We sat down with Bonnie Lai, an experienced and highly successful bilingual real estate agent. With an expansive real estate network and excellent skillsets, she ranks among the top agents in the state. Bonnie shared her story of success and her strategy for confronting daily challenges.
REAM: What inspired you to become a real estate agent, and how did you get started in the industry?
BL: As an immigrant from Hong Kong-China, my family moved to Boston in 1998. My parents made a decision early on to rent the first 10 years instead of buying to avoid depleting their life savings so my brother and I would have enough money to fund our college tuition. After we both graduated from college and worked for a couple of years, I was finally able to afford my first home in 2008 with an affordable lottery housing opportunity. In the same year, my parents bought a home as well in a 55+ plus community. This is the “WHY” I got into the real estate industry. Not only have I always loved the real estate industry because it helps build stability and wealth over time, it is also one of the most meaningful, life changing experiences for most people. I enjoy educating, advising and assisting my clients with my extensive knowledge, connections, and vast network in this industry. I am proud to be Your Real Estate Quarterback.
REAM: Did you have a career in another industry before embarking in real estate?
BL: I have my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. I was a public school music teacher and private instructor for many years. I also have another master’s degree in finance and controls and worked in the financial services industry for over half a decade servicing mutual, private equity and hedge funds.
REAM: What’s a piece of advice you would give to a new agent as they are beginning their career?
BL: Find mentors who share the same values and similar goals. Your broker might be an important resource you go to when you need help, but having mentors who have different strengths and skill sets will help you learn faster and become much more well-rounded.
REAM: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the real estate industry during your career, and how have you adapted to those changes?
BL: Ever since I became a realtor in 2014 the market has always been a seller’s market and biddings have increasingly become more and more competitive over the years. When COVID hit, the market paused for a couple of months and then the overbidding heated up to the boiling point. With the historical low interest rate in the past few years then the rapid jump in interest rate in the middle of 2022, the market experienced an extreme shock. Navigating through all of these changes on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, it has become crucial that I sharpen my knowledge on the real estate market, trends, and mortgage products. My eagerness to learn, and surround myself with the best of the best in the real estate industry continues to help me stay on top of my game and offer my clients the best advice there is.
REAM: What are some of the most important skills or qualities a successful real estate agent should possess, and how have you developed these over time?
BL: Always be ready to adapt to new changes. Knowledge is power. Be humble. Be patient. Be compassionate so you can relate to others and help manage expectations.
REAM: How do you manage your time and stay organized while juggling multiple clients and transactions?
BL: Technologies are your best friends. Have a system in place so you can keep track of all your transactions no matter how busy you are. Master the skill to delegate work that is not income generating.
REAM: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a real estate agent, and what keeps you motivated and engaged in your work?
BL: First time home buyers will always be my favorite clientele as being able to help them navigate home purchasing for the first time is an incredible experience. I love being part of the real estate community and am very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in many types of leadership roles over the years, as well as getting to work with the incredible people who are among the best of the industry leaders. We continue to get inspired and motivated by each other and keep our industry bar high together.
REAM: Tell us about your involvement in the real estate industry.
BL: I love being involved and giving back to the communities. I enjoy volunteering my time taking on leadership roles in various nonprofit organizations, such as Asian Real Estate Association of America, Women’s Council of Realtors Greater Boston Central, and Greater Boston Association of Realtors. I am also on the University of New Hampshire Alumni Association Board of Directors. Throughout my real estate career, I have been very fortunate to have met many great mentors who have helped me grow as a leader and become an industry expert in the real estate field. I take pride in helping fellow real estate professionals to maintain high industry standards, collaborate and help each other to succeed.
REAM: Can you tell us about more about your involvement in the Women Council of Realtors Greater Boston/Central area and why this organization is important to you?
BL: I have been a Women’s Council of Realtors member since 2018. The president of the Greater Boston Central network at the time was Carol Berberian who saw leadership qualities in me and asked me to become her membership director. Since then, I have taken the role of secretary (first vice president), President-elect, and 2023 President for our network. I love this organization because of our emphasis on our main four pillars: education, networking, referrals and leadership. We operate based on a shared value system of integrity, respect, consistency and a commitment to excellence and continuous development. The lifelong friendships are something I will always be thankful for.
REAM: How are you involved in the local community?
BL: I mentor college students, young professionals, community leaders in the local communities and other nonprofit organizations. I volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. I also teach first time home buyer courses with local housing authorities such as the Asian Community Development Corporation and Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. Helping first time home buyers has always been a strong passion of mine.
REAM: What is something your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?
BL: I love comedy, food and travel. If I retire from real estate, I would love to give stand up comedy a go!
REAM: Tell us a bit about yourself outside the office.
BL: There is nothing I enjoy more than trying new restaurants with my friends. I am currently working on getting my Yelp Elite status.
REAM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
BL: Real estate is the best career I can ask for. As my husband Charlie has recently joined me in the business, we are looking forward to many more good years to come and help many many more families with their real estate needs. My hashtag is #YourRealEstateQuarterback and I am fortunate enough that I get referrals from not only my past clients, friends and families, but also a lot of out of state or local referrals from other real estate agents because of my huge network from REMAX, AREAA, Women’s Council, GBAR and CRS. Wherever you need a real estate agent, I can find you a good one in the area you need!