RReal estate is a tough business. Ask Cali Redd and Jessica Johnson. Two women, whom through a string of events found themselves at stages of life where getting into real estate just made sense, so they made the jump and haven’t looked back. Not only have they excelled in their roles in the industry, but they have also set out to change the model for real estate sales. Once Solid Realty, LLC was formed, the two have worked tirelessly to balance their families, their careers, and to carve a path ahead of a fast changing industry.
Redd, born in Scotland due to her father’s oil and gas employment but quickly transplanted to the Matagorda Bay area of Texas, will be the first to admit that her initial career directions were a bit unorthodox. She begins, “I was a good student in high school because it was a tiny school so you had to do everything and I did it pretty well. After graduation, I went to Southwest Texas State for Psychology. I didn’t really like school and my parents told me I could become whatever I wanted if I was enrolled, but it wasn’t my thing.” She continues with a laugh, “I actually ended up in mortuary school! I just thought it would be interesting, and it was, but I ended up having my 1st daughter while I was there and so I had to leave. “
From there, Redd was thrust into motherhood which grew to Heaven, Harmony, Hope, and Harvest – her four daughters. From 1997 to 2011 she would continue as a caretaker to 4 beautiful daughters, but real estate was something that she showed a natural inclination toward. She explains, “Every time we bought a house I would think ‘You know, I could have sold this for $40,000 more’, and sure enough when we sold it, I did. So it was a natural progression for me.”
So as a single mother, Redd became an agent in 2011 and joined the Ultimate Real Estate Team with Spenser Hash (broker). “I started well. I made the right choice with the initial broker because he taught me a lot and my income was growing and I was providing.” Her ambitions didn’t remain focused on simply “providing”; Redd wanted to become a broker and grow a business, so right at the required 4 years of experience, she received her broker’s license and Solid Realty, LLC was born in 2015.
For Jessica Johnson, it was an equally winding path that brought her to real estate, and one that also shaped her into the persistent and dedicated professional that she is today. After being born in Florida and getting to Texas “as fast as I could”, Johnson ultimately made her way to Boerne, where she graduated from Boerne High School in 1998. She begins, “I hated high school so I graduated a year early and had zero interest in college. I was married at 17, and when I was 21 my ex was on his 7th year of college and my bartending job was making more. Not good. So his parents said we could live with them rent free if we both went to school so I did and graduated with Honors in ’03 with a dual degree in Finance and Accounting.”
With a blossoming career in the medical industries, Johnson’s health and marriage were failing and she quickly realized that change was going to be required. She continues, “There was a big need for mental health work because the AffordableCareAct brought mental health into the forefront and I loved that company I was with at the time and they wanted me to go to Colorado and I had just gotten divorced. I literally weighed 400 pounds, and needed a huge change in my life. So I said no to Colorado, had a life changing moment and had a really, really long talk with God – I just needed help. I woke up the next morning and I had an invitation to the University of Iowa MBA program that was in Italy, actually. I sold everything I had, gave my sister my car, put on a ba
ckpack and moved to Italy. I was there for a year. I absolutely loved Italy – there were 15 people in my program. All these different nationalities and I was the only Texan. Every time anybody asked folks where they were from they’d say US. For me, I’d say Texas. I loved that.”
For Johnson, who “hated school” yet graduated from high school in 3 years, college in 2 years, and an MBA in 1 year, she was at a point for some real career decisions after returning from Italy. She explains, “We had to create a business in our classes and we had to build it to fruition and because I had always been in healthcare for the previous few years, I started a counseling clinic that helped kids. I am not a counselor because I engage way too much with people’s stories on an emotional level but I wanted something that benefitted their world. When you graduate counseling you must have 3000 hours before you are licensed. There are very few facilities that actually pay interns so unless you’re wealthy or have a spouse, it’s very difficult for interns. So I wanted to create a paid internship business which was then enabled by the ACA. If you’ve got a situation where 3 kids are in counseling, it gets very expensive for parents. So I partnered with therapists, and I handled the business end. Parents would pay the co-pay which let’s just say is $20, the intern got $15, and the clinic got $5. It was called Family Changes Play Therapy and it still exists here today. Patricia McNaught is the therapist and we opened it in August of 2012.”
