“Generational knowledge is power in this industry,” observed Georgia Stevens, a second-generation REALTOR® and moderator at last month’s program of the Women’s Council of Realtors® – Seattle Metro. The event featured a panel of mothers and daughters who shared their “trials, tribulations and successes.”
Stevens quizzed each duo on their working relationships (“who’s the boss?”), a particularly memorable challenge or success, and their idols or role models.
At Team Foster, co-founder Tere Foster said “If you work on the team, you know Moya (daughter Moya Skillman) is the boss.” She attributes part of Moya’s “in charge” position to her prior experience before joining Team Foster. Although Moya grew up going to her mom’s open houses, she spent seven years in Washington, D.C. working with elected officials and tech executives before moving back to the Seattle area and transitioning into real estate.
Both mother and daughter were quick to credit each other and their colleagues – and their trust in each other — with contributing to their success as one of the top producing teams in the country, with annual sales volumes topping $200 million.
Asked what happens if they disagree, Foster said they talk it out as partners, adding there isn’t a lot of territorial control. Skillman emphasized holding true to the data is also a factor, but admitted she tends to be more unforgiving and hard line with difficult clients, whereas Foster “believes in the best in every person.” With complete trust and confidence in each other, they agreed it’s a mostly seamless relationship.
Both Foster and Skillman named Foster’s father as an idol. He had escaped Ukraine during the first World War and would often remind his family of his gratitude for having work, recognizing not everyone has that opportunity. “I was channeling my father during the ’08 experience and housing market crash,” Foster admitted.
Turning to the second mother-daughter duo, Stevens asked Randi Brazen and Taylor Brazen Tagge the same “who’s in charge” question.
Former Hollywood actress Randi Brazen said daughter Taylor is the one who cracks the whip. Like her father, Joseph (the third member of The Brazens at Windermere team and the longest licensed of the trio), Taylor is a sports enthusiast who understands the importance of relationships and teamwork.
Randi says Taylor is a wiz at numbers and credits her with transforming how their team prepares CMAs.
Tagge transitioned to real estate from an accounting career at one of the “Big Four” firms after realizing the path to becoming a partner might not be compatible with her desire to start a family. She approached her father about switching careers, but first insisted he match her salary before she’d make the leap. She now refers to her parents as two of her best friends and says doing something she loves with two people who mean the most to her has been an amazing experience.
The Brazens are longtime Bellevue residents who market themselves as “a family team selling families homes.” Family is paramount to parents Joseph and Randi, who are excited that all three daughters are currently pregnant. “Taylor brings her kids to the house — but we still get work done,” says Randi.
“Getting work done” was something Taylor learned as a youngster. She has memories of her dad’s early days in real estate when she and her sisters were recruited to affix stamps to his marketing materials. He would remind them, “You can’t be a secret agent.”
Stevens asked Randi Brazen if being well-known ever works against them, noting the family’s deep involvement in Bellevue through real estate, their restaurants, and their community service. Randi admitted she sometimes struggles trying to remember a name when she encounters someone. “Sometimes I just avoid QFC,” she quipped.
As for inspiration, former actress Randi names Sophia Loren, Jane Fonda and Raquel Welch, saying they’re beautiful and entrepreneurial. Like them, she says she wants to be active, look her best and be philanthropic. Taylor names her parents in part because “they’ve built a great family and they’re two of the hardest working people I know.”
The third and newest mother-daughter team on the panel, Sharon O’Mahony and Bridget London, joined forces recently when Bridget transitioned from working in the equestrian world, including a stint with equestrian events at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
London is a third generation real estate broker, but admits she never imagined shifting careers from horses to houses. She and her mom are based at Windermere’s Seattle-Greenwood office and “are still discovering each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
O’Mahony, this year’s president of Seattle King County REALTORS®, has been selling real estate in the Seattle area for nearly two decades, having moved here from Los Angeles where she worked in film and television production. Those skills, along with a background in writing and photography, have served her well in prepping listings.
O’Mahony is known to be detail oriented with a penchant for listings, while her “well-organized” daughter Bridget is willing to do all the showings and likes matching buyers and homes. Both women enjoy staging homes.
When asked about someone they look up to, O’Mahony said her hard-working mother. “We went through rough times when I was a kid, and only child. She kept things going.” London had a similar answer: her mom, saying “I’ve learned everything from her.”
Panelists were asked about tips they’d give about working with a family member or close friend.
Skillman said having clear communication, some structure to the partnership, and an understanding of what happens if the partners disagree are essential from the outset. “Communication can help take the emotion out of it,” she emphasized.
Tagge said professional and family life can get muddled. “We’re all very passionate and all invested in what we do, but there’s a time and place to just be family and not bring business to the table.”
Panelists also shared some tips on working through difficult situations, such as needing to list a home following a client’s loss of a job or spouse.
“What you bring in some situations of terrible stress or duress is what you do best: get their real estate sold and get them on their way,” suggested Foster. “You put the client first but need to recognize you can’t fix all the other things that contribute to their stress.”
Brazen recalled a situation with an older couple who were in the process of listing their Eastside home and buying a 3-story home on Camano Island when the wife committed suicide. “We found him a more appropriate home in Bellevue, and we were able to get a loan through Windermere to make needed improvements on his home, which enabled him to get a half-million dollars more. In addition to collaboration, love and nurturing helped with that transaction.”
Tagge said she is usually the one to figure out which member of their team should take the lead after an initial meeting with a new client. “One benefit of a family team is we can divide and conquer.”
Panel members also shared some advice on how they’ve added non-family members to a dynamic mother-daughter team.
Team Foster, consisting of eight members, invites prospective new members to spend a day in the office after they’ve successfully interviewed and if everyone on the team agrees the candidate would be a good fit.
O’Mahony said she is not looking to grow their team too much, instead relying on collaborating with others in their office and outsourcing. “We want to maintain a work/life balance and have time for other things. (For O’Mahony, that has meant acquiring a horse and riding.)
The mother-daughter panel, held at the Golf Club at Newcastle, drew 60 attendees and marked WCR’s largest in-person event since before the pandemic. It was also the Seattle Council’s annual fundraiser.