Coffee Break with Steve Thayer
DMAR: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into real estate?
Steve: I got my real estate license 10 years ago. We had sold the franchise business that we owned and I got into real estate just to do something in between businesses. When I got my license, I definitely thought it would be something fun to do for a short while. But I quickly fell in love with it and realized that it's perfect for me. I've been doing it ever since and I absolutely love what I do.
D: When you first entered the industry did you have a mentor or anyone who helped you get started?
S: Jerry Fitzpatrick was my first broker. He helped me a lot. I had a couple good friends who were real estate agents, but mostly I just learned everything on my own. I went to a lot of classes and tried to completely immerse myself in the industry right away.
D: As immediate past Chair of DMAR, can you tell us about your experience leading the Association?
S: I had a blast as Chair of DMAR and I learned more about the business than I can even express. One of the best things about being Chair was being able to travel around the country and represent DMAR at numerous national events. We went to D.C. twice to attend legislative meetings, and I had a great experience learning about what goes on in Washington, what goes on at the state capital and about the influence we have. I don’t know if people realize this, but NAR is the largest trade Association in the country with more than 1.3 million members. So we certainly have a presence, we have a voice and people listen to us. In particular, politicians listen to us. They want to know what we as REALTORS® are thinking and what the real estate community at-large is thinking. I feel like our message was absolutely heard and they truly cared what we thought.
[TWEET THIS] "NAR is the largest trade Association in the country with more than 1.3 million members. So we certainly have a presence, we have a voice and people listen to us."
D: Before the Douglas Elbert REALTOR® Association (DERA) merged with DMAR, you served as DERA's President-elect, and then as DMAR’s Chair-elect before becoming Chair. Did you feel extra prepared, since you had those two years of leadership experience before serving as Chair?
S: Yes, I had that extra year to learn, and so I did. I learned different perspectives, too. When I joined DMAR, I had come from DERA, so I knew everything about Douglas County, but I didn't know a lot of the ins and outs of Denver. I was fortunate to have that extra year to learn more about key initiatives in Denver, which I had not paid as much attention to before.
D: So, what was it like joining the largest local REALTOR® Association in Colorado coming from a much smaller Association?
S: It was actually really cool because DMAR has such a big reach and truly has become the voice of real estate in the Denver metro area. Like you said, I came from a small Association, which was also great but in a different way; we did have a lot of say in Douglas County but to come to DMAR and be part of this large organization has a lot of pull. DMAR has clout at the state capital, the media wants to hear what we have to say and we have a strong, unified voice. It’s neat to be a part of that.
D: Do you think that "bigger is better" in terms of membership size?
S: I think there is power in numbers. And, so, we're able to have a bigger influence. The bigger you are, the more people are going to listen. Having over 7,000 members does help us get our message out.
D: Do you think that DERA has been able to maintain its culture now that it’s the Douglas Elbert District?
S: Yeah, we have done a really good job keeping the culture. We still do our weekly marketing meetings on Fridays as well as all of the events that we were doing before. It’s also been great to see some of our annual events and projects grow like our electronics recycling event and our annual Helping Hands initiative. The Douglas Elbert County and the Douglas Elbert District are obviously very important to me and I appreciate everything DMAR has done to maintain our culture. That was always a top priority.
D: Are you still the reigning champion of the Chili Cook-Off?
S: I was until I joined DMAR and now I haven't won the last two years. So, that is where the merger has been a big negative to me because Beau La Point has beat me two years in a row.
D: Was being Chair what you expected?
S: I think so. I had a blast being Chair. It was fun to be so involved especially at that level. Seeing what goes on with all the different committees, how the Association runs and interacting with a lot of REALTORS® and hearing what is going on in the real estate community was great. Being Chair, or just part of leadership, also gives you that unique opportunity to really be a part of everything and enables you to have a say in things.
D: What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you faced while being Chair?
S: Probably the biggest frustration was trying to help get the MLS merger in place between REcolorado and IRES. There are eight associations that belong to MLSs and trying to get eight different board of directors on target with the same message is a challenge. It seemed like it was going to be more simple, but with all the different players and different attorneys… we just could not get to the finish line. We are still working on it and I truly believe we are going to get there, but it’s taking much longer than any of us ever anticipated.
D: Speaking of MLS mergers... what are your overall thoughts on the topic and why do you think it is so important that we do have one unified MLS?
