She moved to Atlanta at age 22 and never looked back. Today, known as the Condo Queen of Atlanta, the incredibly driven Karen Rodriguez helps her clients find luxurious homes in Buckhead high-rises. She is hands-on from start to finish, and she loves the reward of filling up a building with extremely satisfied clients. Today, we welcome Karen as our FACES of Atlanta feature.
Where did you grow up? And how did you wind up in Atlanta?
I was born in Alabama and moved here to Atlanta at the age of 22 to begin my career.
Have you always worked in real estate? And how did you decide on a career in that field?
I have worked in real estate since I was 23 years old. I loved sales and wanted to make money. I knew I didn’t want a boss and I was obsessed with interior design, so real estate was the perfect fit! I earned my realtor’s license at the age of 23, had my broker’s license by 26 and landed my first luxury Buckhead high-rise project by 27, and I’ve never looked back.
You’re the third highest individual producer at your firm, Dorsey Alston Realtors, which is the number one firm in Buckhead for six years running. What is the secret to your successful sales achievements?
The truth is I have worked very hard for more than 10 years to get to where I am today. I worked 24/7, including nights, weekends, holidays and during vacations. Most people are not willing to do that, but since this is a commission-based business, the more I sell, the more I make. My fearlessness and relentless passion for what I do, along with the fact that I have never been “OK” with just being “OK,” has guided my path. If I am going to do it, might as well be the best at it.
You’re known as the Condo Queen in Atlanta. What is it about selling luxury condominiums versus traditional homes that you love?
I started selling condos in Buckhead in my early 20s to my friends, because at the time, that is what we could afford. I was touting the Buckhead city skyline before there was one, but I realized very quickly that I had found my niche and loved selling the glamorous lifestyle, incredible city night views and the levels of security that one finds in a luxury high-rise. These were all things that appealed to me and fit my personality.
Tell us about the most beautiful place you’ve ever sold.
Wow, there have been many! But I would have to say the newly finished Residences at Mandarin Oriental are very special. I had the privilege of working closely with the owner of the project, John Kubicko, and the architect and designers on the floor plan and finishes. Having buyers respond in the way they have when we took these to market was incredible.
What is your number one tip for someone looking to buy a luxury condo in Atlanta?
Hire an experienced buyer’s agent who is an expert in the area you are looking in and has sold other condos. Buying a condo is very different from buying a single-family home. A good buyer’s agent will negotiate with the seller’s agent on your behalf and, if they are experienced, will know about things like condo docs, bylaws, association dues, etc.
Do you find there are any significant gains or challenges with being a woman in real estate?
I think that real estate is absolutely one of the most rewarding and lucrative careers a woman can have. At the end of the day though, to be successful, you have to be extremely disciplined and self-motivated, just like any entrepreneur, and be willing to do what it takes. No one is going to hand you business. I also love working with developers and being involved with buildings, from predevelopment to selling the building out. GROUP KORA really came to be because for years, I have been the go-to person for many of Atlanta’s developers for my opinion of their future projects, my market advice, etc. I realized it was time to finally begin to charge for all this advice I had been giving away for years for free!
What is your take on the current housing market in Atlanta?
The in-town luxury market is hot! There are low interest rates, low inventory and high demand, which make for a competitive seller’s market.
What is a goal in your career that you’re working toward?
Launching my own company and managing so many others now poses many new challenges that I really never had to deal with before. Success is growing GROUP KORA into a recognizable and respected luxury real estate brand and more importantly, being the best leader I can be to inspire and help those who are with me on this ride to be as successful as they can be, as well.
Shifting gears, if you weren’t working in real estate, what would you love to do?
I would be the owner of an e-commerce business that allowed me to travel extensively and still work even when overseas.
Describe your ideal day or night out in Atlanta.
An aperitivo at Barcelona, followed by dinner at one of the many new restaurants in town, and home before midnight to snuggle on the couch with husband and my two fur babies, Brody and Saban. The night must end with a glass of red wine and possibly a little piece of dark chocolate!
When you have a quiet moment, how do you unwind?
I have a really hard time unwinding from work and turning it off. I had major burnout right after the recession and was getting physically ill due to the stress. I realized I had to find something that would help me find balance, and it had to be something that I would stick with. Yoga has been that for me. It keeps me centered and sets my focus for the week. Even when I can’t go to the studio, I have a place in my home that I can escape to and practice. I also love to read, which is definitely a form of relaxation for me, with a glass of red wine, of course.
What is your dream vacation destination?
International travel is something my husband and I love. I love planning it, preparing for it, shopping for it—the whole process! I wish I could do more of it. So far, hands down, it has been Florence, Italy. We spent two weeks there in 2013, and I love the energy, fashion, cafes, food and culture, not to mention everything literally looks like it should be in Vogue magazine. My husband and I loved it so much that as soon as we got back to the states, we went out and bought a traditional Bialetti MOKA espresso pot and bottles and bottles of prosecco. To this day, we still love a good espresso in the morning and try to have a glass of prosecco before every meal.
Are there any upcoming events in town that you’re looking forward to?
Yes! The To Live and Dine Event [August 17] by Interiors magazine sounds like fun!
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
- My two yellow labs, Brody and Saban (who definitely fall in the family category)
- My Macbook Pro. My life is on this thing, plus it’s light enough that I can carry it with me everywhere, including overseas.
- My Mason Pearson brush. It’s pure insanity spending this much on a brush, but I am now a believer!
Kudos to you, Karen, for being an inspiring, driven woman in Atlanta real estate! And thanks to Catrina Maxwell, of CatMax Photography, for the gorgeous photos.
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