Originally from Ukraine, Julia has lived in Chicago for years and considers Chicago her true
home. Julia is a distinguished real estate agent and investor with over a decade of experience. Her personal experience as a real estate investor has given her a unique perspective on the industry, making her an invaluable guide to her clients. Click here to learn more Julia.
Welcome to the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast where you’ll hear the good, the bad and the ugly of how real estate agents overcame challenges and grew their business. Check out the Episode Notes at CrushItinRE.com/podcast. Here’s your host, Lindsay Favazza.
Lindsay: Hello and welcome back to the Agents Who Crush It in Real Estate podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Favazza, and today I am really excited about the guest that we have. Hailing originally from Ukraine, but calling Chicago her true home, Julia Cherepova has carved a niche for herself in the real estate world not just in the windy city, but also in the sunny landscapes of Miami, and the picturesque coasts of San Diego.
Julia’s love for Chicago’s neighborhoods, its vibrant culture, and the simple lifestyle it offers is palpable, but what truly sets her apart is her expansive network of investors, buyers, sellers, and industry professionals that she’s built over a decade. With personal experience as a real estate investor, Julia brings a unique perspective to the table, consistently exceeding her clients’ expectations.
Let me tell you, her reputation as a fierce negotiator with a heart of gold is well-earned. Outside of sealing deals and making dreams come true, Julia is all about fitness and cherishing moments with her son. Let’s dive deep into her journey, her strategies, and the heart behind her success. Julia, welcome to the show today, my friend.
Julia: Thank you, Lindsay. Thank you so much for having me here, and thank you. Appreciate it.
Lindsay: I’m so excited to have you here because we were writing back and forth on the Crush It page, and I know you and Anthony have met a few times, and are friendly at events and things like that. I was super excited to have you on because I think you’ve got a really powerful story to tell.
Let’s start by how you came to this country, how you got started in real estate. Take us back to those days.
Julia: All right, let’s do it. My story is definitely different than any story that you heard ever on this podcast. I am originally from Ukraine. I was born and raised there and I came to the United States when I was 21. I got a bachelor in finance from Ukraine and my parents is like, “Julia, here’s $200 and we have a flight to the United States and good luck.”
Lindsay: Wow. They just wanted what was best for you, and that’s what they thought you would be able to do well.
Julia: Yes. The main thing that all my life I learned German. When I came to the United States in North Dakota, city minded, I was a housekeeper in Best Western Hotel. I spoke zero English, zero. I didn’t understand. I knew like my name is Julia.
Lindsay: How many years ago was this?
Lindsay: How many years ago was this?
Julia: 2011. Just 12 years ago.
Julia: Yes. I quickly need to adopt in this country. I need to like I have like very business mindset, so I knew like I need to move to a different place. North Dakota is nice, but definitely not for me. I found a big Ukrainian community in Chicago then I’ve got some connections. I booked a flight and I didn’t know anybody. I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to Chicago and let’s see what happens.”
Three months later, I was in Chicago. I found another job washing dishes in the kitchen, and then I was a server at that place, like some Polish place. Yes, I really like Chicago so much more. Definitely more.
Lindsay: A big city.
Julia: Yes. Eventually when I was bartendering, and it was a great job, but I understood there is no career-wise, that I really want to have career. I want to have more money because I like that lifestyle, and I feel like a lot of people, in the comfort zone where they can they make enough, but they’re not making so much they can achieve.
Lindsay: You weren’t in control of how much you were going to make because it wasn’t up to you how many people came in that night.
Julia: No, no. Yes, the tips were nice. You relax, you talk to people. Pretty much what we do in real estate. You’re just like you do, you talk, you’re having fun.
Lindsay: There are usually drinks involved in real estate too. [laughs]
Julia: Yes. We also like dealing with people problems where, like bartenders, they told me and I’m like, “No, everything is okay. You’re going to be fine.”
Lindsay: You’re like a therapist helping.
Julia: Actually, all my first clients, they were people from the bar. It was Ukrainian bar, so all this, I got them to be my first clients because I literally had no family. People from here they’re so blessed because they have family, cousins, brothers, people they went to the school, universities and all this already background huge. I’m from zero. All my Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was by myself, but I didn’t have family. Yes.
The way I’ve got to real estate was also another great story. I’ve got this lady and she drove a beautiful convertible red car, wearing all Chanel. She came to my bar, super cheaper bar, and she’s like, “What is the most expensive wine do you have?” We had $5 wine. She’s like, “Please give me one.” All question that I had in my immigration is, what she does? What does she do?
