Getting into real estate can be tough—it’s one of the most competitive industries in the world. What’s even harder? Staying on top. For Megan Martin, real estate was almost part of her genetic makeup, having grown up amongst realtors and developers. But Megan also proves that successful careers can start with something as unassuming as a Craigslist ad and a liberal arts degree. To that we respond with an enthusiastic “Amen, sister!”
Megan now finds herself embarking on a new career move with Hilton & Hyland, one of the most well-known and respected names in luxury real estate. But one big question always remains—will there be another sale? Ambition, hard work and communication are the not-so-secret sauce to the success Megan has created, which includes becoming the first Buyer’s Agent for a top LA realtor. A position like this isn’t just a happy coincidence; it’s concrete proof that her hard work is prevailing.
We were thrilled to meet up with Megan at one of her luxury LA listings, where the scenery and wildly successful Contessa were equal parts inspiring. From a liberal arts major needing career inspiration, to a woman contemplating the urge to join the family business, Megan offers an illustration of the unique combination that allowed her to find success with both.
HER STARTING POINT
QYou come from a family of real estate attorneys, developers and entrepreneurs. How did you decide that this would be the path for you?
AI have degrees in history and graphic design. I was young, had just gotten out of college and I answered a Craigslist ad for marketing with Sally Forster Jones. I thought, since I had a graphic design degree, that’s what I’d be doing. I think when you’re first starting out you have to be very open-minded and take the first good opportunity—don’t be afraid to take it, even if it’s not exactly what you thought you’d be doing. Put your “feelers” out there and talk to as many people as you possibly can. I started doing Sally’s real estate marketing before moving on to Transaction Coordinator, which involved opening and closing escrow and everything in between.
I worked really hard and stayed very late, sometimes as late as 10:00 p.m., making sure everything was right. It’s a high stress job. I’d have 15 open escrows that I would juggle at the same time. I really jumped in feet first and had to learn the backside of the industry. Normally, a lot of different states have lawyers to do what real estate agents in California do. We’re like little mini-lawyers and being on a big team allowed me to learn a lot in a short amount of time.
QAs a history and graphic design major, how did you make the transition into real estate?
ASince my family is involved in real estate and development it was a relatively smooth transition. One of the reasons I answered that Craigslist ad was because it was two things I really liked: graphic design and real estate. It was something I liked, within what I had been doing.
QYou’re from the Bay Area. What made you decide to live and work in LA?
AI grew up in Danville, California. I went to University of Arizona and then went back to the Bay Area. I wanted to leave because that’s where I’m from. Some people have a natural inclination to leave, which I did. The next best thing in my mind, besides going to New York, would be going to LA. I made the transition because I wanted to move here and live in L.A. That was six years ago and I met my husband in the interim, and started this career that has treated me very well.
AQFor many people, picking a focus within real estate can be a tough subject because of the wide array of options. How did you come across your focus? Were luxury properties always “the one”?
AI think luxury properties are a nice goal for people. I have been fortunate enough to come into the industry and represent these incredible properties, but I do everything. I am not opposed to helping a friend out with buying a condo or with a lease. I don’t think any real estate agent should turn down something just because it’s small. We’re in the service business. I am fortunate to be able to represent luxury properties and it tends to snowball. If you have one giant property, the next one comes because people feel comfortable that you can represent them.
AQHow has your family background and college focus helped in your line of work?
AMy dad is in development but also in the entrepreneurial world. He’s been an incredible role model to have. My history degree taught me to be a good writer. Your business acumen is very important; you want to present yourself in the best way possible, such as laying off the emoticons until you have reached a level of comfort with the person you’re emailing. College is great because your time management skills get put to the test. You’re working hard and, even if you’re not getting a technical degree, a more general degree is still a fabulous education. If you’re not sure what to do, pick a general degree that will teach you how to write and how to be analytical.
HER BIG BREAK
QHow did you get your start in luxury? Where did your clients come from?
AReferrals are a huge part of it. I also work a lot with developers and, when the market crashed, a lot of them bought teardown properties. People are now developing those properties, selling them for a premium and making money. I ended up connecting with many high-end developers who were selling properties now upwards of 20 million dollars. They were smart about buying in incredible locations when the market was low.
QHilton & Hyland is considered an authority in the luxury real estate market. How did your job as an agent with Jonah Wilson at Hilton & Hyland come about? What was the most important aspect for you when it came to choosing a company?
AThere’s a time in your career where you feel like you need a change or transition. Some people might get stuck when they feel comfortable. It’s always good to push yourself! For me, the time for a transition had come. Jonah has an incredible reputation in this industry. He’s been doing it for a long time and is mostly referral based—that alone says a lot. Hilton & Hyland is an incredible agency, almost in a class of its own, really. Jonah and I were casually talking about me making a move and it ended up becoming a serious conversation. He’s never had a buyer’s agent before, which is what I’m doing now. Being a buyer’s agent means that I’m still a realtor and I do my individual projects, but we might collaborate on projects that he brings to the table as well. This will be a new journey for both of us but I love his integrity. He’s probably one of the best agents in Los Angeles and I’m very excited to be affiliated with him.
QReal estate is a very diverse field that requires an assorted set of skills. Which do you consider essential for those hoping to work in this particular field?
AI think you need to be an incredible communicator. This is potentially the biggest purchase that somebody could make in his or her entire life. You have to be able to walk them though the process and tell them what’s going on every step of the way. Make sure you dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s.” Always keep your cool and communicate. You have to predict some of the uncertainties that may happen during escrow and be one step ahead of the transaction at all times. I know that sounds bizarre but once you start doing it, you see things that could potentially go wrong and fix them. You have to be on your A-game all the time. Time management is key.
