A Ray of Sunshine: Krista Kenner and the Power of Storytelling

Okay, so look, I know that I have a certain reputation in the industry. Pot-stirrer, trouble-maker, truth-teller, all around pain in the ass, and so on. Even my friends know I can get argumentative about some things. And I do wish that I could post positive uplifting things all the time, but you know, when you’re working to reform the industry, it isn’t very often that I get positive uplifting things to talk about.

But today, I got one for y’all and I was so impressed I had to share it with everyone, and tell you why it struck me so, and why it represents one of the reasons why I do what I do.

I’d like y’all to meet Krista Kenner. She’s a brand new agent at Coldwell Banker Bain in Bellingham, WA., who got her license in September of last year. That’s right, she’s been in the business less than a year.

Despite being new, Krista just sold a house. And she wrote about it. Go read the whole thing, right now. Then come back. I’ll wait.

This is the best thing I’ve read on the real estate web in a long time. It gives me hope for the future, and reminds me why I do what I do.

Krista Tells the Story

First of all, her website is really well done. It’s better designed and laid out than like 99% of Realtor websites out there, many from expensive vendors who charge you thousands of dollars. She did it herself on Squarespace. And please note that there is no IDX search on her website, because her website is about her and her community, not about listings.

But second, and more importantly, I loved the fact that she chose to go “behind the scenes” and tell the story of how she sold this home.

When I started working with the Fisher family, who was selling their mother’s home, we had our work cut out for us. This quality-built home was innately beautiful, and very well maintained—with classic lines that make any mid-century lover swoon—but, it had just undergone a highly trafficked estate sale, and it needed a vision, and what I like to call a good “spit shine.”

When I took this project on, I knew we had an opportunity—to maximize a sale for a family.

Goal: to create a vision—to help people see how this vintage time capsule home is insanely cool, near move-in-ready, ready for modern day entertaining and general lifestyle amazingness.

I was on-scene almost every day for over a month, helping this busy family manage the preparation. Here’s a behind the scenes look at what we did.

Right off the bat, I loved that she talks about the Fisher family. It seems to me that this was likely an estate sale, where the mother passed away (as we all must one day, shuffling off this mortal coil), and the family sold the home.

Then immediately, we get her motivation: to maximize a sale for a family.

Now, I don’t know if she schemed and test-marketed the copy, but I really doubt it. I’m going to put my cynicism aside for a minute and believe that Krista met the Fishers, who had just lost their mom, who had to do an estate sale, and was putting mom’s house on the market. I’m going to believe that Krista wanted to do the right thing for her clients: maximize the sale for them, and create some happiness and joy from what is otherwise a sad time.

I do wish Krista had included a sentence about her own motivations here, just to give us a peek into her heart as a Realtor. But as Sunny and I’ve been arguing about, it’s a difficult thing to tread that line where you don’t betray the client who confided in you, while showing the humanity that leads a Realtor to care about the client.

This is an incredibly common story in the real estate business. People die. It happens. And even when it is an older person who has lived a full life, death is always an emotional ordeal for the family and friends and loved ones. Realtors get involved in those moments of emotion, of loss, of change and the great ones think first and foremost of the family.

Then the departure from the norm: Krista was on-scene almost everyday for over a month. And she documented it and wrote about it.

Going Above and Beyond

Read what she did for this family, for this home. She cleaned, repainted, fixed broken fixtures, and so on and so on. What great Realtor doesn’t do these things to prep a home for sale? Where Krista went above and beyond was her attention to detail, her obvious love of the home, and her desire to make everything as beautiful and as attractive as it could be.

This blew me away:

The interior was where my heart sung. This original Nutone pull out record player was in the basement, so we reinstalled it. An old acquaintance of mine—with the patience of a saint—spent over a full day, delicately cleaning and checking every wire and connection to get the intercom and speaker system singing throughout the entire 4400+ square foot home. Why would we do this? This place was frozen in time, therefore, we were selling more than a house—we were selling a lifestyle.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is going above and beyond. Most people would just clean the area, maybe put some plants in front of things, or just make it look good for a photo shoot. Krista had the original Nutone record player installed and working. Why? Because she was selling a lifestyle, a vision. (And I doubt that some audio guy spending a day cleaning every wire did it for free.)

