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Feeling at home as the top agent in his real estate office

Frank Bruno has been the No. 1 agent at Keller Williams' Hollywood Hills office for five years. Not bad for a man who reentered the house-selling business not long before the recent housing bust.

May 22, 2011|By Lauren Beale, Los Angeles Times
  • Frank Bruno has been the No. 1 agent in Keller Williams Hollywood Hills office since 2006, a year after he returned to the field.
Frank Bruno has been the No. 1 agent in Keller Williams Hollywood Hills office… (Bradford Rogne )

The gig: Frank Bruno has been the No. 1 real estate agent at the Keller Williams office in Hollywood Hills since 2006.

Bad timing, twice: Originally licensed in 1993, he ventured into real estate briefly during the previous housing bust. "I liked it, but it was the wrong timing for me," said Bruno, who returned to the field in 2005, just in time for the most recent downturn. "Unfortunately, I missed the heyday of the real estate market."

Fast start: Within two years, Bruno was No. 2 out of 80,000 Keller Williams solo agents nationwide. He credits the quick ascent to his ability to cultivate contacts. Between his forays into real estate, the UCLA psychology graduate was a personal trainer and took clients on fitness adventure trips worldwide.

Turning point: Hiring someone to be a personal trainer and entrusting that person with a $5-million house listing are different, he said. "There are obstacles to overcome."

Bruno landed his second listing appointment when former fitness clients, already planning to use a prominent agent in their area, halfheartedly agreed to listen to his pitch. "I could hear it in their voices that they were just trying to placate me," he said.

For the meeting, Bruno researched the neighborhood and created marketing material mock-ups for the home re-creating the original developer's brochure from the 1920s.

"They were blown away," he said. "They couldn't believe I had come up with this concept, and their agent hadn't done anything close to that." Bruno got the listing and started showing the brochure to other potential clients. "That opened the floodgates," he said.

Overcoming inexperience: Arming himself with knowledge of comparable sales and neighborhoods, Bruno said, he went into listing appointments "with so much confidence that people never questioned how long I'd been in the business."

Teacher and mentor: When he had been in the business for only eight months, his manager asked him to lead a class for salespeople. He chose the topic: How to establish yourself as a new agent.

"When you go to teach, you have to figure out what you are doing," said Bruno, who continues to mentor others. "It helped me in my own career, showed me what direction I needed to go into, what might be lacking and what I was doing right."

Advice for weathering bad times: Bruno is a firm believer in working harder; as the housing market tanked, he realized that his business model needed to change. When one of his assistants left, he decided not to fill the position as a cost-cutting measure. "I can answer my phones and schedule appointments," he said. "I didn't need a vanity assistant."

He is also an advocate of working smarter. "The day you close the door to learning is the day you should close your business," he said.

Secret to success: Bruno is fanatical about customer service. He tries to return phone calls within an hour and prides himself on being available to clients seven days a week. "It is amazing when you put your clients at the top of the list how they respond," he said.

Personal: Traveling and scuba diving are Bruno's favorite leisure activities. He also volunteers at Project Angel Food, which provides meals for people with HIV, AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

"I don't have any time to cook for myself," he said, "but being able to go to a kitchen and prepare food for others really puts my life in perspective."

lauren.beale@latimes.com

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