As part of our Growing Admiration Series, we set up an interview with Christy Berry this week. With a highly successful real estate career, a Master of Business, and a Ph.D. in family studies behind her, she has a fascinating perspective on life, leadership, work, and trends in backyard design.
How did you get into real estate?
I have 5 children and my husband and I used to be a part of a dinner club of people who had five children or more. Robby Briggs was in that club, and he was always saying, “Christy, you really need to get into real estate—you’d be so good at it.”
I was in research— I had gotten my Ph.D. in family studies, and I was a researcher at Cooper. Unfortunately, they don’t pay for anything. And with five kids (some of them in college), I realized I had to make more money.” So I started real estate and the rest is history.
After being at Briggs for about ten years, a partner and I decided to create our own thing. At the time, there hadn’t been a boutique firm started in twenty years in Dallas.
Before that though, we had been watching Compass. In fact, we actually flew to New York before we decided to start The Collective Residential and said, “You need Compass to be in Dallas. We’ll open it for you.” They flat-out refused.
Then, not even a year after launching The Collective, we received an email from the CEO of Compass saying, “Would you all be interested in talking to us about opening a Compass in Dallas?” He didn’t realize we had proposed this idea a year ago.
So we flew to New York three days later and closed the deal by the 31st of December.
What do you like about real estate?
Probably the people—that’s my favorite. I get to meet so many interesting people and follow their lives. I mean, by the time you do their first home and then their second home, and then they’ve got children, you really get to know your clients. And all of their careers are varied and incredible. I’ve got everything from the CEO of American Airlines, to the CEO of a virtual gaming company, to the guy who mows my lawn. I’ve covered the gamut, and I love that.
You mentioned that you got your Ph.D. in family studies?
Yes, and that really helps with my real estate career. Many times, people are selling or buying homes because of family-related issues — death or divorce, etc.
Your career has had a few turns then! What else?
I moved our family to London for a year for an international experience. I simply started the Ph.D. program over there — and I can’t remember how I found out about it, but I was going to go into clinical work, more like therapy work. When I came back, I was researching at Cooper doing clinical work and studies.
The only reason I left research was that it didn’t pay anything. I was in business (I have an MBA too), and I was on Wall Street for years. That’s where I started my career. I’ve always done entrepreneurial stuff, so I wasn’t scared to start my own firm.
Really, in real estate, you’re always a small business owner. If you don’t run it right, you’ll lose money.
What kind of trends do you think people are looking for in real estate right now?
Well, it depends on who you talk to. The empty nesters want to downsize. (Well, they say they want to downsize, but they end up not downsizing.) Either way, they want a change. They want something simpler. They don’t want all those trinkets around. They’re ready to declutter.
…whereas the younger people are just getting into that phase. So it just depends on who I’m dealing with.
What are some trends you see in backyards and patios that are appealing to customers these days?
I’m in two places. I sell second homes in Harbor Springs, Michigan and homes in Dallas. So Harbor Springs is all about porches. Everybody’s got a porch. It’s all about sitting on your porch because the views are pretty and the weather’s pretty. And it’s important that your porch looks good, too.
In Dallas, the trend for sure is turf. Because turf means less bugs and no maintenance, so it’s a really good alternative. Then, they’ll make that back porch where they put all their plants, and the plants are mostly in containers like yours because you can’t plant in turf.
How can a well-dressed patio or porch up the sell of a listing?
Oh. A lot. The backyard is BIG right now.
People will ask, “What’s the backyard like?” in their first few questions. If there’s nothing on it or it’s boring, you lose customers.
Is this a new trend?
It might be a millennial thing — that they want a nice backyard. They’re at that age where the kids want to play in the backyard and they have smaller homes, so they want to use every space they have. They want to make use of the backyard instead of just sitting and looking at it.
What is some advice you have for other women who are either struggling to feel empowered to do what they want to do or are trying to find ways to fulfill their big dreams and ambitions?
Well for one, always keep learning — you have to. Then, figure out your downfalls and address them. Figure out what’s going to keep you from getting to the top and address it. Whatever it is, ask yourself: what do you need to do to get better?
And then, remember that your personal brand is a very important piece. Women need to be aware of how they’re presenting themselves. How do you come across to other people? Just like we say with homes: the first showing is the internet. That’s your first showing too. Anyone can find out stuff about you, so just be sure you’re doing it in the right light.
For more interviews in our Growing Admiration Series, click here.