Above, Sunny Choi
Sunny Choi was not yet 20 when she discovered that real estate is the secret to wealth.
“I quit college to help my parents hang onto their struggling manufacturing business,” said Choi, who with her sister, Anna (SunnyandAnna21@gmail.com), grew up in Orange County, Calif. “I wound up running the business, and I saved my money, and I bought a condo in Lakewood for $149,000 with $10,000 down.”
Two years later, she sold it for $269,000 and a lightbulb went off in her head.
“I kept reinvesting,” she said, “and in 2008, when the real estate market crashed, I wondered where all the agents had gone. I knew from my own experience there were commissions to be made by agents who were knowledgeable and dedicated.”
Choi tapped her sister, who had a business background, and the two became licensed and teamed up to begin their new careers.
Quickly dubbed ‘the property sisters’ by their Century 21 colleagues, Sunny and Anna developed a system that worked for them and their clients. They did well from the very start. But when Anna passed away suddenly two years later, Sunny found herself at a crossroads.
Barbara Pronin: You must have been devastated when Anna passed. What made you decide to stick with it and continue selling real estate?
Sunny Choi: I was more than devastated. But by then, our team had grown to include an assistant and a transaction coordinator, and I knew in my heart that Anna would want us to forge ahead with the principles and the goals we had developed.
BP: What was special about those goals?
SC: Anna and I had pledged to do much more than efficiently represent our clients. Our goal was to provide personalized service – whatever a client needed – to help them reach their goals and reduce the stress that can develop in any transaction. We did a lot of extras – like getting the windows cleaned for an anxious seller, or bringing in some moving boxes, or sending a notary to the home of an elderly client, all at our expense.
BP: And are you still providing those kinds of extras?
SC: Absolutely. We connected with an independent company called TNG Real Estate – TNG stands for The Nice Guys – where the broker who founded it more than 20 years ago is wholly aligned with our philosophy.
BP: What is your primary service area?
SC: We are based in central Orange County, but we serve buyers and sellers all over the state – and across the country. Relocating clients and investors have sent me on their behalf to Utah, Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee, among others, and we’ve developed a huge network of out-of-state agents.
BP: How would you describe your team’s success rate
SC: We’ve closed between 30 to 45 transactions a year – about $25 million in gross sales – every year for the past five years – and 90 percent of our business is by referral,
BP: What do you think is your biggest strength in terms of developing and maintaining these long-term client relationships?
SC: It’s a combination of things, I think. I speak three languages – English, Spanish, and Korean. I know my way around social media marketing. I never forget that buying or selling a home is among the biggest decisions anyone will ever make. And my team is committed, every time, to going above and beyond expectations. The relationship we build with a client doesn’t end when the transaction closes.
BP: Are you open to expanding your team?
SC: I don’t expect to bring on another buyer or seller agent. Anna and I had a special bond and a level of commitment that I think might be hard to replicate. But we have expanded to include my husband, Alberto, who left his manufacturing job to take on some heavy lifting for us behind the scenes. He does everything from helping to stage homes to putting up and taking down open house signs – and whatever we need him to do. We are a small but mighty team, and I freely admit I couldn’t do what I do without this amazing support. My time is best spent with my clients, and thanks to the three of them having my back, that is exactly where I spend it.
BP: In your estimation, Sunny, what are the most important things a leader needs to bring to a team?
SC: A value system understood and respected by every member of the team. A commitment to a healthy work-life balance – and enough confidence in the talents of your team to let them do what they do best so you can get out there and do yours.
Choi Team Listing
Location: Whittier, California
Listing Price: $850,000 (Sold for $930,000)
Amenities: Duplex home; remodeled kitchen (quartz countertops, all new Stainless-Steel appliances); waterproof LVP floors; in-unit laundry; new central HVAC system; new dual pane windows; 2 one-car detached garages; covered rear patio