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Michele Harrington
Vitals: First Team Real Estate
Years in business: 44
Size: 38 offices, 2,400 agents
Region served: Southern California
2019 sales volume: $6.22B
2019 transactions: 8,984 units

Michele Harrington had spent four years in the Marine Corps when she discovered that she wanted to become her own boss. So when her enlistment was up, she entered the real estate business.

That was about 22 years ago, and, since then, the Jersey-born REALTOR® has risen to great success in California. Harrington owned Star Estates, and she and her 130 agents joined the First Team Real Estate family in 2018. Last year, she was named chief operations officer of the firm, and she also serves as broker of record. Additionally, Harrington serves as a director for the California Association of REALTORS® and has been a federal political coordinator for the National Association of REALTORS®.

It’s been an interesting year. How would you characterize 2020 for your market at the height of the COVID crisis…and since?

Michele Harrington: It started off like gangbusters. January and February were the best we have had in 10 years, and that really helped because March fell off a cliff. April was bad, and May was worse, but we have bounced back really fast. June was almost exactly like June 2019, and the same holds true for July. So as devastating as this has been, and it pains me to see other businesses suffer, I’m grateful that we are in an industry that has come through it.

What led you to working in California?

MH: I was stationed in El Toro, and I got lucky because I never would have left New Jersey otherwise. Orange County is an amazing area to be in for real estate. There’s the beach, great industry and the market carries a very high price point. I thank God for karma.

What is special about your agents?

MH: Our agents are at a whole other level. Because the price points are high and the market is super competitive, we have this level of professionalism that I don’t think you see in a lot of other areas. When I have a deal outside of Orange County, I see the difference. Our agents are innovative and creative, and they persevere no matter what.

How is your firm unique in your market?

MH: We’re single-owned and -operated, which is very different from other firms in the market who are part of nationwide companies. While many small, independent companies disappeared here in 2008, we are one of the few that made it. Agents really appreciate the family-owned atmosphere. It’s a different vibe. Our managers are motivated to get agents to the next level.

What’s the secret for staying on top of the latest and greatest technology?

MH: You need to have a tech guru in the company—someone who keeps an eye on everything that’s going on in the industry. I happen to be a tech-savvy person, and I also have a tech genius here. Together, we brainstorm and decide what we need in the pipeline. We look at what other companies are doing, what technology is out there, what we can develop ourselves and what makes sense to buy.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.