I asked her, she’s like, “I do real estate.” I’m like, “What is real estate?” She told me, she’s like, “Oh my God. Julia, you can be good in real estate. I see what you do, how you do. Here’s my business card. Call me.” I think a lot of people can relate to this, that they don’t feel good enough.
I am basically bad, super bad English. I don’t know anybody, she’s driving a car. It’s just like, why not? No, no. All excuses right in my head. Six months I didn’t call her for six months, and then I somehow found her card. I’m like, “I’ll just give her a call.” She’s like, “Please come over to my office. I was waiting for this call.”
Lindsay: Oh, yay. Everything [unintelligible 00:06:29] a reason.
Julia: She was waiting for my call. I come into her office, she make one call and the same day she signed me up to real estate class. My classes started the same day I came to her office. Yes. It was like, I basically didn’t have a choice and I’m so glad she did it.
Lindsay: Yes, because you would have second guessed it. You would have possibly changed your mind, and then had another six months that went by.
Julia: Exactly. To pass this exam, basically when I was singing ABCD with all other immigrants in college, we all just sat down ABCD when I was 23 years old, and then I’m opening this real estate book and it’s all terms, contingencies, insurance, appraisals, this. I was literally crying.
I feel like why American people are so blessed because they can read, they can understand. I’m literally was translating every word in Ukrainian. I’m like, “What is this word in Ukraine? What is this word?” Then I’m like, start grouping sentences so now it makes more sense, and then this 400 pages book. [laughs]
Lindsay: Oh, my gosh. How the heck did you pass?
Julia: [unintelligible 00:07:40]. Third try, yes.
Lindsay: Third try? Sometimes it takes people way more than that and they speak English, so I think that’s incredible.
Julia: I think it’s dedication. I think number one thing, if you’re a good realtor, you need to have dedication and persistence. If you are bad in this, you’re going to lose the game before you start it.
Lindsay: Yes. I love that. Tell me how you ended up sharing time between Chicago and San Diego and Florida. That’s a lot going on. When did you make that transition to add in those other markets to your mix?
Julia: Yes. 2014, I got my real estate license in Chicago. In 2019, I became a top producer in Chicago. I had assistant, I had a showing agent. Then 2019, I moved to Miami for winter because I just could not handle a winter. Especially, I was traveling back and forth to Miami. I really love Miami, I have so many friends there, a nice network.
Winters in Chicago brutal. It’s super cold.
Lindsay: I know. Here in Boston, just like that.
Julia: Yes. When I got to Miami, I’m like, “Wow, this is paradise. Why people live like that? Why can’t I do it?” I got a condo in [unintelligible 00:09:04] SLS building, 30th floor. I was spending my winter there. I’m like, “Well, I’m just sitting. I need to get a license.” I took a book, I took a class and I passed exam, so I got my real estate license in Miami.
Then by that time, my son came back from Ukraine. My son has some challenges and he was on big therapy, physical therapy in Ukraine. By the time he came back, I just see that it was really hard to having him in Miami by myself with no help since my parents were in Ukraine. Everybody’s still that time they were in Ukraine.
My ex, his dad reaching out, he’s like, “Julia, come to San Diego. You got to check it out. Such a beautiful weather. You’re going to like it. It’s better than Miami. Please come over here”, and he’s going to help me with the son. I came to San Diego, I look around and I’m like, “Wow. This is paradise.” The weather is nicer and the price point, because us realtors is like, “Wow.” Average price in San Diego is $1 million, whereas my Chicago prices is 250,000. I was feeling good selling 20, 30, 40 properties a year, but I’m like, “Here, I need to do four times less and make same amount of money, but what if I produce exactly how I do and–
Lindsay: You can make that much more money? [laughs]
Julia: Yes, and that just blow my head. I’m like, “Okay, let’s give a good try.” Plus for my son with all his health challenges, he had epilepsy when he was a little guy, and then physical disabilities, all this stuff. I’m like, “It’s going to be so much better and I have a help here, why not?” That’s how I start doing all this work.
Lindsay: Going all around. Do you still travel back to Chicago too?
Julia: Actually, I’m going there tonight.
Lindsay: [crosstalk] How are you managing the clients and stuff?
