Monday, January 05, 2009

Karen Keating, Martha Turner Properties—Clear Lake

Sellin’ On the Dock of the Bay
By Woodie Stephenson

Martha Turner Properties agent Karen Keating of the Bay Area absolutely loves living and working along the Texas Gulf Coast. Prior to moving to Clear Lake, the waterfront specialist spent 8 years in Arizona, landlocked in the beautiful Sonora Desert as she attended college and first began practicing her real estate career.

“Someone told me that blood has the same salinity as sea water,” Karen shares, “I’ve often thought that is why people naturally want to be by the water.”

Whether selling a primary residence or helping with a second home, selling by the water has not only been a job for Karen, it has been a dream come true for the pioneering first agent at Martha Turner’s new Clear Lake office.

“There’s nothing better than living on the water,” Karen says, “I love to help my clients find the perfect waterfront home. I have always wanted to be close to the water and it’s an extreme pleasure for me to live and work where I do. There’s nothing like sitting on the boathouse at night, waking up the next morning and drinking my coffee as I look out over the bay. And, of course, the sunrise or sunset over water has to be the most romantic sight on earth.”

Growing up, Karen was a well-traveled young lady who saw many places, both near and far—Switzerland, Nigeria and the United States. The daughter of an oil company executive, her family was regularly on the move. Karen lived in three countries and five states all before turning 21 years of age.

Looking back on it now, my childhood was excellent training for my profession in real estate,” Karen shares, “I can identify easily with both the trials and challenges of moving and also the excitement and adventure of finding a new home.”

Although she was born in Bakersville, California, Karen’s early life journey led throuogh Denver, Colorado, The Woodlands, Texas, Villars, Switzerland and Lagos, Nigeria among other cities. Eventually, she would graduate from Troy High School in Ohio, a place, along with Houston, that she was considers “home”. Karen’s older sister, Molly, remains in Ohio, where she and her husband own a working horse farm and Molly is a well respected horse woman who shows competitively all over the United States.

After high school graduation, Karen entered the University of Arizona in Tucson. An honors student, she graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree and immediately entered law school at Arizona State University.

Eager to subsidize the mounting student loans that came with higher education, Karen began studying and working part-time in real estate before beginning her classes in law. After experiencing early success in her new part-time endeavor, Karen discovered the courage and ambition to forge a permanent career path in an area that she ultimately found to be a natural fit.

“As a young person, it seems like you are pressured to seek out professions with more stability than sales,” Karen shares, “As a kid, it seems like hardly anyone is encouraged to be a salesperson, but I was always attracted to the idea of being a Realtor.”

Karen recalls her fascination with real estate beginning at a young age as her family was searching for a new home in Colorado.

“The first home-buying trip I remember was when my parents were moving to The Woodlands. From then on, I was hooked; I loved touring the houses and watching agents do their job. When I started working in real estate, I discovered I was really good at including the entire family in a move because I would think back to what that experience meant to me.”

After familiarizing herself with the ropes of real estate in Arizona, Karen returned to Houston, a city that has always been dear to her heart. Karen wasted no time receiving her Texas license from Champions School of Real Estate, and began practicing with Coldwell Banker United in the Memorial area. At CBU, Karen received the mentorship from a pair of veteran agents who were eager to impart their knowledge of their profession and the Houston market.

“In my early days I really was fortunate to have such great mentorship from Barbara Voigt and Kat Horsch,” Karen says, “Both ladies were high-producing and knowledgeable agents willing to take me under their wings, and I learned, tremendously, from both of them.”

Another source of inspiration to Karen was Martha Hendricks, a successful and established Houston agent who lived up the street from Karen’s family in the 1980’s.

“Martha Hendricks was probably my most influential role model. I was friends with her daughter and spent quite a bit of time with the Hendricks family. I went to her real estate office on many occasions and caught my first glimpse of a REALTORS’s life.” Karen says.

Although she was grateful for the professionalism she experienced at each stop along the way, Karen had her sights set on working alongside other top producers at Houston’s premier boutique real estate company, Martha Turner Properties.

“I had really wanted to work my way up to being a Martha Turner agent,” Karen says, “Her company had always held a great appeal for me.” It is truly The Company of Top Producers and joining the company the company was always my ambition.”

During her first interview with Martha Turner Properties in 2000, Karen was told the strict requirements for joining the company. Karen interviewed with the company after establishing herself at RE/MAX and has now been at MTP for over two years.

