August Newsletter: Growing Our Team

Team Growth

August has been a great month settling into my new role as a team leader. I resisted hiring for years, (aside from Emma, of course) because I believed that hiring and training agents would be a distraction from running my business.

I've watched so many agents get busy and frustrated, and hire a new agent they hope will save them from their own chaos. The problem is, agents often hire before stopping to ask themselves if they should get more efficient first. As we all know, busy is not the same as productive or profitable. So agents hire into their inefficiency and create more inefficiency. I myself was guilty of this mistake several years ago.

Our team: Morgan, Emma and me at Urban Axes this month. Emily, pictured right, who couldn't make it that night.

So I waited years before I hired again. This time, it's going so much better than it did before. I did several things differently this time.

  1. I hired when I was over-loaded with income-producing activities, instead of just overloaded. I knew I was leaving money on the table by insisting on going it alone because I couldn't be in two places at once.

  2. I hired a business coach who had successfully built a real estate team herself to guide me through every step of the way.

  3. I've committed to clear deadlines, clear job descriptions, and frequent and open communication with my team.

 Coaching with Kelly through Hero Nation has been invaluable. I've been in business for myself long enough that I've lost my naïveté about thinking any new endeavor will be easy. I know from painful experience that every change has consequences you can't foresee, that I don't know what I don't know and that it's dumb to recreate the wheel when other smart people have already figured all this out.

An easy example. I was struggling recently with how much to delegate to my team. Do I go completely hands-off, and let them figure it out? Or do I stay involved in some decisions? And which ones? I don't want them waiting for permission from me for everything, because that's highly inefficient.

Kelly listened patiently, then promptly delivered me the answer. Decision tree. List out what kinds of decisions they can make without you, and which they need to consult you for. So then you can go on vacation and most things will just move along. They'll call you for the sticker stuff only, and they'll know exactly what decision falls into what category.

This is brilliant, of course, and so simple I would have totally missed it.

Or Wayne, recently, on our group call. He mentioned that when he delegates to his team, he classifies each task as one of the following.

A: do it today
B: do it this week
C: do it within 15 days
D: do it within 30 days
E: put this somewhere and maybe we'll get to it someday.

Since his team knows this system, he can send an email and just say "This is a B task" and they know exactly how to prioritize things. One of the biggest time sucks for team members is unnecessary task switching, when everything is treated as urgent, so they frantically switch tasks all day, getting very few done. And we all know those back and forth emails about setting deadlines suck time, too. This is another stupidly simple solution to a seemingly complex problem.

I have more I'd love to say on this topic, but since I'm getting long-winded, I'll save it for next month. Suffice it to say, things are going well and I'm really excited about this transition into leading, training and business building.

Like so many things in life, it's apparently a surprise to me only. Several friends and clients have said in the last few weeks some version of "Duh, Isabel, it's about time." Which is flattering, encouraging and I hope also true.

Market Stats:

It's been another active spring and summer in Austin real estate. August was slow like it usually is. It's a combination of things, I think. First, families with children think it's too late to home shop. The timing is awkward with school starting. They'd be moving their family just a few weeks into a new school year. Second, everyone is taking their final summer vacations to escape the 100 degree days. Third, those of us still in Austin don't really want to do much house hunting if we can help it. Too darn hot. And lastly, we have back to school and back to UT, and a big chunk of our population is distracted.

That's my non-scientific take. 


Also, interest rates are back down into the threes which are good news for both buyers and sellers. You can hear my explanation in this video, as well as read lengthy comments from a "real estate is a bad investment" doomsday-er. It makes me feel weirdly accomplished to have attracted this kind of random commenting on a video I thought no one but my mom would watch.

Link to YouTube video on interest rates:


What I'm Reading Right Now

I'm still reading Principles by Ray Dalio and have been for months. It's DENSE but very valuable. It's all about decision making, and coming up with principles to clarify your own thinking, avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly, and effectively communicate your principles to other people, like your employees.

Ray Dalio is a billionaire hedge fund manager. Early in his career, he was not a billionaire, and he lost a lot of money by making the wrong call about a market correction. He was convinced it was coming. He was very public about it. He went on the news and talked on and on about the correction that was coming, how sure he was, and what steps he was taking to protect his investments.

He was wrong. Mortifyingly, publicly, painfully wrong, and it cost him and his investors millions of dollars.

This experience taught him that you can't trust your gut. If you want to make good decisions, then you need to track how you make decisions, learn from your mistakes, and adjust. The book is a huge collection of the principles he now uses and has refined over a lifetime. And these principles have played a huge role in his success building the remarkable hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.


