With more than 60 years of combined real estate ingenuity and prowess under their designer belts, Kathy Koehler and Heather Bortnick are obviously successful at buying and selling houses.
But this mother/daughter duo didn’t just want to be good at what they did—they wanted to be leaders in the industry. “I needed her,” says CEO Kathy Koehler. “When we got together, we wanted to be the best. Early on, we shadowed the #1 realtors in New York, Colorado, and California. I wanted to bring what we learned back to Kansas and specialize in representing sellers.”
The maternal Koehler backtracks a bit with a laugh. “I remember when Heather told me ‘I think I want to go into real estate, Mom,’—I tried to talk her out of it, but she turned out to be the best in the business.” And the rest, as they say, is her-story.
A Partnership That Blossomed Into an Empire
After Bortnick got her license nearly 25 years ago, they found a good yin and yang business model—one that complemented all their clients. “Mom was getting a lot of calls on her own listings, which made it difficult,” says Bortnick, who is president of the Koehler Bortnick Team. “I started working with buyers a lot. Kathy worked more exclusively on the listing side. We looked at teams all over the country that were really successful—and we wondered what could make it better.”
It didn’t take long before the team started to grow—exponentially. “We started with five agents, then ten,” says Koehler. “Then we thought, why not service all areas, all locations?” The duo quickly realized they needed to create a successful in-house training and mentoring program. Quicker than you can say escrow, they had created veteran teams of agents who helped run offices across the metro—from Lee’s Summit to the Northland and beyond. “With five locations and five offices, we really can deliver all things to all clients,” says Koehler. “The Koehler Bortnick tagline is ‘Big or small, we sell ‘em all.’
And that’s the truth,” adds Bortnick. “We sell at all different price points, all over the city. If someone is relocating, we can show them the city as a whole.”
Now the team is up to 58 agents—and eager to add more. “We’re always looking for aggressive, confident, loyal, competitive new agents,” says Koehler. “We have opportunities for new agents who want to make top dollar. Want to be your own boss and not punch a clock? It’s an exciting time to be a real estate agent—if you have the right training,” she says with a smile.
2020 = Best Year Yet
In mid-March when the world seemingly started to shut down because of Covid concerns, Koehler and Bortnick were undaunted. Instead, they pivoted—to the extreme. If necessity is the mother of invention, last spring was more like the mother/daughter of reinvention. “We came to the office every day, after real estate was deemed an essential business,” says Bortnick. “What we found is that people stayed in their home for so long they got sick of their house or wanted to remodel. People got in the market because they were tired of being at home. They started thinking, ‘I need a change.’”
Global pandemic notwithstanding, the housing market remained red hot, and the team remained laser focused. “We—very carefully and very safely—started putting houses on the market,” says Bortnick. “We thought with rates being really low, our clients were potentially wanting to move—and we got lucky because that’s what happened.”
Adds Koehler, “Remember, attitude is everything. We decided we were going to work harder, be Covid safe, and make buyers and sellers comfortable. We were selling houses over Zoom, over video. We reinvented ourselves to sell houses. We did the same thing during the market crash of 2008-2009. Change is exciting, not scary for us. That’s what we do and that’s what we are doing during Covid.”
A Loyal Following—Both Clients and Colleagues
Given their passion and sheer knowledge of the market, it’s no surprise the two have cultivated, as they call it, “clients for life,” says Koehler. “Our business is close to 98% referrals and former clients. We’re making dreams come true. Buying a house is one of your biggest investments. It can be wonderful and exciting—or it can be filled with a bunch of surprises. We try to only give our clients surprises on their birthdays.”
Both Koehler and Bortnick are adamant about sharing their expertise with their stalwart team. “What Heather and I want to do now is give our tools and knowledge to our agents,” Koehler says. The key is exceptional customer service. Well, that and the countless partnerships the team has on speed dial.
“The people we work with are the tops in their industry. We have a lender who answers their phone at 11 p.m., a title company who will answer at 9 p.m.” says Bortnick. “It is legitimately one-stop shopping. You need a painter, a roofer, a dog walker, a carpet guy? Within 30 minutes I can have every single solitary problem solved for you.”
The team—who is affiliated with the ReeceNichols brokerage—relentlessly markets and promotes their clients’ houses. And check out the company’s quarterly magazine for plenty of insight and new listings. In fact, the two were even featured in a CNBC reality TV show, American Dream, just a few weeks ago.
Being strategic is essential for the Koehler Bortnick at ReeceNichols team. Why? “There’s a huge lack of inventory,” says Bortnick. “So right now, if your house comes on the market and it’s staged right—fresh and current—it will sell for list or potentially over it. But you have one shot to make a first impression.”
Given that the housing market is so hot, the team is determined to have their clients’ best interests at heart no matter what time of day it is. “If a house goes on the market at 12:01 a.m., we’ll make sure our clients are the first in the door at 8 a.m. that same morning for the first showing,” says Bortnick.
And when we asked if the team ever has R&R, they were quick to answer. “Every year we have a contest for our agents,” Koehler confirms. “If you close $10 million during a calendar year, we take you on an all-expenses paid trip. This year is a five-day vacation to a resort in Cabo. Twelve agents and their significant others are going. It’s our biggest group ever. We work hard to play hard.”