What are the unique advantages of working in real estate with your family? We talked with Beth Ferester, the leader of Corcoran Ferester Realty and her granddaughter Grace about their experiences working together.
Even though may be a time-worn cliché, it’s still the truth. More than most industries, real estate hinges on interpersonal relationships and the ability to make people feel comfortable, heard, and above all, valued.
That’s a big reason why real estate is such a popular—and profitable—family business. In honor of Mother’s Day, today we’re taking a look at the family dynamic in real estate, and how successful family Brokerages approach both the opportunities and challenges that come when you make real estate the family business.
According to Forbes, 19% of the nearly 28.8 million small businesses in America are family-owned. The benefits of such arrangements are obvious:
- Lower turnover rates: Annual rates of 9% are lower than the churn for non-family businesses
- Lifetime of experience: Quite often, people going into family businesses have been “training” all their lives.
- Relationships are at the heart of it: As Forbes says, “In a family business, the relationships are already solidified, which can promote cohesion and camaraderie behind-the-scenes.”
Secrets of Successful Real Estate Families
Last year, Inman published an enlightening article spotlighting the strategies for success employed by “18 real estate moms and kids.” Some of the more noteworthy quotes:
On getting along:
You have to get along because you will be spending a lot of time together.
On advice for real estate families:
When you work with family, know that everyone’s heart is in the right place, the love is there, the desire to be successful together is there, but even as a family we are also unique individuals.
On the personal/professional balance:
When it came to needing my mom for mom things, I would always go into her office and say, “Mom, I need to talk,” and she would say, “OK, 3 p.m.” She made an appointment with me so that she could be fully devoted to whatever I needed from her and give me her full attention.
On the best part of working together with family:
The ability to assist each other with different clients and complement each other when approaching a transaction that may have challenges. It’s essential to work with someone who knows you well and can bring other facets that successfully help our clients.
In Conversation with a Family Business
We spoke with Beth Ferester, the leader of Corcoran Ferester Realty (the first Texas affiliate for Corcoran) and her grand-daughter Grace Petty about working together as a team, some great memories, and what they hope to see in the future for women in real estate.
Q: What led to real estate becoming the family business?
Beth: When I started selling real estate in Houston in 1981, my four children were still young, and would help with putting flags in everyone’s yards for the Fourth of July, delivering cookbooks that we would have printed every year to the neighborhood, and anything else that we could do as a family. It has been a family business from the very beginning. Since then, my oldest daughter came to work with me, and when she went to pursue a different career, my husband, Bob, joined me and we still work side by side today.
Grace: I have always seen what my grandmother does for her career and how much she loves doing it. In order to learn more about it, I have been able to live with her and my grandfather every summer of my college years, learning more about real estate and The Woodlands. I got my license almost two years ago, and have had the opportunity to work with customers to find them homes for their families. I learned why Bebe loves the business, and I am excited to get to join her in just a few weeks, once I have graduated from Texas A&M.
Q: Tell us about the best moments or memories working together as a team:
Beth: Simply spending so much time and getting to know your granddaughter so well has been the best. We have laughed so hard at so many situations.
One memory we will never forget as an entire family is in 2019 when we opened our little charity coffeehouse, Lovebeans, next to our office. It was definitely a family project and ended up sending me to the hospital for two weeks with an illness. While in the hospital, there wasn’t a day that one or all of my four children or 9 grandchildren weren’t there with me. Even though it was a miserable time, it was the best to see how great my family is.
Another great memory was recently when Grace and I went to New York for the Inman Luxury Conference. Introducing Grace to lots of other realtors and our wonderful team at Corcoran was truly one of the proudest moments of my 41-year career.
Grace: It’s hard to choose just one memory, but there is one day that sticks out to me. We had been having showings all day and had a small break in between. I mentioned that I was pretty hungry and without hesitating, she took us to our favorite Mexican restaurant. We got all of our food and went to the next showing. We had a picnic in the car waiting for our clients to arrive. I remember thinking this had to be the best job ever and I was pretty lucky to get to do it with Bebe.
Q: How do you work through challenges or disagreements?
Beth: It’s important to just stop and listen. I have seen Grace deal with challenges through the years and I really respect her thought process and approach. She is logical and sensible beyond her years, and I am always open to her challenging my ideas and giving me her perspective.
Grace: I think through the situation and then make sure that I speak up. It has been such a good experience living with my grandparents in the summers because I really learned how to communicate with them. I also think they have been able to see me as an adult with my own thoughts and opinions.
Q: What advice would you give other families looking to team up in the business of real estate?
Beth: There is nothing better than being able to work with your family. At the same time, real estate is a stressful business, and it can be hard on relationships. I think that it is so important to really discuss the parameters and boundaries so that everyone has an understanding of how it is going to work.
Grace: Take some time to really understand the business and what is involved, and to be sure that you are able to work with your family member in such a close situation. It is such an amazing opportunity to join my grandparents’ company, but I never would have felt confident doing so if I hadn’t worked with them over the past summers.
Q: What is your dream for the future of women in real estate?
Beth: Real Estate has always been dominated by women, since it can have flexible hours, allowing women to be working Moms more easily. As for the future for women in real estate, when I started real estate 41 years ago, I was the youngest agent there. It seemed to be a career for women whose children were grown, and men who had retired for other careers. I have seen this change dramatically over the years and hope that younger women can work their careers in real estate around their children and husbands’ lives.
I want to see more younger women choosing real estate as their career out of college like Grace is doing. I started my first mentor program, in 1997 with my company when I looked around me and saw that 99% of my agents were older with grown children. I started my mentor program to bring in some younger women with fresh ideas and great energy. It changed the entire model of my company for the better.
I also want to see more women executives in the corporate offices of major real estate companies. One of the reasons I joined Corcoran is that it was started by a woman, is currently run by a woman, and has an overwhelming number of women in executive positions.
Grace: I see women continuing to be very successful in real estate, and I hope to see more women as brokers and owners of companies. I love the flexibility that real estate offers, and the endless potential for those that work hard.
Now it’s your turn
Have you ever worked in real estate with a family member? Do you have any advice for real estate families just getting started? Anything you would do differently now?