The Closing: Jamie Duran
Jamie Duran is the president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Southern California. She oversees more than 4,500 agents and 200 employees spread across 58 offices in the region. A self-proclaimed “Valley Girl,” Duran grew up in Studio City before attending California State University, Northridge. At 19, she started dabbling in real estate, flipping homes with her father. Since then, she’s worked in almost every aspect of the industry in her three-decade-long career at Coldwell. Earlier this year, she was named one of the most influential women in residential real estate by Swanepoel Power 200. But her brokerage has had its share of challenges recently, with parent company Realogy’s stock price hitting record lows and a handful of local star brokers moving to other firms.
As Coldwell forges ahead, Duran talks future plans for the brokerage in L.A., in an interview that has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How did you get involved with real estate? I studied business at Cal State Northridge and got interested in it then. My dad also had a great idea for me to get my license so we could start flipping homes. He had done some seminar and came to me and said, “I know all the tricks of the trade now. If you get your license, we’ll start flipping homes.” And we did and did really well.
What happened next? Him, being an entrepreneur, flipped the switch one day and started a wine business. I helped him run his business and started real estate at the same time.
How long did you flip homes for? Two years. I was at Jon Douglas Co., flipping homes, then realized at that point that to really make money in the business, you really should be selling as well. So I started doing both.
When did you make the switch to management? I was tapped on the shoulder to do some training in the office. I became very good at that, so I became the training director, then regional training director. One thing led to another. At the time that I was tapped to be a manager, I was actually starting a family and it just seemed not as crazy — I thought — as selling real estate. It was just as crazy.
You were recently promoted to president. How has your day-to-day changed since taking that position? Mostly the mileage on my car. It’s a bigger span, and people often ask, “How do you possibly fit all this in a day?” I don’t watch television. I do enjoy social media, but I also don’t stay on all day long. It’s about time management.
You’re one of four women in a local leadership role at NRT [which owns Coldwell Banker]. What’s that like? It’s so strange being in this position because I don’t look at the diversity of our company or our industry until somebody points it out. What I do notice is that when I have an opening for the leadership roles, we don’t get as many [females] coming to us. That’s what drives me crazy. We don’t have enough of those women coming forward and putting their hands up to say, “I can do that job.”
You’ve been with the same company for three decades. Would you advise young agents to do that today? I think every company is different for everyone. I really believe in a big, solid company with a big, solid brand because I believe it offers the most, not just for the agents, but to the consumer.
Coldwell has lost some big agents recently, including top agents such as Chris Cortazzo and Ginger Glass to Compass. Why is that? I think everyone has a reason for moving that is more personal than it has to do with the company. My biggest question when people make a move is, “Is that in the best interest of your own client?” If it was just for personal reasons, for whatever those reasons are, I get that. But is it really in the best interest for the client?
Is there anything Coldwell is doing to mitigate the loss of talent? What we are doing and continue to do is to provide a really good environment for our agents. But you’re going to have attrition. There’s competition out there, and it’s healthy. We just want to attract the people that understand our value proposition and want to be with us. If they don’t want to or don’t get it, that’s OK too.
We have seen the traditional brokerage model upended recently, with tech-driven startups and online brokerages in the mix. Does Coldwell ever feel as though it is behind in this regard? I feel that the Coldwell brand is traditional but extremely innovative. We’re always challenging our resources and our own tools and pushing the next best thing internally. Sometimes that takes a little bit longer than companies that go out there and deliver. I’m OK with being a little slower to execution and making sure that we have it done right.
In the summer, TRD reported that Coldwell was considering consolidating both of its offices in Beverly Hills into the larger “North Office.” Are there any updates? We are continuing on our path to unifying our offices. We hope to do it by the end of the year.
You’d mentioned it was because of the noisy Metro rail construction nearby. Was cost-cutting also a factor? I wish. We are not out of that lease yet, so we are going to have to sublease. We’re going to be spending a lot of money in the environment, so there’s a lot of expenses. I’m not looking forward to any huge savings.
Sales in L.A. are slowing. Does that scare you? It doesn’t scare me as a leader. I know that if anybody can weather the storm, we have the biggest umbrella. You have to tweak things and make sure that you are doing all the right things as a business owner. Sometimes that means spending money in a different way.
What’s it like overseeing 4,500 agents and three kids? Four kids if you count my husband. Thankfully, my kids are older and they can take care of themselves a bit more. It really has been a joint effort, and you have to have that support both at home and [work.] It is not a one-man show or a one-woman show. It is definitely a team effort.
I’ve heard you’re into morning affirmations. Can you share any of those? There’s a book called “The Miracle Morning” that I stumbled upon. It’s a few minutes of my day in the morning of gratitude, affirmation and serious quiet meditation. It’s just about making sure that “I am strong, I am healthy, I am happy and I’m going to have a great day.” Taking five minutes of white space in your head is so important. I should probably have more, but I’m happy to get the five minutes.