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 We have an awesome historic listing in Bastrop on Hill Street. This home was built in 1895 and has some really awesome features like longleaf pine flooring. If you haven't been to Bastrop recently, it's really worth a trip. I had not been until my gym opened a second location there, and held a competition at the location in Bastrop. I was really surprised by how adorable the downtown was, and started envisioning myself buying a historic home, getting some chickens, and living the simple life. As you can imagine, this is the type of thing Chris talks me out of on a weekly basis. If it weren't for Chris, maybe I'd buy this. 

Joking aside, if you're into historic homes, this one's awesome. They also have some history of AirBNB here and have made some good income doing that. So if you're looking for a weekend place, this could also be something to consider. Check out the video and more photos here:

We also have a rental listing right now in Clarksville. This condo has been getting a ton of interest this week and I expect it to go pretty fast. It's available for less than 12-month leases and is partially furnished if you know anyone who is between homes and needs a place for a few months. 


 Congrats on Closing!

Ana and Nick

Ana and Nick closed on their brand new home in Agave this month. Ana was a double referral, which was weird and fun. First, Bobbie Jo Diehl, an agent with Compass in Dallas made the connection. A few days later, my friend Billy who now lives in California sent me a Facebook message, "Hey Isabel, I have a friend moving to Austin you should talk to. Her name is Ana. Not sure if she has an agent yet." She DID have an agent already, and it was me. This was totally just luck and will probably never happen again, but it made me feel like a total rockstar.

Ana and Nick bought an off-market home in Agave. It was available because the original buyer had to change his plans due to a family illness, and leave Austin before the home was done.

Ana was on a tight timeline due to work relocation. We had two days to find a home. This one was a great match. We were able to lock the home down with an offer before it got advertised to the wider market. So it was mission accomplished for Ana. Two days of showings, home found, closed before her temporary housing expired. And not to mention Ana and Nick's wedding in the midst of it all! Thank you, Ana and Nick, for taking that wild ride with me and trusting me to get you efficiently to closing. Welcome to Austin!


Caitlin was referred to me by my friends, rockstar repeat clients, and amazingly prolific referral-senders Dan and Lauren. I've lost count at this point of how many fun clients they've played a part in introducing me to. But Caitlin was one of them. She was ready to settle into a home in Austin after living abroad for several years. We looked around Central Austin, and ultimately settled on a renovated 1904 detached condo not far from our condo. So now she can come to hang out with her new best dog friend Rosie and swim in our pool whenever she wants.

Christy and Christian

Christy and Christian originally called my husband Chris, at the advice of Davey McEathron of Davey McEathron Architects. They were looking at a rather complicated purchase on the east side that would require the formation of a two-unit condo regime and lots of renovations. Knowing that Chris deals frequently with two-unit condo regimes, permitting and development, Davey recommended they talk to Chris before making any decisions.

Ultimately, they decided to sell their home in South East Austin and buy the lot in question in East Austin, and I've had the pleasure of helping them with both transactions. They closed on the sale of their home this month. I'll keep you posted next month about the East Austin purchase, which we hope will close in September.

Tim and Amanda

Tim and Amanda are first time buyers who just closed on a home in East Austin not far from our condo. I was introduced to Tim about three years ago by my clients Tim and Amber. Yes, Tim and Amber introduced me to Tim and Amanda. Confusing, I know. But Tim, the new clients, wasn't quite ready to buy when we first spoke. After receiving this newsletter for three years, he called me back when he was ready. It's stories like this that keep me writing this every month! Tim and Amanda were absolute champs in their first home buying process. We negotiated on the home they finally closed on for months, a luxury we don't usually have in this market. And they weathered all sorts of ups, downs, plot twists and uncertainties with a completely clear-headed attitude. It was awesome to watch. 

Congratulations, everyone, on your closings this month!

In Closing...

As you might guess from the above client stories, I do most of my business these days with referrals. Referrals is just a fancy industry word for "people you introduce me to." If you know anyone who is looking for some good advice about buying a home, selling their home, or investing in real estate, I'd be delighted if you'd introduce me to them.

It's okay if the person you know is several years from making a purchase (like Tim) or if they're just looking for some quick advice (like Christian and Christy were initially) or if they've already been referred to another agent (like Caitlin) or if they have a relocation package through their company (like Ana). Every great client relationship I've ever had started with a simple conversation. So if you know anyone who might want to have a quick chat about real estate, I'd so appreciate if you remembered to send them my way. I'll take great care of them because that's how I've built my business. One quick conversation at a time.

Thanks for reading. Until next time,


Posted by Isabel Affinito on


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