Today’s episode listens like an episode of Selling Sunset or the most salacious real estate show available on streaming—only it's all real and all took place in one agent's career between the mid 80’s and today. Nico Lundborg-Griffith is a top producing real estate agent listed in the RE/MAX Hall of Fame. Nico is not only an award winning and top producing REALTOR but is also the award winning author of Pandora’s Lockbox: A Wild and Wacky Real Estate Memoir.
While reading her book, originally for amusement, I found hundreds of nuggets and comparison to today’s real estate market. Nico outlines how she coped with high rates in the 80’s and thrived despite them. She also covers her unique strategy for “people farming” instead of farming geographic neighborhoods. With more unique and funny stories than usual in this episode, we hope you enjoy!
Read Nico's book here:
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Nico G. | 00:00:03:11 | But broker me as everybody that was a new agent. We had to go look at ten houses a day for the first months before he'd let us have slow.
Matt M. | 00:00:11:17 | This is what real estate is all about. And you did it. Everybody, thank you so much for tuning in today. I am especially excited because I feel like I'm in the midst of a movie star with our guest here. So today I have Nicole Lundberg Griffith. She has been a top producing realtor for almost 40 years. Her real estate career is longer than almost any any job that anyone listening has ever held, which is amazing.
Matt M. | 00:00:41:23 | She's also the author of the of the book Pandora's Lockbox. And I am ecstatic to have you on the show today, Nicole, because I read this book in one sitting. I was on a plane from here to Spain for a wedding of a realtor friend of mine, actually, and my wife was sitting next to me on the plane watching, selling Sunset.
Matt M. | 00:01:01:15 | And I was sitting there listening, sitting there, reading your real estate book about your wild stories. And I turn to her and I said, You know what? This book might be stories from the eighties, but they are older than any of the stuff you see. Unlike reality, real estate TV today. So I'm really excited to chat with you.
Matt M. | 00:01:17:23 | But also I think there's a lot of similarities between the market that you started your career in and the market that we're back in. So Nico, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us today.
Nico G. | 00:01:28:07 | Thank you, ma'am.
Matt M. | 00:01:29:19 | So I want to start so the book is called Pandora's Lockbox and its subtitle, The Wild and Wacky Real Estate Memoir, The Reason you got into real estate in the first place back in the eighties is shockingly similar, and I think a lot of agents would resonate with with your reason for getting in. It's why they got it.
Matt M. | 00:01:47:00 | So tell us what got you into real estate, because it's chapter one in your book, and I think it really sets the stage for some other stuff.
Nico G. | 00:01:55:04 | Well, I got into real estate mostly by default. I was jobless. I had come into a really bad mortgage market and everybody was laid off, so I didn't know what else to do. My husband, as he exited and told me he wanted a divorce, he said, Why don't you go sell real estate? Everybody's always asking you real estate questions.
Nico G. | 00:02:18:14 | And for lack of any other alternative, that's what I did. And it took off right away. It was within 90 days. I already had three escrows going without even knowing what to do at all. I had my license, but that was it.
Matt M. | 00:02:35:01 | Well, I think that's I think that's a pretty relatable thing, right? Like, a lot of people get into real estate because there is a relatively low barrier to entry. And if you have a great personality and a work and a, you know, a need for hunger, right? You got to eat, you got to eat, you got to pay those the mortgage.
Matt M. | 00:02:50:24 | You got to pay the car payment. It's a career where anyone can join and it is an equal opportunity type industry like anyone could do well, But it's extremely difficult to actually be one of those people that does that does extremely well at the beginning.
Nico G. | 00:03:07:08 | Well, when I started, the interest rates have started going into variable rates and everybody was afraid of that. So with my mortgage background, I knew how to work with a variable rate. And so I had charts and I sat people down and spent some time showing them. Worst case scenario, if their interest rates changed for four five years, I did a five year and a ten year scenario and everybody went, Oh, that's not so bad.
Nico G. | 00:03:37:19 | And they would wait in line for me to have time to work with them because they a lot of people wanted to buy, but they were afraid that they would go bankrupt and lose everything. But it was.
Matt M. | 00:03:52:03 | I hope everyone listening right now can really can really take when you go seeing and related to 2023 right because we went from so I started in the industry in 2011 so a short 12 years ago not 40 but for ten or 11 straight years out of my career, the market got better and better every day, right? Like the prices went up, interest rates went down almost every day for ten years.
