Creative Ways To Become Invaluable To Your Market • Alex Wolking

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Alex Wolking with Keller Williams in Chicago talks about how he started his journey into real estate at the age of 12. Alex describes how he still makes business the old-fashioned way and how important open-houses have been to his career. Next, Alex discusses how he built his business the second time around after moving back to Chicago. Alex also discusses the importance of knowing your market in details and shares tips for new agents on how to start studying the market they want to work in.

Please follow Alex on Instagram here.

If you’d prefer to watch this interview, click here to view on YouTube!

Alex Wolking can be reached at (312) 343-1039 and alex@alexwolking.com.

This episode is brought to you by Real Geeks.


D.J. Paris 0:00
Today we’re going to speak to an agent who built a top producing real estate business by the age of 19. Then he gave it all up, moved to a new city and did it all over again. Stay tuned. This episode of Keeping it real is brought to you by real geeks. How many homes are you going to sell this year? Do you have the right tools? Is your website turning soft leads and interested buyers? Are you spending money on leads that aren’t converting? Well real geeks is your solution. Find out why agents across the country choose real geeks as their technology partner. Real geeks was created by an agent for agents. They pride themselves on delivering a sales and marketing solution so that you can easily generate more business. Their agent websites are fast and built for lead conversion with a smooth search experience for your visitors. Real geeks also includes an easy to use agent CRM. So once a lead signs up on your website, you can track their interest and have great follow up conversations. Real geeks is loaded with a ton of marketing tools to nurture your leads and increase brand awareness visit real geeks.com forward slash keeping it real pod and find out why Realtors come to real geeks to generate more business again, visit real geeks.com forward slash keeping it real pod. And now on to our show.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real the largest podcast made by real estate agents and for real estate agents. My name is DJ Parris. I’m your guide and host through the show and in just a moment, I’m going to be speaking with top producer Alex Woking. Before we get to Alex just a couple of reminders. The best way that you can help our show is really two things. Number one support our sponsors, they pay the freight and they make it possible for us to do these episodes. So please check out their products and services and consider investing in them. And second thing is to tell a friend just tell one other realtor about this episode. I promise by the end of this one, you will want to share it it’s that good. So please tell everybody you know about this podcast. It helps me helps us get in front of more agents and helps us do more episodes. So thanks guys really appreciate all the support by the way we did just crossed over 3 million downloads a few weeks ago, which is a huge milestone for us. So I thank you for sharing it telling a friend and continuing to listen but let’s get to the main event my conversation with Alex walking.

cake today on the show our guest is Alex woking with Keller Williams one here in Chicago. And let me tell you more about Alex. He is a second generation broker and real estate was all he has is all he has ever known at 12 years old, he began working for his father, who’s a real estate veteran in the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa and 2011 at 19 years old woking earned his Iowa real estate license and was awarded Rookie of the Year in 2012. Amazing walking small town roots taught him the importance of building strong relationships while maintaining discretion. And while approaching negotiations with discernment. woking spent time away from Chicago after graduating from DePaul, which is here in Chicago before returning to Chicago in 2016. Probably rebuilding his referral based network from scratch walking has since received numerous accolades, including recognition as a top producer by the Chicago Association of Realtors since 2019 2021 National Association of REALTORS 30 under 30 honoree and regarded by real trends as the top 1.5% agent in America on the real trends 1000 list for 2020 to please everyone, check out Alex on his website, Alex woking.com. It’s a la XWOL que i ng.com link for that in the show notes and follow him on Instagram, Alex, Alex woking, we will have a link to that in the show notes as well. Alex, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. DJ, good to finally meet you. I am yeah, I am super excited to meet you. Alex is a little bit of a celebrity here in the Chicago real estate. I would say a rising star but I feel like your star has already risen. But it’s still continuing to rise. And I am so excited to get to talk to you because I’m always it’s to me it’s always impressive when people who are who are younger. And you have Gosh, you started so, so young. You know, we’re able to find success so so quickly. And I know it’s through tremendous, tremendous hard work, but we would love to hear a little bit of your story. So let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us how you got into real estate.

Alex Wolking 4:56
Yeah. So when I was told Well, my I’ll never forget, I always tell the story. My dad, as you know, and was a real estate broker in the Quad Cities. And actually back in March of this year, it was 30 a year in business. And I was 12. He called me and he was like, hey, I need you to log into this website and print this thing out for me. Well, it was the MLS and he wanted a listing sheet printed out because he was driving by on his way to a showing. I didn’t know what he did. But I was so fascinated by the system, I started diving through it, and I just thought it was so cool. And then later that week, he went to go meet with a single mom first time homebuyer, she had two daughters that were about my age. And again, I had never seen what my dad did for a living. And we’re, we went looked at this house, and he we went across the street, there’s a Wendy’s across the street. And we’re sitting there. And actually, the listing sheet that I printed was for this house. And I saw, we sat down and my dad just became this other person that was so cool. I saw him, like this woman was so nervous and scared. And her two daughters were about me and my brother’s age. And so we’re sitting there, eating our burgers or whatever. And watching my dad helped us woman navigate buying a house and putting her at ease. And then later hearing a phone call of when he called and said you got the house and you could hear her like scream with excitement over the phone. That was when I saw the whole arc of what my dad did. And I thought it was the coolest thing ever. And I just became obsessed. And I was so obsessed at 12 years old, I got on my bike and went to open houses because my mom wouldn’t take me. I just wanted to help data, I thought it was the coolest thing. I wanted to help them do more of that. So I started doing going to open houses on my bike to learn the market and help them out. I went to you know, when I turned 16, I went to 229 open houses that year. I got to know the whole real estate community and other agents would call my dad be like, your son came through my open house today.

