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Coffee & Conversations with Leslie: "Let's Get Down to Business; Thriving in Uncertainty".

Updated: Mar 6

Join us for February's addition of Coffee & Conversations with Leslie - "Let's Get down to Business; Thriving in Uncertainty"! In this session, we will revisit three women we interviewed in 2020 for the "Leading Through Crisis" series.

Joining Leslie are:

Zina Hall (Broker/Owner - Hall & Hall Associations)

Pat Heller (Senior Mng. Director of Southern California - Compass)

and Danielle Fontes (Real Estate Broker - MGR Real Estate)

With 20/20 hindsight, how do you assess your initial thoughts about approaching the market in the spring of 2020? Overly pessimistic or optimistic? Going back in time, how did it feel to be navigating the real estate market as the country entered a period of heightened uncertainty.

Zina Hall: I was truly pessimistic and anxious because I opened my Brokerage the previous year and was concerned about earning power for not me but my team as well. I had the charge to get them trained and performing quickly. Since I had the sales history in the industry, I ended up training them on my live transactions who proved to be a win-win.

Danielle Fontes: I wish I was much more aggressive in the 2020 market. The clients that I helped purchase all have done very well thanks to the increase in property values and low inventory. I wish I really coached and pushed more to make that jump at that time. They would have reaped the rewards and would not be struggling now with the higher prices and higher rates.

Pat Heller: My initial thoughts and focus when it all shut down was on figuring how to lead hundreds of agents through this time of such uncertainly for all. I remember wanting to carefully “hold on to everyone” to make sure they stated positive and as connected as possible. I was determined to learn zoom in a day and held company meetings every Monday and Friday mornings and hen held zoom classes on Wednesdays on keeping in honesty and positive mindset.

I was also trying to pull myself away from the news 24/7 and getting myself into a new bio rhythm and routine. I realized pretty quickly how any of us went through covid was how we went through any transition in life but this one was really unsettling and scary for all.

I probably was over optimistic as I really always believe we will be ok if we stay aware we are ok in “the current moment”.

What did you get right and what would you, in hindsight , have done differently? Did the booming market in the second half of 2020 and 2021 catch you by surprise?

Zina Hall: What did I do right? Shared the transactions. Wrong, make it too easy for the brand new agents. They were just transitioning from other fields due to COVID and thought everything was going to be gravy.

Danielle Fontes: I focused on relationships in 2020 and 2021. Made more calls, increased direct mailing, emailing, social media posts.. Etc. All my marketing was intentionally focused on those warm relationships I already had. The booming market did not surprise me because supply is so low. However the stall we had in June 2022 definitely took me by surprise. I expected it to be more of a gradual shift rather than it was slow around memorial day and just never gained steam again until the past few weeks.

Pat Heller:

I think I got the jumping right into zoom and connections with all and holding on to the culture right. It astounds me now how scared we all were because of the news and what we were told and it is an amazing reflection now back in time as to how we all listened and followed. It’s a very interesting study and snapshot into human behavior.

The booming market did catch me by surprise but it was so amazing to see the quick flip back into buying and the frenzy that followed. Again another interesting study in human behavior. I still reflect on how grateful I am for my surroundings at that time and my inner circle of support.

Fast forward to March 2022 and the Fed begins its fight against inflation by raising rates through 2022 and into 2023. Mortgage rates more than doubled in less than a year. Can you tell us the impact that had on your market, your agents and their clients as it played out in the market...

Zina Hall:

Danielle Fontes:

It sucked and was very new for me. I got licensed in 2010 and had never in my career had a decline in property values. I knew it was coming but still did not feel as prepared as I could have been. I had 2 listings go on the market at the end of May beginning of June and they sat.. i had to get price reductions and extension of listings. Go over data with my clients. I had to use my analytical skills which I enjoy, but trying to get my clients to understand them rather than be emotional about things was hard. I definitely asked a lot of questions to friends/mentors that I respect in the industry how to navigate these tough conversations. But I learned a lot and am fortunate that I had people to ask.

Pat Heller:

We can discuss but it has again been an interesting look into human reactions. Our buyers are used to the higher rates now and getting back into buying so the turn around has been as always, quicker than one thinks. We are all so resilient but the fear that circulated in Oct-Jan was palpable. Agents were scared and feeling hopeless. Everyone was talking about “the shifting market”. Although it has shifted it is still very good in many of our areas. Our prior market was unsustainable and we all talked about it but it is one thing to talk about and another to actually feel it start to change. We are still in the change but feelings are back to focus and energy and good business agents are working and busy.

What are you doing today to succeed in 2023? What leadership qualities are a necessity for staying relevant in the market? How do you see market dynamics playing out for the rest of the year?

Zina Hall: Diversifying - we beefed up our Staging, Construction and Design division but had challenges with the contractors being stretched thin. I

Danielle Fontes: 2023 is a year of change and transition for me. I decided to change specialities to commercial real estate. I have done office and retail leasing as well as industrial sales. I was fortunate to find a brokerage in the Inland Empire that is well established and respected but is also a REALTOR(R) member and allows their agents to do residential sales. I see the market just being weird and felt it was a good time to make a big change so I will be transitioned and prepared once things stabilize more hopefully next year. Rates and inventory will continue to be the driving factors of demand in our markets. There is so little inventory, the little bit of consumer confidence that comes really brings the market to life and also stops it just as quickly.