“Since joining the company, I have tried to followed Martha’s system to a t,” Karen says, “After all, why would I want to try to improve perfection? Martha has worked hard to develop a system that is, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. I am amazed by the systems that she has in place. My natural talents are working with people and sales, negotiating contracts, and tracking markets, but I am not a graphic designer or marketing guru. Martha has a tremendous support staff and in-house advertising department that can handle those aspects that are not my forte, while I get out there and do what I do best which is selling property.”

Thanks in part to Karen’s tremendous success and market share in the Bay Area of Houston, Maratha Turner was able to open a new Clear Lake office in July, 2008. Transferring to this location from her prior digs in the Galleria area wasn’t a tough decision for the boating, fishing and water recreation enthusiast.

Karen may have a great enthusiasm for the backdrop nature has provided in her work environment, but she also possesses the experience and skills necessary to best represent her market’s clients. The holder of both an ABR and a GRI certification, Karen also has distinguished herself as an agent with tremendous first hand knowledge of the Bay Area market. Karen feels her strong knowledge base and negotiation skills give her an innate edge over her competitors.

“The thing that makes me successful is that I’m a very flexible person. Growing up in so many different environments taught me how to adapt at an early age. These skills have translated very well to real estate. In this business, you can’t go into a situation rigidly thinking, ‘this is how it’s going to go.’ You have to be willing to listen to all of the possibilities and then find solutions. I’m a high-energy person, very ambitious, and it is my ability to adapt of each sale that helps me meet my clients needs.”

Karen’s love and passion for her job can be linked to her philosophy on homes.

“My favorite thing about being a Realtor is dealing with the property itself. I have always thought are such incredibly special places,” Karen says, “A house is a place that has a soul. It’s a place where incredible memories are formed; where children grow up together and where lives are lived. I get so excited whenever I look at a property. I see the history of it and the potential for it. I love matching families and homes together.”

Being able to mentor under Martha Turner has only increased Karen’s professionalism as she has been exposed to a wealth of knowledge and experience from the veteran broker and agent.

“Sales is my business and Martha has given me an environment where I can focus on what I do best,” Karen says, “I have narrowed my focus to residential sales and have tried to avoid expanding into areas that only distract me from my goals. Martha Hendricks told me early on that you can’t be a ‘four-P’ Realtor- one who puts a sign in the yard, puts on a lockbox, puts a listing in the MLS, and prays. You’ve got to be able to explore all the options for each buyer and seller, and right now, I feel very focused on that.”

Martha Turner, in turn, has recognized Karen’s work ethic and client devotion; however, Martha is most thankful for Karen’s leadership in establishing a market presence in the Clear Lake and Bay Areas south of Houston.

“I have seldom met a Realtor more dedicated and vivacious than Karen Keating,” Martha Turner says, “She is absolutely dedicated to her clients and it really show that she loves what she does. For some time, she would work in her preferred market in the Bay Area but commute many miles to our Briar Hall office. Karen’s dedication in establishing her presence and client base in the Bay Area was instrumental to the creation of a new Martha Turner office in her market.”

Of all of Karen’s real estate transactions, her most memorable came when her clients the Rosales family of Dickenson, TX was faced with father Raul’s sudden job transfer to Washington, DC. The family immediately called on Karen who was a member of their church. Raul and Stephanie communicated to her that it was important for them to get as much equity out of their home as possible while turning a quick sale so Stephanie and the couple’s children could soon join Raul in Washington.

Raul recalls being relieved that Karen worked so diligently to help his wife at home with the sale of their property.

“Karen always kept me and my wife in the loop during the sale of our house,” Raul recalls, “She was excellent at communicating with us and following-up with us. Karen has an exceptional eye for detail; she gave us tactical advice on various improvements we could make to our home in order to make a quicker sale and, with her advice, we were able to sell our house in a very short period of time in a market that was generating few transactions. She is a straight-forward woman of her word, and a diligent Realtor.”

Jeff Cook of Home N Mortgage, one of Karen’s longtime business partners, can attest to the diligence and tenacity she puts in to making each transaction a success for her clients.

“Karen is a very hard-working and diligent Realtor,” Jeff says, “She always finds a way to put each transaction together and get her clients in the homes they have chosen. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her services to anybody who plans to buy or sell a home in her market area.”