D.J. Paris 7:14
He took some of the some of the cookies. They did.

Alex Wolking 7:17
So they but you know what helped though was I would go into other agents, there were some agents, I would make a point to go to their open houses because I would hear how they would talk to clients that came through, I would hear how they worked. I could suss out who’s a good agent who wasn’t and I could, there were some agents, I would just go and they liked me so much that sometimes I would just go sit there open houses with them. Just watch them work and listen to them. And that’s all I got. You know, by the time I was 19 and got licensed I already I have already graduated real estate High School.

D.J. Paris 7:53
That is assessed. That is an incredible story. And, you know, we’ve done about 500 episodes. And that is one of the more unique stories that I have heard I love it. And it’s a good reminder for everyone listening that open houses are, are the way they are the way I

Alex Wolking 8:12
always joke. I mean, I was taught the old school way DJ I mean, I you know so many agents today that get into the business are taught social media and marketing yourself in video. I learned the old school old fashioned way eyeball to eyeball belly to belly toe to toe and I was you know, open houses door knocking I mean, the handwritten notes we had such a small town Midwest thing. And that’s really ultimately but I still build my business and have credited a lot of my success to today. And I had I had great teachers too. I had great teachers growing up. Yeah, my dad never I have to say this. My dad never ran real estate down my throat. I think a lot of real estate agents want their kids to get in business. They want their spouse to get in. He always let me discover on my own and he never pushed it. I think that’s part of the reason why I liked it so much because it was never forced on me. Well,

D.J. Paris 9:03
you got your license at 19. So you were in college, I guess at that time. And you were in college here in Chicago, and you got your license and in the sorry in Iowa, which is not super convenient. But so tell us about that.

Alex Wolking 9:16
Yeah. So I went to I went I did not have a traditional college career. I got licensed halfway through my freshman year and I got so I went home on weekends I went home every summer I went home on spring break I went home for a holiday break because you know, to Paul’s off from Thanksgiving to New Year’s I went home that whole time. I didn’t have my first Chicago summer until I moved back in 2016 or 2017 really because I just wanted to work but by the time I graduated, I had already had a book of business and clients that I was working with. So I graduated from DePaul and I moved back home to the Quad Cities the next day. And I graduated from the reason I went to DePaul in the first place was because they had In their College of Commerce, they actually had a degree in real estate. And that was what my training was in was more commercial focus, finance development, you know, that sort of thing had nothing to do with brokerage or sales, but I could go sell commercial real estate tomorrow if I wanted to, but I don’t want to

D.J. Paris 10:19
you know, people sell commercial I have the utmost respect for because it seems just like, I don’t think I’d like to do it. It’s, it’s a lot, a lot of stress. But, but anyway, um, so what’s so amazing about your story is, is you would think, you know, hey, Dad’s got this incredible business back home, he’s he’s established, He’s respected, I have my license, maybe I partner up with dad, or maybe I build my own brand there. But certainly the name is a name people may know. And so that would obviously be a huge leg up, you’ve already sent hundreds of open houses, you know, the good realtors, you’ve already established yourself, and you have a book of business there. So you would assume that that’s where you ended up. But you didn’t. And you decided to come here. And I want to make sure that people know that even though Alex said, Hey, during college, he went to school in Chicago, he would go home on the weekends. It’s not like we’re that close to the Quad Cities. It’s what at least two hours, maybe three and a half to three hours. Yeah. So I grew up in Peoria, Illinois, about three hours away from Chicago as well. And the I didn’t go to school in Peoria. But the idea of traveling like that on the weekends would have just driven me nuts. But regardless, you were really set up to build your business in Iowa, or you’re right in the Quad Cities, which is Iowa and Illinois, but not Chicago at all. And then you’re like, I’m going to come back to Chicago, and you had to start completely over. So how did you do that?

Alex Wolking 11:36
So this is where one Mr. Phil Byers comes into play. So Phil Byers, who is now with Compass. When I was 18 years old, my dad was a team leader for the Quad Cities office and Keller Williams, Quad Cities office and the in. So I was moving up here to go to Paul. And my dad reached out to Phil, who was the team leader at the time. And he said, You know, I’ve got this son, he’s going to DePaul, he loves real estate, you have anything for him to do. And sales like yeah, I’m sure we can find something for me do and my dad’s like, Alex is Alex is a, he’s a neat kid hangs up the phone. And that Phil will tell you that story like it was yesterday. And so I come barreling into Phil’s office, I had an hour long meeting with them. And he just looked at me and he’s like, I will help you do whatever you want to do. So when I want it at the end of 2015, I was 23 years old. I was number three in the Quad Cities office and I said the top 50 agents on the Board of Realtors there. And I had helped ranked my dad that year. Which I’m sure he was both proud of and disappointed. But at the end of 2015, you know, I did really well. And I had built up a book of business of just unique homes. That was my niche was hard to sell stuff. And but I knew it as a 23 year old single gay man. The Quad Cities was not the place for me.

