Mark Choey

Meet Mark, the founder, and CEO of Highnote, a presentation and proposal platform designed specifically for service providers. With a background as a top-producing salesperson, team and brokerage leader, computer engineer, and product designer, Mark has a unique insight into what it takes to create great software for service providers who don’t have time to design.


‘Reputation Matters’: Bay Area Agent Walter Daniel on the Importance of Good Relationships

When a former Coast Guardsman decides to enter the world of real estate, you can expect military-like organization, top-notch time management, and unsurpassed levels of strategic thinking. Walter Daniel sat down to tell us all about his approach to real estate, and why maintaining good relationships with fellow agents is extremely important. 

Hi, Walter! Thanks so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into real estate?

Sure. I’m the son of a veteran, so I moved around a lot when I was growing up. My Dad used to flip houses before it was cool. We were living in Philadelphia at the time, and he would buy houses and fix them and rent them out. I worked for him, doing painting, plumbing, sheet rock, laying tiles, soldering, loading up the truck, unloading the truck. So I guess that’s where I got my work ethic from. 

Then I went to college, got a degree in business, and moved to Hawaii while I worked in the Coast Guard. I bought two properties there. Then the whole 2006/2007 crash happened, so I’ve definitely been through the highs and lows of buying investments that don’t turn out to be good investments. 

So I was broke for a little while. I moved to Seattle with the Coast Guard, got my finances in order, moved to California, and started investing in properties again.

I’ve been a real estate agent for a little over a year. I felt as though I could add a different flavor to real estate sales. I’ve obviously moved around a lot, so I understand some of the concerns with moving. I also know the challenges of purchasing a home here in the Bay Area. So I thought my expertise combined with my own experience of buying a home with my family would allow me to help other families.

“I felt as though I could add a different flavor to real estate sales.”

The Bay Area has always been a hot market, even before the entire country became a hot market! Are things there starting to slow down a little bit?

It depends on the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods with great schools are still crazy, you can expect to receive eight or 10 offers on those, bidding wars, no contingencies. It’s the same principle it’s always been – location, location, location. 

What are some tricks of the trade that you use to make your buyers’ offers seem more appealing in multiple offer situations?

Well, you need to be in constant communication with the listing agent. You need to really be an advocate for your client. I’d say early and effective communication is the most important thing. Then you have to “win at the edges.” What I mean by that is that maybe you forgo the home warranty, or shorten the contingency period, or waive contingencies. Being ready to support comps definitely helps, as well as having disclosure packages already signed prior to submitting the offer.

If I know it’s going to be a tough one, I pretty much stay in my house all day and negotiate. You should know going into it, based on the neighborhood, what kind of negotiation you’re getting yourself into. If it’s a really popular neighborhood, it’s going to be an all-day negotiation because you’re competing. And you have to ask yourself what you’re doing to set your client apart from the rest. How are you going to compete with the other agents who want to find homes for their clients as well? This is a competitive game. If you can’t compete, then it’s probably not the game for you.

“I’ll stay in my house and negotiate all day if I need to.” 

It sounds like keeping good relationships with other agents in your area is extremely important.

Yes. Reputation matters. So do prior sales, being able to show them that you’ve done X amount of transactions in a year. Sending them your website is important, doing an offer in a HighNote sets you apart as well because your offer is clean, organized, and presented in a nice package.

Having amazing support also helps. I have an excellent transaction coordinator and an amazing loan partner who work as advocates to help us get deals accepted.

That sounds like a great way to keep agents on your good side! What do you do to win over clients? Obviously there is a lot of choice when it comes to picking a real estate agent.

I initially start with a phone call, try to find out their needs. From there, I’ll send them a recap of the phone call and a link to my website so they can see previous sales and other client reviews. I try to only work with three or four serious buyers at a time, so that I can give all of them the personal attention they deserve. 

“I try to only work with three or four buyers at a time, so I can give them the personal attention they deserve.”

How reliant are you on social media to gain new business and keep your name out there?

I post a “story” on social media every day. My partner also does a really cool thing called “A Day in the Life of a Bay Area Realtor,” where she’ll do a 45-second reel on Instagram. It’s all about Instagram. That’s how we talk, that’s how we promote our business, that’s how we prospect for clients, that’s how we prospect for other agents to join our team. If you’re a Realtor and you’re not on social media right now, you’re missing out. You’re behind.

What other technologies do you use in your business?

I love RealScout and Homebot. RealScout is for buyers, it automatically sends them emails with listings that fit their criteria. And Homebot is for sellers, it sends them a monthly report to show them how much equity they’ve gained in their home.

…And of course I love HighNote! 

What do you love about HighNote?

I love it because it’s so clean and precise. I put so many pictures in, because it really draws your eyes to have those photos in addition to the written information. I use it for listing presentations, I put a CMA in there, I put information about myself, my website, buyer guides. I also have one that we’re using to recruit new team members with, I put videos in there. It just makes you look like an absolute pro, and it’s crucial to my business. I can honestly say that I’ve won seven or eight clients just by using HighNote.

“I’ve won seven or eight clients just by using HighNote.”

Wow, that’s great. So you send over the HighNote listing presentation, you look like the most professional agent, and they pick you?

Yep. I’m not sitting there with a bunch of papers, all disorganized, when I meet the client. When I do listing presentations, I don’t bring a listing agreement. I think that’s kind of lame. I just talk, have a conversation. And I have the HighNote already prepared and I use it as a guide, depending on the client. Some clients don’t want to look at a screen, others like it. 

When I leave that initial meeting, I go out to my car and email the HighNote presentation. Then I’ll send a follow-up text letting them know I just sent it. They usually open it right then. It keeps me top of mind, and it neatly and cleanly puts all the information they need in there.

I also use HighNote for offers. I include my client’s pre-approval letter, proof of funds, the contract, information about myself, and send it over to the listing agent. I can see from the analytics when they open the offer. If they don’t look at it very long, I know it’s probably not going to get accepted. So then I’m ahead of the game by being ready to recommend other properties to my client.

I’d love to go back to something you said earlier – that you won seven or eight clients just from using HighNote. Can you tell me more about that?

Sure. This is a good story, actually. I got an online lead from Homelite, so I called the lead. She was saying that she had already talked to other real estate agents. I said that I understood, that I didn’t want to persuade her decision, but that I would like to send over a sales and marketing plan to show her how I would sell her home if she were to hire me. I sent over the HighNote and about 30 minutes later, she called and said that she was going to go with me. She said the presentation was super impressive.

“HighNote makes you look like an absolute pro.”

Another great way to win clients over is by listening to them and then putting important details in the HighNote that pertain to them. If you know that they have kids, include information relevant to parents. If you know they work at Facebook, put some tech stuff in there, etc.

That’s great advice. Speaking of advice – do you have any wisdom for someone who is just now looking to enter the world of real estate?

Get organized. Figure out the system. You need to time block. Partner with people for your first year, you’ll learn so much about different styles, different approaches, different ways of saying things. Partner with diverse people. That partnering will also help build your network. You want to make sure your name gets out there. That might not translate to as many sales as you want, or as much money, but you want to have a solid foundation in year one and that’s how you build it. 

“If you follow the Golden Rule and your intentions are pure, you’ll be successful.”

And most importantly, just treat others how you want to be treated. If you follow the Golden Rule and your intentions are pure, you’ll be successful. 

That’s great advice, Walter! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today!

Are you looking to buy or sell a home in the Bay Area? Be sure to contact Walter and follow him on Instagram

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