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.


Selling San Diego: Randi Castle on the Importance of Reputation & Communication in Real Estate

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They say a man’s home is his castle, so it goes without saying that Randi Castle has the perfect name for real estate. She’s spent the past eight years helping clients buy and sell their own castles, and she’s learned some pretty awesome tricks along the way – many of which boil down to the old-fashioned art of communication. She sat down with us to talk about her tricks of the trade and how an agent’s reputation can make or break a deal.

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

Sure. I started my real estate career in 2013. I used to be a bartender and waitress, so I have a background in customer service. Then at some point I realized I was coming to the top of the food chain, and that my body wasn’t going to be able to carry around heavy trays forever! I had no 401k, no retirement, so I buckled down and started looking at other options. I had always loved looking at houses and helping people, so real estate seemed like a great choice. I didn’t know anything about the business, and I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I decided to go ahead and take classes, and I passed the exam on my first try. My kids were all in high school at the time – but around the same time that I got my first listing, I found out I was pregnant! My son is now seven years old and he does everything with me. He’s been going to open houses since the beginning. 

It sounds like your son already has a good real estate foundation! Do you think he’ll follow in your footsteps and become an agent?

It’s funny you ask that. He was recently asked what he wanted to be when he grows up and he said he wants to be a listing agent – not just a real estate agent, but a listing agent, because he wants his picture in front of houses. He’s always telling his Dad that my job is better than his job, because I can do work at home and take vacation whenever I want to! But I do want to add how valuable it is to have my husband around; he’s a director of facilities at a local non-profit, and he does a lot of maintenance work. So if my listings need a little tweak here or there, I’m able to accommodate my sellers in that way! 

Do you mostly represent sellers?

Over the past two years, around 85% of my clients have been sellers. But I love working with sellers and buyers – especially first-time homebuyers. I really enjoy educating and hand-holding and walking them through the process. I’m very good at that. Handing over keys to a first-time homebuyer is better than any paycheck. 

“Handing over the keys to a first-time homebuyer is better than any paycheck.”

I’d love to hear some great first-time homebuyer stories, if you don’t mind sharing!

One of my most memorable first-time homebuyer transactions was with a 19-year-old who was in the Navy. She had come out of foster care. She was never adopted, so she had never had a forever home. She really wanted to buy a house, and we made it happen. She now owns her own home and she’s made over $300,000 on it over the past six years. 

In another transaction, I had three kids (aged 24, 22, and 18) who went in together to buy their parents a house in San Diego. They had lived in a one-bedroom apartment their entire lives and both of their parents worked full-time trying to make ends meet. They had put them through college, and the kids finally had jobs. They pulled all their resources together and bought a house for them. The parents were so grateful. 

Those are amazing stories! Now let’s talk a little bit about the market in San Diego. How crazy is it right now?

Well, I think we really saw the peak of the craziness at the beginning of 2021 – although it could pick up again in 2022. It’s just going to depend on what the feds do with the rates. A lot of people right now are priced out of the market. We have a big influx of cash buyers from Silicon Valley who are driving our prices up, too. They’re coming down here and buying oceanfront property. 

Houses are easily going for more than what the appraised value is, and those buyers have to have the cash to make up for the appraisal gap. You can offer more than the listing price all day long, but unless you have the cash to back it up then it doesn’t matter. 

Those sales that are going for above asking price are driving tomorrow’s comps. That means that next month’s houses are going to be priced at around the same amount that those comps sold for, and then they’re probably going to go for even more. 

It has become somewhat normal for buyers to waive contingencies, including inspections, because the market is just so competitive right now. How do you advise your buyers in those situations?

As a real estate agent, my job is to educate my clients and let them know when they’re making a very risky move. But I also let them know that the decision is ultimately theirs – not mine.

“My job is to educate my clients and let them know when they’re making a risky move.”

I would never, ever, ever tell a buyer to waive their inspection contingency. You have the right to inspect the home, and you have the right to request repairs on the property. If the seller declines them, then they decline them. You get the choice of whether to move forward or back out. However, there are other things we can do to make our offer seem more attractive. For instance, I have inspectors on call who can be at a property within 24 hours, so we can easily shorten our due diligence period – and agree to only back out if there’s something terribly wrong. 

We can also remove the appraisal contingency if it makes sense to do so, and possibly rent back to the seller at no cost while they find a new home. Sometimes there’s even the option of paying more and helping the seller out with some of their own closing costs. It just depends on what the seller is looking for. I pride myself on having great relationships with other agents, which can help my buyers’ offers get accepted. They know the deal is going to close if I’m working behind it, I’ve built that reputation and those relationships. Not all agents are the same. Having someone who is going to stand up and fight for you, put your best foot forward, talk to the other agent, call them and make sure they saw the offer, ask if they have any questions, and make sure the loan officer is doing everything in a timely manner is worth so much. It’s go, go, go until the offer is accepted. It’s also about figuring out what the other side is thinking, so I can inform my buyer. If I can find out where the offers are, I can go back to my buyer and let them know, and we can gracefully bow out or we can come in like a tiger shark. 

