Coffee Break with Euan Graham
DMAR: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the real estate industry?
Euan Graham: I'm originally from Scotland. I grew up in a small town just south of Edinburgh, the capital city, and went to university there and ended up traveling after graduation and met my now wife in San Diego in 2004. We were married in 2005, lived in Scotland for two years and then relocated back to Colorado in 2008 because that's where she is originally from.
I got my real estate license in 2010; 2020 was my 10-year anniversary. It's been an incredible journey, but now I'm here and I've been lucky enough to get involved with DMAR as a Director I think about six years ago, and then got involved in leadership and was chair for 2019, 2020. What a year to be chair. But it was truly rewarding.
DMAR: Why are you a REALTOR®?
Euan: When I first got my real estate license, I had no idea what I was doing. I joined a brokerage, and I was basically told that I just had to join a REALTOR® association. Originally, I lived in Southeast Aurora and I was a member of the Aurora Association. Towards the end of my first year I joined DMAR because my managing broker at the time was with DMAR. We had a really good chance of winning the Excellence Awards category for offices with five agents. And with my production in my first year, that would have taken us over the top, so he said, "You need to join DMAR," which I did. I think we won, or we were second, and I was lucky enough to be Rookie of the Year for DMAR that year as well.
But that's obviously not why I'm a member of the Association. I've realized the true benefits of being a REALTOR® and being a member of DMAR. It makes you stand out in terms of how seriously you take your profession and the industry and how to treat the industry. I think whatever industry you're in, if there is a governing body in terms of a professional organization, that's what you should be a member of. Being a REALTOR® and being a member of the Association, you have greater access to not only fellow agents who are true professionals, but also education, a huge amount of resources and networking, etc. It's by far the best money I spend every year.
I say all the time, and I know other people might not agree with me, but if my dues increased two, three-fold, I would gladly pay them because I think it's really important to be a REALTOR® and have strength and depth within the industry.
DMAR: Do you remember your first transaction? How did it go, and what did you learn from it?
Euan: I remember as if it was yesterday. The clients of mine are still great friends of mine until today. Actually, crazily enough, they live in Las Vegas now and they both got their real estate licenses because of their involvement with me. They were first-time homebuyers at the time - and I had no idea what I was doing. I went out and met with them on a Sunday morning and showed them six or seven homes. And believe it or not, the very, very first home I showed them they bought. I just thought that was crazy because I had this idea that you have to show somebody 80, 90 homes before they buy a home. And the first freaking home I show them they buy! I couldn't believe it.
We had some inspection issues that we had to navigate through, some foundation issues and a broken sewer line… so there was a lot to navigate through in that first deal, but we got through it and they got a great home. They bought in 2010, I think the average home price back then was $240,000. It's now over $600,000. They sold that three or four years later for over $400,000. It's probably worth well over $600,000 now.
I do reflect on my old transactions because the stories I could tell you… let’s just say, I’ve had a lot of fun. The clients and the friends that I've made through real estate have been incredible, but there's always a story within each transaction. And that's what keeps me going at the end of the day.
DMAR: What's something that you wish someone had told you when you first entered this industry?
Euan: The advice I give to people who still want to get into the real estate after I've scared them is: you've got to get with somebody who is going to be your mentor and not just a mentor on paper, but somebody who is going to hold your hand and help you navigate the nuances within real estate and help you build a business. I didn't have that when I got into the industry. I was flying by the seat of my pants. It was back in the worst recession we'd had; everything was in foreclosure and I didn't know any different. I just thought this was how it is. I had never seen any other landscape, so going into a home that didn't have drywall and all the copper was ripped out and there were no appliances was absolutely disgusting but it was just another transaction.
I wish I had had somebody to just give me a bit more help. It's hard just to get in there and do that. I wouldn't advise it to anybody. I would say make sure you get somebody who cares about you and cares for your business and is going to help you.
DMAR: What would your advice be to a brand new agent?
