JoAn Hawley-Verstraete has been a part of the First Team family for 38 years, consistently ranking as a top agent within the company and our Huntington Beach – South Office. Combining forces with her daughter Kristina 7 years ago, the two make an unstoppable team. Trustworthy, hardworking, and 100% client-focused, this mother-daughter team has built a family business that stands the test of time.
Sitting down for an interview with these two ladies was like grabbing coffee with old friends – you never want it to end.
What made you decide to build your legacy with First Team?
JoAn –Before I joined First Team I took my time shopping around for a brokerage. I was looking for an aggressive company that would stay on the cutting edge of marketing and technology, and give me more support. First Team was the best of the best, and they still are. I believe in our founder and CEO Cameron Merage, and his continual ability to adapt and improve. It’s easy for me to focus on my clients because I don’t have to worry about the newest tools, tech, and trends. Cam is on top of that for me. And if we need it, First Team has it for us. I’m never leaving.
Kristina – My mom is ALWAYS getting recruited by other companies! But First Team is our home. I’ve been here since I was 4 months old, and in fact, she and I still have the same office. I’ve lived here, I’ve slept there. I grew up here.
How did you begin working together as mother and daughter?
JoAn – Kristina has been helping me and dropping flyers since she was 10 years old, but it was officially 7 years ago that we started working as a team. I had tried out a couple of other business partners but the problem was finding someone with the right work ethic like mine that I could trust. I was watching Kristina thrive and start her own online business at the time, and she was the one who approached me. She said – what if we work together so I can step in and pick up your business when you’re ready to leave? And as it turns out, we make the best team I could have ever imagined.
Kristina – I know my mom is a powerhouse, so working with her was an easy decision. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to learn directly from one of the top agents in our office, and it’s true. It’s been invaluable getting to watch her go through the most interesting transactions and learn firsthand. I’m not trying to fill her shoes; I’m learning alongside the master. And since I’ve been door-knocking and doing the work since I was a kid, I’m not afraid to talk with anyone. So many of the homeowners in our local Huntington Beach area already know me, I’ve got automatic street cred!
How do you two balance each other out?
Kristina – We are very different, but between the two of us, we can trust that everything will get done. My mom jumps right at the big issues and tackles them immediately. And I’m all about making lists and making sure every last detail gets completed and checked off. Together we’re like the perfect one-two punch. Her knowledge and experience combined with my youth and technology skills show our clients they can trust us to get the job done.
JoAn – And I think our clients see that trust and respect we have for each other, and that’s what makes them feel more relaxed. I don’t second guess Kristina because I know we’ve got each other’s backs. We can joke with our buyers and sellers as family because we are a family. And that’s how they become less like clients, and more like friends.
What advice do you have for others looking to start a “family business” in real estate?
JoAn – If you have the chance – do it! From a branding standpoint, the level of trust you build as a family business is irreplaceable because the tradition and warmth are felt by each and every client. You’ve also got to like your family and complement each other well. If you’re too similar, you won’t mix.
What tools help you grow your business?
Kristina – Our office manager Jeremiah has really helped us take advantage of all the First Team tools and I love using [the DIY marketing platform] LucidPress with everything created for us there. There’s so much to choose and pull from. I look at all of the flyers we get in the mail from competitors and compared to what we’re able to create – ours looks the best. Hands down.
We also use a lot of First Team’s listing presentation. As the #1 real estate company in Orange County and our market, we get to go out and just blow other agents out of the water. It’s the best! We’re #1 and we’ve got the stats to prove it.
If you could sell anyone’s house – alive or dead – who would it be and why?
Kristina – I have been thinking about the answer to this question all day! If I could go back in time, just a few years ago, I would sell my parent’s house and buy it myself. I wish I would have had the money back then to buy it; I want my old house back!
JoAn – I think if I could sell anyone’s house it would John Wayne’s old house in Newport Beach or John Scudder’s home in Balboa Island. He is Laura Scudder’s grandson and has spent his life traveling the world and collecting things from all over the globe, and his house is right on the beach.