Moving Forward By Prioritizing the Past
Kathy Korte is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc., a company known worldwide for representing fine properties in a range of prices and desirable locations. With offices from Los Angeles to New York to London, Sotheby’s International Realty provides brokerage, marketing and consulting services for distinctive properties, including fine apartments, townhouses and lofts as well as estates, ranches and resorts.
Korte began her real estate career right out of college, joining the company’s Manhattan brokerage division in 1984. Rising quickly from administrative assistant to assistant Manhattan brokerage manager, she was called into the corporate ranks, becoming Director of Administration for the organization in 1989. In this role, with responsibility for managing human resources and the company's brokerage and affiliate administrative services, Korte gained insights into how the company’s business practices and marketing strategies had to be customized to suit every market. Even while operating a global organization in the luxury arena and delivering on a consistent brand promise, she found that real estate truly was a local business.
From 1992 through 2005, Korte returned to her roots in the Manhattan office, and served as senior vice president and manager for the Manhattan brokerage. Facing a full range of market conditions over those years, she developed a mastery of the real estate brokerage business and the strong instincts that guide her decisions today. Under her leadership, the Manhattan office nearly tripled its profits while increasing sales volume to over $1 billion. In 2005, Korte transitioned into a new position as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Eastern Region, overseeing the company’s East Coast brokerage offices stretching from Palm Beach to Cape Cod.
In 2006, Korte was named President and CEO, and today oversees the management of 35 brokerage offices and over 1,700 sales associates in key metropolitan and resort markets, including London; Manhattan; the Hamptons; Greenwich, Conn.; Cape Cod; Palm Beach, Fla.; Beverly Hills; Brentwood; Pasadena; Santa Barbara; San Francisco; Sonoma; Monterey Peninsula; Sun Valley, Idaho; Santa Fe, New Mexico and Jackson Hole, Wyo. The company is part of NRT LLC, a subsidiary of Realogy Corporation and the nation's largest residential real estate brokerage company, as well as a member of the Sotheby’s International Realty® network comprised of more than 500 offices and 10,600 agents spanning 40 countries and territories. The network is continuing to grow, adding partners in sought-after destinations around the world. Sotheby’s International Realty® recently announced an exclusive 25-year master franchise agreement covering Rome and the surrounding Lazio region, marking the first time the brand will be available in Rome’s luxury real estate market.
Today Korte views upholding the Sotheby’s International Realty® brand’s legacy of service as her primary role in the organization. Like the auction house it is named for, Sotheby’s International Realty has earned a distinguished reputation for expertise in the valuation and sale of treasured assets. Since its founding in 1976, the real estate firm has set countless price records through the sale of noteworthy and spectacular homes, yet it is the expertise and service the company provides for which it is best known. Under Korte’s guidance, Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. provides world-class service in every price category, and has achieved a ranking as the most prestigious real estate company according to a survey of affluent Americans conducted by The Luxury Institute, a recognized resource for meaningful insight into high-end markets. Among the qualities that respondents attributed to Sotheby's International Realty were that the company has "high-end properties," "exclusive listings," "great customer service," and an "excellent reputation." The company also offers unique and sophisticated marketing tools that provide maximum exposure and help to secure the best price for any property.
Korte understands that her agents are the real brand ambassadors, and she is focused on empowering and inspiring them, through marketing tools, statistics, education and events, to exceed the expectations of their clients. Earlier this year, she conducted an internal survey of the company’s top agents to find out how they were still thriving at such a challenging time for real estate. The results confirmed that the same hallmarks for which the company is renowned were critical to their success. A relentless focus on customer satisfaction, consistency of service, quality over quantity, integrity, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic were key performance skills. Thanks to her leadership, an emphasis on premium service is a trait shared by every Sotheby’s International Realty agent, not just those with the highest sales. Recently, one Manhattan agent even used personal contacts to arrange temporary housing for his clients relocating from Russia while they were waiting for a transaction to become finalized, and went further by helping them shop for necessities for their new home.
Proving that this focus on service pays dividends, 18 agents on Korte’s team, representing nine different markets between them, were ranked in the “Top 100 Agents by Sales Volume” category of “America’s Top 400 Real Estate Professionals for 2008,” published by The Wall Street Journal this year. In addition to Manhattan agent Serena Boardman claiming the #1 spot in the nation, Sotheby’s International Realty agents comprised five of the top six spots, and the company boasted more rankings in the top 10 and top 25 than any other firm in the nation. This was business as usual for Korte’s firm, marking the third time in the past four years that Sotheby's International Realty had the number one agent in the country in individual sales volume, and the third year in a row that the company had at least 10 brokers from across the country recognized in this prestigious roster.
In addition to maintaining the company’s legacy of service and ensuring strategic growth in key markets, Korte has overseen some important new initiatives since stepping into the position of President and CEO. In 2008, she launched the firm’s first company-wide social responsibility initiative. Since the fourth quarter of 2008, Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. has worked to support Conservation International, a global conservation organization that works with peoples, business and governments around the world to conserve the Earth’s biodiversity. The company’s agents and offices protect precious rainforest acres and the species they contain through Conservation International’s “Protect an Acre” program, widely recognized as the most immediate and cost-effective way to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. In the program’s first year, over 11,000 acres were protected.
At the same time, the company has been evaluating its own environmental practices, working to decrease energy use and waste. Her corporate offices have even engaged a green consultancy, which is working with her staff to increase adoption of sustainable business practices and monitoring the decreasing use of electricity, paper and toner in the office.
If you were to ask Korte her secret for success, she would say that she takes nothing for granted and is ready to anticipate and respond to every twist and turn in her business. She always assumes that there is more that she and her senior leadership can learn, and more they can be doing to help the company’s agents succeed. Recently, she spoke at a meeting of the Financial Women’s Association about how female CEO’s have managed through the economic downturn. As always, she provided great insights, but was interested in listening to her co-presenters and their insights rather than holding the floor with her own remarks.
Korte is a member of the Westchester Board of Realtors and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). She served on REBNY's Inter-Firm Committee from 1992 to 2004 and on its Board of Directors in 2003 and 2004. She is also a member of The Luxury Marketing Council in New York.
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