4 top-producing realtors share their stories from on the job

From mopping floors and packing boxes, to questioning the reality of HGTV’s “House Hunters,” here are the experiences of four top-producing realtors in Northern Virginia.

woman realtor in black outfit in front of doodles
Photo by Michael Butcher; Illustrations by Ashley Bush

Nina Chen Landes

Associate Broker – KW Metro Center

How long have you been a realtor?
It will be 14 years in June.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done for a client?
I’ve helped a client do touch-up paint on their house. I’ve repaired holes. I once helped a client install new screens too. Nothing too crazy or dramatic, but sometimes last-minute things come up. Thankfully, most of my clients have been great about getting the list of things done that I recommend. HGTV has been helpful in educating sellers that they need to do work to the house before they sell it.

Once you became a realtor, what’s one thing that surprised you about the profession?
I was really surprised at how much you need to know. Every sale is different and I get
thrown curveballs all the time. Even after 13 years, I still feel like I learn something new. There is a lot of technical knowledge I have gained over the years with regards to home improvements and repairs that I didn’t know at all when I first became an agent.

Spring market is here and this market is hot. What’s the one piece of advice that all buyers should know?
The competition is very stiff for buyers. Having a knowledgeable agent that can give you professional advice on how to win in a multiple-offer situation is crucial. Besides competing, finding off-market properties has been a successful tactic for my clients. I’ve been able to help buyers who were looking elsewhere with no success because they weren’t using the right strategies or were making offers that were not competitive.

What’s your favorite HGTV show?
Fixer Upper. I love Chip and Joanna Gaines. Although, I don’t watch the show very often because I do it as a living! I do love seeing the before and after. They do such a nice job fixing up the homes. #shiplap

male realtor with black suit and doodles
Photo by Michael Butcher; Illustrations by Ashley Bush

Khalil Alexander El-Ghoul

Principal Broker – Glass House Real Estate

How long have you been a realtor?
I got my license in the summer of 2005, almost 15 years ago. After my last college final, I went straight back to the library and started studying for my real estate exam.

What inspired you to become a realtor?
I was attracted to the lifestyle in terms of being a polished salesperson who sets their own schedule with unlimited income potential. Jerry McGuire was my hero in high school and I wanted to be an agent of some kind. Dress up and drive a nice car were my primary goals early on.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done for a client?
I have had to help clients move out of the home the day of closing, mop floors, negotiate divorce decrees, run down pets who escaped the house, babysit kids, console folks when loved ones have passed away, etc. All part of the job.

Spring market is here and this market is hot. What’s the one piece of advice that all sellers should know?
Demonstrate that you are a seller that has done everything right. You hired a professional, you take great care of your home, it shows well, it’s priced reasonably and you won’t leave anything to chance. You are not the seller that is going to accept anything less than what
you expect.

What’s your favorite HGTV show?
I am going to include Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing. Much of it seems staged but I often emulate the main characters’ confidence, drive and selling technique.

Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy is perhaps TV’s most famous fictional real estate agent. Is he an accurate representation of #realtorlife?
The few things I see actually do represent much of the reality of being an agent. Maybe not similar to my lifestyle, but the stress, rewards, etc. are realistic.

realtor with red skirt and doodles
Photo by Michael Butcher; Illustrations by Ashley Bush

Reem Trahan

Associate Broker/Realtor – Compass

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done for a client?
I had met a retired Air Force member who was looking to use her VA benefit and purchase a home in Northern Virginia. She had her papers and her start date was around the corner. She was in a lease that was ending and was required to renew for another year or pay a large premium to go month to month. A delay in security clearances was affecting everyone, and she couldn’t close on a home without starting her new job. She was emotional, as she also had to consider her daughter starting a new school. I offered her
to move into my home for a few months until we found her new home and closed. And she did.

Once you became a realtor, what’s one thing that surprised you about the profession?
I had no idea that taking the required 60 credit hours and passing the Virginia Real Estate License & National Exam would not be enough to prepare me to serve a buyer or seller. Even with a new construction and investment background there was more I needed to know to advise clients. I found taking additional classes and obtaining certifications and designations that specialize in certain areas were critical. Staying up to date on the latest real estate topics and the local market was also important. Continuing education and professional development is a must. There is a certain level of investment needed (time, energy and money) to be in this business and really take care of your client.

Out of all the homes you’ve sold, do you have a favorite?
One of my favorite listings was a home in Great Falls. It was meticulously taken care of and loved. The sellers had raised two boys in this home and held 25 years of great memories. They had built this home with their family in mind and even planned for the future. It offered a main-level master bedroom with a private deck, the basement was soundproofed to ensure while Dad was working from home, the kids could play without
noise. A beautifully designed pool with a hot tub overlooking a fabulously landscaped yard with daffodils and tulips. The list of features was 13 pages long. This homeowner had an organized list of features that were added throughout the years. I could feel the joy this home gave this family and I was happy that the winning offer was made by a family with two boys, the same ages as their boys when they moved in.

man in gray suit standing in front of doodles
Photo by Michael Butcher; Illustrations by Ashley Bush

Robert Ferguson

GRI & Associate Broker – RE/MAX Allegiance

If you had a prior career, what was it?
I started while I was in college showing rental homes for a company that owned many rentals in Blacksburg.

Tell us about open houses: What’s the funniest/strangest thing someone did during an open house?
I had someone stuff a chocolate chip cookie in between the couch cushions to be found later by the owners all melted and gross.

Spring market is here and this market is hot. What’s the one piece of advice that all buyers should know?
Buyers have to be ready to act and have very strong offers. Be prepared with escalation clauses and ready to waive or tighten down contingencies. Also, remember that things always work out. So if you lose a few offers, don’t get discouraged. You will eventually find the perfect fit.

HGTV’s House Hunters: What drives you crazy about this show?
When the person has a budget of $500,000 and they find a $400,000 home and magically have $100,000 for fix-ups since their original budget was $500,000. This is not that easy
and not real life.

Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, perhaps TV’s most famous fictional real estate agent: Is he an accurate representation of #realtorlife?
I have never seen him do any real estate on that show so I would say no. If it was accurate he would be texting, emailing and on the phone the whole show!

What do you love about being a realtor?
I love that every home and every client is different and that makes every day different and every transaction different. It is rewarding to use your expertise to help guide your client
the best you can to help them achieve their goals and see those goals come to fruition.

This post originally appeared in our May 2020 print issue. For more real estate coverage in Northern Virginia, subscribe to our weekly Home newsletter. 

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