When a national tragedy strikes, it can affect a country’s citizens in unpredictable ways, sometimes prompting them to reassess their priorities and change their lives as a result. Such was the case for Catherine Ferrera, not because of the current pandemic, but in the aftermath of another devastating event: 9/11. A mother of three, she was on one of the first flights out of Seattle after that disaster, and she found herself thinking, “What am I doing?”
Catherine held a corporate position at the time, and it required a lot of travel. This meant long hours and time away from family. Soon, she began considering how she could remake her life to be more in sync with her goals, her strengths, and the activities she enjoyed most.
Past as Prologue
Catherine recalled how one of her parents’ hobbies was to attend open houses. It wasn’t that they were necessarily in the market for a new home, but rather that they just liked it and found it interesting. She often tagged along and became as enthusiastic about this activity as they were. It remains enjoyable to her to this day.
By 2003, she had left the corporate world and started a new career in real estate, working at various brokerages before joining Compass about a year and a half ago as a managing broker. “Helping people find a home they want to call home has been very satisfying,” she said. Most of her clients have become lifetime friends.
“Every job has its challenges and rewards, but real estate is more personal than corporate sales,” Catherine said. Another bonus is that it was the first job she ever had where she earned equal pay to her male colleagues. The ability to master her own destiny and compensation was appealing. And although she works seven days a week, she likes the freedom she has to determine her schedule. “It doesn’t get boring,” she said.
Along with sales, Catherine helps people prep and stage their homes prior to listing them. One of the aspects she likes about Compass is that it offers different services such as their Compass Concierge, where the brokerage will pay up front to get a home ready for sale, and the costs will be repaid by the client at closing with zero percent interest. “If a seller is land rich and cash poor, this can be a good option,” Catherine said.
With some 20 years in the business now, along with her background in marketing, Catherine believes the experience she brings to the job is paramount. “I’m solution-oriented and very good at problem solving,” she said. “You can’t just put out a for-sale sign. There is a lot to navigate in the process. Plus, you’re advocating for the client.”
Beyond the marketing, “as a real estate person you’re building relationships—with buyers, sellers, and other agents,” Catherine said. “What I’m most proud of is that 99% of my business is referral based.”
A New Direction
Working for Compass, a national company, Catherine has access to their focused platform and technology, which have made her job easier. “You’re independent, but we work on issues together,” she said, “and they believe in the value of real estate agents.” A user-friendly feature called Compass Collections allows potential buyers to view homes that meet their criteria and communicate easily with their broker to schedule viewings.
Most of the time Catherine works out of her Holmes Point neighborhood home, where views of the lake keep her inspired. This arrangement has been especially convenient during the pandemic. But she also likes going into the office for the camaraderie and “mindset meetings.”
Business hasn’t slowed during the pandemic, Catherine said, which can make scheduling viewings more complicated due to safety precautions and managing the number of people who can be in a home at any one time. Of late, a viewing has been limited to 5 minutes, but she hopes open houses will begin again soon. The company practices contract tracing and social distancing per state and federal guidelines.
In some ways the pandemic has sparked additional impetus for people to move as they spend more time at home and realize they would like additional space or amenities in what she calls a “move up.” That’s why there is such high demand for single-family homes.
This past winter demand has exceeded supply, which makes for a highly competitive market. When the traditional high season of spring and summer comes, Catherine believes inventory will pick up as more houses arrive on the market. The year-over-year appreciation rates the market is experiencing may not be sustainable in the long run but are characteristic of the current environment.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
It was always Catherine’s goal to have one of her kids get involved in the business with her, and last year it happened when her daughter McKenna joined the Ferrera team. After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in finance, McKenna worked for a real estate development company called Vitus, which seeks affordable housing options for low-income residents.
However, McKenna decided she wanted work that offered more creativity. She studied for her real estate license last October and passed the exam the same month. Catherine is proud to say that McKenna has since gotten her first listing as an agent and is doing well. “Hopefully we’ll be able to set up a business for her that she can continue when she starts her own family,” Catherine said.
The Five-Year Plan and Beyond
When it comes to the future, Catherine still has goals she wants to achieve. She sees the team growing their business, with McKenna bringing in new clients and taking on more responsibility. “In five years, I hope to be at the pinnacle of my career,” Catherine said. “In 10 years, I may try to hand off some of the business so that I can travel more.”
Kirkland will likely remain a home base. “It is such a jewel,” Catherine said. “It’s that perfect combination of waterside living, idyllic. More and more people are attracted to it because of its small-town feel. It has beautiful properties, good schools, access to nature, and all of the amenities like the renovated Totem Lake Center and the new Kirkland Urban Center downtown.” While growth is inevitable, she hopes it won’t spoil that small-town feel. “I would say that most of the growth I’ve seen has been positive and has helped rather than hindered the community,” she said.
Overall, she seems content with the choices she’s made. “It’s a real pleasure to be able to live and work in your neighborhood, where you know people,” she said. “I’m grateful every day.”
For more on the Ferrera Team, visit www.ferrerateam.com.