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 Favazza: Welcome back to the Agents Who Crush It In Real Estate Podcast. I am sitting across right now from Darlene Umina. She is an agent here at Lamacchia Realty. I am so excited to have you today. Thank you so much for coming.
Darlene Umina: Thank you for inviting me. I’m happy to be here too.
Lindsay: Of course, I had to invite you. We’re talking about agents who crush it in real estate, and you’ve been someone that ever since I started at this company I’ve been watching, and you’re so freaking consistent it’s ridiculous. You’re a top producer and consistent. It’s not like you’re in 10 to 15 range and you’re consistent, you’re truly at a top producer level and you’re consistent. Now, I know you’re also very humble, so saying stuff like that makes you uncomfortable. I know you.
Darlene: It does.
Lindsay: It’s so does. At the same time, there’s a lot of people out there that would love to be in your shoes. Let’s start from the beginning, take us back to when you first got into real estate, why you decided to get into real estate, and explain how that path worked for you.
Darlene: Originally, I’ve been licensed since ’07. I actually started out way back when it was McGeough Lamacchia, with them as buyer’s agent. I had gotten into it because I thought it was fun, and it was fun. At the time, I had just gotten married and I wanted to be home cooking dinner for my new husband. The market was just about to turn, and so I took a break and I had my kids.
At that point, in 2013, I was in a really– I shouldn’t say I, we as a family were in some really deep, deep financial struggles. Over those years, I had three kids, and my oldest child is sick. He has an autoimmune disorder that we were in and out of the hospital all the time trying to regulate. We had to go to the National Institute of Health in Washington because they were the only ones that knew how to deal with it. There were trips back and forth to Washington.
My husband was a police officer at the time and he had a fixed income. Even if he could do details, it was still not enough for both of us. I could not work, I was the primary caregiver. In the meantime, he ended up getting sick and he had time taken from work and he had to take time off three months for a surgery. Literally, we ended up claiming bankruptcy. There was no way out of our medical debt. We had racked up quite a few credit cards because with me not working, our cash was going to pay the mortgage, but soon enough, we were behind on our mortgage. We claimed bankruptcy. We sold our house. It was unrelated, but after the bankruptcy, we sold our house.
Lindsay: What year was this?
Darlene: This was ’13.
Darlene: Yes. I had a sick four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a newborn. After we sold our house. For us it was life-changing money, we thought at the time. I think we made $10,000 on our house, but we finally went upside down after the debt-
Lindsay: To walk away with something was nice.
Darlene: Right. We went to rent and I was miserable renting, 100% miserable. I had grown up renting and I think it struck some chord with me that it was like after owning and going back to renting and I had no control and I felt like our life was just on the wrong path. I said to my husband, with a four-month-old, I was like, “I need to get back into real estate now.” He’s like, “Why now would you think this is a good time?” We barely-
Lindsay: You weren’t working at the time, though, anyways, right?
Darlene: Not working.
Lindsay: You weren’t working anyways, so why not take that risk?
Darlene: Right. That’s what I thought.
Lindsay: If you had a 9:00 to 5:00 and you were getting out of it, that would be more scary to me.
Darlene: Right. I was like, “We’re going to do this.”
Lindsay: Might as well do it.
Darlene: For me, the only way to turn our ship around was to start working. I knew I loved real estate, and I knew it was there for a reason, and I really wanted a house again, and so I threw all of myself into it. It was beyond challenging. Within six months or so, we had our first house. That just made me feel better anyway. I was like, “Okay, we have our first house.”
Lindsay: That’s amazing.
Darlene: We bought this really cute foreclosure back in Framingham where we want it to be. It was in great shape, we fixed it up. During those years, we just had to chip away all of our financial burden because then even worse is we claimed bankruptcy. Because after we claimed bankruptcy, I still wasn’t working, so after that, we still had financial debt and we still had medical bills. It wasn’t as severe, but-
Lindsay: You claim bankruptcy, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.
Darlene: Right, we need still money.
Lindsay: You still have to rebuild. Absolutely.
