Top Realtor gets inside heart,
mind of the client
24, 2002 -Top Realtor gets inside heart, mind of the client
by Macario Juarez Jr.
She doesn't sell houses she thinks are overpriced or won't
hold their value.
She doesn't tell clients only what they want to hear.
She doesn't impose herself on people just to get their business.
It's what she doesn't do - as much as what she does do -
that has made Robin Sue Kaiserman the area's top-grossing
real estate agent for nine years running. Last year alone,
she sold $32.8 million in Catalina Foothills luxury homes.
"I can't tell you why I've been able to do this, to
be honest," she says. "Other agents work hard. It's
just the trust that you build up with people over the years
- a trust and confidence."
Building - and maintaining - that trust means sometimes steering
a client away from what could be an easy sale.
"You always want to be honest with your people, even
if it's going to cost you some money," says Kaiserman,
who has sold homes here for almost 16 years.
Her "people" are some of Tucson's wealthiest residents
and leading custom-home builders who want to live and do business
in the Catalina Foothills.
When they make a move, Kaiserman usually is there to guide
them - if not in person, then via the cellphone, from inside
her Lincoln Town Car or from what she calls her "downtown
Foothills" office at North Swan Road and East Sunrise
Drive. Last year alone, she sold 63 houses at an average price
of more than $500,000 each - enough to net her a six-figure
income and make her something of a celebrity within her industry.
She clearly dominates the local field, selling $4.6 million
more than her closest competitor last year. Some of her sales
are double-counted if she listed the house and another of
her clients bought it. But she estimates that happened only
about three times last year.
To sell and sell and sell, she is always accessible, always
She's on the cellphone constantly. On the rare occasions
when it stops ringing, she gets nervous, wondering what could
She plans her vacations so they get her out of town and away
from work - but not so far away that her clients can't reach
"I won't go to Mexico because my phone won't work, but
I'll go to Hawaii."
She gets to know her clients so well that she knows what
types of people they like, and sometimes introduces them to
"Everyone is different," she says. "It's fun
to figure out who they are."
The day begins
It's 9 o'clock on a Tuesday morning and the troops at Long
Realty's Foothills office are out the door. Today Kaiserman
and her fellow agents are critiquing eight homes they have
for sale, including one of Kaiserman's listings - a $1.48
million home in Ventana Canyon Country Club.
The group spends about five minutes doing a "walk-through"
of each home. En route to the next property, they fill out
anonymous forms with suggestions to the listing agent on the
home's condition and whether it's priced right.
One home, a golf course villa at Ventana Canyon, reminds
Kaiserman of a similar house in the same development that
she refused to sell to a short-term buyer.
"I convinced the buyer not to buy it because he wouldn't
be able to sell it in a couple of years. Based on the economics,
it didn't make sense."
Her honesty may cost her a quick sale. But she hopes it wins
her loyal clients.
"Sometimes my people don't listen to me," she says,
"but I can't help that."
Even competitors respect the way she deals with clients.
"She represents her clients to the utmost and leaves
no stone unturned," says Dan Santa Maria of Santa Maria
Realty. I certainly would put her in the top five of my favorite
people to work with."
By 11:30, the tour is over and Kaiserman heads for lunch.
On the way, her cellphone and beeper sit silent for a bit
too long. Jittery, she checks in with assistant Susan Kronberger
to make sure all is well at the office.
Unlike other agent assistants, Kronberger doesn't sell real
estate under Kaiserman, even though Kaiserman would be credited
for such sales.
"She is very much in control of her business - very
much chairman of the board," Long Realty CEO and President
Steve Quinlan says.
Kaiserman explains her strategy: "I want that relationship
with the buyer. That's my future client when they go to sell
Soon after her conversation with Kronberger, the communications
war between her pager and cellphone resumes.
A seller calls to ask what repairs need to be done to the
Another wants to know how the property tour went. Kaiserman
explains that it wasn't for the public, just for Long agents.
