Kevin is the owner and broker of the real estate firm Coldwell Banker Elite. Kevin, who happens to be my boss, has a very unique story about how he came to be where he is today.
Kevin immigrated to the U.S. when he was 20 years old. He came to America on a track scholarship from Ireland where he ran for the Irish Junior Track Team. He was awarded a scholarship and was given a choice of attending college on the west coast or east Tennessee, and the final decision was based on how far it was from home. So he ended up in East Tennessee.
While in school, he had a job plus he had a rigorous track schedule. They ran 20 miles every day on top of a three-hour workout. He often fell asleep studying in the library and was up at six o’clock the next morning to do it all over again. As a result of all this hard work, they had a really, really strong team, possibly the best in the nation at the time.
And so, Kevin’s incredible work ethic was born.
Kevin graduated on a Saturday and started work for the local telephone company the following Monday. He worked teaching color codes and soldering techniques to new hires. He traveled around to different jobs in the U.S. for two years. Then, he decided to try real estate for one year in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Friends had suggested that he might do well in real estate and he thought it might be fun to do something totally different for one year.
So far, he’s been at it for nearly 43 years.
It was such a perfect fit for him! He absolutely loved interacting with people, mainly because he hadn’t had the opportunity to do that up until then. When he was running long distance he spent a lot of time by himself. Jobs he worked as an apprentice in Ireland had him working on machinery alone. Later, he worked out in the wilderness by himself with a welder and a tractor.
So, after working alone for so long, dealing with people each and every day just felt amazing to him. Kevin told me that he gets the same adrenaline rush from completing a transaction, as he did winning a race. His competitive nature, nurtured in track and cross country for so many years, became an asset in real estate. So, he found himself hooked and here he is still working in real estate 43 years later.
The reason he moved from Tennessee to Virginia had to do with a girl and running. Kate ran cross country for the University Mary Washington, and on Halloween 41 years ago, she went out for a run, and Kevin happened to go for a run at the same time. They passed each other once. Then they passed each other a second time, and they stopped and talked. He told me he’s been listening to her ever since.
Kevin’s real estate business has grown into what it is today, a large brokerage called Coldwell Banker Elite which serves Northern Virginia, Stafford, and Fredericksburg. Kevin recently celebrated 40 years in real estate! So, how did he get where he is today? How did he transition from being an agent to starting a real estate company of his own?
Fourteen years ago he and a partner decided to start their own company. They started a small brokerage on Charles Street in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It had been an old stable, so they named their new company Carriage House Realty. They had a lot of fun. It was a small group, but everybody worked hard, and it grew. They opened a second office in Stafford, and soon after they decided it was best to split up. Kevin ended up with the Stafford office, and over the years, it grew from the one office to where we are today with nine.
I asked Kevin how he chose to go with a big brand like Coldwell Banker. When he stopped laughing, he told me that Sears owned Coldwell Banker back in 1980, and they weren’t that big. At the time, Sears was planning on putting financial services in all their stores. Dean Witter, Allstate, and Coldwell Banker were planned. Somebody from Coldwell Banker approached Kevin and his partner. They were independent and argued back and forth over whether they should franchise or not. The funny part is, the downtown office in Fredericksburg, used to be the old Sears catalog store. How ironic is that? Ultimately, the decision to go with a national brand was really a no brainer because Fredericksburg was growing. There were a lot of people coming from California and other parts of the country, and Coldwell Banker was very strong on the west coast. They had the first Coldwell Banker franchise in Virginia.
In the beginning, they had people coming into the offices thinking it was a bank and looking to cash checks! One great benefit of being involved with Coldwell Banker is that the office is still independent. It’s locally owned and operated when it suits the customer’s needs. It’s a family company with people that understand the local market, but when there’s a situation that requires a bigger view of the real estate world, they’re part of the largest real estate company in the world. It’s kind of neat for buyers and sellers, but it’s also really neat for agents because they are affiliated with a hometown company, and decisions are made locally so things can get done pretty fast.
Coldwell Banker Elite is currently going through some rebranding and the future looks incredibly bright. We’re all so proud of what we’ve put together. I mean what we have created is unbelievable. I think we have the best training. I think we’ve been successful in putting wonderful people together and we’re ready to move into the future.
Kevin’s top three tips for new or aspiring agents:
- First of all, real estate is a tremendous field to work in. For me, it’s about freedom. You work hard. You work long hours. But the freedom and independence it gives you are priceless. I often say I started in 1977, and I don’t feel like I’ve really worked a real job since then. I’ve worked my butt off, but it gives me tremendous freedom.
- I think the joy of being able to help people and make their moves smoother and less stressful, is tremendous.
- For a young agent just getting into the business, I think the sky’s the limit. That’s the wonderful part of it, but you do have to work hard now. It’s very, very different today than when I got into the business. Technology… the size of contracts…, everything is so much more involved today. And it takes much longer to get your arms around all of that. So you have to figure a way to be successful fairly quickly. You need to be in the business long enough to learn all the things you need to learn. If you go in knowing that I think it’ll be easier for you to be successful. I think a good mentor is priceless. I think being with the right company so you can get the education you need to be confident out on the street is vital.
Kevin’s top tips for home buyers (especially first timers):
I don’t mean for this to sound self-serving, but it’s so important for potential buyers to work with a good agent because that’s priceless. I mean, they will benefit from that agent’s experience when it comes to the mortgage title. Having a good experience when buying your first home, could be beneficial to them for the rest of their life. A good first experience will keep them in the real estate market. And, as you know, owning real estate is a great way to build wealth as they go through life, which is especially beneficial to a young person just starting out. Once they find their first home, and if they’ve worked with a great agent and it’s been a good experience, they’re pretty much set for life.
Kevin’s top tips for sellers:
For sellers it’s a bit trickier. First, I think It’s even more important to work with a good agent you can trust. There are so many people out there that offer their services at a discount price, or even those that will do something practically for nothing. You pretty much get what you pay for though. Selling a house in today’s world is so different than it was just a few years ago. We’re using big data right now to find buyers, and we’re using it in such a huge way. And you’ve got to have an agent that’s familiar with using data and technology. At Coldwell Banker Elite, we have a program called CBX. The way it can find the right buyer for your home is just unbelievable. I think if somebody tries to do it on the cheap, they’d end up losing money. One of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with over the years has been convincing a seller to price their house correctly. They usually want to start out way too high, then end up losing money in the long run because days on market is such a critical part of selling real estate. Pricing it right to begin with is so important. In a market like ours, there’s a good chance you could actually get more than you’re asking… If you price it right. If it sits on the market for any length of time, you may end up taking less for your property. So a really good agent can steer you through that process and help you get the best price for your house.
So, now you know Kevin Breen. He is a very hard working man. He’s actually a local icon in the Fredericksburg area and a very well known owner and broker. You can find more information about Kevin on the Coldwell Banker Elite website, www.coldwellbankerelite.com
Where you work, is where you live, and you have to enjoy what you do. And Kevin is a shining example of that. It trickles down to everyone that works for and with him at Coldwell Banker Elite.
The Give Back Team of Coldwell Banker Elite is a team of full-service realtors in Virginia, that does more than just assist clients with their home selling and buying needs. We also give back to the local community, and to the charity of our clients choice after each closing. Giving back to our community means we’re a part of something bigger, deeper, and longer-lasting. So, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or relocating to a new area, each client receives the individual attention they deserve. The Give Back Team of Coldwell Banker Elite is a team of like-minded people, seeing the big picture, with big hearts. We give back one closing at a time. To learn more go to givebackteam.com.