She shares her name with a famous actress, but Cait Hudson of Twin Oaks Real Estate is far more passionate about houses than Hollywood. She’s been helping buyers and sellers achieve their Bay Area real estate dreams for eight years, and she sat down with us to share the secrets to her success. 

Hi, Cait! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. Can you start off by telling me a little bit about yourself, and how you got into real estate?

Sure. I got into real estate about eight years ago, which sounds crazy to say out loud! I literally just renewed my license, we have to do that every four years. I became a real estate agent because I was really unhappy in the job that I was doing after I graduated college. A friend told me that since I had always been good at sales (I worked at Nordstrom and Macy’s in high school and college), I would also be good at real estate. I decided to give it a try because I had nothing to lose. I kept working at my job but I took night classes at a local community college and got my license. The day I got it, I put in my two-week notice at my job and I haven’t looked back since!

“The day I got my license, I put in my two-week notice at my job. I haven’t looked back since!”

So you took a leap of faith and it paid off! Did you find it really challenging at first? Were there any moments when you felt like quitting?

Oh, I think everyone thinks about quitting at some point! You have hard days, and you ask yourself what the heck you’re doing. But that’s the case with any job. I kept pushing through because I wanted to succeed, and I wanted to prove to those who were doubting me that I could do it.

You’re located in the Bay Area. That has always been a competitive housing market, but even more so in the past couple of years. Are you starting to see things slow down, or is there still a bidding war for every property?

I would say in the last month or so, because interest rates have gone up from being historically low, buying power has changed. That basically means that some people who were able to afford a certain price point can’t do that anymore. Then there’s the fact that more houses are coming on the market so there’s more inventory. So yes, things are changing.

I had a house in Concord that went on the market about a month ago. It was a beautiful house and it was priced right, and I was expecting to receive around 20 offers. I only got one offer! Of course, one offer is fine. You only need one good offer.

When you find yourself competing against other buyers, what do you do to make your buyer’s offer seem more appealing, even if they’re not the highest offer?

I think what gets really overlooked in this business is your reputation with other agents. If you have a really good reputation with another agent for being responsive, polite, following up, and writing good offers, then that goes a really long way. So you might not be the highest offer, but maybe the other agent isn’t nice to work with. Maybe they’re not responsive. Maybe they have a reputation for deals falling through.

“Your reputation with other agents is so important.”

There are a lot of agents out there, and a lot of them aren’t so great. So when agents find someone that’s good to work with, they want to keep working with that person. It makes life so much easier. You’re dealing with that other agent for 30 days, so picking someone who is easy to work with is worth a lot!

Then of course there are other things you can do, like when the market was going nuts it was pretty much a given that every buyer would offer free rent-back to the seller. A lot of people were also going non-contingent, which made me really nervous for buyers because they were waiving inspections. I’d rather have my buyers lose out on homes than put them in a situation where they find something bad in the house later on because they didn’t do an inspection. I’m a very risk averse agent!

Let’s talk marketing. Real estate agents are everywhere. How do you make sure you stand out in a sea of other agents?

I rely very, very heavily on social media, mainly Instagram, where I do something called ‘A Day in the Life of a Real Estate Agent.’ I try to post every day, and I’m usually really consistent. It’s not just me posting about showing houses. I let people see a glimpse into my day, whether I’m going for a run or cooking, etc.

“I rely heavily on social media, especially Instagram.”

I don’t expect that someone is going to reach out to me directly because of that, but I don’t think it hurts. And it keeps me top of mind for my friends on Instagram who see me post every day, so they can refer their friends to me when they’re looking to buy or sell a home. I also rely really heavily on my reviews, I have a Yelp page with over 40 reviews which are all five stars.

What about old-school ways of marketing, like snail mail advertising? Do you do that as well?

Yes! When the market shifted heavily to a seller’s market, I had to think of something different to do. I could get buyers all day long, I could pick up 10 new buyers a day on Zillow Flex. But I was having a harder time getting sellers so I went back to the old way of doing postcards. I also just launched a monthly newsletter that gets mailed out to local addresses, which includes some fun articles and a list of upcoming events in the area, with my contact information on the back.

“When the market shifted, I had to think of a new way to attract sellers.” 

Do you think there’s still a place for real estate agents who only rely on old-school marketing methods and refuse to use social media to attract clients?

I think there’s a place for everyone, but I also think that agents have to be flexible. You have to move with the times, or your business is going to suffer. Yes, you can be a referral-based business, but if you want to take your business to the next level then you’re going to need to add different avenues. I always tell the agents on our team, don’t rely heavily on Zillow Flex. That should just be the cherry on top of the other things you’re doing. You should have at least three or four different ways that you think you’re going to be able to generate business, whether it’s postcards, social media, door knocking, etc. You should be using a plethora of different methods.

“Agents have to be flexible and move with the times, or their business will suffer.”

You’re also a big fan of HighNote. I’d love to hear all the different ways you use it. 

Yes. I’ve been using HighNote for about three years now. I rely heavily on it for my buyer presentations, I think they’re very helpful for first-time homebuyers. I’ve really dialed in and have a great presentation template. I also use it for listing presentations, which is great because it’s so different from what the average real estate agent does, which is leave a folder of paperwork for the seller. The best thing is that you can send these presentations to your buyers and sellers and then check the analytics to see if they’ve looked at them. That’s the biggest advantage of HighNote, and it’s something you can’t do with an old-fashioned folder full of papers.

“The biggest advantage of HighNote is the analytics.”

Walter Daniel – my partner on the Hudson-Daniel Team – and I also use HighNote for our team agreements, for when new members join us. It has slides about us and about Twin Oaks.

Do you use the HighNote analytics to inform your future presentations? Do you tweak them if you notice there are sections that people don’t view as much?

I did in the beginning, but after three years my presentations are in the perfect place. I know what works because I’ve edited and changed them throughout the years. But yes, the analytics did help inform those decisions in the early days.

That’s great, Cait! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me!

Are you looking to buy or sell a home in the Bay Area? Be sure to contact Cait

…And if you’re a real estate agent looking to take your business to the next level, click here to get started with HighNote!