Darlene: Really, it was true, true grit, and it was such hard work, and it was a lot of sacrifice. I spent a lot of time away from my kids. A lot of weekends away from my kids, a lot of nights away from my kids, a lot of missed bedtime stories and tuck-ins, but it was truly the only way out for us. I did turn that ship around, and so I started selling– My first year I sold four homes, my second year I sold 13 homes. Then my third year I sold 50. Since then, it’s been about 50-
Lindsay: Oh my goodness. Wow.
Darlene: -since 2015.
Lindsay: 4 to 13 to 50.
Darlene: I was so proud of myself with even four.
Lindsay: You should be.
Darlene: I remember coming– I got my 1099 in the mail and I was like, “Oh, Andy,” that’s my husband name, I’m like, “Oh my God, I made us $26,000 this year.” I was so excited. I’m like, “Me, I made it, I made $26,000.” Now, it was interesting because before kids and everything, I was a a successful business person. I did HR, I was an HR manager, a recruiter, so I had made more than $26,000 in my life, but it felt so insurmountable.
Lindsay: To what you had been through.
Darlene: Yes. It was like, “I kept everybody alive and I made $26,000.” I was so proud of myself. Then when I made it to 13, I’m like, “Whoa, this is crazy. I sold 13 houses this year.” Obviously, commissions went up with that. Then 50, 50, 50, 50. It’s been quite the ride, but that motivation, that was– From there, it was all these different things.
We were in our first house, then I wanted to fix it up. Then we outgrew that house, and I was, “We need a bigger house.” I was working towards that. Then the bigger house needed stuff, and then I really, really–
Growing up, I always wanted to Cape house. I used to say like, “How come–” because my friends, they all had Cape houses. The holidays would come around and be like, “I’m going to the Cape.” I was spitting nails at home and my blow-up pool, being like, “Why do I not have a Cape house?” I know that sounds a little bratty, but it was just always been-
Lindsay: It doesn’t at all. I was going to say to you, actually, when you were just talking about this, I hope that someone isn’t listening to this going, “Well, yes, she had something horrible happen where she had to claim bankruptcy, so that’s what motivated her.” The reality is you can find that within where you are. You don’t have to go through a bankruptcy to hit that low point. You don’t have to hit that, just think about what your goals are-
Darlene: What you want.
Lindsay: -and let that motivate you. When you say getting a Cape house, there might be someone who’s like, “I just want a real house.” Okay, that’s your motivation. Then guess what? Someday, you’ll be wanting a Cape house too.
Darlene: I remember, actually, we had a training and we had somebody and they were talking about what they had dreamt for themselves when they were younger and not letting that person down. I was sitting there and I was like, “Well, when I was younger, I wanted a Cape house and I’m not going to let that little girl down because I want to Cape house and it’s okay to want a Cape house.”
Darlene: I do think sometimes, especially as women, sometimes it’s hard to feel like you can dream big and be very vocal about that and share your goals with people. I made that decision. Shortly after, a couple of years later, we bought a Cape house, and a small little Cape house, but I love it to pieces. It checked my box for the little girl that I was like, “Now, I have a house that I’m comfortable in, I have a Cape house.” That was supposed to be partially investment too. Now I look at my motivation, I’m like, “I got to look at college. I have to look at retirement,” which is less fun-
Lindsay: I know.
Darlene: -but it’s still super, super important. It was getting us back on track. Also, for years too, I was catching up with the IRS because I think that’s a huge thing for new agents. You get all these big checks and you’re trying to catch up and you’re like, “Well, I need all of that commission right now.”
Lindsay: That next commission check, I’ll pay off those debts.
Darlene: That’s $6,000 I made, that’s my mortgage, I’m going to pay off my credit card, and you don’t think about you have to, have to, have to be so disciplined, so I wasn’t. I had to play catch up with the IRS too. There’s always some sort of carrot, I think, that keeps you motivated.
Speaker 1: Let’s take a quick break and hear from Dave Karoly the master of objection handling as he teaches you how to overcome buyer and seller concerns.