D.J. Paris 13:17
Oh, that is all of our phones are going off right now. This is the second time ever, that they are testing. I learned about this the other day the Emergency Broadcast System. So that’s what you might have just heard. Mine will be coming in the next few seconds. So I will I will deal with that. So Alex has just got it. No big deal. We will we will cut that up.

Alex Wolking 13:38
So anyway, as a young 23 year old single gay man, I knew that the Quad Cities, especially after I had been there, it was not the place for me to be at that time of my life anyway. And I knew especially after having lived in Chicago, I mean, the greatest cities actually just voted one of the best cities in America for the seventh year in a row. I knew that I wanted more for myself. And I knew I would regret it if I didn’t move back to Chicago. So I agree. I was terrified. And I worked for Phil in college. I was an intern on his team when he was at properties at the time. So I went back and he and at the at the end of my internship, he said well, you know, if you ever decide to come back, your job will always be here. And I was like, Okay, great. So I filed that away. Cut to January of 2020 or 2016. I messaged him late on a Thursday night and I said I think I’m thinking about coming back to Chicago. Can I talk to you about taking my old job back on Firestone team, and he and I was coming up to I wasn’t planning on coming up to the city that weekend. But he said Saturday morning 9am My office bring coffee. I was like, okay, so I got my car and I drove up, you know, Friday night. I walk into his office. It’s Saturday morning and he’s like, see you want to come back? I said Yeah, I want to come at you How can I come work as a buyer’s agent for you on buyers home team, he’s like, What? Know what, you’ll be fine on your own. You see that empty desk across the hallway, Sit your ass over there, you’ll be just fine without me. You don’t need a team. You don’t need me, you know anybody else. You will be fine on your own. Just get your ass here was like, Oh, okay. It’s like when’s your slowest time there was like, right around September. He’s like, great. Start telling everybody that you know that you’re moving to Chicago in September, figure out the plan later, but just tell everybody that you’re moving. Okay. At that time, I was 24. And so I started telling people I’m really mad to Chicago, and people like what it was like, I don’t know, I’m gonna figure it out. Well, let me hold. I signed a lease September 1 of 2016. And I came back and then I transitioned my business for about two years 2017 2018 I partnered with an agent, the Quad Cities to kind of take over my business there. And then so I still was like, part time here my first two years, but I didn’t go full time here until January 1 of 2019. Wow. And

D.J. Paris 16:07
how did you build the business here? When you had such a strong foothold there? I’m sure there may be a little bit of overlap maybe people moving but but but usually people the Quad City stay in the Quad Cities. Same with Peoria where I’m from. So it’s not like oh, this is an easy transition. No, it’s It’s you are literally starting over. So how did you do it?

Alex Wolking 16:28
Oh, man, you know, DJ, I’m still figuring that. I think you know, I’ve just always been born with the gift of unbridled tenacity. And I’ve never there’s not a conversation I’ve strayed away from there’s not a you know, I’m I have no problem picking up the phone. But it really did it. When I first came back to Keller Williams came in really handy as an international brand. Because for years, I’ve gone to all the conferences, I’ve made a bunch of friends and built relationships with other agents around the country. They didn’t know anybody in Davenport, Iowa or Moline, Illinois. But when I moved to Chicago and made the big announcement, everybody knew somebody in Chicago. So my first four years 70% of my business was agent referrals. And that was that was a huge part of my business. Yeah, up until about 2020 2021. Really? And then it just of course, then it snowballed, right, I mean, you got I sent out just sold postcards ever around every property I sold like my first year here in 2017, I closed 10 properties for like 2.7 million. And then in 2018, I did 13 units for like 5 million. And then in 2019, I sold 28 homes for 15 million. So just it snowballed. It literally doubled year over year. And then I hired Kevin, my assistant director of operations now. And then from 2020, we went from 28 closed units and 15 and a half million to 52 units for 26 million. So that’s just I mean, that’s kind of where I’ve hovered the last two years is around that 25 $30 million. Mark. And it’s, you know, that’s, you know, it’s as they say, take the leap of faith and trust in that will catch you in it sure did.