"It's very stressful for people to sell their home,"
she says between calls. "It's much more fun to buy a
Kaiserman arrives at Vivace, today's lunch choice, not a
moment too soon: "Lunch helps me get through the day,
emotionally," she says.
The break is a treat, also, because Kaiserman doesn't go
to dinner with her husband much due to their demanding work
Michael Kaiserman, she says, is the "rocket scientist"
of the family, spending 23 years at the plant that's now Raytheon.
The two met in the Redondo Beach, Calif., area where Michael
was in graduate school. They've been married 33 years. A common
bond: Both come from families in the apparel business.
Robin's family had a clothing store in her hometown of Minot,
N.D. Michael's family operated one at North Flowing Wells
and West Prince roads from 1962 through the mid-1980s. Robin
Kaiserman worked there for 10 years before her real estate
It was Michael who encouraged his wife in 1986 to consider
real estate, thinking she would enjoy its potential for longer-term
interaction with customers.
She enjoys that interaction so much that she can't resist
introducing acquaintances she thinks would like each other.
Her friendship matchmaking successes include Laura Johnson
and Sue McDonnell, wives of two Raytheon employees who didn't
know each other until they moved to Tucson from Dallas.
Johnson and her husband were in Tucson looking at homes and
having lunch with Kaiserman when the Realtor grabbed her cellphone
and dialed McDonnell in Dallas. McDonnell and her husband
had already purchased a house from Kaiserman but had not yet
"I picked up the phone, and she said, 'Hold on a second.
I have your new best friend on the line," McDonnell says.
That was in 1999. Today, McDonnell and Johnson live across
the street from each other and - true to Kaiserman's prediction
- they're best friends.
"She's good at observing and knowing her customers so
well, and picking up on the subtleties of our individual needs,
that you know working with her you aren't just another client,"
Her first sale
A bit of luck and a flat tire landed Kaiserman her first
listing and home sale.
It was August 1986, and Kaiserman's first day as an agent
at Webster Realty, a local brokerage at the time.
Her boss had asked her to drive to open houses on the West
Side to get familiar with the inventory. Kaiserman stopped
at a house with a for sale sign in the yard, thinking it was
on the list. It wasn't.
"I asked if I could see it anyway," she says.
Kaiserman viewed the property and returned to the car, only
to find a flat tire. She walked back to the house to use the
By the time AAA arrived, Kaiserman was the home's new listing
agent. The old listing was expiring that day, and the owner
asked Kaiserman if she wanted a crack at selling the property.
She sold the house - and made a long-term client. The seller
bought homes, fixed them up and resold them.
"Those people were clients of mine eight times,"
That sale was the first of many repeat business relationships
that largely have contributed to Kaiserman's success.
"Your future client base is your past client base,"
She learned right away she couldn't sell just any home. Tucson
was too big and property was too diverse to represent it all.
Instead, she has specialized in selling upper-end custom homes
in Northeast Side developments such as Ventana Canyon, Skyline
Country Club and Tucson Country Club.
"You've got to know your product. I can't go to the
East Side and say what a house is worth."
At the same time, Kaiserman has to like the house. And the
seller must agree on the price.
She's also particular about the buyers she represents.
"I just take out buyers that are really serious. . .
. It always comes down to the buyer's motivation."
Telling it like it is
After lunch, Kaiserman returns to her office and meets with
a builder who's putting down earnest money on a Foothills
Though he's already built a home on the same street, he's
buying this lot sight unseen, relying on Kaiserman's assessment
of the property and its value.
Later, she wheels up to a subdivision east of Skyline Country
Club to meet custom-home builder Gene DeVitis, who's thinking
of selling the home where he and his wife live.
He works with Kaiserman, he says, because he appreciates
her frankness. Today he wants her opinion on what his home
might sell for.
"She tells me what she thinks, not what I want to hear,"
And she does.