Dave: When someone tells me, “Hey, I’m not ready to sign anything yet.” Sometimes, obviously, this comes up during the actual call, sometimes this comes up towards the beginning of the appointment. It’s like, “Oh my God, I’m not going to sign anything today.” Some people won’t, but some people, they’re just telling you that, that’s their defense mechanism.
When you hear that, my immediate response has always been, “Who mentioned anything about signing anything? I didn’t mention anything. I didn’t mention contract, I didn’t mention any paperwork. What has you concerned about signing some? What might be helpful to you is, why don’t we get together for–” I call it a free, no-obligation home selling consultation. What will I be able to do is go over some what to-dos to get ready and some what not to-dos.
“You don’t want to waste your hard-earned time and money on things that wouldn’t be needed, especially in a market like this. You don’t want to spend $2,000 on your home to get $2,000 back. Why don’t we get together, even a couple of weeks out, maybe next week, the following week? I’ll come by. It’ll take about 30 minutes. I think those tips will be very helpful for you. No one ever mentioned anything about signing anything.”
Get in front of people sooner, do a good job, send them market updates, send them newsletters, send them postcards. Even if they’re not going to be listening for longer than you’d like, they will come back to you when the time– Don’t push them out, “Oh, they’re not ready to list yet. My time’s too valuable.” No, no, no, they will come around. Sometimes you get there and you can actually sign them up on the spot.
Speaker 1: Thanks, Dave. Now, let’s get back to the show.
Lindsay: I absolutely love this. Your hustle and your motivation is what got you there. I want to talk about how that translates now into keeping it up every year, because for a lot of agents, they might have that 4 to 13 to 50, and then the next year it’s 25 or the next year it’s 30 sales. How do you keep that level of business? What do you do to keep in contact with your clients? What are those tactical things that you do to make sure that that business doesn’t drop?
Darlene: I think I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the middle years a little bit. I call it the climb because I feel like it’s like raw grit hard work. It’s hard.
Lindsay: It’s 24/7.
Darlene: It’s still 24/7, but it’s a little bit different now. I was taking advantage of all of our lead products with my brokerage.
Lindsay: allowed to say the brokerage name?
Darlene: Absolutely, you are. I’m like, “Wait, a second I can’t remember the rules.”
Lindsay: It’s clearly going to state that you are with Lamacchia Realty.
Darlene: I was blessed to be in a brokerage that, first of all, really, really supports everybody’s goals. It’s like they really, really want you to succeed. As part of that, there’s lots of different lead products. I realized early on I had to switch. The first year I was not on lead products for sales. That even shows, it still translates to today. Couldn’t do it on my own. I thought, “Oh, wow, I’m so confident. People know me from my last professional life. They’re totally going to hire me,” and they knew that we were in a tough position.
I was like, “Oh, this is so great because people are going to be like, “I can help them by hiring her,” and so, don’t you know, they were crickets. I was bummed, I’m like, “Shoot.” The next year I went on the lead products, and I realized they were cold buyer leads, and they weren’t fun. I got myself through it by saying, “Someone else technically is paying for these leads. Essentially, these are Anthony’s leads. I need to be Anthony when I’m calling them. If I’m promising to do this, I need to think of it that way and just need to get over myself and know that this is his money that I’m protecting. I signed up to do this.” That really did help me get out of my own way, I think.
Then the second thing we talked about earlier on, I am such a wallflower. I don’t enjoy public spotlight at all. It killed me to walk down my aisle at my wedding. This is just me. In real estate, you have to be public, you have to embrace your public side.
Lindsay: You’re a leader within that transaction and with those clients, you’re helping to guide them. Yes.
Darlene: That part I love, especially I’m an extroverted introvert, so people that know me are like, “No way are you an introvert.” I’m like, “I know it’s really confusing, but if you put me in a room, I’m going to be in the back of the room if I don’t know anybody.” I had to be very, very public about the transactions that I was closing.
