The Alimond Show

Ali Zinat of Realty ONE Group Capital

January 16, 2024 Alimond Studio
The Alimond Show
Ali Zinat of Realty ONE Group Capital
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Meet our guest, a tech-turned-real estate expert, who embarked on an exciting journey from Iran to Northern Virginia. His tale of transitioning from software to real estate is riveting, especially with the unique insights he gained along the way. Listen to how he mastered networking and leveraged his sphere of influence to climb his way to success in real estate - a story that promises to inspire budding entrepreneurs and ignite a spark in go-getters.

In the second part of the chat, we navigate the real estate market of Virginia, discussing the challenges of finding spacious yards near Sterling, Ashburn and Fairfax County. We also ponder over the scope for improvements in traffic and school systems. Adding a dash of fun to our conversation, our guest shares his passion for volleyball and keen interest in current affairs. Don't miss out on the unique adventure of his life outside of work and the many lessons he learned about starting a small business. Let's embark on this journey of business, personal growth, and real estate.

Speaker 1:

So you came here when you were eight years old. Tell me your story from there.

Speaker 2:

Oh, tell me my story from there.

Speaker 1:

So how did you get over here from Iran?

Speaker 2:

So we actually originally came like in 1978. So I was only two years old. We came for a year. We lived in the Montgomery County Rockville area and most Iranians left Iran either right before the revolution or right after when things took a turn. But my parents were in that smaller group that was the opposite. They thought maybe things are going to actually change for the better in Iran or something. So they spent a year here and then they went back and then of course things got a little crazy.

Speaker 2:

There was a revolution and that work lasted forever and they were concerned about me getting drafted into the military. I mean, I think they were sending kids as young as 14, 15 to the war and once you went it was a good chance. You never made it back and I still remember those images. But we were fortunate enough my uncle had lived in Richmond, virginia, for a really long time and he kind of was our sponsor. So we came in 85 and lived in Richmond for about six months or so and I've been in northern Virginia pretty much ever since. So I have a lot of roots in this area, starting in Alexandria, a false church area, and then eventually Herndon, where I went to middle school and high school, and then George Mason from my undergrad and master's studies.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, my dad actually came over, he went to, he was from Iraq went over to Iran because Saddam kicked him and his whole family out of Iraq. And so they stayed there for 17ish years, 15ish years, and then came here when he was 25, around that same time frame.

Speaker 2:

Where were you born?

Speaker 1:

I was born here in Indiana. He actually won the lottery.

Speaker 2:

Yes, many people come that way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and so that's how he made it out here. So it's interesting how all the? People have ended up here. I always loved knowing about that. Ok, so then, once you graduated, tell me a little bit about what you do now, today.

Speaker 2:

So I was one of those people. I didn't have like a specific area that I wanted to study. Once I got to college I was just kind of taking classes. I was so jealous of those people that, like you know, knew in high school they're like this is what I want to do, this is what I want to major in, this is what I want to be. So I started out as, I think, general. Then I went to computer science route and it wasn't for me. I didn't.

Speaker 2:

I like computers but I didn't enjoy coding and I knew I liked something that was business and maybe related to information technology. So I ended up getting a management information systems degree and I had my sights on digital and getting a MBA, a master's in business. But they really wanted you to have a few years of experience first. So they advised that I wait and then apply then and take all the you know, the entrance exam and everything. So I interned for a bunch of different companies when I was in college and the last one I had worked for was the biggest you know internet provider at the time in the US and I had an internship there and I started full time with a nice salary the day after I graduated college. So I was with them for quite a long time and then, like a lot of the companies that had a bus during the tech time, they had a lot of layoffs, the stock went to zero and they got purchased and eventually, when I finished my master's in business, I left and I went into the consulting world.

Speaker 1:

And so consulting world for other business.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, so I worked for a big one of the top consulting companies, accenture. I did that for a couple of years. The division I was in wasn't the ideal fit. I ended up going back to work with some of the people I'd worked with at previous companies and I always kind of had a passion for real estate and I'd always been kind of a connector. I remember somebody had mentioned that to me a while back. There was this best-selling book written by Malcolm Gladwell the name it was called the Tipping Point, and one of the types of people he talks about is a connector. And when I was getting my MBA my friend was like I need someone like you. You're a connector, you know everybody, you connect people to other people and things.