What do you do to win clients? How do you convince them that you’re the best option in a sea of real estate agents?

Buyers and sellers can read my reviews online, and they can see my track record of happy clients. That’s a big part of it. I’m also on all of the social media platforms, so if you search my name you’re going to find all kinds of ways to get to know me before you actually meet me. I do a lot of videos. I’m not afraid to talk, and I answer my phone!

I also let potential clients know that there are incentives to working with me. I have a great record of getting buyers’ offers accepted, and I’m able to provide references that are relevant to each client. For example, if it’s a military family looking for a home, I’ll connect them with another military family that I previously worked with. I don’t have anyone who wouldn’t want to work with me again. I make mistakes because I’m human, but I make them right. Those mistakes are all growing experiences, they’re learning experiences. 

When it comes to selling, I stage my properties, I make sure they’re cleaned and in showing condition. If a house shows well online, then it’s going to show well in person. The online photos are usually how you get people in the door, and once you get them in the door, you’ll get multiple offers. 

Now I’d like to talk a little bit about HighNote and the different ways you use it. 

Sure. First of all, I send a pre-listing package. I have everything in there, it’s very mapped out. After I take a listing, I send everything in a HighNote. I have my listing book in there, I have the title report. I have my YouTube in there for how to stage your home, how to do this and that. I customize the HighNote for each client, so they know they’re working with me personally. It’s not a generic or corporate presentation.  

“I customize the HighNote for each client, so they know they’re working with me personally. It’s not a generic presentation.”

I also have a HighNote for my buyers, and I’ve been thinking about starting one for the escrow process, which would include videos explaining the process – this is what an earnest money deposit is, etc. I could update things when they become relevant, so the buyer always has a tool to go back to and look at if they’re ever lost or feeling like they don’t know what’s happening in the transaction at any given moment. 

I have different HighNotes for different people. For instance, I have one for contingent seller-buyers – what is it like to sell a property and buy a property at the same time? I have staging tips for sellers, information about downsizing and transitional services (so when you’re elderly and moving into an assisted living facility, I explain the steps that come along with that). I have connections with a lot of thrift stores and donation centers. It’s mainly just looking at how I can help a particular person, and putting all of my knowledge into these HighNotes and sending it to them. This builds rapport with them and gives them something tangible which they can always go back and reference. 

If you have a particular HighNote success story, I’d love to hear it! 

I have a great one! I took a listing three weeks ago, and I sent the buyer the pre-listing packet on HighNote. She went through and looked at every single thing in there before we ever met. When we met the next day for the listing appointment, I asked her if she had any questions and she said she didn’t. She commented on how thorough everything in the HighNote was, how she had already read all the information before I arrived. So she was ready to sign before I even walked through the door. 

“The seller had already read all of the information in the HighNote, so she was ready to sign the paperwork before we even met.”

Are there other tech tools that you really enjoy using?

I just got POSTOPLAN, which I’m really excited about. It does social media calendar automation so you can just create all your posts and then it automatically publishes them for you whenever you want, on all platforms. There are also different platforms in LionDesk that we use.

I use Agent Legend, which is a follow-up type automation, as well as AppSumo and RPR. My title company also has a little app widget where I’m able to get net sheets on the fly. Having things more automated and using technology really does help with productivity. And of course I love Facebook Live. 

If you aren’t using technology as an agent these days, you’ll get left behind. But it’s also important to be versatile and use old-fashioned paper when you need to, because that’s what a lot of older clients prefer. 

What are some other attributes that you think every real estate agent needs to have?

You have to want to be helpful. You have to be knowledgeable in your craft, you need to have drive and integrity. You need to be a go-getter, personable, and genuine. Communication is also very key. 

“Agents need to be personable, genuine, and great communicators.” 

What do you wish someone would have told you in those early days of being an agent?

I was lucky because I was surrounded by wonderful people who could help me. I’m also a very driven person, so if I didn’t know something I was YouTubing it or Googling it. I was educating myself, taking classes. I often found that I was going up against people who were more knowledgeable than me, so I made sure to dig deep into education. I also had no problem with paying “education prices,” like doing commission splits if it meant learning from a heavy hitter on a team. I wasn’t afraid to learn and make mistakes. Success leaves trails, so you just want to follow those trails of successful agents and make sure you do what they do. That would be my #1 piece of advice for a new agent – join a team and align yourself with good people who you can learn from.

Thank you so much, Randi! It’s been a pleasure!

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in the San Diego area, be sure to contact Randi and follow her on FacebookInstagram, and YouTube!

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