And then this…

Krista had her own mom paint and refurbish old chairs from Goodwill to stage the house. What. The. Actual. What?

Who does that?

I’ll tell you: a great Realtor does that.

I’ve told the story a few times now how Sue Adler, my friend and listing agent when I moved out of New Jersey, had her husband shovel my driveway three times because of three separate snowstorms that hit Millburn after we had already moved out. I have told the story of how her assistant, Dawn Preziosi (now a Realtor in her own right in North Carolina), went into the house and spent three hours hand-cleaning the oven because the professional cleaners hadn’t done a good enough job. Those things stay with you, because that’s going above and beyond what one expects from a Realtor.

Anyhow, it goes on — the fact that Krista then spent 9 hours with a professional photographer to make sure that the essence of this mid-century modern home… I’m speechless with admiration. How many Realtors don’t even bother with professional photography, to save money… not once thinking about the client who is selling the damn house? Even if they hire professional photographers, how many Realtors then tag along to make sure that the photographs capture the essence of the home, to make sure that the photos are telling the story they want told about that home?

Granted, Krista has a background in marketing, as a professional before real estate who managed photo shoots for national brands. So she has a leg up there, and is probably used to tagging along with photographers. But still….

She ends by saying, “I will always have a special place in my heart for this remarkable home.”

I have news for you, Krista. I’ll bet that the Fishers will always have a special place in their hearts for you, a remarkable Realtor.

Tell Your Stories…

I was inspired to write this post because what Krista did is oh so important for the industry as a whole. She sets such a great example of what Realtors should be doing: telling the story.

Most consumers have no freakin’ idea of what it is that a Realtor actually does to earn that commission check. The complaints are numerous — go google some if you want and read through them. So many consumers say things like, “I met my Realtor just once, at the listing appointment, then never heard from him until the closing when he took a huge check with him.”

A huge part of the reason is that many Realtors don’t do diddly-squat to deserve a penny of that commission: they take the listing, put it in the MLS, and show up at the closing. They don’t deserve to carry the title of Realtor.

But so many Realtors do so much work to deserve that commission check. Krista might have gone above and beyond, but look, I know dozens, maybe hundreds, of great Realtors who routinely do similar things as Krista did. The repairs, the painting, the staging, the cleaners, the electrician, the photographer, the marketing, the negotiations, the back and forth of paperwork… all the while, keeping the client first and foremost in mind because you’re not just selling a house to make a commission: you’re working to maximize a sale for a family who has just lost their mom, or working to fulfill a young couple’s dream, or a thousand other human stories in the big and small cities across the country.

So why do so few tell that story? Why don’t more talk about the “behind the scenes” work that goes into helping a family sell a home or buy one? Why don’t more reveal what is in their hearts?

If people understood what a great Realtor does for her clients, the work they put in, the caring and concern they have, the love they have for beautiful homes… maybe real estate agent wouldn’t be among the least respected profession in North America.

Krista Kenner did all this as a brand new agent, with less than a year’s experience. And she told the story of the sale, and told us all — including her prospective future clients — what she’s all about. Those of you who have been in the business for years and decades, you all have some amazing stories you could tell. You should. You really, really should.

Krista Is Why I Do What I Do

I realized a while back that I am interested in reforming the real estate industry in North America. I could and maybe should do something else with my life, but I don’t really want to.

A big part of the reason is Krista Kenner, and people like her. There are some great, wonderful people in this business. Realtors who deserve the title, who understand that they’re not actually in the business of buying and selling homes, but in the profession of caring for their clients who come to them in times of massive change and transition. Sometimes those transitions are happy ones, like marriage and childbirth. Sometimes, they’re sad ones, like death of a loved one or a divorce.