The two, who didn’t know each other yet, both signed up for Leadership Boerne, the course that is sponsored by the Boerne Chamber of Commerce in 2014. Johnson says, “Cali started talking to me about real estate. My first response was an emphatic NO. I only knew realtors were tall, blond, skinny, and married to rich people! I had a lot of preconceived notions, but I was looking for a job but I enjoyed the freedom of the clinic. Being able to go out and market and not have a “lunch hour” or have calls at all hours. When I left my job I was done with the concept of working for corporate America for the next 20 years. “
Despite her reluctance, the seed had been planted. Johnson began to investigate the industry and ultimately got her real estate license and worked at a Kerrville brokerage for a short while. The two had become friends, which ultimately cost Johnson her job. She laughs, “Cali was at Keller Williams and I went out and met her at a house and she posted a picture of us hanging out at this house and my old employer terminated my job there because they figured we were working on the side!” From there, the two did begin working together and the synergy that they both bring to the table was born. Cali adds, “We balance each other so well – She’s not very much into the details, while I am very much into details and I catch things that she doesn’t, and we compliment one another very well. We had begun branding as Solid Realty while we were with the other broker, but as soon as I got my broker’s license, we moved on and founded the brokerage.”
This is where the two have differentiated themselves. While we are all familiar with the 6% commission structure of most real estate transactions, Solid Realty will certainly work that way if you want, but then they give you options for a flat-fee based service. Johnson continues, “I was so on board with the concept because one of my transactions previously was with a military family and I remember we were sitting at the closing table and the family had brought a check to give to the title company. And they said ‘Well, we had to borrow some money from grandma to pay your commission’ and it just bothered me. The amount of work, hour-wise, was just not representative to the work I had put in. They didn’t want to move, the military was moving them. It just didn’t settle with me. So when Cali proposed this concept, I just knew it was a great idea and it made sense for me.”
Cali continues, “It’s all about options. It’s about service. Why should things be the same for everybody? What do you want out of this? What can you afford? I remember somebody having to bring a check for $16,000 to close the deal and I just felt like we should have cut our commission.” Johnson agrees, “We’ve had incredible response to it. We’ve saved our clients $200,000 in fees over the past 2 years. People think that is crazy, but our referrals are unbelievable so that has made us so busy.”
To explain a bit, Solid Realty, LLC offers you not a standard 6% rate commission structure that includes a variety of services, they tailor their services for your needs. Are you an investor selling a simple rental house? Well, that’s a lower-priced package. Are you in a wonderful home and want all of the services and representation but are looking to save money? Then they have a package for you as well that is half of the typical commission of most brokerages. Essentially, they sit down with you and craft a service package that works for what you want instead of applying the blanket service package that many other brokers apply.
Johnson explains, “If it’s a $1million property, that’s a $30,000 commission just to me. So if I tell you, ‘You want all these services that are necessary for me to properly market your home, then the price is different, but you’ll still save a ton of money. Our time, photography, staging, meeting clients, starting the fireplace, etc’…so then it becomes a negotiable price for those services. You have options, so it’s a negotiable set of services.” Redd continues, “Some realtors are afraid of the model. They think we won’t be responsive. So when we ARE responsive, they tend to really warm up to it and we still get our clients to pay the 3% for the buyer’s agent. Agents won’t show your home if you’re not paying that 3%, so we don’t require that our sellers pay that commission, but we highly encourage it.”
And the model is working. In their first year, they had saved their clients approximately $47,000 in fees. Last year it was over $200,000. This type of growth in revenue equals growth in people, so the duo intend to add additional office staff shortly and to continue to fine-tune their message and their services.
That said, their personalities are representative of the fun that they have in their jobs. Johnson finishes, “I wear a nametag that say I’m ‘Chief Hugger’ cause I hug everybody. Cali’s is ‘Duchess of Delegation’. It’s just fun. That’s like our signs that say ‘FREE TACOS WITH PURCHASE!’ – its’ just fun and that’s how we live our lives and we want you to enjoy the process so we want YOU to have fun with us as well. It shouldn’t be hard and stressful, so having the options is a comfort level for the people.”
by Ben Schooley