D.J. Paris 18:28
Yeah, it’s it’s so funny because you, you know, you in your early in your teen years really did a lot of the heavy lifting, that people even when they get their license oftentimes don’t do and and look, I mean, you know, it’s it’s never too late to get in shape. It’s never too late to start building skills. It’s never too late for for anything. In life. If you put the effort in and you had obviously, you probably saw I’m sure your father worked extremely hard as as an A successful agent, every successful agent does. And so you saw his work ethic, and then you were able to also participate without really being in the industry for for some time. And boy, you know, reminds me of a story. So here in Chicago, one of the top agents we and by the way, Alex is mentioning Phil buyers, we have an episode we’ve done with Phil Byers, he is an exceptional person to listen to he’s he’s trained and coached numerous agents. He’s with Compass, you can go back through our archives and find Phil’s episode. It’s a he’s just such a wonderful human. One of our one of my favorite people. And I was thinking about another episode that I’ve done here in Chicago that your story reminded me of. So for people in Chicago who are listening, you’ll know this name, but everyone else might not. His name is Matt Lehrer sees one of the big producers one of the biggest actually have about 46,000 agents in Chicago and he’s one or two or three he’s always at the top. And what when I had him on the show millions of years ago, he he told me that his first five have yours in the business. I think he only sold, I can’t remember exactly 12 homes total in five years. And I said, he didn’t, he goes, Well, I was living at home, so I’d have to pay for rent he goes, but I considered it going to college. Like you were saying, by the time you were 19, you’re like, I’ve already put in my, you know, not maybe 10,000 hours, but I put in a lot of hours. And he would just get up every day and walk around River North, which is where he wanted to specialize. And he went to every building, and he just learned the inventory. And he goes, You know, I was poor. For five years, I made no money, I was a little it was a little embarrassing. But now he’s, you know, at the very, very top of the mountain. So it’s, you know, you have a similar story there. And I just I’m so impressed with people that put in that amount of work, because it’s discipline. And it’s not easy. Well,

Alex Wolking 20:44
and you know, in addition to that to DJ, as I learned very early on, and I think so many agents, they get success really quickly, and they just blow through every dollar they make. Where I mean, my first year in the business was 2011. That was the bottom of the market. Tough, tough, tough year, I didn’t sell anything, I got licensed April 2011. My first closing was until February 2012. And so man, I went a whole year without selling anything. And I almost got out of business. And my first listing was actually for sale by owner that I had converted from door knocking. And my second listing was a short sale. And that was I mean, I got in a very difficult market. So I’ve always been very cautious with how I spent my money, my marketing dollars and how I were referrals come from like in markets like this year that have been challenging. A lot of agents are freaked out and scrambling. I’m not because that I’ve been through that. And I watched my dad go through 2007 through 2010. And I, you know, I’ve watched, you know, having grown up and then I’ve been through market cycles before, and how you adapt and change in those markets. But what I wanted to say was right, as I was actually making copies of my license at the copier ready to go

there we go. Okay, I was actually so in December 2011, I was about to drop my license, I was gonna go hang out. I was making copies of my license. I was going to the Quad City or realtor association to turn it in. I had an appointment and everything. And the number one agent in the office at the time, Deb Houseman, she she saw what I was doing. She’s like, What are you doing? I was like, I’m hanging my license. She’s like, you’re not gonna be in real estate anymore. I was like, Yeah, I think I’m just gonna finish my degree. And I’ll get in real estate after that. And she’s like, really. So I’m just like, I think you should give that some time. Like, give it a few days, but don’t do it today. I was like, alright, so I canceled my appointment. I went to dinner with my mom and I got a ping on my phone back in the day when I had a Blackberry. And I had a, I got an email from her. And this was by this point, I was at home and it was probably like 11 o’clock at night, which is unlike Deb she’s Miss I’m in bed by 830 every night. It was an email from her saying I couldn’t sleep thinking about you getting out of the business. If it’s not hard, it’s not worth having. You need to go network more. And I was like networking, what’s never gonna she’s like, Alex, go make friends. And I was like, she’s like, You need to go make friends. So I’m in business today because of Deb Houseman and I built my business on her advice. The best advice I ever got in the industry was go make friends, that if I if I write a book someday about all my successes and adventures and my memoirs, the name of the book is gonna be called Go make friends. You

D.J. Paris 23:51
know, you’re absolutely so so right on. You know, we are wired for community, we’re wired for connection, we want to support our friends, we want to help them with their endeavors. We oftentimes, you know, use our not use our friends in a negative way. But we utilize our friends to Hey, who’s your doctor who’s your you know, who’s your hairstylist, who’s your accountant, and who’s your realtor. And so, it is you know, being being likable is such an important and I don’t mean changing who you are to fit someone else’s needs. I just mean being somebody who’s approachable, somebody who you whether you’re introverted or extroverted, you can learn skills to you know, be a likable person. And I always think that being you know, being likable is one of the key tenants of being in real estate. It’s being being somebody that can people can talk to and they can bring their challenges and there’s stress and and all of the ups and downs of a of a transaction. I mean it is every transaction stressful at some point, sometimes many times during it and the clients are stressing out just Like, you know, you would expect and being somebody that they can come to, and you’re making this massive decision with, you know, financially, and you get to be the one who’s who’s really guiding them is is really it’s almost, you know, blessing may be a little bit of a strong word. But it’s really, we’re very fortunate to be in this kind of profession where we’re literally guiding somebody through one of the more stressful parts of life is buying and selling homes.

Alex Wolking 25:26
Yes, yes. And that that advice of go make friends was literally how I always approached my business. And not only that, that was that was the mindset, the mentality I had when I moved back here to Chicago, and just starting over again, was I don’t have to go make friends. And then that was that was it.