Matt M. | 00:04:14:15 | And now we're at a place where interest rates have been volatile for the last year. And so there's so many people. We have a huge glut, a huge problem of there's all these preapproved buyers that have the money and they're willing to buy, but there's nothing to buy because people feel locked into their properties if they move their payments going to go up.
Matt M. | 00:04:33:26 | And so it's a very similar problem to what you experienced. But your solution was to educate people and to walk them through the five year scenario. So I just really want to tell everyone listening, if you have buyers that are interested in real estate, but they're scared to get into the market because they don't know what's going to happen in the interest rate world.
Matt M. | 00:04:53:18 | Walk them through the three likelihoods, right? What happens if you buy today and rates go up? What happens if you buy today and rates stay the same and what happens if you buy today and rates go down? Regardless of those opportunities, You're in a better spot today buying and having housing security than not buying. So if you're an agent, you can explain that to your customers, just like Nikko did 40 years ago.
Matt M. | 00:05:14:17 | You're going to have a line of customers out the door just like Nikko did. So okay, so that's where it started. Where did it get to? I know you experienced some pretty huge success in all aspects of your career, but you really built a list of people and you didn't buy leads, you didn't do any crazy marketing. And it seems like from your book, you did it through relationships, open houses and and creating relationships with other agents.
Nico G. | 00:05:41:03 | That's so true. Probably the biggest thing I did was have open houses by broker. Meet us everybody that was a new agent. We had to go look at ten houses a day for the first month before he'd let us have floor duty. Now people don't get much from floor, do they, now? But back then we didn't have computers in us.
Nico G. | 00:06:01:15 | People want to buy a house. They had to find a real estate agent. So that started it. And I had just bought a house at 14%. So I was, you know, in that fire, in the buyer's shoes right before I started selling a lot of the houses were still on the market. So even when I started, I probably had 50 houses that I looked at that were still available.
Nico G. | 00:06:27:09 | So I knew the inventory. And I think the inventory coupled with the open houses was a great place to start when you have nothing to go on.
Matt M. | 00:06:37:05 | All right. And I think everyone needs to take two things from what you just said. Like, number one, your broker, like, I want to give this guy a hug because although in the book, sometimes he sounds kind of like an A-hole. But we can we can pass that up. If he had one good idea he made you he made every agent look at ten houses before they collected four leads.
Matt M. | 00:06:54:01 | That's amazing.
Nico G. | 00:06:55:00 | I mean, ten houses a day.
Matt M. | 00:06:56:25 | And houses a day. I mean.
Nico G. | 00:06:58:21 | We had to.
Matt M. | 00:06:59:12 | Tell you this. There is no agents right now that are required to do that. But it's a shame because looking at all these different houses and seeing just seeing what's out there, understanding the market, understanding how different features like price, understanding different neighborhoods. Right. Like most of us know, the neighborhood we live in really well, but there's probably a neighborhood in our town that we've never been to because it's just not it was either not our people or it's not the community that we're a part of.
Matt M. | 00:07:24:05 | This is what real estate is all about. And you did it and it led to the career that you have.
Nico G. | 00:07:30:07 | Well, the confidence of knowing what the inventory is, is what translates when you're meeting people that don't know you from the person next door. So by knowing and saying, well, you don't like this, but I saw this and I saw that and I've got four or five, I could show you right now. Again, the last two years, the market has moved so fast it's hard to even find ten houses in one day to go look at here in Montana, too.
Nico G. | 00:07:58:12 | We're all spread out. I live 30 miles from Missoula and we have people here that drive three and 4 hours to go show property. So it's a little bit different than it was in Southern California, where there's lots of houses, lots of inventory. And there still is, you know, you just have to look at all different price ranges so that you're prepared.
Matt M. | 00:08:21:18 | Yeah. And I think right now, you know, like a big trend I'm seeing is, you know, agents and lenders who are able to really create their own business. Right. Like, I think the big thing with the Internet changed, especially as it progressed, like a buyer does not need a realtor to find them a house, a buyer needs a realtor to educate them on what houses could be right for them and what they what they might not ask.
Matt M. | 00:08:46:02 | On what the area is like on negotiating the property, staging it, all these things. But you can find a property on the internet and I think what to the point, if you're an agent and you want to look at ten properties, choose the ten properties that for whatever reason have been sitting on the market for ten days or more, because then you're putting yourself in the position to actually get a deal together rather than showing your client another property that's been on the market for one day that they're not going to have a chance in hell of getting an offer accepted under the competition.
