The Top Players in Chicago Real Estate: Kim Howard

8 questions for one of Chicago real estate’s rising stars

Kim Howard left her job in the corporate world to become a full-time real estate agent years ago. Nervous to leave her salaried position in an office she loved, Howard credits her husband, Joe, with giving her the confidence to make the change. Today, Kim and Joe run their own real estate firm, Howard Homes Chicago.

Howard maintains a wide purview, working with listings throughout neighborhoods on the north and south sides of Chicago as well as the surrounding suburbs. Kim spoke to ESTATENVY about the city’s changing neighborhoods, keeping up a 24/7 grind, and the importance of building relationships with other brokers.

How did you get started in real estate?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I had explored the option of real estate a couple of times. It was my now-husband who encouraged me to take the formal leap. While it was scary to quit a full-time, salary job at a wonderful corporate office, it was worth all of the time and energy and I’ve never felt more fulfilled in my career. Plus, now I’ve evolved from an individual agent to a team with my husband, which is so meaningful and special to me.

To what do you attribute your success?

A positive attitude, surrounding myself with uplifting people and consistently working hard. A mentor of mine once told me that “success is boring, but it’s not easy.” I believe that success is a sum of habits and daily routines, and I’ve worked hard to perfect those habits and routines. Still, it’s always a work in progress.

Success isn’t always convenient in the short-term, but you have to keep your eye on the goal. It’s not always easy to wake up and grind, to answer my phone 24/7 and to miss events with friends and family because we have showings and open houses on the weekend, but we work with the future in mind, and we know that we are striving for greatness, and that takes a lot of effort.

What is the key to closing deals?

There are several, but one big one is making sure to educate your clients and to listen to them. That will save your clients time and energy and ultimately make for a smoother transaction.

For example, the last thing you want is for a buyer to get exhausted from looking and just give up. That happens when you haven’t guided them or asked the right questions to help them narrow their search down. On the seller side, closing deals relies heavily on educating your sellers, too. They need to understand that careful pricing right from the get-go is always a winning strategy.

Another typically under-valued point the relationship with other agents. All agents should value relationships with other brokers that you can potentially do transactions with. Reputation goes far in our industry, and I think sometimes that is a missed point for a lot of people.

Why is Chicago a good place to work in real estate?

Chicago has something for everyone, which is why I fell in love with this city. There are so many areas to focus on and have expertise in, and it never gets boring. We’ve helped clients land their dream Victorian home and sold ultra-sleek, modern condos all in one day, and there’s only a 20-minute drive from one to the other. There is also plenty of opportunity and business for everyone. There’s always someone looking to buy or sell, you just have to find them.

What excites you about the future of Chicago real estate?

Well, for one thing, it’s exciting that many companies are deciding to create their headquarters here, bringing an influx of people from other cities that don’t yet know how great Chicago is. The cool part is that we as brokers get to help them with that transition, and we can be the starting point for them to navigate all that Chicago has to offer. About a quarter of our clients reach out to us because they are relocating and have no clue about our real estate market.

Also, in my time in real estate, I’ve already seen changes in the market, both statistically and economically. It’s exciting to me that neighborhoods in Chicago that were once overlooked are now some of the most requested areas by buyers and investors. It’s amazing that even though we are in one of the largest cities in the world, that there are always new things to do and new restaurants popping up, and we can forever explore new things where we live. The future brings uncertainty, but that’s a fun part.

What should buyers know about working with an agent?

As agents, our value is in our expertise, negotiation skills and relationships. Each of those elements is an art in itself. Also, many consumers don’t know that, as agents, we are legally required to abide by a code of ethics or we can lose our license, so there is that layer of protection and comfort knowing that we must always put our clients first, ahead of our own interests as agents.

Who is your real estate idol?

Fredrik Eklund. If you’re reading this now Fredrik, I am your number-one fan!

What advice would you give to new agents?

First, treat real estate like a business. Have a focus and goals; don’t just run around like a crazy salesperson trying to find a sale. Second, find a mentor who believes in you and who pushes you to be your best, someone you can learn and grow from. Third, find a brokerage that has systems in place and great training so that you can maximize your potential and start your business on a solid foundation.