She doesn't like the pool table (even though the beige felt
matches the carpet), because it's the first thing someone
sees upon entering. It also masks a great view of a waterfall,
a hot tub and a negative-edge pool - designed so that water
looks as if it's flowing over the pool's edge.
After her walk-through, Kaiserman gives her market price
for the property: $775,000 to $800,000 - about $25,000 higher
than DeVitis' estimate.
Business finished, Kaiserman takes time to talk to DeVitis
and his wife, Tracy, who are newlyweds.
"The first year of marriage is the hardest," she
tells them. "The next 20 are moderately difficult. And
after that, it gets easy."
The couple warm to Kaiserman's interest in them and share
with her a few wedding pictures.
Kaiserman tries to contain her workday between 8 a.m. and
6 p.m., but it doesn't always happen.
And even when it does, she most often works seven days a
Despite her schedule, friends and colleagues marvel at her
ability to make time for her family.
"It's nice to see someone who can handle her business
and her family," says Judy Lowe, president of Realty
Executives of Tucson.
Lowe was Kaiserman's manager when they worked together at
Coldwell Banker Success Realty, now Coldwell Banker Success
Southwest, between 1988 and 1997.
Kaiserman, she says, "decides what she wants and has
the ability to put together a strategy to get there."
Still, Kaiserman is quick to admit that she couldn't have
made it this far without the support of her family - especially
"A lot of spouses don't like their wife to be gone all
the time," she says.
That's not a problem in the Kaiserman family.
"When she's bothering us, we tell her to go bother her
clients," her husband jokes.
Their secret to a healthy family life, he says, has been
to do things together, including vacations.
"We are close to our kids," he says. "They
are at the ages now where they like to bring a friend along.
They spend time with us, and they have time with their friends
Jeffrey Kaiserman was in the first grade when his mother
started selling real estate. He's now 21 and a junior at the
University of Arizona, studying communications. His sister,
Melissa, is 27 and an elementary school teacher in San Diego.
Both recall spending time during childhood at open houses.
"We would take the cookies and lemonade," Melissa
While Jeffrey has considered going into real estate himself,
Melissa has never felt drawn to the business. But she knows
the secret of her mother's success.
"She generally cares for the people she works with,"
Melissa says. "It's an honesty thing, and it's genuine."
One last showing
The workday is winding down, and Kaiserman is showing a home
she has listed in Catalina Foothills Estates No. 10.
A couple who live in a nearby Catalina Foothills neighborhood
called earlier and asked to see it.
The three are joined by the home's owner, Angela Olson. Her
company, M&A Realty Renovation, buys and renovates homes,
then resells them.
Both Kaiserman and Olson answer questions, including where
the property line is and what renovations have been done.
The couple seem impressed but leave uncommitted.
Nonetheless, Olson is confident the home won't be on the
market long, partly because of Kaiserman's involvement.
Calling it a day
Kaiserman had planned a light day today, hoping to knock
off by 3 or 3:30 p.m.
That was 13 homes and several appointments ago. It's now
6 p.m., and the only home Kaiserman wants to visit is the
one she and Michael have lived in for 25 years.
A sharp contrast to the desert palaces she visits every day,
Kaiserman's Foothills home is relatively modest. Built in
1965, the burnt adobe home lacks many of the amenities of
the homes she lists.
She sometimes is tempted to move up, but a luxury home -
the very type of property on which she has built her career
- is just not a priority to her.
"It's more important to find happiness in life,"
she says. "I've found that big, fancy homes don't always
make people happy."
Profile / Robin Sue Kaiserman
Rsum: Webster Realty, 1986-1988; Coldwell Banker
Success Realty, 1988-1997; Long Realty, 1997-present.
Personal: Married 33 years to Michael Kaiserman, a Raytheon
engineer. Son Jeffrey, 21, is a University of Arizona junior,
studying communications. Daughter Melissa, 27, is an elementary
school teacher in San Diego.
Contact Star Business reporter Macario Juarez Jr., at 573-4663
or at email@example.com.
Copyright 2002 The Arizona Daily Star