S: It’s incredibly important to have one MLS. We need to have one place to go so all REALTORS® get all of the information that they need. What we are doing now is kind of segmenting our state into different groups and it restricts the opportunity to work in certain areas. I live in the south end of town, so I actually have to have two different MLS memberships in if I want to do work in Colorado Springs and in Denver. If we don't do something about that, bigger players like Zillow or Amazon or perhaps somebody new, will come in and create a new MLS and that would drastically change the industry. We need to be in control of that. That's why I think it is so important for us to get this thing to the finish line.
D: Not having one MLS is also a detriment to consumers. If their REALTOR® does not belong to all the MLSs, they won’t have access to as many homes.
S: Absolutely. I’m a member of PPAR and REcolorado, so Colorado Springs and Denver. If I have a client who is looking in both areas, I have to setup two totally different alerts. That means my clients are going to have to get two emails a day from me with totally different groups of data and it’s just not consistent and it can be quite confusing. Consumers and REALTORS® want, and should have, one place to go to access the information and they should be able to dissect everything from one place. Having multiple MLSs makes it a lot harder for everyone.
D: Do you see a national MLS ever happening?
S: It would be nice to have, but I don't know if that would happen or not. It would definitely be hard to get a national MLS. I can't predict the future with the internet changing the way it has… you never know. But, I think it's more likely to have regional MLSs. I am guessing at some point we will have 20 to 30 regional ones across the country, and that would be good.
D: So, another hot topic right now is electronic lockboxes. Why do you think Colorado is so behind on this, and why do you think it is important that REALTORS® adopt electronic lockboxes?
S: I have gone to different national events and the last event I went to people across the country were shocked that Denver is literally the only major city left that is not using electronic lockboxes. We can't mandate them, so I don't know that we will ever get 100% participation, but it is really important that we push electronic lockboxes for the safety of our clients. I think that we are going to get there, but it is going to take time. The push back is always financial. If an agent has to spend an extra $50, they are going to push back on that. Also, people don't like change. We need to educate, educate, educate and let people know how important it is.
D: We hear that a lot that REALTORS® "don’t like change." And obviously people in general tend to be averse to change, too but do you think REALTORS® are more averse to change than other people?
S: Yeah, I think so. And I don't mean to bring demographics into it, but the average real estate agent is in their 50's. So I think there is more resistance to change. Personally, I hate change, but I have learned how to use it to my advantage. We've always pushed back on some of the technology that we have had, but in reality, if you use it correctly, you are going to get business from it. We have agents who are just killing it on social media, using Pay-per Click or doing SEO advertising. So, it's just a matter of educating. I think as newer agents come in, they are going to be more willing to embrace change, and that will slowly, but surely, change the industry.
D: A lot of people join a REALTOR® Association just because they “have” to or were told to, and it’s not until later that they see the true value. Why did you initially decide to join?
S: That’s absolutely true and I’ll admit that I, like a lot of people, joined the Association because I had to. My broker made me. For about three or four years, I didn’t see or know the value. Now, I completely see the benefits and, I especially see the benefit of RPAC and becoming an investor. As a REALTOR® Association, the most important thing we do is help protect the American dream of homeownership and a lot of that is through lobbying efforts and through the money REALTOR® and Industry Partner members invest. I feel like real estate agents who aren't REALTORS® kind of ride on our coattails a bit. I wish everybody was a REALTOR®, although I know that is not feasible. But I do see the value now that I did not see before.
D: That’s a good point. For a lot of people, it does seem to take time and there is a lot of information that they don't know or understand. Do you think there is anything DMAR or REALTOR® Associations in general could do to better educate agents, or do you think it just takes time?
S: I think it’s about getting out in front of people and explaining the value to them. Obviously, we live in a culture of "What's in it for me?" So, you have to show people the value for them. It's hard to quantify or materialize the value of our lobbyist fighting at the US capital against tax reform or against tax increases that would take away the mortgage interest deduction until it is actually in front of you and it's happening. But, we have seen it happen. Somebody has to fight for our industry and for homeowners, otherwise congress and the government could change things and eventually take away the advantage of owning a home.
D: What would you say to a newer agent or to someone who is not involved in the Association about why they should get involved?
S: I think it is important for all real estate agents to become REALTORS® because it shows a commitment to the industry and to your clients. It shows that you follow a code of ethics, that you take education seriously and, most importantly, it shows you are committed to putting your money where your mouth is. The Association protects the American dream of homeownership and by being a member, all REALTORS® can say they do as well.
D: And, do you think that being involved specifically in some sort of committee helps members in their business? REALTORS® are going to be interacting with other agents when working with clients, but does it actually help to know the person on the other side of a transaction?
