Above, Rike Palese, far left, and Erica Chouinard, back row standing, third from right, with their team, The Real Estate Experts of Denver.
Rike (pronounced Rick) Palese spent many a youthful weekend touring model homes in his hometown of Denver, Colorado. Fascinated by design, he skirted real estate and studied architecture, largely on the advice of his parents. He worked as an architect for eight years before his passion for real estate won out. That led him to RE/MAX Professionals more than 30 years ago, where his business partnership with Jonathan Kieler quickly reached top-producer status.
The road was equally winding for Erica Chouinard, who rode along with her real estate agent mother in Oregon well into her teens, the heavy MLS book resting on her lap. But as a young woman, she married a professional baseball player, moving several times across the country before putting down roots in Denver. In 2001, she gave up her stay-at-home-mom status to start a flourishing real estate career with RE/MAX.
When mutual admiration brought them together in 2018, they merged their thriving RE/MAX teams, each bringing four agents into Rikejon.com, newly designated The Real Estate Experts of Denver.
Based in Englewood and co-led by Palese and Chouinard, with Kieler focused on a sales role, the team has grown to 20 agents who last year closed 279 transactions for a total of $180 million in revenue serving clients in the greater Denver area.
Barbara Pronin: Rike, what do you and Erica look for in a new agent?
Rike Palese: A high level of integrity, primarily – and people who are tenacious and hungry, and are a good fit with our team culture. We are actively creating a family environment here, with a high level of camaraderie and a deep commitment to sharing our time and abilities.
Erica Chouinard: As leaders, Rike and I are passionate about our roles. We work closely with all our agents, whether they are new or experienced, to be certain they are growing their business by being good listeners, great negotiators, and giving every client the highest level of service at every stage of every transaction.
BP: With such a large team, how are you organized so that everyone is up to date on business?
EC: It’s important to us that everyone is on the same page so that we are ready to cover for one another whenever needed. The entire team meets monthly for the big picture, while our second-tier managers are responsible for individual accountability and lead flow.
RP: As leaders, our goal is to keep the team inspired and motivated – to ensure they are the best they can be in every phase of the business. We want them to set goals and exceed them, to build customer relationships that last a lifetime – and our agents know our doors are always open when there are problems to be solved or issues that need to be discussed.
EC: That’s actually my favorite part of leadership – ensuring that each member of the team is coming from a place of positivity, energy, and servitude. That means tailoring meetings outside of regular sales meetings, so that every agent feels valued and secure even when discussing tangible issues.
BP: How do you keep your team positive and energized through slumps or market changes?
EC: Real estate can be a lonely industry. The first thing we want our agents to recognize is that they are never alone, and they can’t fail, because 19 people have their back. My goal was never to create a mega-team, but to share the ethics and the business knowledge that are so important to me – to do the right thing even when no one is looking…to help each client meet their goals.
RP: In some ways, being a real estate agent means waking up unemployed every morning. You need to do something – or a series of somethings—to keep your business afloat. Our job as leaders is to help guide them. We are all life-long learners.
BP: How do you stay connected to your clients in such a relatively wide area—and how do you give back to the community?
RP: We do a client thank-you event at the end of each quarter. We also host a fall festival every Halloween featuring pancakes, pumpkins, monsters, and mini-golf—and a family-oriented holiday brunch each year that draws more than 400 people. And RE/MAX agents raise over $100,000 a year for families who have children with life-threatening illness.
BP: What’s your best advice, not just to team leaders, but to agents just getting a foot-hold on this business?
RP: My personal slogan is, “Live the life you love.” Be passionate about your job and be your best self every day. Work as hard you can to help every client meet their real estate goals. But work just as hard to find a work-life balance. That’s what keeps your battery charged.
The Real Estate Experts of Denver Team Listing
1218 S Sherman Street, Denver, CO 80210
“This contemporary townhome offers the perfect blend of modern design and luxurious finishes creating a comfortable and stylish living experience.” Click here for the full listing information.
Building Area Total (SqFt Total): 3,219