It’s never easy to manage a busy career and a home life that includes small children, but Amy Corr and Keri Cook Falls with @properties are managing to finesse both.
Corr, who received her real estate license in 2002, started as a broker at @properties in 2004 in the company’s Lincoln Park office. She transitioned into her current management role as vice president of brokerage services in 2010 and now co-manages more than 200 agents along the North Shore. One of those brokers, Keri Cook Falls, came on as assistant manager to help Corr support the Lake Forest team at the beginning of this year. Together, they are running the @properties Lake Forest office while staying busy with a combined four kids at home between the ages of 7 and 11.
“Keri and I are working hand in hand to manage the @properties Lake Forest office,” Corr says. “We coach, train, collaborate, brainstorm, and problem solve with our brokers.”
They are also involved in the local community; from school functions as well as involvement with Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce, Gorton Community Center, and Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.
Here’s an insider’s look at how these two career moms juggle two very demanding jobs, and keep their clients, brokers, and families happy.
FB: First, how did you get into the real estate industry?
AC: My husband—boyfriend at the time—suggested it to me. I was working as an account director for a technology firm in the city and contemplating a change in career. He noted how much I loved looking at properties and thought that I might have a knack for the business. I immediately took the classes, passed my exam, and jumped right in. At that time, the city market was on fire, and I was able to ramp up very quickly. My family and I moved to the North Shore in 2007 and the opportunity to manage presented itself as @properties began to expand into the suburban markets. I was originally brought on to open and manage the Winnetka office. As our growth continued up the shore, I worked closely with Mike and Thad [@properties’ Co-founders Mike Golden and Thad Wong] to also open the Highland Park and Lake Forest offices.
KCF: My dad has been in real estate for the past 50 years, starting in Indiana and moving to Steamboat Springs, where he brought the Prudential franchise, and then left that to start a boutique firm, Colorado Group, where my brother still practices. I started in residential real estate in 2004, before that I worked at Jones Lang LaSalle in its Bank of America group. I joined @properties two years ago because I felt their marketing, culture, and approach more directly aligned with mine.
FB: What are your specialties?
AC: Branding and marketing. I love working with each of my brokers on their brand identity and marketing within the community. Each one is independently running his or her own business, but we work together to articulate a value proposition, differentiating factors, and determining how best to get these out to an audience. I also love problem solving and finding creative solutions. I don’t think the answer for a broker can only just be “reduce the price” when a client asks for advice on a property that is not selling. You have to look at the whole picture of how that property is positioned in the market and make sure you are addressing all challenges that may be impacting success.
KCF: For me, home renovation and improvement ideas. I help clients and our brokers with new ideas for older homes. I have several resources and contacts to help achieve this. In addition, I love helping our agents win and sell a listing. With the right market position and our unmatched marketing opportunities, we can achieve a timely and smooth transaction. My philosophy in this new position is “one house at a time,” and helping seasoned agents as well as new ones meet their business goals.
FB: How do you work together and help each other?
AC: We collaborate on a daily—sometimes even hourly—basis. We have a common goal of growing and supporting our brokers. In real estate, no two days are alike and often times we are working to address key issues on situations that may come up.
KCF: Amy and I do it with a large dose of humor and empathy as well. It can be a stressful business; we tow the line between the business aspect of the transaction and the personal side of it. I think being very clear and supportive to the agents and the clients is paramount in this business. Also, it is important not to take ourselves too seriously, and be open-minded.
FB: How do you balance home and work?
KCF: To be honest, some days you don’t. However, having a supportive partner is key. Thankfully, my kids and husband have learned to roll with it. I remember my first home inspection for a buyer client and my daughter was a few weeks old, and I brought her with me. In fact, my kids have probably been to more showings and real estate related outings than I care to admit, but you do what you have to do. It is an industry with a lot of women, balancing home and work, so there is a level of understanding.
AC: Balance is such an interesting word. You want to achieve it, yet it is so hard. Since my girls were young and I was trying to “balance” being all things to my family and clients, I decided my focus was going to be “quality over quantity.” I have realized that it is not the amount of hours that I spend with my girls, husband, or clients that matters, but it is the quality that I give to the time I spend with each. My girls would rather have one hour of total dedicated MOM time than five hours of me fielding calls, typing away on my laptop in the same room that they are in. My husband and I just had a weekend that we dedicated to the girls. We each took a day with Molly and Isabel on our own, and solely focused on spending quality time with each one—talking, laughing, shopping, eating. They loved it! We are now planning to implement this at least one weekend a month. Our next goal is initiating date night; we realize we need that time together, too.
FB. How would you say the industry has changed since you’ve been in it?
AC: I have seen the market at its height prior to 2006, I have also seen our market it at its all-time historical low. I would say that many buyers out there saw what happened to homeowners who bought at the height of the market and then had to deal with an underwater property post 2006. Buyers today are very mindful of value and don’t want to overpay for a property and repeat the cycle experienced by those in the market before them. I also think that people are looking to live more simply. We see the young family buyers that want product that is more up-to-date and turnkey. They will compromise on size of the home and property itself to have something that is move in ready and closer to all of the amenities in a given community.
KCF: The clients are also more informed than ever, with all of the online resources they have. That means it is more important than ever to stay on top of the market, financing, and trends. Buyers and sellers are also more data driven than ever, so we rely heavily on statistics. That being said, buyers don’t just rely on numbers; they respond to condition and location. Condition has never been more important than now, because the typical buyer doesn’t want to have to do much work to a property.
FB: Anything new on the horizon?
AC: We are excited to be working on two new construction projects in Lake Forest. Kelmscott Park—a mixed community of luxury single family homes, condominiums, and apartments in a gorgeous park like setting just steps from downtown Lake Forest. If someone is looking for the best in new construction with all of the convenience of walking to restaurants, shops, parks, the beach, and transportation—this is a perfect fit. We are also representing the 1850 Amberley project—45 luxury condominiums to be built adjacent to the existing Amberley Woods condominium building. The exterior will be an identical mirror image to the first building, but the units have been updated to reflect more open floor plans and beautiful on-trend finishes.
KCF: We are busy. The market started early for us this year. Due in larger part to our mild winter, we have seen listing and showing activity to be way up from 2016. We are actively engaging in sponsorship opportunities for a number of local organizations. Getting involved at the community level and showing our support is a really big part of our company culture —we feel it is important to give back in the communities where we live and work.
FB: Any advice for other working parents on how to manage the sometimes-competing priorities of work and home?
AC: The work is going to be there—in the morning, two days from now—so try not to sweat it so much. Set your boundaries. OK, it’s way easier to say than do, but I can try, right? Remember to appreciate the small, simple things. My girls are 7 and 9—at the age where they bring cards home from school saying how much they love me; still begging me to be a pizza mom at lunch on Fridays. I know it won’t last. I really try to embrace it and live in the moment. I also have realized just how resilient kids are. You may mess up big time, but a big hug and snuggles go a long way to win them back.
KCF: I am a work in progress, but the practical things that are working for me now are a good meal delivery plan, carpools, sharing schedules, and Venmo. Venmo is an app that allows you to set up payment plans for the people that help you, and Blue Apron has been a great source for quick home dinners. They deliver to your home all the ingredients and all you have to do is make it. Anything that saves time and allows more time to spend with family is a good place to start.
Amy Corr and Keri Cook Falls work out of the @properties Lake Forest office at 600 N. Western Avenue. They can be reached at 847-295-0700.