Julia: I’m going to Chicago tonight. I do have a full-time assistant and I have a showing assistant. I have three showing assistants in Chicago, and in Miami I have one, and I just have a full-time assistant for me. It’s a executive real estate assistant, so she helps me with all my transactions, marketing, she does calls, she manages my CRM. She also helps me with a lot of my stuff for personal things. I feel so blessed. Her name is Zena. Really, really great woman. [laughs]
Lindsay: That is amazing. You were thinking about getting into real estate because you did know that you had this sales background and all of that. How is it different from what you maybe thought when you were getting in? When you were first starting out, you were probably like, “It’s going to be great. I’m going to sell all these houses and make all this money.”
I think the price point is definitely something that you were probably surprised by, but what is something that now that you’re in it and doing well at it, that you didn’t realize before you started?
Julia: Before I started, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s all like profession is new for me, and we think everything is so easy. We never know what we exactly going to deal with till we get in the problem. My first transaction opened my eyes, how many problems it was there and really challenged me to think if I want to continue with this job.
Because my first client, first he wants to rent one bedroom, then two bedroom, then three bedroom, then he wants to buy a studio, and six months later, I sold him at three-unit building, six months. It was a great transaction for a multi-family unit. It was my first transaction, but I was like, “This guy is just wasting my time. He wants to rent, then he wants to buy, then he wants to now look at this building.” He gave me a really hard time on inspections.
Then at the end of transaction, on the final walk, the sellers they took pergola, they took a pergola was outside the building, and at the final walk he’s like, “Julia, I’m not buying it.” He’s like, “That’s it, I’m done. They want to–
Lindsay: Just because of that?
Julia: Yes. “They think they’re smarter. They trying to lie to me. Cancel the deal.” [laughs] I was like, “Wow, real estate is so much fun. It’s really so much fun,” because I’ve been counting on this transaction for so long. I’m pretty sure a lot of real estate agents, they don’t understand what they’re getting. All they see is you can make 21/2% on 1 million or 21/2% on 500,000.
I wish I knew this nine years ago. I wish somebody told me 2014 that first, you need to expect the worst and then if it happen, it happens. In real estate, nothing is promised. Unless you are at the closing and you see this keys, nothing is promised. When you sign a contract, I never get, “Oh my God.” No.
For me, literally, that’s the first step. [laughs] It’s just all the showings was not even steps. This is the first step, and then we have another five steps. Especially with the mortgage situation, it’s like, “Let’s see if you’ll qualify today because we know you were qualified two months ago, but now I’m not sure.”
When people is like the bidding wars. They’re like, “Oh, I can go 10K over.” I’m like, “Do you really want this house? Are you sure you want this house? Because this is just such a unique property and you will never see this house ever again for another maybe at least 5, 10 years on the market. How much do you want this house?” There is so many things and for a new real estate agent, first, they need to find a mentor because everybody’s like, “I want to get a good split.” Everybody is just looking how much money they can gain. I was in exact same shoes.
When I started, I changed three or four brokerages within two years because the first one charged me 35%. I was new. Then the next one charged me 25%, but they have a bigger name. I was like, they’re specialized in luxury, so I thought they’re going to give me some luxury properties like, “Hey Julia, here’s your luxury property.” [unintelligible 00:15:40] but we just had all this crazy expectation. Then I went to 100% whereas they didn’t do anything and I’m like, “Oh my God. I have 100% but zero [unintelligible 00:15:53]
Lindsay: I can’t do anything.
Julia: Zero times zero is still zero. I’m like, “I don’t want 100%. I want more help because I’m new.” It’s really up to new agents, is it zero times zero or are you going to really get and help technologists and really need a coach? Because right now, I’m on two coaching programs and I’m like, why I didn’t do this earlier.
I was thinking, “Oh my God, I’m going to pay $800 a month and it’s so much money. It’s one-third of my rent. It’s crazy.” If somebody would tell me this is my investment to my future profit, to my future income. Nobody really didn’t explain it to me. With my Ukrainian background where we trying to save every penny because country is pretty not rich, poor and my family was pretty poor. We never had a car, we never had vacations.
I was counting every penny that, why coaching? Coaching is so essential. It’s so important that somebody tell you, “Hey, you got to do it. You’re going to do 20 transaction this year and I’ll tell you how.” That’s it.
Lindsay: Training, we talk about this all the time with our Crush It brand. It’s like professional football, professional soccer, professional baseball, all these people, they train every single day. Why would that be any different for real estate agents? Especially where the market shifts so much, you have to have that training and being able to figure out what the next steps are for you. I think it’s so smart that you’re doing that.
