We got the chance to talk this month with Tara Coyle and Lakota Verberne, of Coyle and Verberne Real Estate. The motivated duo shared about getting started in the business, COVID-19, and their passion for helping people, both in real estate and in life.
Tell us about your company and how you got started?
Lakota: Tara and I joined forces early on—we came over from Coldwell Banker. We started as new agents there, and very quickly we realized we were a force to be reckoned with. We started doing open houses and things together, and we discovered we were a great fit. As we got busier and busier, we found we had more work than we could handle, and that’s when we formed our team and branched off.
Tara: We’ve been teamed up for two years now.
Do you specialize in this area?
Tara: We specialize in the greater Sacramento area, but we sell a lot of real estate in the El Dorado Hills and Folsom area, and we work a lot with investors, first time home buyers, and new construction.
What does working with investors entail?
Tara: There’s a lot of investors in our area that we work with, whether that be people looking for fix-and-flips, or people looking for rental properties that they want to rent out or turn into income-producing properties.
Lakota: That’s actually how Tara and I got started together, by flipping houses and doing investment properties ourselves, which we still do, and we have our projects that we’re working on as well as the ones we’re working with clients on.
Do you design and stage these properties yourself?
Tara: Absolutely—we’re a one-stop-shop, designing, staging-
Lakota: We have all of our subs—
Tara: It’s the full package.
Lakota: We have a team that handles everything with the flip.
Is it similar to some of the popular home flipping shows on television?
Lakota: It’s similar—it’s not as “sexy,” but it’s a similar idea. Everything takes longer than it does on television.
Tara: I think that’s one of our points of key differentiation from other real estate agents in our experience. Lakota’s husband is a cabinet maker, my husband is in construction, and then we also do these types of projects ourselves, so when we’re working with a client- even if they’re not an investor, they’re just looking to purchase a new home, we’re able to facilitate that process. If they are thinking of making changes and updates to the design and aesthetics, we can help with that, and then secondly, advise them from the cost perspective. We have the resources of our pool of contacts and our team—all of that is already in place, so that can be very beneficial.
Lakota: That’s another thing—we’re all about networking and giving back to the community, and sponsoring so we do a lot of things like the fundraiser for Russell Ranch Elementary School, and we sponsor t-ball and Little League. We try to be as involved in the community as we can. Tara has spearheaded a lot of videos to try to promote local businesses and restaurants (during the COVID-19 crisis). We try to get involved with the community—friends, family and networking—that’s what it’s about. We’re not just your average realtors that are all about the commission. For us, it’s about helping people. We’ve had people come to us and find out they’re not qualified to buy a home, and a lot of agents will write them off, but we see that as an opportunity to help someone, whether it’s six months or a year down the road—it’s not just about buying and selling houses, it’s about the people.
Tara: We serve, we don’t sell. That’s our motto. We serve our clients, and it’s why we’ve been able to grow our business to upwards of 20 million per year.
What would you say to someone interested in the real estate career path?
Tara: I think it’s a great career path, especially if you’re self-disciplined and highly motivated and if you have any kind of business acumen because you have the freedom to choose your level of success and how much you want to work. It’s a career that you get out of what you put in, which for a lot of self-motivated people can be very rewarding. And there are new challenges, so you’re constantly learning and evolving. No transaction is the same.
Lakota: And it’s a business that can always thrive—even when the market changes and has it’s ups and downs and so many people assume that real estate is going to tank—that’s not the case at all. It’s all about serving our clients—so we look at how the industry is changing and what we need to be doing for our clients. We might be helping people in foreclosures and short-sales, or helping with flips—so it doesn’t have to be something that is necessarily a negative impact. You can be that agent that sells three to four houses per year and you’re covering some expenses, or you can go Tara-and-Lakota-style and sell 30-40 houses in a year. You can make it what you want to make it.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business?
Lakota: I hate to say this but we’re busier than we’ve ever been.