The great ones bring that touch of humanity, combining professionalism with what I can only describe as LOVE, to help people work through a stressful time in their lives. They contribute to one aspect: the home sale or home purchase, but they do it within the larger context of that family or that person’s needs and wants.

I want them to get the recognition and the respect they deserve. And it pisses me off that the good Realtors are lumped in with far too many unethical, incompetent, leads-conversion-commission check morons. It pisses me off that far too many families are victimized by the crap, instead of being taken care of by the greats.

And if the industry isn’t setup quite right today where Krista is not the norm but the exception, then I’d like to help try to change that so it is one day. We’ll get there. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next week, but we’ll get there someday.

In the meantime, Krista’s blogpost is a ray of sunshine. It shows us all how a great Realtor is supposed to go about business. And it also shows us all how these stories need to get told, to slowly change perception one reader at a time.

Thank you, Krista Kenner, and best of luck to your future endeavors!


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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8 thoughts on “A Ray of Sunshine: Krista Kenner and the Power of Storytelling”

  1. Rob,

    Thank you for sharing Krista’s story. I just returned from a Regional Association Executive’s meeting where Leigh Brown shared her own personal and intimate reasons that this industry is truly filled with super hero’s. And, I am not talking about those that are high on “ranking reports”. I am talking about thousands of real estate professionals taking the time to help out by delivering coffee to a hospital bedside, offering to cover showings, sending flowers and gifts or just words of encouragement.

    As an MLS Executive, my day to day is sometimes filled with the bad actors and the inept that frequent our industry. If that was all there was, I would not have spent 21 years of my life devoted to this industry. I am here and remain passionate because everywhere I go I discover “our” REALTOR Community going far beyond facilitating Real Estate transactions. I’m talking about the heart and love brought to assist in first time homebuyers, retiring homeowners leaving a beloved memory filled place to start a new chapter in their lives, and like Krista finding someone new to cherish a departed loved one’s home.

    I agree that there is much room for improvement in our profession. Although there is far more “right” if we just take a moment to consume it!

  2. Cheers to Krista. This lady clearly gets it. Thanks for sharing this Rob. Overall, I think as an industry we spend way too much time trying to sell everyone else’s products (listings) and far too little time selling what we have been charged to market and sell – namely our own product. People list a home with someone they believe “will get it sold” – and that does not mean they will get someone else to sell it. Krista has taken great pride in what she has been charged to sell – namely her listing – and it clearly shows. Congrats for specifically NOT putting an IDX search on your web site that advertises products we have never seen nor do we know anything about. Stick with selling you, what you do and the focus on the product you know best and many others will hire you to sell what they have because they will have confidence that by working with you – the job will actually get done.

  3. wow. thank you for sharing her wonderful story and applauding the greatness that our industry has. cheers krista and rob for caring!

  4. Wow! Just wow! This lady has obviously made a decision to be professional in her real estate business and provide relevance to having a REALTOR at the center of a real estate transaction. What a breath of fresh air – and yes, THIS sort of behavior and mindset would change the face of the real estate industry!

  5. Kudos to Krista Kenner for a “top shelf” personal branding website. Notwithstanding her brokerage relationship with the Coldwell Banker behometh, she definitely has an outstanding “presentation” of her personal real estate practice and identity branding.

    I am particularly interested in learning more, through my own personal research, about SquareSpace and, perhaps, how she went about doing it herself without spending in the thousands of dollars. As for myself, I have a long way to go to learn more about and obtaining a better “bang for my buck” with my own website provider. At the same time, her “property search” feature, which is a critical feature, didn’t seem to function when I was checking it out. Property search capability as an offering within one’s personal website does seem to be quite the thing to do / to have capability for. I’m not sure about that, but I think that’s the case. Otherwise, the other aspects of her real estate practice web presence is truly outstanding. Clearly, Krista has local hgtv-type star quality qualities and characteristics about her that others might do well to emulate. Thanks, Rob, for shouting this one out.

  6. So right on! There are many who do so much for their clients without any kudos or notoriety – thank you, Rob, for shining a light on the wonderful, big hearts of Realtors!

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