Speaker 2:

And while I was getting my masters they basically didn't have a student association. So we kind of got that going again. I think they had one many years ago but it had fallen apart. And then I became the president of that student association. We grew it. It was something to advocate for the students careers, learning opportunities, happy hours with the other local schools and then eventually, as I was working full-time, I got my real estate license.

Speaker 2:

I said I've been connecting people for many years. Why not do something where it can be a career and monetize that? And then I was like, could I have been here for so long? I knew all the schools, I knew all the roads, I knew all the neighborhoods. I had a vast network. I had done previous to that for about 10 years I had been on board of a local charity. I've just been kind of one of those people that had been pulled into many different things. But the nice thing was I had met so many people along the way, having done so many volunteer roles, and so I kind of built up this vast network that I could tap into A good sphere of influence.

Speaker 2:

Yes, exactly. A good sphere of influence.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome. So, in terms of the difference between real estate and consulting and the software technology world, where are the connections there?

Speaker 2:

So it definitely helps to be information technology savvy. When you're in real estate, there's a lot of tech tools you can use. It's good to understand how to use them. You're looking at data, trying to make use of that data. So I mean, I think if you have a background in technology, it's certainly a huge asset versus somebody that maybe doesn't have some of those tech skills. And being able to leverage all the different tech tools that are out there to be more efficient, stay in front of your customers and when you're building a database and when you're trying to get your name out there and you're using tools to make it easier for your customers, so definitely was helpful and being able to have that consultative approach with people.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I can see the connections In terms of going forward in real estate. Where do you focus on? Is it Northern Virginia or yes?

Speaker 2:

So I know a lot of agents try to be. What I learned early on was it's very hard to be Everything to everybody. You know, of course everybody wants to do as many deals as they can. You know they want, they want to do luxury deals, they want to do stuff in Maryland, they want to do in DC, virginia, you know, cover every city, cover every type of home buyer, seller. As I got going, you know, my niche kind of just became Northern Virginia. I mean, obviously I never really Pursued being an agent in DC, in Maryland, I mean living in, I live in Sterling.

Speaker 2:

I remember working with another agent on some stuff in Maryland. I would get stuck on 495. I was like, you know, was it worth coming all the way to Rockville to show a home and just to get stuck two hours going back home To my house? And you know, dc, dc, every neighborhood to neighborhood can be very different. So I figured, you know, I would have partners for those areas. So I, you know, I have partners that I trust, that I use if someone wants to do something in DC, if someone wants to do something in Maryland. And I focus generally on Virginia, and then my sweet spot within Virginia would be kind of the areas that I grew up in. So I grew up in Herndon, lived in Reston for 15 years after that and I've been living in the Lowes Island community, part of Sterling, for the last six years and my, my parents and my sisters individually both live in Ashburn. So those, those four cities and along with Leesburg, where we are today, those are kind of the areas that I've focused on.

Speaker 1:

That's wonderful. I do agree, a lot of agents try to be everything to everyone, so that's good that you kind of zeroed in on what it is that you want to specialize and the type of clients you want to work with, looking forward in terms of balance with personal and professional. How are? How do you navigate that? Because I know as an agent you're pretty much on call all the time.

Speaker 2:

Yes. So that's a great question and that's always Something you're trying to balance out and there's times where you know I didn't have a good balance. You know it was. Maybe it was during my early time as an agent, where I wasn't as fast on everything something would take me longer to do because I was still learning and and Also during the pandemic, which was very busy for the real estate market is having that work life balance is absolutely something that can be a struggle because, especially if you have a family you know I have I have two fairly young kids and I remember when they were younger and there was times I would get frustrated because you know they wanted to spend time with me, but I was always on the go and you know I would always be that guy that from 7 am To about midnight Somebody needed something. I responded right away. I responded right away to emails, to text messages. They needed me to go somewhere.

Speaker 2:

I would get in the car and quickly go if I was advertising. You know, on a site like Zillow, when they call you, they're calling you because they want to tour home that day or the next day. I mean, I remember just crazy things. I would be in the pool and you know my watch would be on or the the phone would be right next to me. Because if I, if a call came in you didn't want to miss it Because then it would go to somebody else I would just jump out of the pool, take the call. So I would miss it. Or I'd be, you know, at a restaurant with my wife and kids and you know A call would come in and I would interrupt dinner quickly, walk out to take the call. So it's important to have that balance. And Now I, you know I've taken a step back and you know there's certain hours that you know it's for my family time, it's for the kids, and I make sure that I have that balance.