AQAt Hilton & Hyland, what are you main duties and responsibilities? How does your work affect the rest of the agents? What is your buy/sell process?
AIt’s on an individual basis. I worked with developers before, so I try to find pocket-listings for them. A lot of them are looking for off-market properties and I communicate with my fellow realtors to see what’s out there. I try to make at least 35 calls a day, which means I make 35 connections every single day. It’s hard but those numbers translate into listings and sales. That’s always in the back of my head. How I get it done varies, but that’s one of the goals every day. Sometimes I’ll call old clients and check-in. A lot of people end up being your friend, but you have to make those phone calls and connections every day.
AQOne of the main concerns for real estate in this day and age is the state of the economy. Do you worry about the poor state of the economy having a strong, and possibly negative, impact on the real estate market? How has the economy affected, if at all, your particular line of work?
AIt actually didn’t! To be honest, high-end real estate people were buying no matter what—even when it crashed. There may have been six months where it slowed down but then people started coming in and buying with a lot of cash, foreign and local investors alike. There are always people buying in the high-end market, especially in LA. We’ve seen a huge increase in the last couple of years, a lot of properties that were over 10 million dollars. Many wealthy people took the opportunity to buy because the market was down.
AQOftentimes, people enter the real estate field because they are unsure of where to take their college degree. What advice would you give to those considering a career in the real estate field?
APeople are very smart, tenacious and ambitious. If you don’t have your full heart in this process, don’t do it. It takes a lot of time to be a good agent. You have to do your homework—know everything about title, escrow, transaction periods, etc. You need a well-rounded knowledge of architecture, locations, prices, etc. You really need to know what you’re doing and, if it’s just a quick fix because you think the money’s good, then it’s not going to work for you. It’s extremely competitive. Real estate is a pretty natural conversation, but people gravitate towards authenticity. Your natural real estate passion should be obvious to your clients.
AQWhat is the most challenging part of your job? How do you combat some of the stigma that surrounds being a real estate agent (price jacking, pushy behavior, etc.)?
AFor every realtor, there is a client. I might be a really good match for someone who doesn’t want to be pushed, but others might never buy a home unless they have a realtor that pushes them forward. My style is not pushy because I’m not like that in my real life. I’m going to make sure you feel comfortable and I’m going to give you all the facts, guide you and let you make decisions. At the end of the day I need to go home, relax and feel good about myself. Nobody wants to feel bad about what they’ve done throughout the day! You’re going to have good and bad agents, just like in any other profession. Staying true to yourself and having integrity is key because people recognize that. I really do believe that the cream rises to the top.
QIf we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like? Do you have any routines that keep you balanced throughout the day?
AThis isn’t a normal 9-to-5 job; it’s longer than that. The top agents might go on vacation but they’re attached to their phones because they need to be accessible to their clients. It’s a very time consuming job, but for the most part, I don’t have a set schedule. I try to workout as much as possible. Pilates and yoga are my two favorites, either in the morning or evening. Taking a little bit of time to myself goes a long way. I know what time I’m waking up, but my day is all over the place, so I prioritize and whatever needs my attention the most is what I’ll be doing first. Time management is key.
QHow has the rise of widely available Internet property listings affected your job? What online resources do you utilize?
AI know people that don’t like it as much because clients will say, “Well, on Zillow it says…” when the information might not necessarily be accurate. I like online resources. I think everyone should have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. It makes for a savvy consumer. I’d rather have my clients be as educated as possible using, for example, RedFin or Trulia. It makes my job easier because they know what is selling and what their price range should be because they’ve done their homework. There are some misconceptions that you might need to teach clients, but as far as the Internet, videos and listings online go, I think it’s great. It’s also a great way to get your listings sold.
QWhat were some of the major struggles you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
ANo matter where we are, at the top or in the middle, we all have one thing in common: we’re always searching for the next sale. That’s probably the #1 obstacle. You always ask yourself if it’s going to happen. Sales are just sales—if you don’t put the time and effort into it, then your next month is going to be horrible! Every single real estate agent feels the pressure to find that next sale, and you have to keep yourself positive, which is hard when it’s a relatively solitary line of work. A lot of times you are out on your own. You’re your own mini-business, so you have to keep yourself going every single day.
For me, I have to be kind to myself, remain positive and keep going. There are bad days and good days, but hopefully more good than bad. The sale is going to come, at some point, as long as you put in the work. But really put the work in.
AQMany women have struggled with making their career aspirations a reality. What advice would you give to women who encounter this problem?
AIf you have a dream, start talking to your family and friends about it. If it’s really a passion of yours, just pursue it—no matter what. I think it’s important to have a career and something that you’re proud of; it creates a well-rounded person. I didn’t know I was going to fall into this but once I did, I made sure to give it my all.
Be true to yourself; don’t pretend like you’re someone that you’re not. If you’re funny and quirky, let that shine through in your business life. People will respond to that. In real estate you’ll see a lot of glitz and glam, but don’t let that consume you. Be grounded and, ultimately, be a good person. Even if you’re not in a position you like, don’t stop working hard. Always give it your all. It will never work if you don’t give it your all.
AQWhat are some of your future aspirations?
AI definitely want to focus on being Jonah Wilson’s buyer’s agent. I want to make that work! He’s never had a buyer’s agent and I’ve never been someone’s sole buyer’s agent. I want to really take my career to the next level. I have certain monetary goals that are pretty big, and I want to make this transition to Hilton & Hyland and with Jonah successful.