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When Karen Rollings was just 20 years old, she bought her first home. At the time, she was working as a secretary by day and a cocktail waitress at night, as well as attending the University of Maryland for marketing and business in the evenings.

Buying that house reeled Karen right into the real estate world. Not only did that purchase usher in a sweet tax refund for her that year, but the house went up in value, showing her the value of investing in properties. It was a perfect storm and she was hooked. Eventually, she got her license, and once she graduated from college, decided to buy another house. “I thought real estate was the coolest thing ever!” In addition to selling, she has flipped hundreds of houses, both commercial and residential, and is a major proponent of investing as a way to diversify and help people reach their personal and professional goals.

Fast-forward 40 years later, and Karen is going stronger than ever and still thinks real estate is the coolest thing ever. Having recently joined with eXp Realty, she is invigorated by the business model of the young company, which is all cloud-based, requiring no brick-and-mortar establishments and limited infrastructure.

“It’s like the Amazon of real estate brokerages. It’s very progressive, and they have profit and revenue sharing, as well as stocks and health insurance. I was like, holy cow!” she exclaims, adding that is partly why she chose them. When it comes to the ins and outs of brokerages, Karen gets it because she was a former broker/owner herself.

At eXp, they offer their state-of-the-art training virtually and, in light of the current global pandemic that is COVID-19, they were ahead of the curve. Karen, who has happily mentored hundreds of agents throughout her long career, says her door will always be open for anyone interested in learning more about the eXp community.

Whether it’s about brokerages or not, Karen has a fire in her belly for helping others succeed, especially since training in this industry has been lackluster. “You take 60 hours of classes and they say, here go sell a house. Go wreak some havoc!” She joked, “It’s almost like when you have your first child and think, where is the manual?”

Karen is determined to bring in more people and show them how to excel. She is energetic and hands-on with her approach and loves adding that personal touch. She insists new agents go out in the field with her, shadowing her during listings and client meetings. Here, they can see how she responds to all different types of scenarios, attempting to lay out a clear blueprint. “This is what you do, this is what you say. I would like to inspire people to do better.”

She recognizes a key factor in helping others succeed is meeting people where they are and working with them to achieve what they want, as opposed to what someone else may want. “Not everyone wants to sell 100 houses. I want to teach people how to be successful and reach their own goals.”

All in the Family
Last year, Karen and her crew did $50 million in total sales volume. She has 20 people in her eXp organization now and each has their own niche. For example, her daughter Maggie and son Jeremy are on the team. Maggie focuses on foreclosures and Jeremy focuses on investments and estates. Karen and her sister Sherry Felice have worked together for 30 years, and her cousin Kathy Workman also joined the team years ago. In addition, Karen’s niece Jessica Felice helps sell homes and run the office, truly making it a family affair.

Some 20 years ago, Karen began distributing a newsletter called Real Estate Happenings. “It was the single best idea I’ve had in my life,” she says, noting that in each edition, she was adding all of her service contacts for clients to use. So she decided to ask these providers for $50 to help pay for postage. “Then, instead of doing 1,500 newsletters, I can do 15,000! And instead of selling 10 houses a year, I can sell 100 houses a year, which is way more fun. And it worked!”

Things have not always been easy or seamless for Karen. During the real estate/mortgage crash in 2007/2008, she was in the midst of a commercial development project. “I had several million dollars invested in that project and it tanked big…I lost almost everything.” Over the course of a couple years, things were quite challenging for her. But Karen learned how to pivot and regroup, and she kept going.

Today, she recognizes that period as a time of growth and actually has a light sense of humor about it: “You can cry in your beer or you can get back on your horse.” Clearly, she chose to get back on the horse. She also learned, in this struggle, how to be a better listener, ultimately beefing up her compassion skills, “I’m very empathetic to people when they are having problems.” Case in point: “I had tenants I was supposed to evict and gave them a job.” This type of scenario was not just a one-time deal. It is a recurring theme in her world. Since Karen was a child, she admitted to always being about helping people.

These tough times are no different. Her message to everyone, especially now, during COVID-19: “We all go through good and bad times — everybody does. We are not defined by the bad things that happened to us. We are defined by what we do in response to those times.”