Speaker 2:

And you know, and sometimes you know, every sale might not be a sale that works for me. You know, if I'm really busy with a lot of stuff going on and somebody wants to, you know, do something and I don't have time for it, I may, you know, refer to somebody else that has the time to To do what I can't do right at that time. Or I may say, you know, hey, okay, I'm typically, you know, I want to list my house next week. There's a lot of steps in getting a home ready for sale and I'll say, hey, you know, if you want to work with me, I need a few weeks to. You know, have time to prepare, to get everything ready. You know, and and I don't necessarily take on every client that comes my way now has to be Somebody that's a fit for me and I'm a fit for them. When you're early on in your career, you want to take on anything and everything.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, good for you for knowing where boundaries are exactly, and that's really.

Speaker 2:

You just use the Key word. There is, I remember I had a good, good real estate coach and you know what she would say is you said you know you really don't have any boundaries with your clients and basically you know you're getting exhausted because of that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I yeah. It's hard, though right, it's just being the early years.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. You know, and I've my, my personality, and it's something I've worked on a lot. As I'm a people pleaser, I want everybody to always be happy, and then you can just get exhausted in that process.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it sucks the energy out of you as your trainers for everyone. Yeah, how are you now? How are you marketing?

Speaker 2:

So how do I go about marketing? Great question, that's something that's always evolving for me. It's something you can spend, you know, so much extra time on. You can always be doing more. You could always be doing more on your own. You could be doing more by spending money with these companies that are going to market for you and finding that right balance For me.

Speaker 2:

You know, I know there's a lot of people they get their real estate license and they, I think, heavily rely on social media that I feel. Hey, I just got my license. If you want to buy a house, use me. If you want to sell, here I am, and you know social media is is is very key now, but it's just one, one of my many funnels that that I go to. You know I have an email list of everybody that are in my contacts. I try to send out useful information once in a while. They'll get a newsletter for me once or twice a month. Of course.

Speaker 2:

I pick up the phone and I I stay in touch with people at the core, based on some of my background I told you about, I'm a very good event planner. So a few times a year I try to get people in various circles together. You know, maybe it's for a happy hour, maybe it's for some kind of special event at somewhere, restaurant or something, and then that's a way to just kind of connect with people in person. And then, you know, I there's there's always other other tools as well I, I've done in the last few years a lot of video work. You may have seen some of that. So I've done some of that myself. I've hired various local, you know companies to make, you know, professional videos for me. You know, I try to give people information about what's going on in the market, just general information for buyers and sellers, or maybe it's a tour of a luxury home. So and then, just because I'm involved with so many different organizations, it's just a another touch point.

Speaker 1:

So you I loved hearing funnels. You said I've got multiple funnels, so that's great that you're very involved in your marketing. What's one of the coolest properties that you've sold or listed or helped your client buy?

Speaker 2:

One of the coolest.

Speaker 1:

Is there one that, like, stands out to you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so you know there's probably many, but the first one that stands out is a family that I was neighbors with. They wanted to sell their home which they own, where I used to live and rest in many years. They were one of my neighbors, I knew that neighborhood intimately well and they wanted to buy something and they initially wanted to live near where we live in Sterling, and you know, maybe Ashburn was a backup and it ended up really working out great and they really liked the idea of having a pool. So we were able to find this home that had this beautiful huge backyard, which is very hard to find around here, especially in Ashburn, sterling, fairfax County. Having a house with a big backyard really is hard to find these days. And we found this home that had a huge backyard and it had this gorgeous custom pool.

Speaker 2:

and you know there was a bidding war and we were able to navigate through that and win and now you know we're regulars at their home when they have a party when they're you know, and we, our kids, go use their pool along with them, and they've been super happy with the house, so that would be something that comes to mind.

Speaker 1:

So not only did you help your neighbors move, but they just wanted to move to where you lived, so you're just bringing your neighbors with you, or whatever.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, exactly so yeah, the more, the more people that live close by the Marrier.

Speaker 1:

That's one In terms of Northern Virginia overall, since obviously you live here in this community. What is something that you wish we could improve on? That's missing that? It's a very vague topic.

