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Name: Christina “Queen” Stratford
Experience: 20 years industry total, 18 years as a licensed Realtor
Location: Lancaster, California
Brokerage name: RE/MAX All-Pro
Rankings: Top 25 in the local board, top 1.5 percent nationwide
Transaction sides: 48 for 2021
Sales volume: $20.9 million for 2021
Awards: Real Trends top 1.5 percent, RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award and Chairman’s Award
What are 3 things you’d like readers to know about you?
- I’m used to everything being fast-paced and my life going full throttle. Slowing down is actually hard for me.
- The name “Queen” became a nickname but started as my last name from a previous marriage. I had it when I started in the business and for eight years in. People told me even if I change it, they would still call me Queen, so it stuck.
- I love meeting people, building relationships and being involved in the community. I’m part of a mom’s group and often welcome strangers into my home for events. But I am also empathetic, sometimes to a fault. I feel very deeply for those around me and when they hurt, I do too. I think it’s part of why I love helping people find their home and navigate this process. The joy and excitement, when they can achieve their dream lifts me up as much as it does them.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate, and how did you learn it?
Mindset and relationship are key to success.
I built my career on that and I felt like this year I lost sight of it a little. I realized that I became very complacent with work coming to me, just based on me being me and having my name or reputation.
I quit asking to be fed and just waited for the “food,” business, to fall in my lap. I wasn’t nurturing my relationships the way I used to.
I think part of it was the PTSD from the last downturn. I went through a divorce at that time, I worked at Home Depot getting leads for roofing, siding and window installers. I also waited tables for a while and had to have yard sales with ”junk” other people were getting rid of every weekend, just to pay my utilities, office bills, and make sure that I had gas in my car to show houses if someone called.
It was a tough time. I was mid-bankruptcy and trying to survive. If I didn’t make money, I wasn’t going to have utilities or eat. I knew no matter what, I’d keep my real estate license active and it wasn’t easy.
When this market started to adjust, subconsciously I went back to that moment and decided that I’m just riding this out. I wasn’t ready for all that again. I climbed out from behind the wheel of my business and into the back seat to hide.
I put myself back in the shoes I was in 15 years ago, not realizing that those shoes no longer fit me. I am not that same woman. I have grown.
I learned so much, became a top producer, a leader in my industry, and leveled up my business far beyond that. But mentally I was allowing myself to stay in that place and in those shoes. Feeling small and playing victim to the market rather than continuing what has always worked: A strong mindset and focus, along with relationships, time and effort.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does real estate relate to that childhood goal?
In elementary school, and even in my senior year of high school, I said I wanted to be an animator. I was always into art, constantly drawing.
I took years of classes: Life drawing, multi-media, and Advanced Placement studio art. After high school, as a young adult, I worked as a legal assistant and fell in love with the legal side of business and thought I could be an attorney.
I got married young and started some college classes, where I took interior design. I bought my first home at age 19, a drug house that needed a complete remodel. I started working for a Realtor who had me running nearly everything for him and I loved looking at homes and meeting clients.
Suddenly it all came together. The love for art, homes and design, law and business, and helping people … Why not do this myself? So in 2004, I did. We drove three hours the night before my exam, while I had the flu, sick in the car, with a trash can in the floor and cramming for my test. We stayed in a hotel. I refused to miss my exam, so I went in with my box of tissue and passed on the first try.
What’s the best advice you ever got from a mentor or colleague?
Speaking with other colleagues, mostly ones that are parents, on top of being self-employed: The biggest message I received was to take care of yourself. Everyone pushes to find balance. The truth is in that balance each day is not going to look the same.
Some days you will pour a lot of your energy into your business. Some days you will step back from work a bit more, in order to be more present for your family. Most importantly if you are not taking time for your physical and mental health, you will drain yourself of joy and motivation when doing everything you do.
It’s easy to become resentful and tired. I learned to take time to schedule a massage or a pedicure. One of my favorite inexpensive ways to unwind and recharge is taking a hot bath after the kids go to bed, with a glass of wine and one of my favorite podcasts. I love listening to true crime so I’m not constantly in real estate mode.
I also take weekends away, sometimes alone. I had to get past the judgment within myself, for leaving my family or my business, and rewrite the script many parents have in their minds about taking time away.
What would you tell a new agent before they start out in the business?
Be prepared for disappointment. Be prepared for failure. Social media and TV has made real estate look so easy. I read somewhere: “Clients will become your friends before friends become your clients” and it’s true. You will face rejection. It will hurt.
I’ve had family use another agent in a moment of convenience or because their friend “Needs the money”. Friends will sometimes not want to mix friendship and business.
Just keep going. Keep treating people right. Keep being you and working hard. You’ll gain experience and become the go-to person.
I had a friend not use me because another “top agent” had better marketing on social media. I didn’t get angry. It hurt, but I let it go and kept my relationship. It’s their choice after all.
Later they had a terrible experience with that agent and came back to me. I closed a tough deal with them and her husband said: “We will never go to anyone but you again.” They felt I handled everything in such a professional manner and put their needs first. I was always responsive and it was something he felt he didn’t get elsewhere.
So don’t let your emotions control you. Keep your head up. Maintain your relationships and stay the course. It will all work out.
What do clients need to know before they begin a real estate transaction?
Interview Realtors. If your Realtor seems to just agree with whatever you say and not provide information of value, they may not be a good fit. Look for someone who will educate you on the market as a whole, your specific area, trends in pricing and the direction things are going, especially in an adjusting market.
An agent should guide you in the process and also look at your goals and set up a game plan that works for you. Too many agents walk in and agree to whatever the consumer wants and later it results in homes sitting on the market too long, frustration on both sides and a bad reputation for the industry.
We are not just salespeople. We are educators in our community. People turn to us for information and we know that decisions are best made, after reviewing all the information you can obtain. Look for an agent who’s willing to have the difficult conversations and who will help set realistic expectations. This will set you up for success.