This month we sat down with veteran FORCE member Joanna Warski to talk about her prolific real estate career.
FORCE member Joanna Warski has been serving the South Florida real estate market for 20 years. Her passion and drive are undeniable, and she is willing to share her knowledge and pass on the sage advice she was given as a new agent 20 years ago.
Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background. How long have you been in real estate and how long have you worked with REOs?
I’ve been in real estate for 20 years, since 1996. I am a full-time Realtor in South Florida. When the market crashed in 2008, I began working with REOs, and they make up about 20 to 40 percent of my business. I am consistently one of the top agents in my office, and my partner and I have made the President’s Circle every year since 2005—placing us in the top 3 percent of agents nationwide. We closed 15 REOs in 2015 and have closed around 100 going back to 2008.
I’m a workaholic. I don’t have set hours. I’ve never told a client, “It’s my day off.” I do work according to what’s needed. Some days you work five or six hours, and the next day it’s needed, and you work 16 hours.
I am also a world traveler, and my partner and I speak several languages. Here in South Florida, we have a very diverse market with people from all over the world. My partner and I are sometimes able to speak to clients in their own language to make them feel a little more comfortable.
We cater to every type of client: experienced, non-experienced, relocation, and investors.
What advice do you have for new agents starting out in real estate, and would you recommend they pursue the REO sector?
The advice I would give new agents is the same advice I received as a new agent starting out 20 years ago: Always do everything with your best effort. Don’t take shortcuts, and always deliver a true professional service.
I asked a senior broker 20 years ago how to succeed when there are so many agents out there, and he said, “There’s always room for a professional agent who works ethically and works hard.”
The same applies now.
As far as REOs, the amount of REOs has reduced drastically. A few years ago, it could have been your bread and butter, but now that they have reduced, you do have to supplement with other types of business.
What advice do you have for new agents wanting to pursue REOs?
If you’re a brand-new agent in the business and want to start doing REOs, start with BPOs. Also, try to sit open houses. People say they are a classic waste of time, but you’d be surprised. Someone may come by, and that may not be the house for him or her, but you’re there to help them.
Also, join different clubs and nonprofits. It’s always good to be surrounded by a circle of people you can give your card to.
What is your marketing approach? What is the most important or most impactful form of marketing for you?
There are two areas of marketing that are equally important. The first is focusing on new business. You have to be seen; you cannot be a secret agent. You should be all over the internet on buyer search engines like Zillow and Trulia, and on any website you can. I would say more than 95 percent of buyers start on the internet.
The second area—which is where a lot of agents kind of slack off—is keeping in touch with your past business. After you sell a home, you don’t think your client will sell again in a year, but something might change—like they get a new job—and they might end up moving. If you’re not in touch, there are 20 other Realtors that are right around the corner. When your past client is ready to sell or to refer someone, you want to be on their mind. Send them emails and mail-outs, but not too much. I would not send an email more than once per month, and I would mail a calendar twice per year—and annual calendar and maybe a baseball calendar or something.
Can you tell me a little about your blog on your website and what you aim to accomplish with it?
My goal is to attract as many people to my website as possible and to be as informative as I can for all levels of buyers and sellers. I try to offer information for experienced sellers who have sold a home recently as well as sellers who haven’t sold a home in 20 years and are overwhelmed. I try to reach first-time buyers as well as experienced buyers and investors who flip homes.
What about your involvement with the Sunshine Kids?
The Sunshine Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to children with cancer. We hold one main live auction in our office each year and a couple smaller auctions, and all the money goes directly to the Sunshine Kids for group activities and emotional support for the children. Last year, all the Berkshire Hathaway offices in Florida together raised almost $400,000 for the Sunshine Kids.