The only way to do that, really, especially at the time, was Facebook. Every single sale I was closing, it was out on Facebook. It was boosted, Facebook boosted, Facebook boosted because I didn’t want anybody to be saying like, “Is she still doing real estate?” It was like, “No, she’s absolutely doing real estate and she’s closing properties.” There was never, ever a question, and that definitely took a lot for me to get over.
Lindsay: There’s a lot of agents that are afraid to talk about those successes because they don’t want to feel show-offy and they don’t want to feel braggy or anything like that. You’ve got to get that out of your head.
Darlene: Especially, and I’m back there and it’s back in my head, I feel, but when you’re on the climb, “you have no choice.”
Lindsay: You have no choice.
Darlene: You have no choice.
Lindsay: Success-based marketing works so much better. They have to know that not only are you– People get on there and they do videos. There’s a bunch of people now doing TikToks and doing all these videos and these reels and things like that, which is great because it shows that you have knowledge, but unless there’s actually seeing that you are closing deals it’s going to be hard to believe.
Darlene: It’s empty.
Darlene: Unsubstantiated, in a way.
Lindsay: You have to talk about it. You have to.
Darlene: During that time, taking advantage of any and all lead products that your company offers you, absolutely, don’t think twice about it. Don’t think about what the splits are, don’t think about anything, because it’s such an important key to climbing. Yes, you’re making less of a split when it’s a company lead, but someone else is paying for them, so obviously, and you need that as a stepping stone to be like, “Here, I sold this, I sold this, I sold this.” Finally, my sphere started to pay attention and they were like, “Oh, well, maybe we can trust her now.” I hear some of these stories. We have Kevin Cormier who fricking killed it in his first year.
Darlene: And I still. Here I am, we talked about I’ve been as consistent. I sell 50 or so homes a year, and I was like jealous of his first year because I’m like, “His sphere-
Lindsay: Hugged him back.
Darlene: –trusted him immediately.” I’m still better at my 2014 sphere. I’m like, “Where were you, people?”
Lindsay: “Why didn’t you Kevin Cormier me?”
Darlene: Yes, like, “What the heck?” Anyways, now we’re through those middle years and now it’s making myself stay relevant. It is very hard. I think a lot of it has to do with, again, I am a wallflower, I am inclined to not be on video. I know that kills Lindsay and she’s like, “Is she on video?”
Lindsay: She’s so good at it, which is the part that kills me, because there’s sometimes where I’m like, “Yes, maybe video’s not your thing.” [unintelligible 00:16:05] like, “It is your thing.” That’s the part that kills me.
Darlene: I’m going to try to do some stuff this year. I’m really, really trying. I made it a goal. I’m going to try to overcome this piece of me. I feel like anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s just a good growth thing for me. In the meantime, the biggest thing I do is, aside from still Facebook, Instagram boosting, I’m a little bummed out about our new boosting rules. They’re not even new anymore, but I call them new. Even if it’s a 15-mile range, who cares?
A certain amount of those people are still the ones right next door, right in your town. Who cares if you get a listing 15 miles away? I certainly don’t. I’ll take any listing anywhere. There’s that.
Lindsay: What else do you do to keep up with your clients?
Darlene: Thank you. That was the avenue I was going and I’m like, “What was I just going to say?” It is very important to me. All of my business, for the most part now, is referral-based, which I love because I fall in love with my clients. I like them. Your vibe attracts your tribe. I believe that to the nth degree. One of the biggest things that I do is making sure I keep in touch with my sphere and my past clients. I love my past clients. They become family.
Thankfully, and I totally believe your vibe attracts your tribe, I attract the people I want to work with, which is great. Not everyone’s cut out for everybody. I like people like me. I tend to attract families with young kids, and that’s a very difficult transaction. It’s a lot of selling and buying at the same time. It’s challenging, but I love it. It’s like my geeky thing that I want to throw myself into.
I understand that their house is a mess, and I understand that nights are late, and I understand that they’re going to text me at 3:00 AM, and I tell them, I’m like, “Hey, if I’m up at 3:00 AM, I’ll answer you. If I’m not, you’re not going to wake me up.” After our transaction’s closed, I need them still, they’re my people. I’m tryign not to scare people too much, but I’m like, “You’re going to be family when this is over.”