Euan: This a good one because I get asked all the time by people who want to get their real estate license. And I sit down with them, and by the time I'm finished with them, they probably never want to get the real estate license. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just mean that it's way, way too easy to get into real estate, and that's a problem. It’s so easy to get in but they don't realize how difficult it is to actually be successful and how much it actually costs to be successful.
I really discourage people from getting into real estate because there are too many of us anyway. Don't take that the wrong way. I don't discourage people. I'm just very blunt with people and very honest about what it really takes. If you just want to get into the industry and sell a couple of homes a year, that's fine. But most of the people I speak to want to be rookies of the year and sell 50 homes in the first year. If that is what you want to do, it's not easy. And the bottom line is if you get in, it's not just about working hard, it's about working smart. It's all the cliches. Our members out there know that a huge percentage of new agents don't make it, and there's a reason for that - it's not easy. It's a career and you to treat it as such. It's not a get rich quick scheme by any means.
When you first get into real estate you're drinking from a fire hose and you just want to get a deal and you're probably going to take whatever comes. But I think people who are successful actually sit down and put a plan in place.
DMAR: That's a really good point about business planning. How do you go about making a business plan, any tips?
Euan: I can remember when I was first told I needed to write a business plan, and I just laughed. I was like, "I have no idea what a business plan looks like.” I thought it was going to be a 50-page thesis. And then I was in a building group with one of my best friends, Erin Bradley, who is a lender and has been in the business forever, and she produced this one-page business plan. It was genius because it was not only about her business, but it was about her goals in life for that year with her family and things outside of her business, and it was very simple. I think people overthink business plans. They think it's going to take you weeks and weeks to do, and when you start thinking like that you're never going to do it. It has to be simple.
I think my biggest top is to not just write down your goals, but also how you're actually going to reach them. It's not just "I'm going to make this amount of money, and I'm going to do this amount of deals." How the hell are you going to do it? Put a plan in place that you're going to attend these events or do these things for your clients. That's the kind of plan you want to put in place. Make it something that you can work towards and make it fun. That's why I loved Erin's business plan, the one-page thing because she could relate to it. It was something that inspired her. There were so many elements of fun within it. If she was going to travel with her family she included where they were going to go and so on. I believe that type of business plan is far more successful than just writing out the number of transactions you want to complete and your financial goals because we can all say we want to make this amount of money or close 20 deals, but at the end of the day, if we don't have a plan to achieve that, then we're going to fall short.
DMAR: Do you have a niche or a specialty in terms of an area that you work in or a certain client you market to?
Euan: When I first started, I would have driven six hours to get a client, but I'm a little bit pickier in terms of who I work with now. I believe as a REALTOR® it’s best to be a specialist. You want to be able to provide the best knowledge and best experience possible for your client. I can tell you right now, I do not know Boulder, for example, and that's not a far drive from here, but if I had a client who needs to sell a house in Boulder, I'm not an expert up there. I would refer them to an expert.
I want to make sure that whoever I touch gets the best level of service possible. I know the Metro Area very, very well. So that's where I do most of my business. I live out in Southeast Aurora by the Aurora reservoir, so the ZIP code 80016 is my home ZIP code. I know that very well. But we have a Colorado state license, so technically we can sell anywhere in Colorado, but I always want to try to be the expert in the areas that I'm participating in and serving my clients, so mostly in the Denver Metro Area.
DMAR: What does a typical workday look for you, and how is it different now than it was pre-COVID?
Euan: I try to have some structure to my day. I don't block out every 30-minutes of my day, but I'm pretty intentional about getting up super early in the morning and starting my day in a way where I can get ahead of the rest of my competition and start in a positive way. By 7:30 AM or 8:00 AM I’ve accomplished a lot. Typically, I try to work on my business in the morning and then have appointments in the afternoon and early evenings.
Over the years I've learned I have to take control of my schedule rather than let my clients take control of it. It's still a work in progress. Last year there were not many days off. It was Monday through Sunday most weeks, but I'm lucky that I have a supportive family that is okay with that. I try and get to as many of the kids things as possible and spend as much time with them and my wife because that's the foundation that allows me to do what I do.
