Today’s real estate market is as competitive as it gets, and navigating this new reality is something Tracy Tutor understands all too well.
As the first and only female real estate agent on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles,” Tutor has had to hustle hard to be seen as a worthy contender. And she’s succeeded, with bragging rights to selling some of L.A.’s most iconic homes designed by starchitects such as Frank Gehry, John Lautner, and Pierre Koenig.
We took advantage of the launch of a couple of new varietals (a smooth vegan shiraz and a chenin blanc) to chat with Tutor about the state of today’s cutthroat real estate market. Here’s what she’s seen—and her top secrets on how homebuyers and sellers can get the edge.
How did you first get involved in real estate?
I’ve been selling real estate for about 23 years now. I first began in my 20s—I was an actress. I went to USC and studied theater. But I woke up after college and I was hustling, going to auditions, and waiting tables, and I said to myself, “This doesn’t feel like I’m in control of my own destiny. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
So a girlfriend of mine said we should go into real estate. She said to me, “You grew up here, you have great contacts.” So I studied, I got my license, then I walked into Sotheby’s and said, “You should hire me.”
How did that work for you?
I remember the manager asked me, “How do you foresee the next couple of years for yourself?” And I said, “Well, I need to make $90,000 a year to pay my bills and survive.”
Then he said, “Most real estate agents typically make $30,000 per year in their first two years.” I told him that won’t work for me, and he said, “OK, you’re hired.”
What did you make your first year?
$30,000. I started at the bottom, and I sat in the bullpen, as they used to call it, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and learned the hard way. I learned through failure.
I failed in the beginning more than I succeeded, but I think through failure and the recovery from that, I learned that I had to put in the work, put in the hours.
I eventually joined a team and had that support system that guided me and mentored me. Then by the time I was 26 I made my first big sale, and I was like, “Oh my god! I made six figures? How did that happen?”
How did you first get involved with ‘Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles’?
On Season 9 of the show, I was showing one of Josh Altman‘s properties, and he said, “Hey, I just want to give you a heads up, we’re filming this showing for the show, are you cool being filmed?”
And I said, “Hey, you’re giving me 10 minutes’ notice. I’m in jeans, can you give me a second to get cute?” So I ran to the store and bought a dress. Josh and I are friends, so we had a fun chemistry on camera. So all of a sudden I think they were like, “Oh my god, this could be the first woman!” After the show aired, I got a phone call and they asked, “Would you be interested in talking to us about being on the show for Season 10?”
It seems that in this smoking-hot real estate market, it’s a great time to be an agent.
Well, the market is crazy at all levels, and we’re seeing numbers we haven’t seen. It’s been a ride. But when you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you know that you’ve still got to go to hustle.
This is one of those moments where the strong survive. Since there’s not a lot of inventory, we have to fight hard for every listing that we have. And we also have to compete at a level with our clients and buyers that we haven’t had to compete at before.
What’s the secret to buying and selling real estate in such a cutthroat market?
That’s when relationships become important. Being ethical and not screwing people over is so important, because if I got 10 offers on a listing, and agent two or agent three screwed me over previously, you’d better believe I’m not going to push that offer to the forefront. Listen, of course, money is always going to win. I’m not disregarding that. All things being equal, though, this industry is full of sharks, so you’ve got to be careful about who you’re swimming with.
What can homebuyers do to make sure they work with the best agents?
You should do your due diligence on the agent. If you know that they’re selling quite a bit in the neighborhood, and you know maybe they sold the neighbor’s house, ask about the experience. They might tell you, “Look, they got me top dollar, but at the end of the day, I hired them and their assistant did all the work.”
In such a competitive market, what’s one move that will give a homebuyer the extra edge?
Be ready to go. You have to be ready to write an offer the first time you walk out the door of the house that you fell in love with. You have to be ready to put pen to paper on the hood of your car outside the house in this market. Having your pre-approval ready, having your ducks in a row, having your 3% potential deposit in an account, and having verification of funds to close the transaction are all elements to being able to function successfully in this market.
What is the one thing a buyer should never do?
Don’t look at houses frivolously. Don’t waste your agent’s time. Remember, we work for free until we close the deal. You may go with your agent on a five-week tour of 30 houses, and if you’re not pre-approved and your cash isn’t ready to go and you don’t understand the process, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Any other mistakes you see buyers making in an effort to trump the competition?
As a buyer, I would never try to call the seller direct or try to go around my agent—that’s never met with a positive response. It’s nice to have a professional barrier, even in this crazy market. Historically, if you put buyer and seller at a table together, the deal is not going to happen.
With so many bidding wars occurring, how do you know when a house is overpriced?
If the house doesn’t have multiple offers, it’s probably priced a little high. Typically, in this market, after three weeks, if there’s not an offer placed, it might be priced too high, or there might be a problem that cannot be fixed.
From a seller’s perspective, if you’re not getting multiple offers on your house, what should you do?
Take a look at what is selling fast and ask why. They’re probably selling fast because they got everything right. They got the staging right, they got the curb appeal right, they got the price right. And that’s why they’re selling at a premium.