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Broker Spotlight: Barb Cooper, PMN

by Karen M. Kroll

Barb Cooper 2Twenty years ago, Barb Cooper, CRS, GRI, PMN, was trying to sell a house. After receiving little advice from her agent regarding pricing and market strategy, she decided to get into the business herself. "That experience was my gateway to the industry," says Cooper, who is now a broker-associate with Coldwell Banker in Austin, TX.

Cooper transitioned to real estate from the high-tech industry and noticed commonalities between real estate and her previous position, in which she managed contracts and business relationships. "It's about building relationships and managing projects," she says.   

Her early real estate experience also compelled Cooper to place a priority on stellar customer service. That holds true whether her clients are new to the home buying and selling process and thus need a bit more hand-holding, or have a few transactions under their belts. Either way, "I want to deliver great service," she says.

Since entering the real estate profession, Cooper has been affiliated with Coldwell Banker United. When she started, partnering with a large franchise was an obvious step: Cooper was new to the industry and had no professional connections. "You go with a brokerage and build your name," she says.  

Even now, the services a large franchise can offer remains important, Cooper says. "I appreciate the support, the education and the opportunities."
For instance, having moved up to a broker-associate role, Cooper has access to the relocation services CB offers. Given the pace at which Austin is growing – the city reports that its population jumped by nearly 48,000 between 2010 and 2012 – this business is thriving.

That's not to say the market doesn't present challenges. One of the most significant for REALTORS® is the "exponential pace of change" in technology, Cooper says. Especially in a city like Austin, with a relatively high proportion of tech-savvy and younger clients, REALTORS® need to work to stay at the front of the curve, she adds. Given that REALTORS® also need to focus on their clients, finding the time to learn and apply new technology can be difficult.

Even so, Cooper says it's critical. Prospective home buyers often are able to schedule just one trip to the city in which to look at houses. Cooper uses technology to make their visits as productive as possible. She'll text and email potential listings so that they can focus their actual visits on the neighborhoods and homes that best fit the buyers' needs. She also uses social media to stay connected with clients. "I have to work harder and faster for clients. The pace at which they need info is getting faster and faster," she says.

Keys to Success

Cooper's hard work is paying off. One sign: she recently received several referrals in one day. While noting that this isn't an everyday occurrence, Cooper said it was gratifying to see the rewards that can come when you try to provide a high level of service and take the time to meet and work with other real estate professionals through various professional organizations.

Indeed, Cooper has held a range of roles within several industry organizations. She currently is secretary and treasurer with the Austin Board of REALTORS® and is a committee chair with the Texas Association of REALTORS®. She's also served on a national steering committee for Women's Council.

"I like participating in my profession," Cooper says. "Personally, I get a lot out of it." Her clients appreciate the fact that she's involved in her industry. Working with other REALTORS® has helped her gained referral business. On a broader level, everyone benefits when REALTORS® are educated and up to date on trends, legislation and other issues that impact the industry, she adds.

Cooper also notes that the work she's done with organizations like Women's Council and NAR means that she is able to offer referrals of her own. If a former client is moving to another city and looking for assistance, Cooper can point her to a colleague she's met and perhaps worked with. "It's not just someone from a directory," she says. "I know they'll be in good hands."

Work-life Balance

While Cooper often needs to be ready to go at a moment's notice when prospective clients come into town, she also makes the effort to maintain a life outside of work. She tries to keep one weekend free each month to spend with her husband and schedules as many appointments as possible ahead of time. "I try to manage my time carefully."

Cooper also uses Austin's well-known music scene as an opportunity to both have fun and stay in touch with former clients. For instance, she's part of a group of about a dozen people, about two-thirds of whom are former clients, who head to Austin City Limits Music Festival each year. The members of the group engage in social media talk about the groups they want to see in the weeks heading up to the festival. After, they'll re-hash the performances they were able to see. "I use it as a fun opportunity to relax and see music. Using social media, I also use it as a relationship reminder."

Karen M. Kroll is a freelance writer from Chanhassen, MN.

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