Matt M. | 00:09:17:19 | I mean, to look for opportunities and then figure out a way to explain what the opportunity is and what the potential is of these homes that are sitting on the market for whatever reason.
Nico G. | 00:09:27:10 | That's really wise, you know, considering that you're in the mortgage side of it, not selling real estate, you have some really valid opinions there to help us all.
Matt M. | 00:09:38:12 | Thank you. So tell us so after after you kind of get started, you did a lot of you did a lot of networking with other agents. And you really I got a sense from the book that, I mean, you had more than just relationships with your fellow agents. I mean, you truly you truly went deep with them. Tell us more about that, because I think it's something that a lot of agents miss out on today when it comes to the Zoom world we live in, where a lot of us don't even show up at the office.
Nico G. | 00:10:07:10 | Right. Well, and in these days, I mean, a couple of years ago, I started selling houses where I never met the buyer, never met the agent, never saw the property. I was just an order taker. People were buying online. Back when I started. My broker was such a jerk and he could not be relied on to give you a correct answer for things.
Nico G. | 00:10:28:24 | He would just he was more like a used car salesman. If in the stereotypical, you know, bad news type of person. And we all banded together to help each other out. So there were five of us in I refer to this as the Fab Five that really stuck together. And people came and went, They still do. I I've been quoted many times as saying I never learn a new agent's name unless they've been here six months because most of them were gone by then.
Nico G. | 00:11:01:27 | So even, you know, there's out of the original five of us that started back in the eighties, one lady passed away about two years ago, but the rest of us are still working. We still get together pretty much monthly or every other month for dinner or to go somewhere. One of the ladies has a cabin up in Idlewild in California.
Nico G. | 00:11:26:24 | We go up there for retreats, but all we ever do is talk about real estate. You know, it's a sickness. Once you have that enjoyment of it. I go on caravan. I went on Caravan two days ago to go see property. You know, that's so I go on vacation, I go see property. And it allows me when I'm talking to buyers or people that don't know me to say, oh I looked at some houses in Riverside, I looked at some houses in Florida when I was on vacation.
Nico G. | 00:11:56:18 | And you have this is how it translates here. But a lot of people too, are from different areas are buying here in Montana. They're buying all over the place. And if you can relate and compare the properties where you live to properties where you've been traveling, it's a great way to bond with people.
Matt M. | 00:12:18:29 | Real estate has a lot of contracts. I want this podcast to have a social contract as well. Here's what I need from you. If you're listening to the show and you get something valuable out of it or you hear something that you think that's awesome, I want you to send me a demo on Instagram, or if you find my email, send it that way.
Matt M. | 00:12:34:13 | The more feedback that I get helps me to put together better shows and attract better guests. Well, that's a great point. I mean, perspective is everything, and I think sometimes when we only work in our market, we it's easy to get kind of that, that depressing vibe of like, oh, home prices have gotten so expensive. But obviously where I am in Michigan, home prices are some of the cheapest in the entire country.
Matt M. | 00:12:56:05 | When you compare them to what you get for your money in California or in Colorado, even at this point, it's just I think traveling and getting that perspective is absolute huge. But obviously taking notes on it and really understanding it.
Nico G. | 00:13:10:25 | One of the things I do, too, I mean, you called it networking, but I like to when I talk to agents from other areas, I'm always asking about their market, their neighborhood, their price ranges, because what people see on TV is not the reality, it's a portion of the reality. But I just was talking to an agent who lives outside of Minneapolis the other day, and she said, you can still buy houses for 150,000 there.
Nico G. | 00:13:38:21 | Even here in Montana, you can't buy anything. You can't even buy a trailer or a mobile home, a cabin for 150,000. So that's kind of interesting that there are areas that are actually affordable.
Matt M. | 00:13:53:16 | Yeah. And it's educating you sometimes being able to talk to clients about how your area compares by comparison is a great way to really set that stage, which I love. So I would be remiss if we if we got much further in our conversation without talking about some of the crazier and entertaining stories from your book. I mean, literally, I felt like I was watching a vintage version of selling Sunset or one of those shows on Netflix.
Matt M. | 00:14:18:27 | So tell me, I mean, you you literally have dealt with alligators, weird, weird sexual situations and houses, naked people. I mean, like give us your most memorable your most memorable story. Kind of give people a preview of what they can expect when they're when they're picking up a copy of indoors Lockbox.
Nico G. | 00:14:38:11 | Well, the alligator won was certainly memorable and that's why he found his way onto my cover. And that was really scary. But probably my most memorable one is when I had some mafia people and they were in witness protection and I found this out just gradually by working with them. But I started when I started the book, I wrote that chapter about meeting them in the airport and they wanted to look at a very, very expensive area of North San Diego.
