Agent Snapshot: Jon Starwalt, Director of Technology/Realtor Better Homes and Gardens, Real Estate Star Homes

What was your first job in the realty industry? My family has been in real estate since I was a kid. So like many second-generation real estate professionals, my first job was stuffing and labeling envelopes, hanging flyers door-to-door, putting flags in every yard in the neighborhood each July, all of that good, fun leg work. I didn’t actually become licensed until 2015 when they made the jump to opening the brokerage, at which point I began as an agent.

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Grayslake, and after moving around the country for a bit, ended up back in Chicago, and eventually back here in Grayslake with the family business.

Growing up, what did you want to be? At first, I was on the fence between becoming either a shark or a dinosaur, I couldn’t decide. As I grew older, I realized the career prospects in those fields were pretty slim so I switched gears to the culinary arts, which somehow led me into going to school for acting, then writing, and eventually working in digital marketing, where I gathered many of the skills that led to my current position. Oddly enough, I ended up in an industry full of sharks and dinosaurs.

What do you do to relax when you’re stressed? I find that focusing on something unrelated to the cause of stress and diving into a project with no consequences is the best way for me to relax and come back to my work with a fresh perspective. Building something, taking something apart, taking two things apart and building them together into a different thing. Last week I made a light saber-bug zapper that worked fairly well for a first prototype. I also enjoy beer, both drinking and brewing it.

If you could have lunch with a well-known figure (living or not), who would it be and why? Philo Farnsworth. The guy pretty much invented the vacuum tube television in high school, actually built a functioning one years later, and would eventually live to regret what he had unleashed onto the world. I’d love to hear his thoughts on modern technology and the connected/distracted world that came about, due in large part to his work.

Where is your favorite place to hang out? I’ve got some big shady oak trees and a hammock in my backyard so probably there.

What do you love most about the industry? I love that there’s so much room for innovation. The world is changing in ways that fundamentally affect what we do and how we do it. With something as broad, ubiquitous and necessary as real estate brokerage, the sky is the limit in terms of how you find and serve clients and to see how different people are approaching the unique problems we face is very exciting.

How do you distinguish yourself from the crowd of agents? I put technology at the forefront of my business and I find that a lot of clients respond to that. I’ll adjust to accommodate consumers who aren’t as comfortable with it but I prefer a paperless, data-driven approach to streamline the buying process and maximize exposure for listings.

What is the most difficult aspect of your job? Dealing with other agents. I think most agents are good people trying to do right by their clients but it’s shocking how many let their ego, or a desire to “win” every interaction, get in the way of their duties and the best outcome for their client. We’re just relaying information on behalf of our clients; there is absolutely no reason why agents should ever have to argue amongst themselves in a transaction.

Where do you go to network and meet new clients? I get most of my clients either through personal referral or my online presence. When I do find new clients in real life, it’s usually just by going about my day. Having the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brand plastered on my car windows and pinned to my lapel starts a lot of conversations that lead to commissions.

What has been your greatest accomplishment? Having only been in this industry just over two years, I’m honored to have received the BHGRE National Technology Excellence award both years, as well as having been named one of Dotloop’s inaugural Top Ten Tech Savvy Realtors.

What was the last good movie you saw or book you read? “Contagious” by Jonah Berger was one that I found to be very insightful and changed the way I look at how new ideas, brands and technologies enter the mainstream. The latest Spiderman movie was on point as well.

What is your favorite restaurant? Give me a corner bar with good chicken wings and a strong draught beer list and I’m a happy guy. However, our little downtown here in Grayslake has undergone some huge changes over the last decade, the most recent being a fantastic steakhouse called Center Cut. Now that I’m thinking about it I’m probably going to head there tonight.

Architecturally speaking, what is your favorite building in Chicago? I honestly don’t know much about architecture but I tended bar at the (soon-to-be-former) Hard Rock Hotel in the Carbide and Carbon Building and I just really loved the art deco style elements that they preserved and the way the top tapers off and shines in the sunset.

What kind of car do you drive? A Ford Explorer with a big ol’ BHGRE logo in the back window. I’m keeping an eye on the new Tesla models as they roll out.

Smartphone or paper? Paper is for old people.

What is your favorite city after Chicago? Portland, Oregon. In many ways, the city and its people live up to the reputation but once you really dig in, you’ll see that there’s something there for every style and taste.

In 10 words or less, what is your advice for someone new to the industry? You’re can’t do it wrong if nobody’s done it before.

What’s your favorite real estate iPhone/Android app? Being part of Realogy, we have the Zap platform, which includes being able to access my full CRM from the app. I can basically perform all of my prospecting and follow-up activities from my backyard hammock with just my phone.

Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter? I’m not a hardcore Twitter user but I do follow a lot of people within our brand like @sherrychris, @jedirealestate and @KarltonUtter. Mostly I like Twitter for a good laugh though so you’ll find me pausing on @TheOnion and @StephenAtHome, too.

Read More Related to This Post

Join the conversation

New Subscribe

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.