- #1 producer in individual sales in Coldwell Banker’s Van Ness office in 2013, 2014 and 2016
- 2016 sales: $61 millionCareer
- Sales to date: $780 million
- Multi-lingual: French, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin
On the early years
My dad was at Bechtel, and got offered a job in France. My mother is French. From age 10 to 14, I went to French schools and because I had grown up being a competitive figure skater, I was lucky to train with the French national skating team while I was going to school. During my 10 years of competitive skating I reached the national level twice —in the U.S. and in France.
Upon returning to the U.S., I majored in Pre-Med at Berkeley with the intent of becoming a medical researcher. I worked three nights a week at International House where I lived, and played piano for another three nights at Café Romano. That’s what put me through college. But the skating siren called again. I heard that the Ice Follies was having try-outs in San Francisco. I got a spot in the show and skated around the Far East. Soon after, I was offered a great coaching job at Berkeley Iceland in the company of world class coaches who taught Peggy Fleming and Kristi Yamaguchi. I coached for five years, but always knew I would to get into the business world. As much as I loved skating, it’s a very insular club.
I moved to the city and took an entry level job as a bank teller—anything to get a foot in the door. Within 12 months, I was trading currency. I did well at that for five or six years but then suffered a reversal that resulted in a checking account on life support, $20,000 in credit card debt, no car and essentially no career. I wound up living in a downtown residential hotel room. So I took a job working at minimum wage at a little bed and breakfast on Nob Hill, got back on my feet, saved a little money and started my life all over again. Going through that transformed me. I went from being someone who had approached life with a materialistic bent, to someone who realized that money and possessions are not the most important things in life. And it gave me this burning desire to succeed at whatever I do.
On entering the real estate business
I started in 1992 selling $100,000 condos. Friends advised, “Oh, Joel, don’t go into real estate. You’re not aggressive enough. You’re not socially connected. You don’t have any money.” Nothing really prepares you for a career in real estate, but what motivated me was an obsession I have with architecture and design. I took the plunge and knew that I was going to make it. In my first six months, I had six sales.
My first listing was a co-op priced at $125,000 in the building I lived in— Crown Towers. I staged it with two giant orchids — it had a beautiful 1920’s fireplace — and two very pretty chairs on each side of the fireplace. I took a picture and placed a tiny quarter-page ad in the Real Estate Times. I have never had so many calls on a print ad. People would call and say, “Joel, this looks like a $2 million apartment. Why is it $125,000?” That was my first lesson in mini-staging. That launched me, but I knew instinctively that success was really a question of networking. Part of my business plan was, as soon as I could afford it, to have eight people for drinks every Wednesday night– then out to dinner. By 1999, seven years into the business, I knew I had arrived when I double-ended a $5 million sale.
My sweet spot is overall luxury, $3 million plus in the Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Pacific Heights territory. But I’ve done sales at Four Seasons and Millennium, and had three major sales in Sea Cliff. I don’t just handle traditional single family homes. I had a $10 million co-op sale in Pacific Heights, and I sell a lot of condos, which reflects the territory. My average transaction is in the $4 or $4.5 million range.
On the Goodrich “style”
I facetiously define my style as over-the-top maximalist. The truth is, whether it’s my apartment or my clothing, fashion design is all about energy. My own home has been designed as a night-time apartment for entertaining—essentially creating a fantasy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on three “best-dressed” lists, and been invited to the Chanel show six times. It all ties into real estate, because if you understand style and fashion, it helps you sell real estate.
People do tend to remember me. These days, it’s not that hard. For example, not many people wear ties. I wear a tie, and the ties I wear tend to be Hermes, Versace or Pucci—the very iconic fashion designers. In 1998, when I first starting getting my dot.com clients, they would come in shorts and flip-flops, I’d be in my Hermes tie. They would look at me like, “Who is the creature from out of space wearing this crazy tie. I remember thinking at the time, “Shall I change how I dress?” I thought, “No. I am who I am.” To me, it’s “Be who you are.” I thought, “No one wears ties anymore. I do. And people don’t forget me. That being said, lately, I’ve occasionally not worn a tie, but I still find it somewhat disconcerting.”
On the value and importance of marketing – Goodrich style
I’ve been termed “a schmoozer with high social acumen.” To an extent, that’s true. I am a very social creature. But remember that my business plan was heavily predicated on networking—from day one. And to me, real estate is a lifestyle, not a job. So for many years, I was out six nights a week. Now, it’s four to five. I’ve cut back. An average evening? Last night was dinner and ballet in a friend’s box. Tonight it’s a birthday dinner party for a friend at the University Club. Tomorrow night it’s two cocktail parties.
Print advertising is still important to me. So is good, old fashion direct mail. It’s still one of the most targeted forms of marketing. But I don’t ignore digital media. I’ve got the monthly e-newsletter with 18,000 subscribers. With an open rate of 25-44%, that’s 6000 people who are reading me every month. I also have 41,000 following me on social media. I am a social creature, after all!
On the current market
We’re experiencing a lot of cross-currents right now. After five years of the huge run-up, I think we’re having a healthy breather, with some markets up and some down. The next few years are going to be more of 2016—stability with some firmness. I suspect a mild recession toward the end of the decade, but the 2020s are going to be huge in San Francisco.
Pacific Heights and Russian Hill are “hot” and remain one of the few sub-markets that were up in 2016, as opposed to areas south of Market that are down after a big period of run-up. Some of the new luxury high-rises aren’t selling as well either. For example, one iconic high-rise has six apartments available over $5 million. That’s unusual. At the same time, at the Pacific we’re having sales at $3,800 a square foot. So, it’s a spotty market.
I foresee a big future for San Francisco. Traditional companies are coming here, because they have to be close to the tech community. Demographically, people getting older are not retiring to the suburbs. They’re staying here in town, or they’re retiring from the suburbs into town. High-rise living is the future and San Francisco is the high-rise capitol of Northern California. We’re also much more visible on the international radar screen than we ever were.