Lindsay: You’re going to be my friend. [laughs]
Darlene: We’re going to stay friends. I make sure that I do some client appreciation event every year. That was hard during the pandemic, but earlier on, I think I started my first one in ’16, it might have been ’17, I did cornhole tournaments and food trucks. It was so fun.
Lindsay: So fun.
Darlene: It was so much fun. Then I did a duck boat tour one year, and that was my biggest year so far. I was like, “Let’s celebrate like champions.” Oh, we had so much fun. Then we had a taco party after. During the pandemic, I did Christmas photos, so outdoor Christmas photos.
Lindsay: That’s great.
Darlene: That was brilliant because I was like, “I’m still seeing you. I’m still seeing your families. Nobody is at risk.” It was super successful. We had a great time because it was October 2020, so it was still pretty bad. Then this year, I did, 2021, a wreath party for this year’s client. I kept it small. I didn’t get to do my wide reach, but I made sure that I was appreciating this year’s clients. We did wreath-making. We had a blast. It was so much fun.
Then I always do Thanksgiving pies, from time to time. When people are there, I’ll have little chat skis for holidays or whatever the case may be. I don’t do a ton of that because in New England, I think even my people that I love to pieces, none of us are super friendly. You hear the doorbell ringing and you’re like, “I’m diving behind my couch. I’m not answering that door.” We’re also so used to being in our lounge clothes.
Lindsay: I know.
Darlene: I get home and I’m like, “Okay, leggings are on.”
Lindsay: It’s straight into PJs, yes.
Darleen: I feel like even my people, I can’t just be like, “Ding Dong, I’m here.” That’s a huge piece of getting business that you want once you are through the climb. I always set a goal that– I personally think the best thing you can do for your business is being the best you can be during a transaction. Anytime you’re like, “Okay, I feel like I’m not getting new clients. What should I be doing? Facebook isn’t enough?” I start to get this panic all the time. I was like, “I can do a good job for my clients today. That is the best thing I can do today because they’re going to go and tell somebody else.”
My goal is to always have a transaction that people want to be repeated. My clients say all the time, “I wish we could buy and sell a house again.” I’m like, “I wish you could too, but you’re nice and happy right now.” Really, those are the things I do now to maintain my business.
Lindsay: I love it and I love that your kids are seeing not only what you went through before, they’re seeing how you overcame it, especially your daughter. They’re seeing how you overcame it, but now they’re seeing that you are successful and that you’re giving back to the people that have helped you to get there, which I think is just a great thing for them to see as well.
Darlene: Yes. Speaking of giving back, that just reminded me, which is terrible, every year I also do a giving tree. Also, I involve my clients. We do Giving Tree for single moms in Metro West that are struggling. I interview single moms. That kills me too because I hate interviewing. I wish I could just get four moms that just land on my door because it is so hard to say, no, I hate it.
Lindsay: Because then you have to say no. I know.
Darlene: Single moms because my mom is a single mom. I watched her– Literally, she put herself through college, she bought her first home, and it was really impressive. I know what it was to be a daughter of a single mom. It was great. I just know that it was hard for her. I’m like, “How can I help?” We do, I say to lighten the weight of their slays at the holiday season. This year, I did start my own foundation. My whole undertone, which is patented as Love Where You Live, in Massachusetts, and so I made the Give Where You Live Foundation to go along with that.
Of course, it’ll be regular charities throughout the year, but with a big push for the Giving Tree in December. My clients, that’s another way that I keep in touch with them, which I love so much because they end up bringing me presents or they’ll be like, “Can you swing by and pick this up? I really want to stay engaged. I want to be involved.” I love that so much.
Lindsay: Finding stuff that connects with you and then giving back in a meaningful way is also a great way to grow your business. I know it sounds self-serving, but it makes you feel good and it’s helping others. On top of that, your clients and your friends and your sphere see that you’re caring about the community and that’s super important.
