Do not assume that when you become a realtor that friends and family will use you. While they are excited for you to get your license, it does not guarantee their business. I personally had this occur and instead of being upset over it, I geared my energy towards the people who were gladly working with me and growing my business.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bridget Fortunate.
Bridget Fortunate is an agent and designer with the Elevated Companies in Boston, MA. In addition to her role with Elevated, Bridget launched a home staging and interior design business, Fortunate Interiors, in 2020 where she stages her own listings and has become the in-house stager for Elevated. In the first half of 2021, Bridget already had close to 15M dollars in deals, from first time home buyers to city penthouses — she prides herself on creating lasting relationships with her clients and making the homebuying process as seamless as possible.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Before Real Estate, I worked in luxury travel and cofounded a villa vacation rental agency. I became fascinated with these gorgeous properties and wanted to learn more. Exploring properties has always intrigued me, even since I was younger . It just seemed like a natural transition to Real Estate so I got my license and never turned back.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
It’s not one specific story but in general, closing days are always bittersweet for me. A lot of realtors are excited because it’s payday, but for me it is different. I tend to grow close relationships with my clients. Most of them actually become friends, so to me closing day feels like an amicable breakup. You get so used to talking to someone so often and the process can be a very emotional life event, so once it’s over it’s like “so can we hang out now and not talk about houses?”
My lesson would be to be genuine and get to know your clients. You likely can relate to them on different levels and it helps make the home buying process an enjoyable one.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My current big project involves interior designing an incredible multimillion-dollar penthouse in the heart of Boston. Design is a passion of mine and I love to incorporate it when there is a need with clients. During Covid, I even started a small interior design and home staging company, Fortunate Interiors, to fulfill a dream and keep me busy. These particular clients are moving across country and have some extra needs requiring renovations before moving in. It has been fulfilling to be able to assist with making their move a much less stressful situation and a more exciting experience. I feel like I have become part of their whole journey, and not just their realtor. On closing day when I called to congratulate them, their response was “we can’t wait to have you over for dinner.”
It is unique to be able to offer clients a full-service type of package because relocating can be a very frustrating thing for many people. You are creating a new life in a new city, and the last thing you want to do is worry about a new couch. Sometimes people forget how hard it is to pick up and start a new life so being able to help with an easy transition I believe sets me apart from norm.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a boutique company that really work together like a family. We have our own in-house developments, as well as are a full service brokerage. People are usually shocked by how much I, and my female colleagues, are so in tune with construction/building materials and how often we are willing to put on a hard hat- they have become our favorite spring accessory : ) . We are able to bring buyers into buildings that haven’t been marketed yet and in some scenarios, our buyers can customize to a degree. You don’t find that often, if ever, in a city like Boston.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In this industry, you really learn by experience and having mentors show you the ropes. While I was helping a developer part-time, I was in 100 degree weather with no AC, getting an apartment furnished. With sweat running down my face, Josh Wild (my now broker) came in and was chatting with me about my background and we connected on some personal stories. He then reached out and asked me to come check out his brokerage, knowing that a woman with a screwdriver and tool bag working in that heat was likely someone who hustles. That’s where it began, and I quickly became part of the Elevated family. Both my brokers, Dan Duval and Josh Wild, started with nothing but a dream. They persistently worked their way up from door knocking the streets and cold calling, to running a successful brokerage and development company. Early on, when I started to feel discouraged, I met with them both individually to give me some guidance. Shortly after some great advice and ideas, I changed my mindset, focus, and determination, and suddenly things really began to pick up for me. In a short time, my career in the industry really took off and it only continues to grow.
My other inspiration is my longtime friend and realtor out in LA, Susan Coletti of Coletti Estates. She was in the industry well before I was and repetitively told me to get my license because she always knew I’d make a great realtor. Just this last October, while attending a friend’s wedding in Mexico, we both took turns going back to the room and writing up offers. Not always the most fun while on vacation, but you also want to make sure you don’t let your clients down. You couldn’t ask for anything better than someone who understands the situation/process right there alongside you. Well that, and the bartender who made our pina coladas to celebrate when both our offers were accepted!
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
Learning that less than 20% of senior positions are female is extremely difficult to digest. In my understanding, historically, men took the charge in the real estate world and successfully started many global companies. Now society is starting to more clearly recognize the value of the female mind and work ethic. For instance, some of the most influential and top industry leaders in Boston are female, of which I have the pleasure of working alongside. Any agent, male or female, can become a broker and work their way to the top if they desire to. For me, I don’t relate our industry to an imbalance and feel I have an equal amount of interactions with both genders. Maybe I live in a city where we are equally respected, but I tend to see many female brokers/agents leading successful sales teams and taking on higher roles. There are even a few women-only construction/development teams around the city and that I think is something extra special and admirable.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
1) Empathy. Having the ability to take another person’s perspective and to see his or her point of view is a powerful tool.
2) Honest communication. All parties must know that in business, it is about business. Knowing how to openly and honestly communicate without taking things personally.
3) Making it a priority in your business culture to seek employees of different backgrounds and genders.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
In my opinion, women executives will continue to face challenges regarding their appearances. Women face more pressure to assume a consistent flawless appearance in the working world. Unfortunately, I believe appearance can directly affect the amount of respect a woman receives on first encounter until her skill set and powerful mind are discovered.
Also, not industry specific, but women across the globe continue to fight for fairer wages. While there are moves being made in the right direction, there needs to be more action taken by leaders and executives to recognize the issue and make more necessary changes.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
I have never been a 9–5 office type of person, so one of the most exciting things for me is that every day is a new day and you are constantly meeting people.
The second thing would be the feeling you get when you have successfully gotten your clients offer accepted over multiple other offers. Delivering the news is so rewarding and hearing the happiness (sometimes tears of joy if it’s been a long journey) in their voice is a reminder of why I love this industry.
Third, who wouldn’t want to be in a constant episode of House Hunters? Being that I appreciate design, it’s so fun going into different styles of homes and getting inspiration/design ideas.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice to other leaders would be to listen to your colleagues, take and ask for constructive criticism so you can grow, consistently learning and educating yourself, and keeping your team involved (i.e. plan activities outside of the office). There is something to be said for people who love going to work and surrounding themselves in an environment that is exciting. Our team is always rooting each other on while pushing each other to be more successful. I think having a balance of in/outside the workplace with colleagues helps keep us as one strong unit because we truly enjoy each other’s company.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
1) Do not assume that when you become a realtor that friends and family will use you. While they are excited for you to get your license, it does not guarantee their business. I personally had this occur and instead of being upset over it, I geared my energy towards the people who were gladly working with me and growing my business.
2) Invest in yourself and your time. Expect to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and get out of your comfort zone to get clients Business is not just going to show up on your doorstep. No realtor is too good to start with some neighborhood door knocking!
3) Part time efforts get part time results. When I began, I was working with a developer part time doing all sorts of real estate related things (rentals, tenant relations, staging). It helped pay the bills but took away time and energy from where it needed to be to really grow in real estate. Once I decided to move on, my business started to increase exponentially.
4) Real Estate isn’t just about sales. We are part time therapist. You will often find yourself/clients resembling every Emoji at some point in the process.
5) Have fun! Treat each new client meeting like a blind date. Get to know them and let them get to know you so you are not just “the realtor”. It makes the whole process more enjoyable for everyone while really understanding what the clients’ needs are.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram @bfortunaterealty, @fortunateinteriors, and @elevatedboston
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!