Speaker 2:

Sure, I would say a few things. So, obviously, traffic is always a problem. I think all of us that have lived here for a long time, me yourself included, we don't even think about it. We just kind of plan our day around and we know, you know, if we want to go into the city or we want to go to Maryland, you want to go to Alexander, you want to come out. This way there's certain hours of the day in the morning and evening you try to avoid just because of that.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I know there's things being done. For example, where I live it's heavily impacted. They're widening Route 7 from basically from Sterling to Tyson's and there's that huge bottle and that kind of work. Great falls and rest in our. So there's improvements being done. But I feel like there's just always so much population growth in this area that could always be better. I mean I would hope, you know, one day they do something about 495 being the major way we get from Virginia to Maryland and the Maryland's kid here, because you could go basically anytime, from early in the morning to late at night and it's just such a bottleneck. Other things, I think you know there's always improvements being made, but you know the school system can always improve. You know there's always things they can do to make the education system better for the kids.

Speaker 2:

One thing I struggle with is my kids are young. They're now seven and nine. Whenever younger, it was even harder. They like to sleep more and our school starts at 7.30 in the morning. There's just like anxiety every morning getting them out of bed, getting them dressed and getting them to school before that bell rings at 7.30, because you get there at 7.30, when they're already 30. And then, once they get to a certain number of 30s, you get a letter from the principal that they need to get here earlier. And there's all these parents all trying to get to the school at the same time and it's just madness.

Speaker 2:

And then there could always be more nightlife around here. It's amazing to me how many people live in Northern Virginia and I always hear from people they want to go somewhere at night. You know, kick back, have a drink. Maybe they want to go somewhere where there's a DJ, or they want to go somewhere where there's a certain crowd. Maybe they're younger, maybe they're older. It seems the number of choices is limited. I mean, we're pretty much like a metropolitan area around here with a few million people living just in Fairfax County, loudoun and so forth, and I always hear I don't go out as much as I used to, but there are options when people want to kick back and have a drink. Their choices are limited.

Speaker 2:

DC it's really good and obviously, and then for all of us that live out this way, DC's a long drive.

Speaker 1:

Across.

Speaker 2:

yeah, it's an expensive Uber ride home where you don't want to drink and drive and all those other things. So you know, I wish some of that vibrance that's in DC and maybe like parts of Arlington, you know, would come more out this way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's more of like the family.

Speaker 2:

Exactly.

Speaker 1:

We're in bed at my household by like 830, you know, that way we can get up for that 730.

Speaker 2:

Exactly 630. Really, there you go.

Speaker 1:

Okay, my last question is what do you do for fun?

Speaker 2:

So I get myself involved in so many different things. You know I wish I could clone myself so I had enough time to, you know, do all the work things, the family things, and so I have time to do all the things I like to do for fun. So I'm actually a little sore right now. I try to play volleyball when I can, but because my schedule is busy I only get in once in a while, and if I haven't played in a while, you know my shoulders. Everything is super exactly. So I love playing volleyball, whether it's indoor, whether it's beach volleyball, when the weather is nice.

Speaker 2:

I love to follow current events, not just real. You know what's going on in the real estate world and then I get myself involved in other things. So I'm on the HOA board for Cascades, which is one of the largest homeowners communities in the area. About 5,000 homes include all the homes, the townhouses and the condos. So I like being involved in. You know how the community is shaped and what we're doing for the community. We're going through the budget process right now and, you know, trying to keep the increases to the minimum while we deal with increased costs from. You know the trash and recycling companies and landscaping and the management company fees and so forth. I used to coach my older son in soccer and now I coach my younger one, so I enjoy working with kids. And then you know, whenever I have time, I love giving back. I work with different charity organizations. I'm great at fundraising, event planning anything I can do.

Speaker 1:

Careful about saying that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I get pulled in to a lot of different things because people do know of my background and of course that goes back to the boundaries, because there's only so much time I have to do so many things, so many asks you can make.