D.J. Paris 25:44
It’s, it’s just incredible that that you’ve built basically two businesses before the age of 30. in two different locations, basically, starting from scratch, maybe you could argue, in the Quad Cities, maybe you had some additional resources there, but you still put in the work, you still rode your bike to all of those open houses. What what do you say to agents today who are starting out who maybe don’t have the guidance that that you were fortunate enough to have, you know, from your father and from from Deb, once you got started? And obviously Keller Williams, one Chicago here is a really, really well respected brand. here locally, I mean, obviously, nationally, internationally, too. But you have a lot of great people at your firm, and also people that like compass Phil buyers, a lot of people are in your corner. But you asked you went out and made those connections yourself. But let’s talk I want to talk about open houses just for a moment, because I think it is you were saying, you know, social media wasn’t really the main driver for your business. But, you know, making friends and also sitting hundreds of open houses, is really like, can you talk a little bit about what skills you learned by watching other realtors do?

Alex Wolking 26:54
Oh my god. So I don’t even know where to begin with that. Because there’s I’m an observer, you know, I’ve always been a lifelong learner, I love being a student. And a lot of what I learned was what to do and what not to do. You watch how a lot you remember, if anything, I wasn’t necessarily watching the agent, I was watching the buyers and the consumers coming through, and what their reactions were to what the agent was saying or doing. And what I found doing that is that people like the element of surprise, and I think one of the biggest things I took away was never rob a buyer from the element of surprise, you know, instead of saying, you know, this kitchen has an amazing pantry, let them discover that, you know, let them go and find that. When it came to converting and like just having a normal conversation with people just ask them. Oh, you guys, where do you guys go to brunch today? Have you been to this place around the corner? You know, there’s just so many things like that just being real, it just be real with people. And it’s so easy to say, Oh, well, you know, be yourself? Well, it’s hard to do, and you don’t know who you are. But there’s a I think that was the where I saw the greatest response from consumers at open houses was when agents were real, and relatable. And it instantly takes the guard down for a lot of consumers. So I mean, I used to dress up for open houses and I’d wear you know, the suit and tie and brown shoes and all of that. And what I found is that my conversion went up when I ditched the suit. Interesting. And, you know, Mr. Clerici, will have you believing otherwise. But anyway, you know that that’s, that’s authentically him. No, that’s not me. And, you know, I was I had to look at what markets I was serving. You know, the Quad Cities is a very kind of blue collar area. And, you know, I always was more drawn to areas that just felt real. So for me, the vast majority of my business is, you know, Lakeview uptown Edgewater Ravenswood Lincoln Square, and I don’t do I sold in 2022. I sold 51 homes, and only two of them were in Lincoln Park. And both of them were in the same building. So it wasn’t, you know, that’s just not my vibe. It’s not my energy. I just love where I can be real. And you know, the fact that I mean, if I went to a $2 million listing appointment in Ravenswood, and I showed up in a blue suit and brown shoes, they throw me off the front porch, because they like who are you? Did you come from downtown? Do you work this neighborhood? That’s, I had to find areas and markets that served the vibe and energy that I just liked. And I also had to find how I approach the business as well. You know, for me, I’m brutally honest, like blunt force trauma. If, but I am authentic and I, I know, to a granular level, my market block by block, which that’s a level of expertise that takes years to refine. And when I came back to Chicago, I started that whole Open House cycle all over again. If I wasn’t doing open houses, I was going to open houses. I was going to every broker’s open. Some of my greatest mentors in the business have come from that because they kept showing up over and over again. I mean, aside from Phil Byers one of my other great mentors has been Millie Rosenbloom. Oh, sure. What am I have a great story about Millie. One of my other biggest mentors spend Marlin granite key with REMAX do you talk about somebody who knows the market forwards and backwards side to side and knows the knows what year the furnace was replaced in a house? Because she sold it three times? I mean, that woman knows her inventory. I mean, that’s, that’s, those are the kinds of agents I learned from growing up. And, you know, I see through here in Chicago, I think a lot of agents just want to want the glamour of the business and the glamour of the listing. But they don’t know how to actually do the job, and they don’t know how to how to navigate with ease and finesse. I think that’s, you see, it’s so much with the newer agents coming in. But, you know, true expertise that’s really missing. And that’s something that you know, I valued as a small town real estate agent, you have to have that. I carried a lot of that small town mentality with me everywhere. John,

D.J. Paris 31:32
how do you recommend that an agent who is newer to the business start to learn the market? Obviously, some obvious things come to mind go to the open houses go to the broker opens if you’re if your area where you’re working has those, you know, obviously immerse yourself in out in the market, but when you’re also you know, studying the MLS like how do you how would you advise somebody to get started so that they can specialize in a particular area? Yeah,

