Tracy McLauglin: Marin County’s Top Real Estate Agent

Real Estate Agent Magazine sat down with Tracy McLaughlin, Marin County’s Top Real Estate Agent, serving Aspen, Colorado, and Marin County who shared her journey to becoming the number one agent since 2005, attributing her consistent success to long hours, enthusiasm for homes and design, and a deep dedication to her clients. In the year 2022, Tracy’s success continued as she closed a staggering $233 million in successful real estate transactions. 

REAM: Can you tell us about your journey in becoming the number one real estate agent in Marin County since 2005? What do you attribute your consistent success to?   

TM: Honestly, a lot of very long hours and a lot of enthusiasm for homes, design, finding the right fit for our buyers and selling homes for the most amount of money for our sellers. I don’t ever think of real estate as “work” or a job. I absolutely love every aspect of the business and can’t wait to wake up every day to engage with our clients. I think the largest component of my success is my drive for perfection with marketing. I write every word of my content for homes and create a brand for a home the way I have branded my business. I also think that success in real estate is about really caring about your clients. It’s not a transactional job. It’s a job of relationships (hopefully for a lifetime). Building a hugely successful business is about caring deeply about your clients; their investment; and helping them buy the “right” home for them and their family. It’s not about commissions or closing deals. Agents who are trying to make fast money will never succeed in the long run if they are not deeply caring about their clients.

REAM: Could you share some highlights from your career in real estate, particularly in terms of the successful transactions you closed in 2022? What made those deals stand out? 

TM: 2022 was a challenging year coming out of the best year (2021) that I, and many others had, in residential real estate. Getting deals done in a rising interest rate market like 2022, especially in a tech dependent market like the San Francisco Bay Area, was fraught with challenges. Sellers were still expecting the same level of offers their neighbors saw in 2021. Yet the money that their perspective buyers were getting in loans started to double.  Talking those sellers off the ledge last year into being realistic on how their home prices had to adjust slightly off the highs of 2021 to accommodate higher rates for borrowers was a stand out from that year. 

REAM: As the co-founder of Morgan Lane Marin and the growth of Pacific Union International, what challenges did you face in establishing and expanding these brokerages? How did you overcome them? 

TM: Well we bought Pacific Union during the great recession. It was scary!  

There were months before the recovery where we were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. However, we continued to invest in technology and in our agents, knowing that there would eventually be a turnaround. The most successful businesses that came out of the recession (think Restoration Hardware) were the ones who did not stop investing out of fear but rather invested heavily in their future. 

REAM: Your book, “Real Estate Rescue: How America Leaves Billions Behind in Residential Real Estate and How To Maximize Your Home’s Value,” has received recognition. What inspired you to write this book, and what key insights do you hope readers will gain from it?  

TM: I watched a seller lose $500,000K in how she sold her home. I made one offer for +-$5.1m and she did not take it from my buyers. 8 months later another one of my clients paid $4.6m for the house. Her listing agent was new to the business. I watched her follow ill advice for the entirety of that listing which resulted in her losing a half million dollars.  It inspired me to write a book about all the mistakes people make buying and selling homes. 

REAM: With regular guest appearances on national podcasts, TV, and radio programs, how do you stay updated on the latest trends and developments in residential real estate? How do you ensure your knowledge and expertise remain current?  

TM: I am working in both Aspen and Marin so watching the market daily in both markets. Watching data is the single most critical component of working in residential real estate. Every day I look at active, pending and closed sales in both markets to keep abreast of how the market is moving.  I consistently look at Pinterest and all design resources to look at what’s trending for design and finishes. So, the combination of understanding values/price per square foot, understanding what is trending in design and what it costs to remodel and or build, is crucial for staying abreast of trends in the industry. 

REAM: Your ranking of number 24 in the United States by the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends is impressive. Could you share some strategies or practices that have contributed to your consistent placement in the top 100 of Real Trends for the past decade?   