It’s so crazy, exactly what you just said is what we tell people all the time. You have to spend a little bit of money to get to that next level. It sounds like not only are you willing to put the money in, but you’re also willing to invest your time and to make changes. What has maybe been the biggest change that you’ve seen that you’ve had to make to then get to the next level for yourself?
Julia: Good question. I need to change myself. First, it’s everything starts from here, from your habits. Because why two people different, one is successful, one is not because they have different habits. I really need to start watching my focus, my time because I was super busy, very busy, but I was not productive.
I was doing a lot of stuff that does not bring money. I love social media. Guys connect, you’ll see my social media, I love social media. I personally post stories. I personally respond to every single message, but at the end of the day, this takes so much of my time. Now, I need to shift the focus whereas more productive things that really brings money. For real estate, it would be more appointments, more showings, more open houses, more meetings, more connection with lenders, title companies, escrow companies.
You need to really build out because your network is your net worth. Just eliminate more things that taking your focus and making you busy, but are not productive. That will be probably my main thing.
Lindsay: I love that. Your network is your net worth. I love that. I love that. I think that might be the title for your episode here today [laughter] How do you balance some of the demands of business and pleasure and Chicago, Florida, California, your child, having a life for yourself, doing things for yourself? How do you balance all those things and still feel like you’re doing a good job for your clients?
hard. Especially, I was challenged in my life, not only being an immigrant, start from zero. Two things that really made me even stronger, so my child he has disabilities, Roman. When I heard that he had epilepsy, he has problem with vision, we just discovered that he has hearing loss, so I’m waiting for hearing aids. He goes to PT, physical therapy, occupational therapy. They told me he’s never going to walk, so it’s like, that’s a wheelchair. I’m like, no, no. I was fighting for his health. While I was doing real estate, I was fighting for my baby’s health. I was taking him to the best therapies, finding the best doctors, all this stuff. The next thing that really hit me so hard, it was war in Ukraine where my mom called me like in the middle of the night, she said, “Julia, our building is shaking, there is bombs around. If I don’t call you tomorrow, I love you.” I’m like, “Wow. The war is real.”
My brother, his house got a missile in his house, but thank God he was not home. My parents live by the airport where it’s all bombs and missiles were flying around. My biggest goal was to bring them to United States and leave them with me. Really hard work and dedication, I got my mom, my dad, my brother, his wife, their baby, and my brother mother-in-law, so six people. I brought six people here. I saved them. Yes, they’re, everybody’s healthy and alive.
Lindsay: They all live there in San Diego with you?
Julia: My parents, but my brother, I gave them one of my apartments in Chicago, so they live there. A lot of people will never experience that, and I will never want anyone experience the war or a kid with disabilities. It’s super hard. It’s super hard. My point is I’m so dedicated on my business, but those things just happening to me.
I can take my focus and do this stuff and it’s very important, but for me is, my clients is my priority. It’s not my job. It’s my passion. I love it. I’m pretty sure I could have do so many things if I don’t have those problems, but that’s what it is. It’s a part of my life, it’s part of my story and I will never change it and I love it. I love my parents. I love my family. I love my son. They’re here, they’re safe.
Now my parents helping me with the son, so now I’m dedicated, I’m building my business in San Diego. I’m actually talking right now to one seller and we’re going to get 4.25 million leasing. 4 million, $41/2 million leasing. $41/2 million leasing is crazy for a girl from Ukraine.
Lindsay: I love that you keep pinching yourself in a way. You’ve worked so hard for this, you deserve it. You’ve worked so hard in so many aspects of your life. Your family is so lucky to have you now. I’m sure they were the ones that made you into the person that you are, so it’s their fault too, but exactly. They’re so lucky to have you working so hard for them. That dedication that you have for your clients, for your family, it’s just, it’s who you are, and I think that that’s amazing. I’m super inspired by your story today.
What do you think is one of the most memorable moments in your real estate career so far? If it was getting a house for someone that you knew was, someone that really deserved it, or what was something that you look back on with just super fond memories?
Julia: Yes. I sold probably around 200 properties so far. Each client, each closing is so memorable for me. I always like getting presents for each of my clients. I’m getting a blanket set, blanket pillows, some stuff like photo frames, candles, towels, welcome rocks. I’m going to closings with the bags, and it’s just like you are being a part of this amazing family story.
You are there to make their American dream come true because I know exactly what American dream means, and to see like those young families with kids, or just very hardworking people finally getting their first property, finally having these keys. It’s super memorable just to be there, celebrate with them. Each family, each client has a such a unique story, where every real estate transaction has problems. There’s everything, all the time. You can [unintelligible 00:25:01] together, you come together, you team up together. At the closing, there’s just the happiest moment, keys, presents. It’s amazing.
