Real Estate - Residential

Q&A: Veteran Starts Her Own Real Estate Firm

By Cece Nunn, posted Jan 15, 2021
Kathryn Bruner
Kathryn Bruner became a real estate broker in 2017, after leaving an 8-and-a-half year career in the U.S. Coast Guard, where she was an operations specialist second class. 

Bruner stared her own real estate firm, Kathryn Bruner Realty, in November, and shares her take on striking out on her own and the local real estate market.

GWBJ: What made you decide to open your own firm?

Bruner: "Honestly, after leaving the Military, the more freedom I could get in my next career, the better. Freedom to travel whenever, and make my own schedule was something I craved, as soon as I left the Coast Guard. I loved what I did in the military; however, my entire adult life I worked for Uncle Sam. After a few years working as a real estate broker, being a 1099 employee was not enough; I was still an 'employee.' I needed to fully branch out on my own and create something that was solely mine to fail or succeed at."

GWBJ: How has your experience as a veteran influenced your business?

Bruner: "The discipline I learned from serving my country has truly been the foundation of my civilian career. If you are not 15 minutes early, you're late. I attribute my accountability, punctuality, and organization completely to my military experience. That and my ability to stay calm and level-headed under pressure. No one is dying during a Real Estate transaction; it takes a lot for me to get worked up. 

"From a veteran cultural perspective though, a large part of why I became a real estate broker was to help military families. Buying a home is the largest financial transaction most Americans will ever make in their life, and military families typically move every three or four years. I pride myself on supporting these families to leverage their VA benefits to make the most out of each transaction and build potential financial freedom for their families through smart real estate investments."

GWBJ: How would you characterize the state of the local real estate market

"Shocking, to say the least. I remember in March of last year when the first executive order was issued in North Carolina. The market practically froze for two weeks. Rumors of the 2008 real estate recession were swarming and people were just lying-in wait for a 'good deal.' However, that two weeks ended abruptly with the market taking off in the Wilmington area.

"Many of the families I sold homes to over the last year bought their homes purely online, site unseen. They never saw their home until they had their keys in hand and closed on the house. Most of my clients in 2020 and I never even met face to face. The industry of real estate adapted, just like everything else during COVID and created an online safe experience for families to continue to buy and sell homes."

GWBJ: What are some of the challenges Realtors are facing? 

Bruner: "Speaking from my own experience, I think one of the largest challenges I have been facing in this business, since COVID, is 'connection.' The people aspect of real estate is crucial. Connecting face to face with your clients, to truly see their facial expressions and understand their needs is important. Networking to build your referral resources is a huge aspect of this industry.

"Hosting in person open houses, client appreciation parties, and real estate trainings is part of the comradery, and building platform of our business. Learning to recreate this in a virtual space has been challenging and I know many of us are looking forward to being able to connect in person more often in the future."

GWBJ: What should buyers/sellers know about real estate in the current climate?

Bruner: "From a buyer's aspect, the number one thing you should accomplish before shopping for a home is getting prequalified with a local mortage lender. The best way to achieve that is to reach out to your preferred real estate broker and get them to refer you. This is extremely important to help you set a budget and get financially organized to make your purchase. Also, walking into the market prepared gives you leverage.

"So often buyers will get excited scanning Zillow and find their 'dream home' but by the time they find a real estate broker, get prequalified with a mortgage lender and see the house, its already under contract and they missed their shot. Being prepared is key to succeeding in this industry. (That, and buyers agent services are free to buyers in the state of N.C. if they are purchasing a home in MLS. Also, it costs nothing to fill out an application with a lender, does not even affect your credit. So being prepared and informed doesn't cost you a penny, just saves you time and money in the long run).

"Sellers sincerely need to vet their real estate broker thoroughly. Interview them just like you would an employee at a company. Hiring a strong real estate broker can completely transform the outcome of your transaction. Ask hard questions. You want your home displayed in the highest quality available, in order to achieve the highest profit margins."
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