Nunn helps LJ Coldwell grow

Jeff Nunn says he firmly believes that successful real estate agents must “leave their egos in the back seat.”

If the track record at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in La Jolla is any indication, he’s hired well.

In the last three years, the office has increased sales year over year, according to Sandicorp reports. In the last 20 months, amid what Nunn says is a market that’s worse than when mortgage rates were at 18 percent, they have gone from 40 to 80 agents.

In the first four months of 2009, his agents have 11 percent more sales in escrow and 59 percent more closed deals than in the same time frame a year ago, he said, a sign that “more people are staying in the deal after their offer has been accepted.”

Coldwell Banker’s agents are part of the 600-members La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association, and with those numbers, Nunn said, “there’s not enough business in La Jolla to support La Jolla’s agents for the next few years.”

Reaching out

That explains why Coldwell Banker’s agents are not limiting themselves to the high-end housing market of La Jolla that has yet to see the improvement that lower-priced sales are starting to experience.

“We’re going where our clients’ needs are,” including his own Carmel Valley neighborhood to the north and downtown to the south, he said. About half the current inventory is in La Jolla; the rest is outside.

And while residential transactions have been its bread and butter, the office has expanded its offerings to include multi-family and commercial properties, leasing and managing residential properties and also has a certified financial analyst on staff. They’re also expanding in the international marketplace, Nunn said.

Setting a vision

Nunn joined the office as branch manager in September 2007 and said he set a “clear vision to assemble a group of full time, committed real estate agents - not just people with licenses.”

He cut his teeth with Ralph Burnet at Burnet Realty in Minneapolis, which was acquired by Coldwell Banker in 1998, and spent four years in Arizona before coming to the San Diego area.

Jim Cox of Fidelity National Title, who became a friend after doing business with him, said Nunn has a special touch with people.

“There are not many like him that are able to lead people who live and breathe that business like he has,” Cox said, noting that his friend’s ability to mentor and help people is what has made him a success.

Coaching accountability

A father of three 20-something daughters and a veteran of 30 years in the business Nunn says coaching his staff to be accountable to their business plans is foremost. Throughout his career, his wife Pamela has been by his side.

“It’s easy to say what you’re going to do, but it’s tougher if you don’t have a plan to get there. … What gets measured gets done.”

When he hires, Nunn said, he looks for agents that have a combination of an excellent reputation among their peers, are “in production,” good moral character and ability to interact with others.

“People skills are more important than real estate skills,” he said. “You can’t teach people skills from a book.”

“It’s easy to get sideways in pursuit of big contracts,” he said, so his emphasis is on finding “caring people who put people and their interests before their own.”

Talk to Nancy Gardner of CMC Mortgage and you’ll learn that he sets an example.

“He’s a kinder, gentler leader who knows how to motivate,” she said. “He’s the consummate professional.”

Valuing honesty

But even more critical is that “they must be as honest as the day is long,” he added.

And those days are often long, he joked. “This isn’t a 9-to-5 business.”

It’s one that calls for an investment in the community as well as the business, he added. Coldwell Banker’s agents give freely to local charities and also contribute their time to events, from the La Jolla Half Marathon to the La Jolla Festival of the Arts.

Occasionally he finds time to squeeze in a round of golf or a trip to the beach, although with the market as tough as it’s been lately, that’s been less frequent, he noted.