Alex Wolking 31:58
that’s a great question. So what I did was I took a few small areas that I wanted to work in. And, you know, for me, I looked in Buena Park, I looked in if I wanted to do single family homes north of Irving Park Road. So I wanted to do point a park Grayson West Ravenswood castle with terrorists, you know, Edgewater, Glen, Glen, Lakewood, Balmoral, and I took each of those areas in a very granular level. And I went back 10 years, I went back just to see, you know, how many homes turned over every year what the price appreciation growth was, who are the agents that were doing most of the deals there, then I went to their open houses, and I learned who they are. And I learned, okay, what makes them what makes that agent so unique for this area. The other thing I found, too, is some agents is, you know, massive foothold in a market. And a lot of times, what you find out is they don’t, and they tout themselves as the number one agent for the area. And there, they done like three deals. But you know, perception is reality. So a lot of that I would find, okay, if I’m going to work in this neighborhood, what’s my angle, but what I did in the Quad Cities, and what served me extremely well here was I started to identify markets that had a gaping hole in them where no one was working them, or the agents who were working them were not doing anything to innovate. They had no market share. So I just went after the markets that really weren’t underserved. And that’s where I started. I went first. And that was, that was how I ended up working in my own neighborhood. My own backyard and Buena Park was I looked at all the single family homes on Hutchinson Street and junior terrorists. And around that were packing on Kassala terrace. Nobody was working in that market. Nobody was and having come from the Quad Cities and having my neck and my skill set my eye for selling really weird, funky, unique historic homes that just that fit into an interest of mine and a skillset of mine. So I was like the I’m the perfect agent to fit the role of this neighborhood. And then I just started attacking it. I give I give architecture tours every summer, you know, three times a summer every summer for the last seven years. I’m on the board of directors from Planet Park neighbors. I’m on the real estate development partners committee for the Uptown Chamber of Commerce. I’m on the board for the Uptown Chicago commission. Okay, and then I actually here’s what happened with one of the things that put me on map for that neighborhood early on back in 2018. I was walking on Hutchinson street one day and I saw all these homes that were for sale and it drove me nuts. I didn’t have the listing on any of them. But I thought to myself, You know what, I can’t find a buyer. So what I did I researched you know Historic Preservation groups and shipping and landmarks Illinois came up. And landmarks Illinois, I reached out to them because this is what I used to do in the Quad Cities. Every time I had an old mansion listed I called the Scott County Historic Preservation Society, did a private open house for them brought their members in and I used I sold one or two of my listings from that, and I got listings from it, too. So I called landmarks Illinois, and I said, Hey, you don’t know who I am. I’m a young real estate agent. I live in Buena Park, there’s a bunch of really cool mansions for sale on the Hutchinson street Historic District. If I organized a tour for your highest donors would would that be of interest to you? Because these are people that have money that understand historic preservation? And they said, Absolutely, we don’t know who you are. We just sniff you out first. But if you can organize that, yeah, we’ll totally we’re always looking for ways to get in front of our top donors. So I reached out to all the listing agents that had you know, listings on the street, every single one of them said yes. And I saw I said, Okay, this day, this time, you got I just need you listing agents to open up your property. I already have all the history on your house. I’ve done the research. I give tours of the neighborhood already. And then I’m going to bring all the people. So then I reached out to the Ottomans office, which was James Kappelman at the time, and I call this Tressa fair, who was her who was the chief of staff. I said, Hey, I’m doing a private tour invite only on Hutchinson Street for the homes that are for sale. I’m inviting landmarks Illinois, does the aldermen want FaceTime on this group? Because he can certainly come and join. She said, absolutely. I have 10 to 15 people that would show up to this tour. I had 41 people show up to this tour. And so I gave my very high spirited, you know, tour like I normally do. The aldermen showed up. Well, I gotten to know one of the neighbors on column Avenue. And he was a developer, and he had a really cool backyard. And I am the reservoir, which is a restaurant in the neighborhood I called. There’s a lender that I brought in that does construction loans and financing for rehab projects. So I called him he sponsored dinner and cocktails, you know, brought in from reservoir and reservoir came in and catered it at this developer’s house because I needed a cool place to have a cocktail hour at the end of the tour. The tour went off without a hitch. One of the properties on the tour did sell because of the tour. I wasn’t involved, but it did sell. And after that I had all of those residents who found out about the tour and how successful it was they started calling me and they started spending our agent didn’t sell the property if you want to bring a buyer will pay you you know a bonus or whatever. And then over the years this property is turned over. I got to know the neighbors and then I them during the pandemic because I gotten to know so many of them. They’re in my database and I thought to myself, well I have a database, I could just export this list of contacts into an Excel spreadsheet and voila, now I have a neighborhood roster that I can share with the neighbors. They ate it up. And because everybody knows summer 2020 when everybody was bored and had nothing to do we started doing what are called Black tails where everybody on the block got together every Friday 537 30 And BYOB bring a mask and we just got you know drunk in someone’s front porch backyard patio, their driveway whatever. And of course I was the only realtor there and from there on out you know it’s rare when I don’t get called for a listing on the street and if I don’t get the listing I was definitely competing for it and then I’ve had some sellers that have called and said hey, we’re listing with our friend we totally would have listed with you but we wanted to tell you first before it went on the market

D.J. Paris 38:52
so and by the way that’s like the greatest compliment even though it didn’t call your way you get it it makes sense.

