Young Ones to Watch: Dena Fox

ESTATENVY connects with leading Chicago residential real estate agent for a deep dive into how she got into the business and where she finds her inspiration.

As the Chicago real estate scene continues to thrive, with residential properties flying off the market into the possession of new home buyers, a profession in Chicago real estate is extremely hot right now. But, with great opportunity comes an undeniable hustle needed in order to come out on top in the competitive market. To get more insight on what it takes to be a thirty-and-thriving real estate agent in Chicago, ESTATENVY connected with Dena Fox, at Baird & Warner, for the inside scoop.

What drew you to real estate?

My family has been in real estate for a long time. My dad was a commercial real estate attorney, my mom has been in the business for over 16 years now, and she grew up in real estate with her dad being a builder. My parents felt so strongly about real estate that they insisted my brother and I get our license when we were still in college. They told us they didn’t care if we ever used it but it was good to have regardless. And, they couldn’t have been more correct.

It’s the one thing I tell anyone that is remotely interested in real estate. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, even if you don’t ever actively sell real estate. I had been at a job that wasn’t exciting me and lacked client interaction. I thought real estate would be a great blend of daily client interaction, each day would be different, and I could stand out with a finance background and provide a more analytical perspective to my clients. So, the week of my wedding, I quit my job and came back from my honeymoon and partnered up with my mom in real estate. It was the best decision I ever made.

What changes in the industry excite you?

The industry is constantly evolving and it’s crucial to be up-to-date on all new technology. It’s so important to use social media – it amazes me how powerful Instagram stories are for real estate. I am constantly posting listings I have coming soon on the market. And, when I’m showing buyers properties that are off the market, unique features or pretty elements of a home I am able to get amazing engagement from my followers. The stories are typically viewed by hundreds of people and I get comments from people I haven’t talked to in 10 to 20 years, which tells me what I’m doing is working. I find Instagram to be the best platform to capture the attention of the consumer right now.

How did you get to the place you are currently at in your career?

A lot of people come into real estate as a fallback and because they want to make money while having complete flexibility in their schedules. This is pretty much the opposite approach to take if you are looking to make real estate into a career. You need to fully commit yourself, not only to make yourself available to your clients when needed, while still having boundaries but also constantly being in touch with past clients and actively pursuing leads so that you are always top of mind.

I have three young kids and a wonderful husband who knows he won’t see me much from January to June since that is our busiest time of year and I have to give it my all during that time. That being said, you have to create boundaries for yourself, otherwise, real estate will completely take over your life. Since my kids were born, I try to take Friday’s off from meeting clients so that I can spend the day with them. I think my clients appreciate it and honestly, the ones that don’t respect it aren’t worth working with, which you have to be okay with.

Of equal importance is treating this as a business. I have a corporation that I run everything through and a checklist that I utilize for every process that is standard throughout the real estate transaction – from getting a lead to closing on a deal. Organization and a systemized approach are key in constantly driving new business.

This business is all about relationships and building trust not only with leads, referrals and your sphere but also with your colleagues so that when you have a difficult deal or are in a multiple offer, you can get it done.

What advice do you have for up-and-comers?

You really have to know what you’re getting yourself into with real estate in order to make a career out of it. It’s a lot of nights and weekends and there are a lot of fire drills. With how unpredictable each day can be, you do need to create some sort of schedule for yourself or nothing will get done. I try to go through emails three times a day (morning, midday and before bed) and tell my clients to text me if they need to get ahold of me immediately. I try to give my clients my full attention when I’m with them so keeping up with emails all day is not always possible. You also need to be okay with going out of your comfort zone when it comes to generating business. Most people aren’t comfortable putting themselves out there and asking for business but you have to. And, I tell anyone that is interested in getting into real estate that it’s at least a two-year ramp-up time. Attach yourself to an experienced agent and learn as much as you can from them. Ask a lot of questions.

How do you market yourself to stand out from the competition?

We have a number of differentiating factors. We are a mother-daughter team with supporting agents and a full-time assistant. We cover both the city and suburbs, which is unique in real estate to cover such a big area. I run our city business and my mom runs our North Shore business, with some overlap of course. Our age gap provides a unique perspective. In the suburbs, we work with a lot of home sellers that are more my mom’s generation looking to downsize. I, on the other hand, represent today’s buyer of those homes. So, my mom is able to relate to them and provide her 16-plus years of experience, whereas I can give them insight into what the millennials and today’s buyers are looking for in a home.

Do you have any real estate role models?

My mom is my number one role model. She taught me everything I know about this business and I’m so lucky to work with her every day and have her as my business partner. I am constantly still learning from her even five years into real estate. Her unique ability to establish deep relationships with the people she encounters in life and build such strong trust is truly what makes her unstoppable.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I hope to have a team that is outpacing both me and my mom. I hope to be a mentor to our team so that my mom can pull back more to spend time with her grandkids. We would like to be doing over $100 million in volume and have a more organized and systemized approach that can be easily learned and adopted by anyone joining our team.