S: Yes, absolutely. When we do deals, we have a cooperative agreement with another agent and it is really important to have a good relationship with them. There is nothing worse than having a negative or combative relationship with the other agent. Being a member of DMAR has afforded me the opportunity to meet a lot of people and personal relationships go a long way, especially when you run into problems. And problems happen - such as issues with inspections or appraisals - but it is much easier to work through them when you have two people cooperating with each other and working on the same page.
D: What it is a typical day for you look like?
S: Well, the most fun part of my job is working with clients. We are constantly on the phone with clients, or meeting clients in person. If it is a seller, we review how the listing is going, how we are marketing it and talk about negotiating contracts. When we are working with buyers, we are taking them out to look at properties and negotiating deals. The day is pretty much always dominated by meeting and working with people. When we're not working with clients, we're usually out networking at different events, or doing paperwork.
D: You’re a Broker Associate at Keller Williams Action Realty, LLC and you work with a team, right?
S: Yes, we're the Thayer Group.
D: What do you think are the benefits of working with a team?
S: My team is just my wife and I right now. We have different variations to the team at different times, but right now the two of us. We are definitely on the same page as far as who is doing what, which is great, and we can cover for each other time wise. Generally speaking, working with a team is beneficial because there is power in numbers. If one of us is busy the other can show homes and vice versa. So, our clients are always going to have somebody to call to talk to anytime of the day.
D: Is it hard to have a work-life balance, especially when you are working with someone you also live with?
S: Well, I’ll admit I am a workaholic. I love working pretty much 24/7. And I’m also very competitive and I want to do as many deals as I can. Yeah, some times the work-life balance is a bit tough. It was harder when our kids were younger, but now that they are little older, it’s easier.
D: Saying you work 24/7 is literally the opposite of work-life balance!
S: That’s true. But I’m just a competitive person. I want to be number one in the office and I want to be number one in the area. It's just a pride thing, more than anything.
D: How do you get most of your clients? Is it usually referrals?
S: Yes, our business is heavily referral-based. We have a good database that includes a lot of past clients. We do a lot of networking, and we get a lot of clients through our networking efforts. We do a lot of internet marketing and also specialize in neighborhood farming. Specifically, we farm a large area down in Castle Rock.
D: We all know there is an inventory problem in Denver, plus we have so many people becoming real estate agents every single month. Is that a challenge for you or your business?
S: Absolutely. The past three or four years, inventory has been a challenge. Especially this past year, finding houses for buyers has been hard and prices have continued to rise because of supply and demand. But, we are seeing a slight shift right now and more houses are on the market. I think we are going to continue to see a shift. Wait until spring, that will really tell us where we are. And yeah, we have a growing number of agents in the industry. When the market is good, a lot of people are going to get their real estate license. People watch HGTV, they think it’s easy and they want to get into the business. When the market corrects, a lot of those part-time agents will either do something else or they'll become full time agents. That’s just how it works.
[TWEET THIS] "When the market corrects, a lot of those part-time agents will either do something else or they'll become full time agents. That’s just how it works."
D: What is one of the most important lessons that you've learned in your career so far?
S: That’s a good question. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to over communicate to clients. When you are selling a house and it hasn’t sold and your clients don't hear from you every week to find out what you are doing, they get nervous. I think that is one of the biggest lessons for agents to learn… make sure you are constantly communicating with your clients. If you don't, then they think you are not doing anything and they are going to move on to the next person. It's that simple.
D: Do you work with a lot of younger buyers or first-time homebuyers?
S: I work with a mix. Most of my business is down in the Castle Rock area. It's a little more family-oriented. I probably work with a lot of middle-aged clients more than anything, but we work with clients of all different ages and backgrounds. Last year, I sold a $150,000 condo and a $2 million house. We work in a pretty big range.
D: When you are working with people who are in such different price ranges, and different stages of their lives, do you approach working with them differently?
S: Well, we try to be very consistent in our communication. When we go out on a listing appointment, whether it is a friend or family member or somebody we don't know, we are going to give them the exact same info. We are going to treat everybody the same way. We study the market so we know what's going on day to day and what's on the market at what times, so we are able to be a valuable resource for people. Really, at the end of the day, our job is to give people information and help them make decisions.
D: How have you seen the industry change in the past maybe five to 10 years?
S: The internet really changed the business. I got into real estate 10 years ago and obviously the MLS was already online and we were just starting to get into eContracts. Now, everything is online. Buyers and sellers have access to properties before we do, and they are on the internet looking at properties themselves. In the past, I was telling clients, "We should go see this house,” but now they are calling me to say, "Okay, I am ready to go. Let's look at this house today.” They just have a lot more information, which is a good thing. The more armed people are with information, the easier it is for them to make decisions.