Alex Wolking 38:57
And I got I’ve gotten probably four of those calls and and just this past month I closed to Amman Hutchinson so it’s a you know truly built my castle and built a moat around and I’m the fire breathing dragon up my castle but it’s but it’s bled over into other neighborhoods. And

now I’m getting calls from buyers who are saying, hey, we want to be in this neighborhood. What do you have coming? So and I did the same thing in the Quad Cities

it worked that was I found a an underserved market met the needs of the people that lived there and just became the face of it. And it’s not it wasn’t the end of this. This is a an area that really wanted community and actually backing up a little bit. When I started doing my initial canvassing. I did it door to door I knocked on everyone’s doors. I went down Hutchinson and I started asking people, I’m a new agent in the neighborhood. What do you want to what you know trying to learn more about the community and everything. Not one person slammed the door in my face. Everybody had a story to tell. And I told them, I just had a couple of questions. Not one person spent less than 45 minutes with me. I one person I spent two hours with. And they started introducing me to the other neighbors, right. And I just ask them, How long have you been here? Where did you live here before? What do you like most about living here? And what I heard from one woman that Glaser she was in her 80s. And she said, You know, I’ve been here since 1965. And when people started putting their gates up, I feel like the Gates divided us was like, Really, and I kept hearing over and over again, people wanted connection, they wanted to know their neighbors. There was one person I knew that lived in their house for 20 years, they’ve never met the person across the street from them. And so I brought this to one of the other neighbors and I said, Hey, we’ve got a need here. All that I’m keep hearing this over and over again, people want to get together and I got all the contact information now. And he’s like, I’ll make a phone call. So we call Vicki down the street who’s got this massive property? You know, it’s actually on the market right now. Suzanne gentleman has it listed 76 single family homes in the neighborhood. So we through we’ve sent out invitations to everybody. Of the seven like throwing a poor throwing a block party at Vicki’s house, she’s got this massive yard Come on out, if you live in the neighborhood, you know, come on out of the 76 single family homes, 58 of them showed up. That’s incredible. That was incredible. And Jonathan, God bless him. He had a sign in table, everybody had to sign in, or we had to get their badge and with their name and their address and where they lived. And Jonathan, let me work the sign in

D.J. Paris 41:43
table. So that’s the key. That’s the key table.

Alex Wolking 41:47
That was how I got to know everybody. And plus they saw my name. And I had been sending out mail once a month, I sent out a letter once a month, here’s some market updates. And here’s what’s going on in your neighborhood. So people saw my name like, Oh, you’re the one that’s been sending me those market reports. And that was it. So that was that was how it all got started.

D.J. Paris 42:05
Well, that is an incredible story. And I’m just digesting it myself. But what I was thinking of is what were the sort of crucial elements of of what you did there. And I couple things stuck out to me. I mean, aside from just the brilliance of, of, you know, reaching out to the landmark organization, and but but really what what you did was something that really anybody could do is get immersed in a particular community and find out, talk to the residents find out what they need, find out what’s not happening that they wish were to happen, and then come up with solutions. But and you’re so right. I mean, look, I mean, how many realtors who have tried to penetrate that particular market? Ever thought to ask, you know, the residents? Hey, well, you know, what, what if you were to if we were to change something what, you know, what, what could what could be changed? Or what would you like to see different? You don’t usually hear Realtors talking about that. They might say, hey, how long have you lived here? What are you thinking of moving and you know, the traditional sales kind of stuff. But you didn’t approach it from that at all. You’re like, I want to have all the knowledge of this of this area. So I can be a tour guide. And I can also be of service to the residents. And you just kept going from there. And it was all about being of service. And that obviously, look, you’re on all of these boards and committees. And we should also mention too, I know, this may have gotten lost in all of the things I was talking about all the accolades you’ve accomplished. But Alex is a 30 under 30 NAR National Association Realtors honoree, that is a very big deal. And so you know, what the National Association of REALTORS does every year as they take a look at, you know, the 1000s and 1000s of agents, oh, gosh, probably 10s of 1000s of agents who are under 30, maybe even 100,000 or more. And, you know, they look at people who are doing exceptional things. So, you know, that was that’s a huge accolade and a huge thing under your belt. But I love the ideas. You just seem like you want to build community. And I think that that is boy, what a smart What a smart and also fulfilling thing, but it’s fun. I imagine it’s all fun.