Lindsay: I love that you say that American dream, because you’re such a huge proponent of like, just as your American dream. I love that that’s what brings you happiness in this career for yourself. I think that that’s amazing. What is your biggest way that you market yourself? What’s the number one way you would say you get leads and that you would just never stop doing because that’s where you get most of your business? Is it all referral business at this point? Are you buying leads from places? What’s your biggest way that you get leads?
Julia: I never bought leads. Yes, I never bought leads. I always we’re doing referral, and social media. That’s my two biggest one. I will start doing more events because I believe that, so it’s got to be personal. Because I know other realtors, I have a lot of friends and they’re buying leads, and they’re paying a lot of money for it, but then people don’t get that connection with you.
They don’t know who you are, why you’re a good realtor. No background, no nothing. For me, it’s more meaningful to build this like, “This is what I do. This is my name.” Yes, maybe it would be not 200 transactions. Maybe it’s not going to be so much, but I know with my strategy that I have right now, I’m doing pretty good.
Lindsay: Yes, absolutely. What would be your biggest advice for realtors out there that maybe they are in a couple of years into their career, and they really want to sell more homes or do more for their clients, what would be some advice that you would give to those people?
Julia: Never give up. Never give up. I had so many things in my life that happened that I want to just give up and I’m like, “Maybe I’ll just go and work for somebody and make those $12 an hour, $20 an hour and just relax.” When you have a potential and you know that you have this potential, and you know you’re good, you see some results, but in some moments you just feel so unconfident, you don’t have that extra support, please remember this video that you can do it.
Everything is possible, it’s just your mindset. Don’t say why this happened to me? It’s just, what can I take and be better from this? Always team up with people who will lift you up because there’s so many people around who want to bring you down and say, this is impossible. All my people that I started with they’re like, “Julia, just go on cleaning. Just be a good cleaning lady you’ll make $200 a day. Why do you need real estate?” Just imagine what would happen to me if I stick with those people?
Pick the right people around you. Listen to motivational videos, listen to podcasts. Try to find a way how you can be with more successful people. Even go work for not so much money. Just say, “Hey, I can, help you with your flyers, or maybe I can come to your event and be a hostess for you.” Just because you are talking to them and you’re around them, you’re going to learn so much. Yes, never give up, move forward and you will sell for a million dollar listing. I know that and you know that, so why not?
Lindsay: Love that. This is amazing. You heard it from her, straight from her mouth. Thank you so much, Julia. I guess in my mind, you always since I don’t know much about you, you will have in your mind how this will go. I was excited to talk to you and hear your story because it was so unique where you’re from, and how many places you’ve been and all of this, but I didn’t ever expect to have the conversation that we had today and hear just all the things that you’ve been through.
I love that never give up message from you is so powerful because when someone else wants to give up, it’s like, “Why? Look at what Julia’s done.” You know what I mean?
Julia: I’m shocked sometimes when people are like, “Oh my God” about kids, sometimes like, “Oh my son, doesn’t want to eat breakfast,” or “They play too much iPads.” I’m like, “You think this is a problem?” I was seeing doctors like literally every week of his life. We were at appointments, at doctor appointments every single– you should be so blessed with what you have. You just should be like, people should be more grateful and appreciate things they have. Yes. That’s all.
Lindsay: You should have your own podcast that you just go on and give motivational advice because that’s so powerful. I love it. Well Julia, thank you so much. Thank you to everyone who listened. If you want to
reach out to Julia, I always try to– Oh, no, it’s that way. [laughs] I always to figure out how I’m supposed to be pointing. Make sure you go and follow her. Make sure that if you have any questions for her, feel free to reach out and ask her questions because as you can see, she’s an open book and it’s super helpful. I just, I love that. Thank you again, Julia. I really appreciate you.
Julia: Thank you. I appreciate it. Yes. Have a wonderful day, everyone.
Lindsay: Thank you so much for listening to the podcast today. We will be back in just two weeks for our next episode. Have a good one, everybody.
Thanks for joining us on the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate podcast. We hope you’ve learned some valuable takeaways. Be sure to take action and grow your business. You can check out the Episode Notes and more content from the show at CrushitinRE.com/podcast. And if you’d like this episode, and you’d like to hear more stories, please share with others, post on social media or leave a rating or review. To catch all the latest from Anthony you can follow him on Instagram at Crush It In Real Estate on Facebook and YouTube. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time.