Speaker 2:

And I, you know, I am a nerd at heart. I love reading. I'm always just trying to take in as much information as I can, whether it's articles, whether it's books, and then I my favorite genre of films is documentaries. I can. I take in as many documentaries, favorite documentary. So ESPN has a series called 30 for 30 where they do sports documentaries. I think I've watched pretty much all of them. And then the latest documentary that I watched that I really liked was on David Beckham. I'm not a huge soccer fan I watch more American football than I do soccer but they just released one that's really interesting about him, his wife and him growing up as a kid and becoming, you know, a soccer star in Europe and then eventually coming here. So about people, about events that happened. I really, you know, enjoy watching. I'm about I love real stuff For a lot of people, like sci-fi, fantasy, horror. You know, for me something's a true story or based on a true story. That's my jam.

Speaker 1:

That's the only type of stuff that I'll watch. I just don't want to scream it yeah that's fun, probably because, like you said, you're a nerd at heart. So you just want to keep learning. That are what helps you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I'm you know I'm not nostalgic. I love watching something about you know the 80s, you know when I was just a kid growing up, or the 90s, or something. You know you're like oh, I never knew that happened. Or you know they could. They just go so deep into a subject.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, when you're like eight, nine, 12 years old, it feels like a completely, you know, like even adults. I feel like I, eight years old, they felt like these, like superheroes as a kid, and then you become an adult and you're like oh no-transcript like children, but in big bodies. So it's interesting to go back to that thing 20, 30 years ago and see it told in a way that you're like huh yeah.

Speaker 2:

And Netflix is always pumping out new stuff. So after everybody goes to bed, I just watched speaking of things that are based on true story. Most people didn't see it because it was on a channel Most people don't have show time but they just put it on Netflix too. There's a really well done series about how Uber got started and then how they kind of had a boom and then they went through a rough period because their CEO was kind of this wild guy that didn't like to follow the rules. So they did this series about how they got going, how they got funding to grow Uber and all the challenges that came along and, like the taxi companies in New York were getting into their business, and so I love following that.

Speaker 1:

And you can always learn so much. You have to learn from history. If you don't learn from history, what happens?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you just repeat the same story, that's right. Yeah, and that was my thing that got me through COVID, when we're all hunkered in at home. Espn did this amazing series on Michael Jordan and the Bulls, and they were winning all their championships, and then each network had like one great one. There was one about Elizabeth Holmes, which was the lady that started Theranos.

Speaker 1:

All based on like.

Speaker 2:

All the crazy things that they did to make people believe that with one drop of blood you could find everything about somebody. And then I watched the one about Uber. And then I watched a really interesting one on Apple TV called we Crash, about the we Work guys and all the wild things that they were doing to grow we Work at this crazy rapid pace. And then everything kind of started crashing after that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Now you can learn a lot when you study stuff that most people we're so busy, yeah Well when people have a few extra minutes, they either want to laugh or they want something.

Speaker 2:

maybe that just scares the heck out of them.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's a little so. Any last, if we wrap it up, any last tips or advice to somebody who's watching this, about life, about business, about anything.

Speaker 2:

I would say definitely. Follow whatever you're passionate about and be willing to work hard at it. I remember when I got my real estate license and this was about 10 years ago or so people were like why do you want to do that? There's already so many people doing that. And then there was a definitely in the first few years I just wanted to quit. I was like this isn't going how I expected it to go.

Speaker 2:

And then, specifically, anybody that has a small business you're a small business owner and I'm sure you can completely relate is and I had to really learn this. The hard way was you have to always earn people's business and there was a lot of time where I would get really, really upset upset with friends, upset with other connections, other business owners because I had done so much for all these people, anybody that basically I've known that has a small business. I've done everything I can to help them grow their business, help market their business, send customers to their business. I'm that guy that it's 11 o'clock at night, you're stuck on the road, I'll get in my car and come help you. And I just figured once that naturally everybody would want to come help my business and it just didn't work that way.

Speaker 2:

You have to remember that in whatever field you're in, there's a lot of other people in that field and they may not necessarily come to you and you have to remember that just because you're doing something that they may need, they may not use you. You have to show them that you have to show your value, you have to earn that business. That business is not just given. You have to go out and earn it. So that would be a tip I have for others from what I learned. And then the other thing which I said earlier is not every person, as somebody you may want to definitely work with, you should be working on maximizing your time the best you can, and not everybody's going to be a good fit for you or you being a good fit for them, and not necessarily trying to make everything work. Sometimes it's just not meant to be.

Speaker 1:

Perfect advice. Thank you so much for being on the Alamon Show and being a guest today.

Speaker 2:

Sure.

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