Nico G. | 00:15:09:27 | But as it went along, I really I found more and more information and I wrote a chapter and then I took it out of the book because I was really concerned that they might because they live here in Montana. And I was really concerned that it might have some blowback for me because I really felt like they were dangerous people.
Nico G. | 00:15:32:23 | So. And the lady had a gun. I think I put it in there that her purse tipped over in the car and the gun went up in the wheel well under the seat. But I'm you know, I'm from Montana. I'm used to hunting. And in shooting and fishing. So the gun didn't really bother me. It really it was kind of interesting as a little derringer with that pearl handle.
Matt M. | 00:15:54:17 | Well, did you sell them the house?
Nico G. | 00:15:57:07 | No. Well, I did, but then it never closed. It's really a crazy story because I think that when I started with the couple, I thought they were married and they weren't. That was the woman was down in Palm Springs and she had a boyfriend and the boyfriend supposedly was a doctor. This, again came out as I was working, working, working with them and they I put the largest priced home in San Diego history at that time in escrow with them.
Nico G. | 00:16:32:25 | And then the man just disappeared and the husband who still lived in Montana was murdered. And all of that happened. I mean, it was just a crazy explosion at the end of a long escrow. And after working with them for about four or five months. But, I mean, they had one of the family members was in prison for he was, what do you call it?
Nico G. | 00:17:00:29 | He was the hired gun. You know, people wanted people murdered.
Matt M. | 00:17:04:19 | Killed him.
Nico G. | 00:17:05:03 | In his area. Then he would out and go do it. They put him in prison for tax evasion, but and he's still there. So one day I saw the obituary for the woman and the husband had been murdered many years ago about a week before he was forced to go and testify in a trial. Is this making sense?
Nico G. | 00:17:26:12 | I mean, it's it's it it's familiar to me, but I don't know if I'm explaining it to make it be familiar. But the husband was murdered out here in Montana. The boyfriend disappeared. And I think that in writing the book, I came to realize that the boyfriend was sent to interact and get comfortable with the wife here so that they could find out where the husband was hiding.
Nico G. | 00:17:56:02 | He was in witness protection. I mean, he had a bottle. Yeah.
Matt M. | 00:18:00:03 | Knew about the fact that this is real and these are these are your customers is absolutely wild. But at the end of the day, like, houses are such a such a commonly used houses are just in everybody's life. Everyone needs a house and you get some characters. I think every real throughout there has experienced a little bit of craziness.
Matt M. | 00:18:19:27 | You just so happened. I think working in the Southern California area, I have had the privilege of working with some of the crazier people out there and some of the normal ones, but.
Nico G. | 00:18:28:13 | So here's a funny story that just happened a couple of days ago. I had I got a text in the middle of the night from a lady who was reading my book and she said, These stories are so funny. I just wanted to reach out to you and tell you how much I'm enjoying them. And I recognize that she was one of my old clients from maybe 20, 30 years ago.
Nico G. | 00:18:50:12 | So I'm like, Oh, Ann, nice to hear from you. And are you enjoying it? And went on and on and all of a sudden I realize that I don't think she knew who I was. And I said, Yes, I do know you. I came and did a listing presentation on your house when you got divorced, and she's like, No, I don't recognize this.
Nico G. | 00:19:13:00 | And she recognized the town where the book is takes place and she recognized some of the agents. Anyway, Griffith is my married name and my book is written under Niko Griffith. And after interacting and texting back and forth for about an hour, all of a sudden she said, Oh, is your name Lundberg? Is that? Yeah. And she goes, Oh my God, you were my agent.
Nico G. | 00:19:37:02 | But she found my book in Mexico, was reading it reached out to me in the middle of the night and without even knowing who I was, you know, that she knew me. So that's pretty funny. I sold well over a thousand properties by myself. I've never had a team. I've never had a an assistant. And so I really have a good rooted relationship with people that have carried forward for years and years and years.
Matt M. | 00:20:03:21 | Well, I think, you know, a lot of the people, a lot of our listener base skews like on the younger, newer in real estate side, obviously, because when you're new and young, you have to you have to listen to stuff like this to figure out some ideas. But I mean, like you're a true testament to the fact that you don't need to market like crazy and meet a thousand new people a day.
