Home-Probe brings you some of the best and brightest in the real estate industry in our series Spotlight on Success. Get inspired and share in some of the tricks of the trade from industry leaders.
We sat down with Jennifer Kjellgren to talk about her new boutique real estate agency, Intown Expert. As a dedicated advocate for “hyper-local” real estate, Jennifer understands the nuances and trends of each Intown neighborhood – the hot spots, the architecture, and the history. Buyers and sellers who share her love for Atlanta seek Jennifer out for her infectious enthusiasm, exclusive market knowledge, and renowned commitment to advocating a win for them.
Jennifer has renovated the classic Berthold Building for her agency’s new offices, and there, along with her team, stands ready to serve Intown Atlanta real estate needs.
How long have you been practicing real estate in Atlanta?
My family has always been involved in real estate. My first and only internship was working on site at a new home center. This is kind of where I cut my teeth on my own, and I knew I had a knack for it. After college, I started buying real estate while working in my corporate job. I wanted to live, work, and play “in town.” I created my own job to make that happen and started buying and selling real estate for other folks. It’s been 15 years since I left my corporate life and commute behind.
What made you take the leap from successful realtor to broker?
I started at the Condo Store and would not trade the experience I got there for anything. I learned so much about people and about this business. But the model was not conducive to a team, which is where I was headed. That is how I ended up at ReMax. ReMax was great and worked well for us. As my business continued to grow, I realized that my brand message and identity became confusing when working under another brokerage.
What risks do you see yourself taking and what rewards do you hope to achieve?
I’ve taken a big risk financially. Not only a personal risk but also a risk for all the folks I’ve brought on board with me. The benefit is that I’ve created a great place to work. I’ve built a machine that makes it that much easier for us to continue to provide great service. It really is a case of “if you build it, they will come.” The folks at Intown Expert have built something great.
How has being a new broker and starting your own firm changed your perspective on the importance of the role of a broker to the success of an agent?
I realize how hands-on a broker should be. It’s important in helping agents grow and to hold them accountable. As a broker, I really have two sets of clients — the agents and also their clients. It’s important that both sets are getting really great service. That’s what we’re about.
You’ve positioned your office in the middle of one of the busiest activity areas in Atlanta. What was your strategy in selecting a location, and how do you think it will impact your success with recruiting agents and retaining clients?
Honestly, the building just happened to fit all the criteria I had for purchasing a place. It truly is in my back yard. The recruiting component was not a factor in selecting a location, I was more interested in being part of a community. I want to be a resource for those I share a neighborhood with. I’ve been in Midtown since 1996 and knew I wanted to stay here. As my business continues to grow and evolve, I want to be more involved in the growth and development of my neighborhood.
Some associate boutique firms with a lack of organization and “group of renegades.” How do you make sure that your team is following the same philosophy of real estate?
We have to accomplish this from the onset. We hire to our philosophy and how we service our clients. We don’t recruit and our unique philosophy really sets us up to attract. We keep doing this to make sure our brand experience is consistent. Our goal is to stay sizable to the point that it’s always easy to keep delivering the same great experience with every transaction.
What are your plans for growth? Wdo you look for in an agent to know they’ll be the right fit for your firm?
More than volume, I’m focused on delivering the same great experience. The growth is a natural progression of delivering that experience. As agents approach us that want to be part of our experience and what we deliver to our clients, we’ll hire when there is a fit and “good chemistry.” I’ll sacrifice growth long before I would consider there being even a slight possibility of our standards being compromised.
We’re intentionally scaleable. For the right fit, we can grow if we want.
What would you suggest to a new agent getting into the business consider when trying to pick a broker? How does the size of the firm come into play?
Go someplace that provides GREAT training or has a mentoring plan. Consider joining a team. Teams have usually put great systems in place so they can just guide the ship. New folks in the industry are excited and eager to help someone buy or sell a home. It’s important to remember that we deal with a lot of money and a lot of emotion. This can be hard to manage among all of the other things that require attention in a transaction.