TM: Honestly, that consistent top ranking is the result of working +-12-14 hours a day in ANY market. When markets are down, you must keep reaching out to your database (which is the nucleus of an agent’s business) to be more consistently in touch with former and current clients. When markets are “crazy busy,” it becomes easy to become out of touch with prior clients. However, this is also a critical part of keeping deal flows going when market slow down. I think that having a presence on social media (almost daily if possible with short, creative videos) so you are staying in front of buyers, sellers, friends and all potential clients is critical. The net net is I have always invested a lot of money in my business in all markets to stay ahead of competition. The inclination is to pull back on investing in your business when volume is down (like it is now!). However, continuing to invest with things like buying Zillow or Realtor. 

REAM: Beyond your real estate career, you are involved in various memberships and organizations. How do these affiliations contribute to your personal and professional growth?  

TM: I think that real estate is a people business. Being an active member of clubs, organizations, church, or other interests is critical to building out a client base.  So many of my clients have become friends; and so many friends have become clients. The synergy between the two is critical.

REAM: As the Real Estate Columnist for the Aspen Times, what topics do you typically cover in your column? How do you leverage this platform to educate and engage with your audience?   

TM: I tend to mostly pull the content of my book, “Real Estate Rescue” to create these columns. They are the main tenants of my book and are really informative for people. They include chapters on the importance of not overpricing, pricing for success, not doing unpermitted work, and selecting the “right” agent who will best represent you. 

REAM: Giving back to the community is important to you, as evidenced by your support for organizations like Marin County’s Center for Domestic Peace and Aspen’s Aspen Youth Center. Can you share why you chose these particular causes and the impact you hope to make through your contributions?  

TM: I do feel, and always have felt, that the majority of problems in our society are due to children not being treated well by parents. Child abuse is horrific and at the root of future drug use, criminal activity and eventually incarceration. Therefore, I have made it a goal to always give a portion of my commissions to charity. I started the “Klaas Family Housing” fund with Marc Klass a decade ago to support the families of missing children. I have also been supporting Marin’s “Center For Domestic Peace” which provides safe houses to children and parents suffering at the hands of abuse. It’s really important for me to find a way to thank people for the success I have had in this industry. I am passionate about those causes.

REAM: What advice would you give to aspiring real estate agents who are looking to establish a successful career in the industry? Are there any key lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would like to share?   

TM: Pick a brand and stick with that brand for your own business. It’s critical to stand out from the competition by picking a brand with a gorgeous logo, great imagery and a consistent message that you send out for at least 1-2 years in your sphere of influence.  It costs money to make money. Take out a loan if necessary but invest in your brand and consistently hammer that brand to the marketplace. It’s a “sun up to sun down” business and does not stop on the weekends. 

REAM: In your experience, what are some of the unique challenges and opportunities specific to the real estate market in Marin County? How do you navigate those challenges and leverage the opportunities to benefit your clients?   

TM: Some of the challenges include working in a market that is now mostly tech dependent. So, when tech is “down” like it is now, the market volume is way off. 20 years ago it was about the banking industry in the Bay Area. Now it’s largely tech dependent. We hopefully will see a resurgence in demand with the advent of AI and all of the investment going on with AI. However, the opportunities in the Bay Area/Marin Market are always endless mostly due to the amount of open space in the area that keeps pressure on pricing in most markets. When you always have limited supply, homes tend to historically go up in value and are a great asset for investment. 

REAM: Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for your real estate career? Are there any new initiatives or projects that you’re excited about pursuing in the near future?   

TM: Yes, I am writing a second book called: “I Bought A House And Ruined My Life (Or Almost Did)”.  The book is about very grave mistakes buyers make when they buy homes that could lead to a complete financial downfall. It’s based on true stories from my office over the past 26 years.  My primary goal is to teach my daughters Whitney and Grace everything I have learned in 26 years of doing this for a living so that they have the same knowledge base that I do in an industry that I feel will continue to thrive for decades. 

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