Pat Heller:

We are educating on this kind of “normal market” as so many agents in the market now have not ever been in a down turn before. It is leading by education in back to basics and true focus on all the business practices that got short cut for the past 3 years or so. Leadership qualities are getting people together and keeping mindset and work ethic up and creating the culture and collaboration that is so important in our industry to create good business. Our market in all price ranges is moving now so we are still strong. I feel we will have more pressure on agents as there are fewer and fewer properties going on the market. It is time to lead and tech agents to treat their businesses like a CEO and really run a relational business, not just be a transactional real estate agent. It is really exciting to me as this is the kind of market where a really motivated agents and build a great foundation and market share.

So important to stay in the building and basics and continuing to be consistent and working.

What advice do you have for brokers and agents going forward?

Zina Hall:

Danielle Fontes: know your contracts, know your market data, know your numbers especially days on market and treat each other with respect and dignity . You do not know what the agent on the other side is going through to be kind.

Pat Heller:

Practice all the business basics

Perfect your systems and presentation

Know your market and your client

Go the extra mile every time and provide service prior to asking for anything

Be extraordinary in everything you do

Be honest and willing to have the truly honest conversation all the time

Always be asking how can I help you to all, you never know who you are speaking to

Treat your business as your own company with you as the CEO

Do what you love and love what you do - then it never feels like work

Find what works for you and do that exceptionally

Don’t ever try to be anyone else. Just be the best you possible. There is only one of you.

There i tremendous opportunity out there right in front of us every day. Be open to it.

Rapid Fire Questions

  1. What is your favorite word? Your least favorite word?

  2. What turns you on? What turns you off?

  3. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

  4. What is one memory that will stand out for you from the “pandemic years” ?

  5. If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your career, what would it be?

  6. Biggest regret?

  7. Do you have a morning routine that sets you up for a good day? What does it look like and how easy or hard is it to stay committed to it?

  8. Tell us about a person who has had a meaningful impact on you and why?

  9. IIf Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

  10. Anything else that would be helpful to our community? Favorite podcast? Magazine? Book? Conference?

We will be gathering on 4/21 at 2pm PST/5pm EST to discuss the book "This Chair Rocks". Grab your copy on Ashton Applewhite’s website here: You can also watch her TEDtalk there!


Learn more about our Special Guests!

Zina Hall: Launched in 2019, Zina F. Hall, Owner and Real Estate Broker established Hall and Hall Associates - Real Estate Group in the San Francisco Bay Area to offer a spectrum of real estate services. The company services most counties surrounding San Francisco including but not limited to "the City", Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano.

Garnering more than 12 years of successful real estate performance and practice in the industry, Hall and Hall brings an infusion of corporate America and boutique real estate sales together.

"Our team provides tailored premium service to our clientele making every effort to not only meet but exceed each persons' real estate expectations. It is important to demystify the real estate sales and purchase process so that homeownership, real property investment, and/or leasing opportunities are clearly understood and attainable", says Hall.

Zina has been on her Associates Board of Directors for two (2) years now, is a CAR Director representing her Association in Diversity, Professional Standards and Risk Management. Previously she also supported her AOR in Fair Housing and RAF as well. We are versed in changing and difficult markets including residential sales, probates, estate, divorce sales, short-sales, pre-foreclosures, small commercial and multi-unit sales and purchases.

Zina is also an ordained Minister and Pastor who also sits on the Board of Directors for the National Coalition of 100 Black Women San Francisco Chapter.

Danielle Fontes: Danielle Fontes was raised in Glendora, CA and graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis in Real Estate and a minor in Leadership Studies.

Danielle was President for Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® in 2019. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the California Association of REALTORS® and serves on the Homeownership Housing committee as the housing policy issues chair. Danielle won the prestigious honor of REALTOR® of the Year for 2020.

Pat Heller: Pat Heller is Senior Managing Director of Southern California and serves as branch manager for the Beverly Hills Rodeo Office & the Beverly Hills Wilshire Office.

Pat is the consummate real estate professional, with a history of excellence as a practice leader. In her current role, Pat is focused on building the Compass brand through a culture of excellence and appreciation. Just as she did at Pacific Union and Gibson International and in previous brokerage positions, Pat has a record of establishing a brand and developing a team from infancy to success, while innovating along the way.

“We are successful because of our team. When you recognize this and appreciate people, it’s amazing how far you can go,” Pat says. “It is a privilege to be able to share history and wisdom from my real estate experience and apply it to a new generation of service and build a new culture for future growth. During this transition year we will bring together our different corporate cultures, build new traditions and grow successfully as one harmonious organization.”

Indeed, embracing change, defining best practices and roles, and being open minded while sharing information are central to Pat’s mission of creating the next model of brokerage excellence. She is highly collaborative and through her leadership and support has empowered countless agents and employees to achieve success. Additionally, Pat’s insights into the high-end market and her understanding of what the real estate community demands have earned her an outstanding reputation.

Pat’s rise from top-performing agent to top-performing office leader began in 1988 working for Prudential, where she earned the distinction of being her office's top producer for many years.

In 1994 she joined the Prudential Jon Douglas management team and managed both the Cheviot Hills and Santa Monica offices before relocating to Brentwood in 1995. Following the acquisition of Jon Douglas by Coldwell Banker, Heller managed the Brentwood West office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Under her leadership, that office became one of the top performing locations in the country.

In 2008 Pat joined Gibson International as a founding partner. In 2017 Pacific Union acquired a majority stake in Gibson International and the two brokerages announced plans to unite. Compass purchased Pacific Union in 2018 as part of a major expansion.

During all of the transition, Pat guided the offices and its agents with a steady hand, continuing to innovate through a highly professional and skilled approach to luxury real estate with a continued focus on teamwork, integrity and respect.

A longtime board member of the Beverly Hills Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors (BHGLAAR), Pat has served as BHGLAAR Treasurer, has chaired the Budget and Finance committee and is on the Professional Standards committee. She also serves on the Board of REBS for the California Association of Realtors.


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