Focusing her business in the various waterfront markets including Clear Lake, League City, Kemah, Friendswood, and Seabrook, Karen is responsible for an average of approximately twenty-five transactions a year with a median home price of roughly $415,000. Recognizing early on that many of her clients would be relocations and buyers looking for a second home, Karen has diversified her marketing between local and national markets. Although Karen is aided by Martha Turner’s exclusive regional publications such Martha Turner Properties, she puts her eggs in several baskets including The Wall Street Journal, Homes & Land, and the Houston Business Journal.

Karen’s marketing approach encompasses a simple yet effective philosophy.

“I advertise my listings heavily in print and online,” Karen says, “I am often thinking outside the traditional box, looking far and wide for buyers from outside the area. An old marketing manager once gave me a good piece of advice: ‘If you’re not catching enough fish, you should fish with a bigger net.’ I utilize as many tools as possible to actively move my properties.”

Karen also practices in the land development sector of real estate, an area that is historically responsible for some of her most successful ventures.

“My biggest deal in the last year was a commercial land deal in League City,” Karen shares, “My system is generally geared towards residential property, but I do work with several developers.”

Besides working on the occasional land transaction, Karen has even recently began to dabble in the international market, a step that would seem natural for an agent experienced at helping clients find their second homes. Among the international locations Karen has targeted internationally are some of her favorite ports of call: Belize, Costa Rica and Playa del Carmen.

During Karen’s leisure time, she loves to travel to the most exotic beachfront resorts of the world, or if she’s allotted just a day off, she enjoys boating or relaxing by the water in her community. Karen, however, is most passionate about her daughter Grace, a fourth grader at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School. Grace faced many challenges at a young age due to kidney problems that she has had since early childhood, but you would never know by looking at her today.

“It’s tough watching your children when they are sick and in pain,” Karen shares, “but instead of allowing myself to feel hopeless, I try to get involved in activities that make me feel empowered.”

Karen’s active role has been fundraising for Texas Children’s Hospital. She has worked to organize many benefits to help Grace and other children in need of treatment for medical conditions. She has volunteered for Children’s Miracle Network and partipated in the Dream Home Project in August, 2006. In addition to her ongoing commitments to TCH, Karen has also been active in many community, church, and real estate volunteer opportunities including the St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church School, The Bay Area Builders Association, and the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

A special service Karen has prided herself in providing to the real estate community has been the mentorship of aspiring agents. She has often advised agents to embrace the same principles that have moved her career forward—honesty and hard work.

“In order to achieve success, sacrifice and dedication are part of your job in any career,” Karen says, “I have advised our new agents to keep this in mind as the tireless hours of a real estate career become a reality. Time management and organization are critical in this career. I also encourage young agents to have an open communication with their clients and peers. You can be as sweet as you want to be, but be direct and to the point. When you’re trying to make a sale come together, there might be the temptation to embellish, but it is never beneficial to your clients or your reputation. It’s not up to you to make a decision for someone. The real estate agent is an advisor who can provide knowledge and solutions. But, the decision will be found in the heart of the buyer and the seller. My best advice for any agent is not to stand in the way.”

In September of 2008 Hurricane Ike ravaged the usually calm and peaceful communities of the Galveston Bay area.. The property damage was unprecedented. In the wake of the storm, Karen witnessed her community come together in a way she has never seen before.

“It’s amazing to see the recovery process after Hurricane Ike,” Karen shares, “People have worked so hard together and shown each other so much resolve and support.”

Her observations may capture the sentiment of her fellow neighbors and community leaders, but Karen was not content to just sit idly on her hands, even if that meant getting them dirty.

Many of my friends and neighbors has substantial flood and wind damage to their homes,” Karen shares, “People’s livelihoods were interrupted and many homes and businesses were destroyed. I went to work right away ripping out sheetrock and doing whatever I could to help my neighbors and clients. I organized work crews and delivered water and tools where they were needed, I delivered lunches and cooked dinners. Because of my real estate connections, I was able to get a lot of construction work done fast.”

“Recovering from Ike has been really difficult, but in the last few months I have received the greatest compliments of my life, as past clients and neighbors and friends have come to me for advice. That is the true reward of this job- knowing that people count on me for something as important as their home.”

Whether she’s helping clients to own their waterfront dream homes, lending herself to community causes, or just sitting on the dock of the bay, Karen Keating loves where she is and what she does.

No comments: