Game Changers: Christine Kim

As the new president of Climb Real Estate’s company-owned brokerage offices, Christine Kim talks about how the franchising of the Climb brand will impact her side of the business. She also talks about the impact of technology on the brokerage industry and what exciting trends are coming next.

Listen or read the full podcast interview below.

Tracey Velt

This is Tracey Velt, Editor of Publications for REAL Trends. On our REAL Trends podcast today we’re speaking with Christine Kim. Christine was recently named president of all company-owned offices of Climb Real Estate. Welcome, Christine.

Christine Kim

Hi Tracey. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be on this podcast today.

Tracey Velt

Thanks for joining us. We’ll just start at the beginning. Tell me a little bit about how you got into the real estate business, and came to be president.

Christine Kim

Absolutely. It’s been quite an interesting journey. I actually started in tech, and then moved onto advertising, and then got licensed in 2002 as a salesperson. It certainly wasn’t a straight path to real estate, but I bought my first home in 2002, and thought, “Wow, I really like this real estate thing.” I started by looking into real estate investing, and slowly, but surely I was talking to my real estate agent, who said, “Hey, why don’t you get into real estate,” and I’m like, “Okay, why not?” it was all a whim, but it started in 2002, and it was something that was really natural.

I slowly took some leadership roles in different organizations. I started the RES Silicon Valley founding chapter here in 2010, I started my own brokerage, and really was able to understand all the different facets of brokerage. Then, most recently, I was head of marketing at Climb and now I am the president. That’s how the progression of my career came to be, but it’s been a really interesting journey, and I’m really excited about what lies in the future for me as well.

Tracey Velt

Obviously, Climb is going through some huge changes under the Realogy umbrella. Tell me a little bit about what that looks like, and how it impacts you specifically, and the company-owned offices.

Christine Kim

It’s really exciting, and it’s exciting to be a part of the Climb team up to this point. It really solidifies what we’ve been setting out to do as a brokerage. This national expansion is really going to benefit our team locally as the national team tries to solidify and finalize the value proposition of what that franchise is going to look like. They’ll be looking to our offices, here, as a testing ground to pilot new tools and services, so I think it’s just going to reaffirm to our agents that we’re a top priority, and this is going to be great for everyone. We’re really excited, and we’ll see what happens as we move forward in franchising.

Tracey Velt

Congratulations on being one of the few female Korean-American residential brokerage leaders. What opportunities do you see for women in real estate in the near future?

Christine Kim

I think that it’s a really interesting question, it’s something I was just talking to some folks from the office about. Real estate is just one of those few professions where I truly believe that we have complete control over how we run our businesses and, quite frankly, how much we can make.

There’s no shortage of women when it comes to being in real estate as a career, but as we look up into the leadership stack, obviously, females are somewhat underrepresented in leadership positions, but I’m, hopefully, going to ask inspire other women to really strive to take some sort of leadership role as they move forward in their career because I feel that it can help shape the industry from a top perspective. We have great beacons like Sherry Chris and Pam Lieberman, and I think we just need more, and I hope that taking this position can really inspire other women to be a part of that voice as we move into the future.

Tracey Velt

We’re going to switch gears just a little bit. I want you to tell me a little bit about the Climb brand, and how you plan to maintain the niche brand while franchising.

Christine Kim

This brand has always spoken to me as a member of the next generation. I think when it was founded, Climb has always been about the future and what that would look like. We hear the buzzwords of being part of a connected generation, and I think it’s really in our DNA where Climb is going to always continue to innovate, since that’s the pillar that we stand on.

Right now, we’re laser focused on building an even stronger tech stack that empowers our agents to move through their business in an efficient way. We’re building the Climb mobile app that will allow them to work and be productive, and do everything they need to do on demand, so I think that’s going to be really, really exciting.

Tracey Velt

Obviously, the Climb brand is known for its innovation, so how do you see that plan moving forward? What types of innovations are you looking at?

Christine Kim

One of the cool things that Climb had started was something called Climb Labs, and that was our innovation incubator for testing out, and piloting new products that came to the market whether it be for agent support, whether it be for lead management, and workflow automation, and all the different facets of the business. Like I said, it’s something that we’re very used to, and what makes us special is that we’re so nimble that we’re ready and open to adopting new types of technology that will make the agent journey more productive and more efficient.

Climb is a business that was built by agents for agents, so I think that makes us unique where we’re really in touch with what’s going on in the front lines, and we make sure that the things that we adopt are integrated into the true milestones at every step of the way of the journey both for agents and consumers.

Tracey Velt

Let’s talk a little bit about more general trends. What are you seeing in the brokerage industry, what trends are you seeing on the business side?

Christine Kim

I think that there is a lot going on. I think there is a lot of attention, obviously, on technology. There’s such an increased investment in changing the practice of real estate from top to bottom just like what I had mentioned before. We’re seeing technology and investments being made in everything from supporting teams, and changing office styles and models, and artificial intelligence, and big data really coming into play, and playing a huge part in all steps of the agent and the consumer journey. I think that it’s really going to force brokerages to rethink how all these things are going to effect and force them to change their value propositions.

Tracey Velt

The real estate industry has, typically, been slow to change, so I think they’re facing some challenges. What do you see as some of the biggest challenges brokers are facing today?

Christine Kim

Absolutely agree with you, Tracey. The biggest challenges I believe, are really all the new external players that are coming into the market. Like you said, the traditional brokerage’s really being forced, and pressured to rethink and stay relevant, and be competitive. The biggest change is technology, and the brokers have to consistently make sure that they’re adopting certain things at a pace that, I believe, really is unprecedented than anything that we’ve seen before. I think it’s even more critical that we stay on our toes, and constantly be open to adopting new technologies, new workflows, and keep up with the times now.

Tracey Velt

Finally, Christine, obviously, real estate remains a relationship business, and we’ve talked a lot about the technology because that’s taking such a central role in brokerages who want to be successful. How do you plan to marry the two going forward?

Christine Kim

That’s a great question. Climb thrives on technology and change, like I’ve mentioned before, and when I think back through the last 15 years of my own experiences, especially back when La Trulia and Redfin came out into the space, and there were times when we thought that, “Oh my gosh, the Internet is going to take over brokerage. Everything’s going to change.” There’s one constant that really elevated above all and, that’s what you said, it’s about people, relationships, and really the irreplaceable element of the human connection when it comes down to it.

Buyers and sellers are always looking to their agents to help them make that huge life-changing event, and help them make that decision, so I think when it gets down to the core of what we do it’s important to realize that we make sure that we build, and continue to create an environment where we can help our agents save time through technology, make much smarter recommendations for our clients whether they be market data, or consumer behavior data, all of those things, and really empower our agents to take their business where they want to go at the pace that it’s going to be … at a faster pace really because right now technology is just moving the business so quickly that it’s important that we all keep up. I think that’s what a brokerage has to provide to their agents to ensure that they’re up with the times.

Tracey Velt

Definitely, to retain them as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today on the REAL Trends podcast. We wish you a ton of success in the future. We’re excited to see the evolution of Climb in the coming years, so we hope to speak with you again as you move forward.

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After earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida, Tracey set out in the real world at Florida Realtors in 1994 as a communication assistant, working her way up to editor in chief of Florida Realtor magazine. In 2004, she left the association to start her freelance writing and editing business. One of her first clients was REAL Trends, and she started working for the organization in 2005. In 2014, Tracey was promoted to editor in chief of publications for REAL Trends. She handles the writing and editing of all REAL Trends publications and marketing materials, including LORE Magazine, the REAL Trends newsletter and the blog. She is also the primary podcast interviewer where she conducts interviews with top real estate industry leaders and affiliated industry leaders. Tracey is married with two children.

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