Selling homes is about understanding what the client actually wants, not what you think they want.
For Douglas Elliman agent Juliette Hohnen, falling in love with buying and selling homes was easy once she realized that the world of real estate demands creativity. Elliman Insider sits down with Juliette to ask about her journey to becoming an agent—how her skills from being a successful MTV interviewer have helped her connect with clients, and why she considers herself a true “houseaholic.”
Elliman Insider: What was it like to work for MTV?
JULIETTE HOHNEN: I loved music and it was a wonderful job because I got a huge education in pop culture, it was almost like college for me. I interviewed everyone for every film—every star, every director. In order to prepare, I would first watch all of the previous interviews and films and come up with questions, so that when I sat down to interview a director, I would already know everything there was to know about them and their relation to the movie. It was a really exciting job.
EI: How did you become interested in real estate?
JH: Working for TV was great, but if you want to get married and have kids, it’s hard to disappear for two weeks for an assignment. I started buying and selling homes and loved how creative the real estate industry is, it’s almost like producing. I often buy and sell a home without an architect or builder, just a handyman. We spruce up the landscape, then paint and stage the home. And ultimately, there are only so many interviews you can do. I loved my job at MTV, but after eight years of covering the Oscars and endless premieres, I felt I needed to do something that was a little more altruistic.
EI: How has your career at MTV helped you become a successful agent?
JH: At that time we would be reviewing the same top five films over and over, so you have to get creative in order to cover the same information in different ways. For example, once we’ve interviewed the star and director of the movie, we might get three teenagers to race motorcycles just like they did in the film, to keep things interesting. As a real estate agent, you also have to be creative. If you advertise a home but no one shows, you have to quickly come up with another angle. For example, if I have a pocket listing, I’ll create a postcard that looks like a pocket with a picture of the home coming out of it. I also make sure all of my content is well-written; the people who work for me are brilliant and I ensure all of my writing actually sounds like me. If it doesn’t sound like me I don’t put it up on my site.
EI: How have your interviewing skills helped you as an agent?
JH: Interviewing is about listening to people, connecting with others. Selling homes is about understanding what the client actually wants, not what you think they want. When I build a rapport, I’m building trust. Selling a house or moving is a big change; you’re pushing someone to do something uncomfortable, and they need to trust the person who is facilitating that change for them. Even if I make less money, I would never tell someone to buy a home if I wouldn’t buy it myself. People respect you for being honest with them.
EI: What about real estate keeps you interested?
JH: There’s always another market to explore. For the past five years, I’ve been obsessed with Venice, I knew everything about Venice that you could possibly know. But now I’m going back to Beverly Hills and I’m doing a lot of selling there. Each new neighborhood is a new chance to find a whole new world of opportunity. At MTV there were only so many interviews you can do, but real estate always keeps me on my toes. Plus, there’s something altruistic about being an agent; you get to actually help others, help them find a new home and help them make money.
EI: What do you mean when you call yourself a “houseaholic?”
JH: It all starts with “I need to buy a house.” I buy the house but still go to open houses and eventually find something I love the look of so I buy it. I have a home in Bel Air, one on Sunset Plaza closer to work and one in Venice Beach that I’ll be renting. I renovate a house every other year and each time a project finishes I want to do another. As a child, I moved a lot and I think that’s part of what makes me a great agent, I’m fearless when it comes to moving. And I love decorating, designing, and making homes—it’s a creative outlet.
EI: Any parting words for those who are looking to get into real estate?
JH: You have to eat, sleep, and breathe this business if you want to do really well. If you’re up against a big agent, you have to convince the homeowner to take you over them. Why should you represent their home? You need to know just as much as your competition, if not more, and you have to be more available.