DMAR: How did your business change back in April, May and June, and where are you at now with precautions and what you're having to do differently?
Euan: I think it’s safe to say that everybody's stress level was 300 percent of what it typically is. It is crazy to me to think that in 2020, with all we had going on, real estate was busier than ever in the Denver Metro area. Now, some metrics play into that, but I'll tell you what, in my experience doing this for 10 years, I've been lucky enough to have success in real estate, 2020 will be my busiest year ever and also my hardest year by far. And not just because of navigating the COVID-19 guidelines. That's not difficult if you just stick to sensible precautions that we all have to play by, but as I mentioned, the stress level some people were/are going through, not only clients but their family and things, has been much harder to navigate.
I think in real estate if you're busy and you do have a lot of clients and you have some success, then you care. And I deeply care about my friends, my family and my clients. That does seep into your own home and the stress follows you. That has been difficult as well because my wife and kids have probably seen me at an all-time-high stress level; being busy with my own business and having the chair of DMAR thrown in there as well was tough, but I think for any REALTOR® out there they're there to hold the hand of the client and navigate them through any situation and always be there as their advisor. But 2020 was challenging. We had to be able to pivot and be nimble and use technology to a new level.
DMAR: Do you think any of those changes, such as technology, will stick around?
Euan: Absolutely. For the foreseeable future, there are going to be people who are not comfortable going into people's homes. We need to have that technology available. If you're not offering that to your clients, you're doing them a disservice. We should be making every piece of technology available to our clients. Buying a house through a virtual tour is not everybody's cup of tea. Most people still want to go in and experience being in the home.
I find it hard to be stuck at home or be on Zoom calls because I'm a very social person. I like to meet people in person, but I'm respectful of anybody that I'm working with. If they don't want me in their house but they want to meet with me, obviously we'll do a Zoom call. Technology is there to be embraced. It shouldn't replace meeting in-person or whatever but we have to be able to provide different tools.
DMAR: How long have you been at Madison & Company Properties, and what do you think makes it different from other brokerages?
Euan: I have been at Madison for eight years now. After two years at my first brokerage, my managing broker decided to start his own company. I wanted to look at some different opportunities, and I had been selling real estate for just two years. I knew nothing about brokerages or their models and the splits or any of that. I knew the names, but I didn't know how they worked. I met with four or five different brokerages and luckily, I was introduced to Madison and to Todd Narlinger, who's one of my best friends to this day. I didn't anything about Madison at the time but the thing that I was sold on was Todd. I could see myself and Todd 10 years beyond where I was because he was so passionate about the industry. He was still a REALTOR®, he still sold real estate, he still cared for his clients and that was attractive to me.
It's cliché to say but Madison really is a community. I think the majority of people who are asked what's more important - how much money you make or your place of work and the people around you - would say the workplace, the environment and the coworkers are. That's something that we're lucky to have at Madison.
The company has grown tremendously since I've been here. I think there are only about 10 of us here from when I started. I think we have about 150 agents. But we have really created a strong, well-respected brand. We have incredible staff through marketing and admin. And to be honest with you, if you're an agent here, you've got it pretty good because you've got everything at your fingertips. Everything can be done for you. You can just plug and play, but get the best of technology, marketing and everything else. But it's like anything else. Madison is not a good fit for everybody, but for the people that are here, it's a great fit, and that's what makes it a really strong company and a strong community.
DMAR: What was your experience like being Chair? You stepped in October 2019, and about five months later we were all under a stay-at-home order. To say you had a challenging year would be an understatement.
Euan: I try to forget about my year as Chair [laughs]. I drank a lot more wine. I'll tell you what, if I commit to something, I have to do 100 percent. I realized that being involved in leadership and then being Chair was going to take up a tremendous amount of my time, but I had committed to that and I had planned for it… but I certainly hadn’t planned for 2020 nor a global pandemic. In March and April, it felt like I would go into my office at home at eight o'clock in the morning and I would be on calls until eight or nine o'clock at night. We would be on calls or on Zoom lobbying certain people to maintain real estate as an essential service and business - it was stressful. There were numerous people involved who kept our industry alive during that time. It was a challenge, but it was hugely rewarding at the end of the day that we were able to get through things and maintain the integrity of our industry.
