Moving up the ladder of success

Feb 24, 2022 | Business, Front Page

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

One might ask what being a personal trainer and bartending have to do with becoming a successful real estate agent.

But, in the case of Michelle Calkins, her two previous careers undoubtedly led to her success with Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty. After all, she had to talk folks through a life plan and talk them through their life struggles. Both, it would seem have helped her become the top agent at Coldwell Banker.

“I felt stuck,” Calkins said, “and wondered what I was going to do with my life.” Then she bumped into Steve Keefe, the broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Sky Ridge Realty, and he suggested she consider real estate as her next move.

“The conversation escalated,” Calkins said, “and the next thing I knew, I had my license.”

It was March 2013 and Calkins was invited to join Michelle Hutton’s team at Coldwell Banker. “It was such a blessing to me to be on her team,” Calkins said. “She was my mentor.”

Calkins hit the ground running and her business took off. It soon became apparent that she was so busy, it was time to start her own team. And so, in 2018, she started Michelle Calkins and Associates with Brianna Anthony, Simone Knepper and Carrie Curren as part of her team.

“I encouraged Carrie to come on and get her license,” Calkins said, adding that Anthony was a new agent and Knepper had a couple of years “under her belt.”

In 2019 Calkins brought on Kassie Castro as the team transaction coordinator. “She saved our lives,” Calkins said. “We were drowning in paperwork. She has substantially helped the team.”

Finally, in 2021, Calkins invited Kara McGinley to join the team. “She was already here and gladly accepted my invitation,” Calkins said.

The team grew, she said, because the business kept growing.

And while many real estate agents work on their own and aren’t part of a team, Calkins pointed to a number of advantages of being on a team.

Mentorship is probably the number one advantage, she said. Having benefited from mentorship herself, Calkins was happy to share what she had learned with other agents.

In addition, she said, “we help each other out when one of us isn’t available. We can go away and still know our clients will be well cared for. We sell that to a listing. If I’m not available, someone else is.”
Calkins added that they learn from each other. “We take each other’s learning experiences and learn more quickly, better. It’s incredible. Our overall morale is improved as we are part of a family.

“We are in constant contact with each other. Most of the time we are talking about current deals, asking each other for help and advice – anything from how the offer should be written to issues with the furniture. When we come across a complicated issue, we have each other’s backs.

“The brainstorming that goes on is incredible,” Calkins said.

Being a team lead takes a special person, she noted. “I try so hard to be the best at what I do. I want others to be the same way. I am very particular about our business and how we do it. I want our clients to be excited to work with Michelle Calkins and Associates because they will get the best service.”

The team meets once a week. Calkins said she uses that time for training if training is necessary.

With the real estate market what it has been during the pandemic, Calkins said they have all worked harder than they have ever worked before. “This has been one of the most challenging times I’ve experienced,” she said. “For a year and a half, I have worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week, even while on vacation.”

But the beauty of the business, she added, is being able to do it remotely – especially when you have a team.

“When I started out, I thought I might dabble in real estate. Instead, this is the hardest I have ever worked.”

And when she started, Calkins recalled all the bad things she had heard about real estate agents. “I walked into Coldwell Banker and said, ‘You’re going to change the face of real estate.’ I have tried not to be the typical realtor.”

Technology has changed the industry so much, Calkins said. Now, rather than having to sign documents, scan them in and send them back, clients use DocuSign to electronically sign most documents. And social media has taken over. “It has made it more entertaining for people to house shop,” Calkins said. “I strive to be up on social media. The presentation of a listing has to be ‘wow’ from the beginning as it spreads like wildfire online.”

The goal of the team lead, she said, is to get the leads. “I need to keep the phone ringing, provide leads to the team,” she said.

In Calkins’ first year with Coldwell Banker, she was named Rookie of the Year. Fast forward to 2021 and she was the top agent and her team was the International President’s Premier Team. As a team, they had 140 happy clients and did $72.2 million in volume. And Calkins has sold the most units in the office for the past five years.

In addition to her work in real estate, Calkins was a member of the sheriff’s Search and Rescue team for seven years with her husband, Nathan. “My friend Kristil Cobb had just joined and told me and Nate we would enjoy it. I loved being part of the community that way.” She had to step away for the time being due to the demands of her career.

She and Nate met at work off the mountain; Calkins herself grew up in Corona while Nathan grew up on the mountain. She started coming up to the mountain with Nathan in 2004; the couple was married in 2008. They bought the house where they live after Calkins saw it on a brokers’ tour.

“I love what I do,” Calkins said. “The job is hard but it’s also fun and so rewarding. I love the people, the clients. I get to meet so many people. It’s like bartending on a different level – I get to know people on a very personal level.”

The goal, Calkins said, is to make every client think they are the only client she and her team are working with.

“At the end of the day, if we do our job, we make people happy. I love meeting the people – it’s about the relationships we make. And keeping them is important.”

Calkins added she and her team members are a “wealth of knowledge. Our relationship doesn’t end the day the keys get handed over. If the client is new to the area, who do they turn to? Hopefully, their realtor.”

For more information on Michelle Calkins and Associates, visit



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