Darlene: Giving back to your community, that shifted for me maybe four years ago. I was looking at all these lead products, and I tell a lot of agencies. They call me, they’re like, “What can I do?” I was like, “Give back to your community. Go sponsor a baseball team.” Little things. I used to give little gifts too when we used to do more events. This is one of those things, but they’re coming up, more events are coming up.
Lindsay: They’re coming back.
Darlene: For one of our school events I did, I gave out a chocolate party. They were doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory play and I decided to give out a chocolate party as part of the raffle. Obviously, I sponsored it and it was a huge hit. Little stuff like that that you’re giving back too. It helped put on the play. My kids weren’t even in the play. A lot of people are like, “I don’t have kids,” or “I don’t have kids that are involved in activities.” You don’t need them.
Lindsay: Find something that you care about. A group that you’re willing to help.
Darlene: Exactly. That’s what will get your name out in the community and it makes you feel good because you’re like, “I do want to give.” I’ve had a lot of agents even tell me. For Giving Tree, I had one agent that I love. He actually owns a brokerage out in Metro West and he showed up and he’s like, “Agents don’t do this.” He showed up to give me money for it. I’m like, “That’s huge.” These are the people that I want to be connected with me because he’s not saying I’m not going to give to her fundraiser because it benefits her, because we don’t think of it as benefiting us, we think of it as helping the community.
Lindsay: One more question for you today, and that is, what advice would you give to an agent is maybe in this 4 to 13 range? Let’s go back to where you were before you had your breakout, in that 4 to 13 range, and they’re struggling and they don’t know what to do to get to them to that next level. What would be your biggest piece of advice something to focus on?
Darlene: If I look at me at that range, I was still afraid of the phone. I hated the phone. To be completely honest, I don’t love the phone now, but I know it’s part of my job. Anytime I need to make things happen, you have to pick up the phone and you have to dial. You cannot make it happen on social media. You take whatever leads you have and you get on the phone and you call them until you reach somebody. I think you can get so easily set in this mindset that no one’s going to pick up the phone, nothing’s going to happen.
One of my clients I still talk to, I think it was during that 4 to 13, I think it was in the 13, yes, she was a lead from the end of the year. It was essentially a revival dial before we did tactical revival dials. I never expected to pick up. It was nine months later. She’s like, “Oh, I am looking for a house. Can we go out this weekend?” We had her under agreement in a day and it’s amazing. You don’t know what you’re talking to on the other end of the phone.
Lindsay: Now you’re looking at those lists as gold instead of looking them-
Darlene: Especially now. Someone might have decided they were going to buy a house during COVID and then be like, “No, it’s not safe.” They might have decided last year, “Okay, it’s safe enough for me, but I’m going on the bench because this is hard to do.” There’s people that duck out for any reason. They’re not going to bite you through the phone. If they hang up on you, big deal. Who cares?
Lindsay: Who cares?
Darlene: You’ve got nothing to lose.
Lindsay: Nothing’s going to happen if they hang up on you, other than you’re going to have that moment of like, “Ugh,” and then you’re going to move on to the next one. You know what? When you do get that person on the phone that ends up purchasing within a week after, that’s going to wash away all the [unintelligible 00:25:28], all the hang-ups.
Darlene: I think it’s so hard to get in your head and be negative, or it’s so easy, I guess, to get in your head and be negative. Overcoming that, you have to shift your mindset, you have to, you have no choice. If you’re in this business and you stay negative, and it’s okay to be negative sometimes, you have to, it’s a tough business, there are gypsum valleys, but you cannot stay in the negative headspace because nothing good will happen. There’s no way to get through it.
Back then I was afraid of the phone and also like, “Is this going to work?” You have to just proceed as if success is inevitable. If this is what you want, you do it, you go get it. You make those dials, you work hard, and you do what it takes.
Lindsay: Love it. Well, Darlene, thank you so much. I so appreciate you sitting with me today. Thank you all for listening. We’ll see you on the next Agents Who crush It In Real Estate Podcast.
Darlene: Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thanks for joining us on the Agents Who Crush It In The 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. If you liked 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. We’ll see you next time.
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.