXIT itself has a robust referral network with its other offices. We personally give out a couple of referrals per week and we receive a bunch, too.
KMP: Beyond family-which is our foundation-we work the business, and don’t talk about real estate on Sundays. But coaching has helped create balance so you’re not spending everything you make and are making good, healthy goals. When you close deals, have settlements and list new houses, business isn’t bad. It’s also about being selective in a good way so you’re working with people that want to work with you and see the value you bring, so then they send people your way.
RE: What are your clients’ typical reactions when they realize it’s a family-owned and run business?
JM: People like that it’s a family because there’s seamless communication. If someone wants to see a house, Kerry or Chris can show them. There’s just much better coverage, rather than just one individual.
KMP: We treat them as first-class passengers on our airline. They’re part of our family. We have clients over for dinner parties. I’m never too busy for a client that could become a friend.
RE: What do you look for when you recruit new agents to EXIT Advantage?
JM: One of the best times is when you do a transaction with another agent. You really see how that agent works under pressure. Are they polite, professional, good with paperwork? Are they looking out for their best interest? We size them up and encourage agents to make a recommendation. We recruit by referral.
KMP: Our name is for a reason. You get the advantage when you join EXIT Advantage. You truly become part of the family. With EXIT, you earn a higher commission split than most offices, so for people who are after that path of income, EXIT is the answer.
RE: What are your future goals for the company?
JM: We wanted something to be passionate about. My personal goal is to get this office up to 60 agents. Once we have 60 producing, full-time agents, I want to open office number two. I would like an office in every zip code in Northern Virginia, with 100 agents in each office; to build a large regional company known for its professionalism and quality and service-something the marketplace has never seen before in terms of service and quality. We want to work ourselves out of jobs to turn the reigns over to the kids-and their kids-build a foundation that can be turned over. RE
Four Fun Medaris Team Facts:
-The EXIT Advantage office doesn’t have a water cooler-on purpose. “We don’t want them around talking about how bad the market is. It’s not the market; it’s the agents,” says John Medaris.
-Thinking outside the box: Once, at a sales meeting, the Medaris team played Jeopardy. “People were jumping out of their seats,” says John Medaris.
-Teamwork: “We’ve seen agents step out of their comfort zone,” says Kerry Medaris-Potter. “They’ve made 180s in their business and in their commitment. We tell agents if they meet us halfway, we’ll be right alongside them.”
-Company motto: “We stole it from Buffini, but it comes from the top down. To impact and improve the lives of people-lives of agents and our clients. We make dreams a reality. We are the vehicle for their goals and possibilities,” says Medaris-Potter.