Broker/Owner Claudette Cooper leans on her experience, quality agents at the San Diego brokerage she converted to RE/MAX
By Robin Halcomb
Claudette Cooper got a taste of what she would later see as her destiny in 2002 with her first “fix and flip” investment. Excited by the possibilities, she left the corporate world to pursue her real estate passion. She began in San Diego in 2004, only two years before the 2006-2009 crash. With a strong business background, Cooper weathered the downturn by expanding her offerings.
“I experienced the worst of times during the crash,” Cooper remembers. “But I developed the ability to focus and adjust. While others chased short sales, which are also a good option, I chose to add property management to my offerings to have a steady income stream.”
A true citizen of the world, the South African native moved to England for six months right after graduating high school, spent a short time in Canada, and landed in Newport Beach, California, before joining IBM in 1985. Today, she focuses that wealth of experience on leading her new agency to success in San Diego.
Choosing a Champion
RE/MAX City Real Estate joined the RE/MAX network in February of this year, opening in the ballpark area of downtown San Diego. Cooper, who has been in real estate sales for just over 12 years, considers real estate both her passion and destiny. The RE/MAX brand was a clear choice for this self-described entrepreneurial spirit.
I like the flexibility of running my own business, but I still wanted the infrastructure, tools and resources of a major player.” Claudette Cooper, on her decision to move to RE/MAX
“It was easy to choose RE/MAX because it is the most productive real estate network in the world,” she says. “I like the flexibility of running my own business, but I still wanted the infrastructure, tools and resources of a major player. RE/MAX offered me the freedom to make it my own business and gave me the tools I needed to attract top agents and serve my clients.”
Cooper has learned important lessons from her previous career, including developing an executable plan, understanding clients, and, top of the list, negotiation, all of which easily transferred to real estate and contributed to her choice of the RE/MAX brand. RE/MAX has automated solutions for all aspects of support for its agents, including sales tips and marketing support, and those tools enable Cooper’s team to help clients achieve their goals.
RE/MAX City’s location features a contemporary café style office and storefront. The modern concept of shared office space means nobody has a permanent desk, which allows agents to come and go as they please.
The idea of a traditional space didn’t appeal to Cooper, who likes to keep things fluid. “I have worked in traditional agencies, where you have space for 20 people but no more than three people are actually there at a time. That’s like a morgue,” she says.
RE/MAX City Real Estate serves a broad range of clients, from first-time buyers to downsizers to multi-million-dollar tax investors, and Cooper focuses on digging deep to know what clients are looking for – even when they don’t know themselves.
“Whether clients are looking at a property worth $500,000 or $3 million, you’re usually dealing with people who are busy conquering their world,” she says. “You have to ask questions to understand their wants and needs so you can do the best job for them. You don’t want to frustrate your clients by showing them properties that make them say ‘let’s get out of here!’ Previewing properties so you know what you are showing is an important part of giving them a good experience.”
Staying Lean and Connected
Cooper’s business model focuses on a small, independent team of experienced and hardworking pros. She respects the RE/MAX reputation for selling more real estate per agent than any other brand, and she works hard to maintain that track record. As a driven, focused professional herself, she seeks to recruit like-minded individuals who are independent and skilled.
“I’m not set up for the training camp model, where you hire 100 people and see who sticks,” she says. “I hand-pick experienced pros who know what they’re doing.”
Strong team relationships are a critical factor in making Cooper’s business model work, and she encourages those bonds with a Third Thursday happy hour, where team members can build relationships and camaraderie.
Cooper’s vision for RE/MAX City Real Estate includes a group of 10 agents comprised of medium to top producers who are committed to growing their business. To make that model work, she focuses her energies on revenue growth, referrals, client retention and networking.
Referrals and networking are critical elements of success for RE/MAX City Real Estate. “Most business comes from word of mouth and referrals,” says Broker/Owner Claudette Cooper. “Flyers can get your name out, but the people who are actually going to call you are people who have been referred to you.”
A key source of referrals is the RE/MAX network, which RE/MAX City Real Estate uses for referring clients and receiving referrals. The remax.com site’s track record of more than 90 million hits per year was another reason for her decision to join.
Cooper ran a networking group within San Diego County for more than 10 years out of the University Club, where she had one representative from each industry. She still maintains those relationships and encourages her agents to follow her example. As a member of a downtown resident’s group, she is actively involved in what’s happening in the community and encourages officials to make the best decisions for the future of downtown San Diego. Her involvement also gives her strategic insight into future opportunities that may arise.
Client retention is also high on her list of what contributes to success, and she and her team communicate with clients on a regular basis. Clients are sent a market comparison of value every six months after a purchase and kept informed of activities going on in their area. “It is important to send them relevant information versus sending a recipe of the month,” she says.
A large number of agents in San Diego makes the market very competitive for her office. But she stresses maintaining professionalism in every interaction with other agents.
“We all have to play in the same sandbox, so you should always be ethical,” Cooper says. “You never know when the shoe will be on the other foot.”