In the latest Tips from the Top, we sat down with Herman Chan of The Sotheby’s International Realty. Chan is one of San Francisco’s premier real estate agents, who has been recognized nationally for his sales success. Chan is trilingual (English, Chinese and French) and a UC Berkeley alumnus. He has appeared as a real estate expert in print and television outlets and is the author of “Looking Up,” a book of stunning photographs.

REAM: What’s your best tip to give to a new agent as they are beginning their career?

HC: Have 6-9 months of reserves. That’s how long it takes to get first deal done for many new agents. The exit rate is high in this field. 50% of new agents leave the business in 2 years. 80% of new agents quit in 5 years. Ask yourself truly why you want to be in this industry.

REAM: What qualities make you a Top .5% Nationally Ranked Realtor?

HC: I am a perfectionist. A workaholic. For me, consumer always comes first. I solve my client’s problems with a smile!

REAM: What are some of the habits you’ve developed that have led to your success?

HC: I pick up my phone when it rings. I get back to people as soon as possible. I try to stay ahead of curve. Once everyone else is doing something, it’s time for me to move on. Always product differentiate yourself!

REAM: How did your education have helped you becoming such a successful real estate agent?

HC: While you don’t need a college degree to sell real estate in CA, I will say that going to UC Berkeley changed my life. I am forever grateful to my Alma mater. Work ethic. Striving to be the best. The importance of surrounding yourself with both like-minded people and not like-minded people.

REAM: How do you work to maintain balance between your home life and work life?

HC: What balance!? LOL. I’m not complaining. I have no kids, and I am not married. I have nothing else to do but help my clients!

REAM: What is your best advice to other agents for managing seller’s expectations?

HC: Honesty is best policy. No point to feed your sellers false dreams. In past years, even if they wanted an outrageous price, quite possibly the sizzling market would have bailed you out. Not now. You don’t want to be stuck with an unrealistic seller whose listing is going to suck up your time and resources… That you can be focusing on for more productive business.

REAM: What is the most interesting sale you had represented and why?

HC: I had to accompany an elderly man to get himself deemed mentally incapacitated. He owned a property, but was fleeced by a realtor who sold all his antiques and moved him into an old folks home and was draining his fortune… Unbeknownst, to his only family member, a nephew. He was trapped out of the country couldn’t come save his uncle. His nephew tapped me to help get the control of property again, access to it, and names of all involved with the elder abuse & fraud. And most hard for me was driving uncle to doctor to be declared not in control fully of his faculties (at the direction of his nephew and living trust).

REAM: Can you tell us more about your presence in the media such as House Hunters or My House is Worth What?

HC: I shot many episodes! Super fun time of my career when I was ramping up a reputation for myself in the business. I was randomly called by a producer to step in on an episode where the prior realtor couldn’t perform. I did so well they kept shooting episodes with me! House hunters, tiny house hunters, and I eventually had 2 TV shows optioned. One was produced for LogoTV (Viacom, who owns MTV VH1 etcetera), we shot the pilot in DC. They didn’t go anywhere, but it was a blast!

REAM: Please elaborate about your top selling book “Looking Up: Images to Uplift and Inspire.” What inspired you to publish it? What is the book about? What is the message behind it?

HC: Someone came up to me after I spoke at a conference and said they loved all my Instagram photos because they all looked up, and she looked up to me. I thought, “Wow that’s a book!” All the photos in the book I personally shot. They all look up, and I put the images with my favorite quotes from my favorite celebrities!

REAM: Did you have a career in another industry before embarking in real estate?

HC: I was hired right off UC Berkeley campus to work at the Gap, Inc Corporate Headquarter. I left in 3 months! That 9-5 life was not for me. I am too independent and creative. I did quite a bit of print modeling before I got my license

REAM: How are you involved in your community? Is there one group you support especially? Why did you select that cause/group?

HC: Asian real estate Association of America (AREAA). 17,000 members who advocate for home ownership, especially in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. I am their past National Luxury Chair, creating the first Luxury Real Estate Designation with Asian chapter. I have co-chaired their Global Luxury Conferences, interviewing Bling Empire Star Kane Lim on stage. Also, I lobbied in Washington DC/Sacramento for our “No Other Campaign” that successfully classified Asians with their own category instead of being hidden under “No Other” category.

REAM: What career goals do you have for the next five years? The next 10? Where do you see the peak of your career?

HC: I could have retired by now. So, it’s not about more money or more sales.  While rest of world was able to ponder existential questions during pandemic, realtors were so busy try to keep up with market we didn’t have time to reshuffle our goals/values. I’m going through that now!

REAM: Are there any changes coming in the future that you’re excited to announce?

HC: I’m having fun filming my video series for the Real Deal called SFConfidential. I just filled a master class about “How to Start in Real Estate” for a real estate app. Stay tuned!

REAM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?

HC: I play the piano. When time permits hours could pass while I tickle thé ivories. It’s vital for agents to have creative outlet, make art, music, take care of the kids. Otherwise, the business will drive you nuts!

REAM: Is there anything else you would like to add?

HC: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” -Oscar Wilde

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