Tara: There are two answers to that question—how we sell houses is changing and evolving a little bit, for health and safety standards. We’re seeing more virtual tours and 3-D tours, which is something that we’ve always done, but that’s becoming more prominent as an alternative way to view properties. But if you’re looking at a macro standpoint of how the market will be affected by the current pandemic—we don’t believe that it’s going to be. If you look at history as a guide, recession does not equal the housing crisis. What we have here in our region is an inventory crisis, we’re still in a seller’s market, home values continue to go up while inventory remains low. Days on the market here is 28, which is very low. It’s still a great time to buy and sell real estate.
Lakota: We had 4 listings in 30 days go pending—
Lakota and Tara: –in 48 hours, with multiple offers.
So for virtual tours, how do you set that up?
Tara: We hire a professional to use industry-specific software.
Lakota: That’s one of the other things that we offer to all of our clients is a gamut package of marketing. Standard practice with agents is to do photos and slap them on the MLS. We do drum video, matterport video, custom video—Tara is a mastermind with social media so she blows up all the social media—videos, Instagram—gets the property exposed in a million different layers and levels. And what’s so amazing about what Tara’s been doing all this time is that it has prepared us for this moment that we are in with COVID-19.
Tara: It’s business as usual for us.
Lakota: Exactly. Because she’s done everything for us virtually. We’ve already been on that platform and had that experience—we’re already in the practice of being online.
And is that a huge overhead or expense for the client?
Tara: It’s expensive, how we do it, but now more than ever you need an agent who specializes in digital marketing, and who uses the platforms that are current for what we’re experiencing in today’s pandemic. That’s part of our service, that’s how we differentiate so that’s not something that the buyer or seller incurs.
Lakota: That’s one of the many things that sets us apart is how we serve our clients—we feel our clients are entitled to these things.
Tara: We’re hired to market the property, and we take that very seriously.
Have you heard about Zillow Offers beginning to sell homes entirely online?
Tara: That’s supposed to be rolling out this summer, so we are interested to see what happens with that, whether they move forward with it.
Lakota: Our team was just dubbed Best of Zillow.
Tara: It is a very prestigious honor- we are in the top ten percent of all Zillow agents across the country. We were very lucky to be invited to the Zillow Conference in Las Vegas, which is only the top one percent of agents across the country. And that’s all based on the customer experience, so it has nothing to do with volume or number of sales. It’s based all on how Zillow’s contacts and clients rate you, and their experience with you, so we’re pretty proud.
Is that going to be negative for real estate agents?
Tara: If you’re in with Zillow, no. It will affect the market—how people buy and sell real estate. It’s interesting because previous to the coronavirus pandemic, you would think that people would be averse to purchasing a property that they hadn’t necessarily walked through, so it will be interesting to see how this affects Zillow Offers, and if it will propel it, rather than hurt it, so I’m not sure.
Where do you see your business in five years?
Tara: We’ll be a 50-million-dollar company in five years, and we have plans in place to add more team members, probably this year.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Tara: I’m very into fitness—I used to play professional soccer, and I played collegiate as well. I’m really into cross-fit now, so I’m always doing something, whether it’s triathlons– and I love to cook. I have a pretty big food blog. And spend time with the family. And build houses.
So you sleep…?
Tara: (laughs) I sleep very deeply.
And what about you?
Lakota: All of my free time is spent with our boys- we have a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old. They keep us busy. I coach t-ball (last year and this year) and we just got an email that there’s going to be summer t-ball. We’re all about friends and family, barbecuing with our friends… it’s a full-time gig.
Tara: We’re a family business, so we love to support anyone looking to buy or sell real estate. Everybody knows a real estate agent—or three or four—but it’s important to connect as well.
Lakota: We feel like what goes around comes around, what you’re putting out, you get back, so we want to support our local businesses and our community. It comes back to our goal, to serve, not sell.