But I will say I would rather not do it again. And I would rather 2021 be a little less stressful. When you step up into leadership roles, you have to understand that you're not there just there to fill a seat. If you're there to tick a box, you're doing it for all the wrong reasons. My reason for anything I do in life - and especially within real estate and with DMAR - is to make a difference. I don't care about the accolade. I don't care about being Chair and having that on my signature line or my business card. It has nothing to do with that. It's about having the ability to make a difference for 7,000 plus members and the consumer. I'm very passionate about that as well, the consumer experience, and I think that can be directly impacted by the Association.
Long story short: I'm hugely proud of what we all achieved, not just myself, but our entire team at DMAR. But to be honest, I'd rather not do that again!
DMAR: The fact that you - along with DMAR’s Government Affairs team and the team at the Colorado Association of REALTORS® - were able to make sure that real estate remained an essential business, what do you think that meant for DMAR and the Colorado real estate industry?
Euan: I think we had no idea of what was going to happen, especially in the early parts of March. We just didn't know the impact that it was going to have. Basically, one afternoon we were told that we were non-essential and that we were going to get shut down. I reflected a lot on this. Was it selfish to think that we still needed to go out there and show homes? But by the end of the day, I was thought, "Absolutely not," because there was a bigger impact of us not being an essential service. Certain precautions needed to be in place but it gave us a chance to rise and be leaders in the industry and show the true importance of the services provided by REALTORS®. Even during a pandemic, people needed to sell and buy homes. Through working with the local governments and our state Governor, our government affairs team did an incredible job - I tip my hat to Peter Wall who did a tremendous job along with our state Association - building strong relationships there. We were there to constantly try and keep thousands of our members up to date with everything because the climate was changing not daily but hourly. We would do a call at eight o'clock in the morning, and then a couple of hours later it felt like everything would change.
DMAR: What was your proudest accomplishment while you were Chair?
Euan: Being able to maintain our status as essential during COVID-19 - but that was not me. Yes, I was on the calls, and yes, I was very vocal and wherever I needed to be I was there, but I think with REcolorado a lot was going on. Without getting too much into the weeds of things with MLS and with REcolorado, that was my biggest achievement – a lot of the stuff that went on behind the scenes. It was always, as far as I knew, for the benefit of the REALTOR® and our members. I worked really hard on that stuff by making tons of calls and doing so much stuff behind the scenes. I feel that my impact just individually was mostly on that side of things. But it's all a team effort. We're lucky to have the staff and everybody involved at DMAR.
DMAR: As our immediate past chair, what kind of person do you think is best suited to step into a leadership role?
Euan: I'll tell you what, as a young, naive agent new to the United States and not knowing how things worked on a corporate level or within an association level, I always believed that you needed all this experience, right? You needed to have been selling real estate for years and years and years before you could even get involved. That was my perception. When I was approached by Greg Geller, who was about to be Chair at the time, to run for a board position, I said to him, "You're crazy. I've only been in real estate for four years." And he said, "It doesn't matter how long you've been in the industry. It's about your participation and also your passion for the industry, and you fit that bill."
So I would say to anybody, you do not have to be in the industry for a certain number of years or have sold hundreds and hundreds of homes. If you want to make a difference and have a voice then participate. Those are the people who need to get involved in the Association. Getting onto a committee, for example, is a good bridge to getting involved on the board and in leadership. I'm passionate about this because I believe we need more people stepping up and more people getting involved because at the end of the day, until you do get involved in the association, you don't really understand what happens at that level and the difference that REALTORS® are making at a local level, state and national level.
And when anybody says to me, "I'm paying these dues. What are they for?" That's when I can sit down with them and educate them on the difference that the Association and the REALTOR® brand are making for our communities and homeownership. The word community is really important because REALTORS® are a huge part of the fabric within a community. I think people who want to get involved can find their voice when they do so. I think it's about people needing to step up.
