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Meet Erin Barnes of Keller Williams Realty in Westwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Barnes.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m actually a native of Los Angeles, but I spent most of my childhood years in Ohio. My parents met in college at UCLA where my dad and uncle worked as hashers for my mom’s sorority Alpha Delta Pi! As the story goes, my mom was the most popular girl in the house, always tying up the phone lines with all her suitors, and my dad pined for her and persisted until, well … many years passed, she agreed to marry him and then had my brother and me! When I was four years old, my dad got a big promotion at work for TRW and was asked to relocate to the headquarters in Cleveland. My parents figured they’d live in Ohio and enjoy the lower cost of living for about 5 years before they would bring the family back home to LA. Five years turned into ten, ten turned into fifteen … fast forward a few decades after their move, and I’m the only one who found the road back to the beach. I moved back to Los Angeles in 2010 for my Acting Career. I had had some success in Chicago after college, but a winter and a half there set my sights even more firmly on getting back out to LA. (You’d think a girl who grew up in Cleveland shouldn’t be fazed by the cold, but Chicago cold is no joke! And I’m a total wimp. Hey, like I said I’m a SoCal native! Unless my cold weather is the necessary evil of a ski vacation where I get to spend my days on the moguls and it’s socially acceptable to wear SKI CLOTHES to stay warm, I’m out!) After a few agonizing years of getting my footing in the Film and TV scene, I booked my first big commercial gig. I had a blast on the job, shooting a few national spots for Wendy’s opposite Morgan Smith Goodwin. Coming off the high of that booking, I just wanted to run away and hide from the less-than-inspiring “survival jobs” I’d been stringing together. I was determined to figure out a Concurrent Career instead – something I found fulfilling and intellectually stimulating, paid more than peanuts, and would never require me to give up Acting if I didn’t want to. I laughed at myself, I thought it was so impossible. But then – and this is truly embarrassing – one day it dawned on me while watching HGTV that I had never considered looking into becoming a Real Estate Agent. I had enough sense to assume that being a Realtor wouldn’t be just like it looked on TV, but the one thing I did know about the real lives of agents was that the ones I knew were women … who had kids … and who managed to pick up those kids from school everyday at 3:00pm. So, BINGO, it seemed at least flexible enough that I’d be able to continue my Acting Career, uninterrupted. And even better, it seemed to me that the crux of a Realtor’s job was helping people. I’d be making a difference in people’s lives. I spent all that night researching what the life of a Real Estate Agent was like and what it would take to become one. In the wee hours, I stumbled onto a Craigslist post (I know, I know. It was late, my boyfriend was out of town for a month shooting a movie, I was revved up about changing my life, who knows what I was thinking?!) about an online Real Estate School called Executive Programs. I did a little poking around on their website and — I never do this — filled out a form to be contacted with more information. The next morning, everything came rushing back, and I realized my time down the real estate rabbit hole the night before hadn’t been a dream when got a call from an awesome gal named Mindy from Executive Programs. We set up a time to talk more about the Real Estate licensing process and ask a million questions. Then I panicked and called my parents right away to explain what happened, expecting them to talk me out of this crazy idea. To my total shock and validation, when I finished walking them through what I’d done there was a pause on the other end before they said “Erin, we don’t know why WE haven’t thought about this for you before!” They then rattled off all the reasons they thought Real Estate would be a perfect fit for me, and I moved full-steam ahead. I marched into my local Keller Williams office the day after I passed my State Licensing exam and joined the brokerage. I knew KW’s reputation for incredible training, and I was delighted to be paired up with a wonderful mentor named Peter. It takes a LOT of work to build up your business as a new Real Estate Agent. And that work is without any pay until you close a deal! As Realtors, we work entirely on commission. You’ve got to be super driven, tenacious, disciplined, consistent, organized, thick-skinned, business-minded, and goal-oriented to succeed. I closed one deal in my first year. Then, just before my 30th birthday, my dad passed away. He had battled Esophageal Cancer — a terminal cancer where patients are considered to have survived the disease if they manage to pull through long enough to die of something else first — for more than seven years. I was, and I still am, crushed by his loss. I knew it would help to pour my energy into work, but I couldn’t focus long enough to accomplish anything requiring me to self-motivate. I responded to a job post (on Craigslist again — what am I thinking?!) for a part-time Real Estate Assistant. That’s when I met Richard Schulman. After a hilariously unconventional interview and then my beating him over the head with “but just so we’re clear, Acting is and will always be my first priority” about 100 times, he still wanted to hire me, so I figured it was going to work out! I took the job, and I ended up supporting him and his 10-person team on 165 transactions that year. Richard was a genuinely supportive (not to mention very funny) boss, and I ended up learning what felt like a decade of experience in that time. I would probably have been happy to have continued in that role for forever! But Richard started bugging me to become a salesperson on the team about a week after hiring me. And he’s a very good salesman, so … eventually I gave in. I trained my replacement as the year rounded out, and I moved into being an agent on the Schulman Team. With the knowledge and experience under my belt from my year of assisting combined with the resources of our team, I quickly realized I was pretty darn good at being a Real Estate Agent! I went from Part-Time Admin my first year with Richard to the Top Producing Agent on the team in 2017. Last year I sold 26 homes, leased 2 more, and closed 17.2MM in volume. But what I’m even more proud of? I’ve had the most success I’ve ever had as an Actor since adding my Concurrent Career into the mix. Last year I booked two TV roles, as well as my very first Regional Theatre gig (“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” at Ensemble Theatre Company in Santa Barbara!). I know my Dad would be incredibly happy about what I’ve accomplished since we last saw each other. This year, I’m excited to have been promoted to a leadership position at the Keller Williams Westside office as Assistant Team Leader. (That’s fancy KW vocabulary for Assistant Manager.) I’m really excited to see what this year and beyond will bring. It’s not easy — it’s still a LOT of work and NOTHING like HGTV; being a successful full-time Realtor is a more than 40hrs/week endeavor. Many more. But I’ve come a long way in a few short years. I’m fulfilled by the many clients’ lives I’ve changed by helping to make their homeownership dreams a reality, I’m making more than peanuts, and hey I’m still an Actor! That impossible Dual-Career path I set out to find does exist.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t know anyone in Real Estate who recounts a smooth road getting into the groove of this industry. It takes most new Realtors at least 6 months before they make any money at the job, and even once you close your first deal nothing is guaranteed. We have an incredible rate of attrition in Real Estate, because it’s relatively easy to pass the State Exam and earn your License… but the job on the other side isn’t the easy money most people are expecting. Like I mentioned earlier, this job requires immense drive, tenacity, discipline, consistency, organization, thick-skin, a business-mind, and a laser sharp focus on your goals to succeed. Add to the normal challenges the fact that I’m a Millennial Artist, and most of my Sphere wasn’t looking to buy (let alone sell) a home when I got my license! But I don’t give up. I’m a natural problem-solver … and an actor! Dealing with rejection and staying patient while pounding the pavement come naturally for me. When I only sold one home my first year and barely had any money, I absolutely considered that one home a success. It’s a marathon, not a sprint! These days, my constant recurring challenge is reminding myself not to get so wrapped up in Real Estate that I forget the reason I got into it in the first place. But as long as I’m making progress as an actor, too, life is swell.