Alex Wolking 44:08
It’s a fun business. It’s a and people ask me about my business all the time. Like Mike got all these cool listings, you always got this unique stuff. And, you know, it’s not only getting to represent those properties, it’s getting to sell them to I mean, it’s fun getting to tell their story. And I always said the other part is of how I built my business. So you mentioned you’re fostering the community but then I had a bunch of resources because sitting on all those boards gives me incredible access to information. And also because I’m now on so landmarks Illinois came back to me a year and a half later and asked me to be on the board of landmark

D.J. Paris 44:39
I imagined they would they and I’m

Alex Wolking 44:42
still the youngest serving board member I’ve been on for four years now. I’m still the youngest serving one that they saw. I have, you know, tremendous opportunity there for for property for homeowners that have a landmark property. So I’ve got a lot information there. But the third piece of this is the A I mentioned earlier whenever these are not easy properties to sell, and they are not the ones you put on the market got multiple offers, these are ones that sit for a while. Even in this market, they still sit. And I’ve done the craziest, most outlandish, absurd stuff to sell these properties. I you know, I haven’t mentioned listed on Astor street where at Phil and I had that CO listed actually where we put that one up for auction that was in the middle of the pandemic and summer of 2020 I had Brian or lacquers house listed and we marketed that as a summer escape from the city of furnished rental finally sold that to somebody that tore it down because they wanted the land. I’ve sold properties that are you know, funky earthborn homes I’ve sold you know, they’re just really out of the box ways of selling it so not only is it getting in the door of these properties, it’s having the resources to help them and the out of the box creativity to sell them so it’s a it’s a three prong approach that you know for me I would so much rather have a difficult listing than another two bed two bath condo and Lakeview like that’s nice pays the bills but it doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning.

D.J. Paris 46:18
Yeah, you will you like a challenge? I do. And it’s it’s fulfilling because it what the challenge, you know, really activates within you as I see it is creativity. All of a sudden your creative sparks. You know, Lakeview is a very popular neighborhood here in Chicago for those who aren’t familiar and, and it’s great neighborhood, lovely neighborhood wonderful, not difficult to sell, it may be difficult to get market share. But what if you get a listing there, it’s probably going to sell. And it’s going to sell pretty easily because it’s so desirable. Buena Park is less known and not less desirable for certain types of people more desirable for others. But again, I love that you went to the to the part that like, I’ve never heard anybody in Chicago, I want to I want to be the Buena Park guy. Now I’m sure there are people that do but But 90% of the people I hear who are working in the city are like, I want to be the Linkin Park guy. I want to be the North guy. These are the sort of glitzy fun areas, Gold Coast, etc. And I love that you went the other way, because and the reason why you did is you did the research and you go, there’s a lot of opportunity here and it sort of meets my needs. I kind of liked these funky homes. And now I got to figure out how to connect with the community. And you did what what an incredible story. And I know there’s so much more to talk about. But I think this is a great place to wrap up. I’m gonna give a recommendation to our audience, I want you if you can, if you were so inspired by Alex’s story here about how he penetrated this community, I want you to go back and listen to the steps that he took. Because I really wanted to interrupt him every step of the way. Be like, okay, cool, how’d you do that. And I didn’t want to interrupt his flow. But I want you guys to listen to it again, because you will pick up exactly his thought process how he did it. And boy, please go out and do what he did, you will have a if nothing else, you’ll have a really enjoyable career, and you will have probably a very successful one. as well. I also would like to mention that if you are a realtor in the Chicagoland area, and maybe you feel you’re not getting the attention you need at your current firm, or you’re looking you know, this is the year where the market is down, people are looking to maybe switch firms, check out other teams, Alex’s Alex’s team is growing. So if you think you could be an asset to him, or if you’d like to learn from him, and you think you might be a good fit, reach out to him, you can find him on his website, Alex woking.com, as well as Instagram and all the other social platforms he’s on. So reach out to him, if you think he might be a good fit, I know I would want to work with him if I was practicing. So definitely reach out, I am so impressed. And also, for everyone else who doesn’t live in Chicago, you might have clients that move to Chicago. And you know, one of the coolest things about doing the show, I wish I could participate in the financial part of it. But even so it’s so rewarding that almost every time we do an episode for anywhere in the country, that person ends up calling us later and goes, I just got a listing from one of your listeners who you know, has somebody who’s coming in to buy or sell. And so please, if you are looking for a Chicago agent just to even partner up with boy Alex would be a good one to partner up with. So reach out to him. If and by the way, Alex has people that leave Chicago too. And he needs to refer business to other places. So maybe he doesn’t have somebody in your market that he can be the referral for a referral to you for so reach out to him. He’s a wonderful guy, and certainly doing all of the right things. And he’s somebody certainly to follow on social as well to see how he’s marketing himself. And he’s not a really big social guy. But when he does his social stuff, it’s actually really really impressive and excellent. So anyway, everyone check out Alex, Alex woking.com link to all of his stuff in the show notes. And on behalf of the audience. Alex, thank you so much for being on our show. We couldn’t appreciate you more, or I couldn’t appreciate you more You are exactly the kind of person. The reason I do this show is because of people like you. So thank you for being willing to be on the show. And I can’t imagine, I know our audience got a lot of value out of this. And on behalf of Alex and myself, let’s thank the people who make the show possible you the audience. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for making it all the way to the end of this episode. You guys are the reason we do this. And please help us by telling a friend I think of just one other agent that needs some encouragement right now. Maybe their business is down, guess what? Almost everyone’s business is down. This is a time to share information, send this podcast over to anyone who could use a boost or just anyone that’s interested in learning. Because guess what, there’s always more to learn and we would thank you that helps us get in front of more people and helps us in every possible way. So thank you for that. Alex. Thanks again, and we will see everybody on the next episode. Thanks, Alex. Thank you

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