D: I know you and your wife are pretty active on social media. What's your strategy?
S: We try to mix personal and business. We have a business page on Facebook and we have personal pages, too. Our goal is to get in front of people as much as we can without driving them crazy. It’s about finding that happy medium. We try to provide as much information as possible and we focus on sending out listings and interesting tidbits about real estate so we can inform people about what's going on in the community. A lot of times people don't know what's happening so we want to make sure that we are telling them about Oktoberfest this Saturday, or the Pumpkin Fest that is coming up next Tuesday. We think it’s valuable to give people information. DMAR is the voice of real estate in the Denver metro area. We want to be that voice in Castle Rock.
[TWEET THIS] "DMAR is the voice of real estate in the Denver metro area. We want to be that voice in Castle Rock."
D: What's something that you wish someone had told you when you first entered the industry?
S: Don't do it? (laughs) Just kidding! I guess I didn't realize the importance of my database as a real estate agent. During my first five years, I worked off Post-it Notes and lots of scribbling on pieces of paper. When I finally got myself organized, it was amazing how much my business took off. Before, I was kind of using a shotgun approach. Now, we are very focused on where we spend our marketing dollars and how we communicate with our clients. It makes a world of difference.
D: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?
S: We have some bigger companies - internet-based and technology-based - that are trying to cut real estate agents out of the mix. I don't know how this is going to play out, but I certainly hope that there is still a place for us. I think there will be, but you never know. There could be a complete shift to where agents have a very minimal role in the transactions or are cut out completely. But obviously, as people always say, this is a people business and that personal, human touch and interaction are a huge a part of it.
D: Did you hear Costco wants to sell houses?
S: I've heard all kinds of stuff. Amazon, Costco... everyone wants to get into real estate because it's a huge multi billion-dollar industry. Everybody wants to get their hands in there one way or another. We'll just see how it goes. But, I think there is always a place for us. We are here to protect our clients and guide them through the largest financial transaction they are likely ever going to make in their lifetime. We have training, we have legal people behind us, we are well-versed in contracts and we are equipped to guide and protect consumers through the process. People sometimes don't look at the big picture. They think, "Oh, I could save $2,000 or $5,000," but, in the end, a REALTOR® is going to save someone a lot more than that because they are going to protect them from a lot of potential mistakes they could make.
D: Obviously the Denver metro market is really hot and although we may have seen a slight cooling, we are still very much in a seller’s market. What do you think is going to happen next? Do you think the market is going to balance out?
S: My prediction is that we are probably going to stay in a seller's market through the spring. Interest rates are going to continue to go up and that's going change the game for buyers, as it already has. Inventory is starting to increase. So, my guess is, we are going to have a hot spring and then we will level-off a little bit in the summer. I think two, three years down the road we are still going to have a very strong market in Denver. One of our advantages here is that we have a net-migration number of around 60,000 people a year coming into our state. So, we are a desirable place to live. People want to come to here and we have companies moving here. The real question is going to be whether new construction can keep up with that.
D: If you weren't selling real estate, what do you think you would be doing?
S: Before I got into real estate and before I got into my previous business, I got my masters in sports management. I was a general manager of a minor league hockey team and I worked for different sports teams. If I didn't work in real estate, I would probably be in the sports industry in some capacity. I don't know where or what I would be doing, but I would probably be working in professional sports, in a front office somewhere, which would be awesome.
D: What are your favorite activities outside of work?
S: I play poker a few times a month, which I love. I also really enjoy fantasy football, baseball, golf and just sports in general. When I'm on my computer in a meeting, I'm probably checking my fantasy football roster to make sure it's okay. It's just something that I have fun with. I love watching sports and that's my biggest thing.
D: Yes, we've noticed you are definitely a multitasker..
S: Yeah, I can't sit still. I'm always multi-tasking, not sure if that's good or bad. I just can't help myself, I can't sit still. I'm always trying to learn more and have too many things to do, I guess I can't just do one thing at a time. Sometimes I'm reading one thing while I'm listening to another. It's just how I am.
D: And the last question, which we ask to everyone because it's Coffee Break, how would you describe your relationship with coffee?
S: I don't drink coffee, but I love coffee houses. I meet lots of clients in Starbucks or other coffee shops. I drink hot chocolate and I do love caffeine. I also love soda, but I try not to drink it. I'm in bad enough shape as it is so I try to avoid it when I can. I always tell people though that the three best tastes are Coke, bacon and M&Ms. Doesn't get better than that.