DMAR: In terms of the Denver real estate market, what do you think 2021 has in store us?
Euan: Yeah, we've never seen anything like this. I understand looking at the statistics that real estate cycles every 70 years, but that's not happening right now because we've never seen metrics like we have in our local market. We've never seen as many people move to Colorado as right now. We've never had as low interest rates - ever. We've never had inventory like we have now. We are going into the unknown. All I can tell you is that something would have to dramatically change for the market we're in to change.
I'll tell you right now, I can't stand this market because it's so unbalanced; it's so unfair in one direction, for the seller. Sure, if you’re a seller it’s great. Everybody is making so much money on their home, but at the end of the day, if you're trying to buy your first house in the Metro Area, it's hell. And that isn't going to change unless some major, major markers within the industry change. 2021 is just going to be as bad as this year based on low inventory, based on the number of buyers out there for every single home and the rates. The rates are not going to suddenly spike.
And the crazy thing is we're going through a crisis, a pandemic, and the real estate market is stronger than ever for the seller. It doesn't make sense in a lot of ways. But it makes perfect sense with the metrics, with inventory and rates and our increasing population and as always being one of the top five places in the country to live. And that's not changing.
DMAR: What are your goals for 2021?
Euan: As you know, I feel very fortunate to be in America with the opportunities that it provides. Is America perfect? No, but it provides an incredible opportunity for people like me who came here as an immigrant. I've been selling real estate for 10 years. I've been lucky enough to be pretty successful, and I've been able to provide a good life for my family. But is that sustainable for me? No, because I don't want to be at the beck and call for a client on a Sunday night who’s calling me crying on the phone that something's gone wrong. I don't mean that I don't care. Obviously, I care, but that isn't what I believe my purpose in life is.
I want to take that 10 years of experience, and then for the next 10 years explore other opportunities. Will it be within real estate? Definitely. I'm not going to suddenly stop selling real estate or be involved in this community. It's who I am. Real estate has given me everything I have. But I want to make sure that I'm still giving back and being hugely involved in that and able to serve my clients and build and focus on creating a strong team around that. But there's so many other things I want to do. I want to look at my background being an immigrant and what that means in America and open up doors for other people like me that have come here. And then spending time with my family is hugely important to me.
My legacy will be the success of my kids and who they are as adults. So I want to focus on them in 2021 because I know I wasn't been able to do that as much last year. I'm not retiring. I love being in real estate and I love making a difference in people's lives, but it's not my end goal. It will continue to be part of who I am, but there's other things I want to achieve.
DMAR: If you weren't selling real estate, what do you think you'd be doing?
Euan: I'm an entrepreneur and that has only strengthened since I've come to the United States. Believe it or not, I went to university in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was a terrible student. I wanted to just have fun at university. But my degree was in sports science and physiology. I'm a huge sports guy - I love sports, I love to be active and I love to be outdoors - and I love to travel. I think I would take those passions and find some avenue within that. In the summer I want to play as much golf as possible, which doesn't happen. And in the winter I want to ski every day. That's not possible, but maybe one day it will be. But I think I would always come back to building relationships and connecting with a community. I love challenges, I love to be told no and I love to figure out solutions. I know that's not a very specific answer, but I'd probably be playing golf, skiing, drinking good red wine and traveling with my family.
DMAR: What are your favorite activities outside of work?
Euan: Without a doubt, the thing I love best is to spend time with my wife and kids. We have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, which is something I love to do, and I'm lucky to have a family that loves to do that as well. I'm from Scotland and we go back to see family there. We also travel to Europe a lot and the Caribbean. My kids are hugely into sports as well, so you'll find us watching the Broncos on Sunday. Summertime we're outdoors as much, and selfishly I love to go golfing with the kids so they play. In the winter we ski as much as possible. We're a very social family when we can be. Right now things are different, but yeah, it's spending as much time with them as possible.