Please tell us more about your work
I work all over Greater Los Angeles. My specialty isn’t a certain geographic area, but rather it tends to be the types of clients. While I have helped folks of all shapes and sizes, experience levels, and price points, my niche (and what I love most!) is working with Millennial and Gen-X first-time home buyers and sellers. In LA, most buyers are looking to purchase in the best neighborhood that fits their needs/wants and budget. I closed 28 deals last year, and I can tell you not one of the Buyer clients among them was limiting their search to one neighborhood only. And most often the multiple areas they were considering weren’t adjacent to one another. In order to be an awesome Realtor, my job is to have a broad knowledge of Greater LA and be resourceful and purposeful with my MLS data to help my clients get the best value on the best home for them, no matter where it is. I attribute most of my success as an agent to my background as an Actor. (Though, most of my clients don’t find that out about me until at least a few weeks into Escrow on their home. There’s a horrible tendency in our society to assume that a person can only be great at or committed to one single thing, so I like to omit the trivia of my being an actor until they Facebook friend me or whatever and make the discovery!) I pride myself on being able to see homes and issues from the perspective of my clients. I get to know them like friends and family, so that I can put myself in their shoes when negotiating on their behalf. That makes it easy to represent their best interests! I don’t “sell” anything to anyone; I don’t pressure my clients to make a move before they’re ready. That doesn’t make any sense – I wouldn’t pressure my friends or family! The biggest compliment I get over and over again is “You’re so wonderful! Not at all what I thought of when I imagined our Real Estate Agent!” I’m not in this industry for a quick buck; I’ve found that while going the extra mile to provide great customer service and a genuine interest in my clients may take more effort, but it’s well worth it in the long run. Happy clients not only make my job so much more rewarding, but they turn into referrals down the line.

What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to or planning for – any big changes?
One of my favorite parts of my job has always been educating my clients on the market and the home buying/selling process so that they feel armed with the knowledge and tools for a smooth, no-surprises real estate experience. I love it so much that I have a whole YouTube channel I just launched that is devoted to educating Home Buyers and Sellers on everything they could ever wonder about Real Estate! (Believe it or not, buying and selling homes takes WAY more time, energy, and paperwork than a 30minute episode of HGTV would suggest!) In the past few years, I discovered a knack and passion for educating new agents, too! I’m currently developing an awesome training intensive for new licensees that will bridge the gap between passing the State Licensing Exam and becoming a productive, knowledgeable, money-making Realtor. There is an incredible wealth of training out there for getting you to the point where you can pass the exam, but after you’re licensed there’s no easy way to learn what you need to ensure a smooth no-surprises transaction for yourself! There are countless coaching programs for licensed agents to learn mindset and productivity skills to stay motivated and run their business like a business. But unless someone takes you under their wing, most new agents are completely lost when it comes to the logistics of how offers and transactions work – their knowledge is only slightly better than that of a first-time home-buyer. When they finally do land that first client, they have no idea what they’re doing! This intensive will arm them with everything they actually need to know to be an authority for their clients — no more “fake it til you make it”. The program will launch in Spring 2018! Meanwhile, at my office, we’re super intent on growth through offering our agents incredible value and team culture in this increasingly isolating, competitive, digital world. As I shift focus a bit from sales to my training intensive and new role as Assistant Team Leader at Keller Williams Westside, I’ll look forward to building a small team of my own to continue my work with Buyers and Sellers.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Keller Williams Westside 1642 Westwood Blvd #300
  • Website:
  • Phone: 323-920-5235
  • Email:

Theatre Co. – “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” 11/29/17 The New Vic Theatre

Image Credit:

Geoffrey Wade (1st Photo) David Bazemore (Pemberley Photo) Billy Small (B&W Photo)

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