Matt M. | 00:20:22:08 | If you maintain relationships that are deep with existing people, you know, you could work with those same customers time and time and time and time again. Right? And I knew a lot of the stories in your book also, you tended to get a lot of your sales because of the same reasons that we get them today, right? It's death, divorce, People go into debt and then obviously there's some crazy other situations.
Matt M. | 00:20:45:05 | Marriage, kids, etc.. But, you know, you've probably worked with some of the same people, what, like five, ten, 15 times.
Nico G. | 00:20:53:05 | 15 easily, because now I just closed in escrow last week, was a daughter of one of my real estate clients, and she was like four years old. Now she's 22 and her dad just helped to buy a condo.
Matt M. | 00:21:07:09 | And this is why you don't need to look for new people all the time. You just have to You're so, so deep with those people that you already have and be memorable to them. So you think, you know, it's fun that you wrote down all of your all of your stories because I kind of want to see I want some of our listeners to send us some of their crazier, real estate stories.
Matt M. | 00:21:25:03 | So if you're listening right now and you've had a crazy real estate story, I want you to send me a demo Instagram app. Matt Muscat Idiot. I want to hear the craziest real estate story you've had, and we will be publishing a couple of them. We'll we'll put some of them out there. I think it's just a really great way for new agents to kind of get an idea of what what they're what they can expect, but also kind of how to get through some situations because they're all a learning experience at the end of the day.
Nico G. | 00:21:50:09 | Well, you know, we all talk about farming. Yeah, I never wanted to farm. And so I did what I call people farming, and that was meeting people asking for referrals. You listen more than you talk. That helps get people. I guess maybe that's why I have so many of these crazy stories is because people told me everything and more than I ever wanted to hear in a lot of instances.
Nico G. | 00:22:18:19 | So and they still do. My husband goes, Why do people tell you these things? We had a guy coming, an electrician coming to fix something in our house, and he started talking about his divorce and about all the problems he had. And I listed his house, but that's because I listened to him for a half an hour and got a relationship with him.
Matt M. | 00:22:40:25 | The Neighborhood Realtor podcast is proudly made possible by the support of our sponsors Treadstone Funding and Neighborhood Loans, Two amazing Midwest mortgage companies that now have offices all around the country. You're a realtor and you'd like to learn more about connecting with one of our lenders. Dammit Matt must be idiot and often acting with someone in your market.
Matt M. | 00:22:58:02 | If you're a lender and you want to join the right mortgage company in DME and I'll connect you as well. If you're in real estate, most people are solely focused on waiting for someone to say that they want to buy or sell real estate. But instead, if you just listen and you apply some critical thinking to the words that they're saying, the tone, or are they scared, are they nervous?
Matt M. | 00:23:17:19 | Are they in a good place? Like what's really going on? You can figure out what your next move could be, right? It's all it's all kind of a game of chess, but it's listening and then figuring out the appropriate response. If you listen to the events that are happening in their life and what's going on with them, you can oftentimes make the next move so much, so much better.
Matt M. | 00:23:38:19 | So next month.
Nico G. | 00:23:39:09 | It was one of the most memorable stories I've had that is totally outside. My book was about two years ago and I was in the office and I got a phone call and this man said, I want to buy a house. So I'm like, okay. And as it went on, he had he he would tell me, I want to look at that.
Nico G. | 00:23:58:24 | I want to put an offer in on this house. Again. This is somebody I never met. And it turned out he was a homeless man and he was living on the streets. He wasn't even in a center. He had been living in his car until it got repossessed. But his grandmother left him $19,000 on an inheritance and he wanted to buy a house.
Nico G. | 00:24:19:22 | And he couldn't go look at anything because he didn't have a car. I wasn't interested in putting him in my car because he'd been on the street for about five years, I guess. Well, I sold him a house. I found him. A trailer is about 2 hours away and he paid $18,500 for it. We had there were eight offers and I got his offer accepted.
Nico G. | 00:24:43:14 | But again, and that was listening to the seller on the other side about what their needs were. I never present an offer without talking to the listing agent to see what I can craft to dovetail with the seller's thing. But that was my absolute. My commission was $257. It was like, Oh.
Matt M. | 00:25:02:20 | At that I'm like half of a good meal.
Nico G. | 00:25:05:11 | Yeah, well, even I mean, my average sale was about 1,000,002. And so for me to sell something for 18,000 was very humbling. And I'm so grateful that I listened to him and I went ahead and helped him. I mean, that's really where I'm coming from. It's not about the commission. It's about getting people into something that works for them.
Matt M. | 00:25:27:05 | One at all. It all kind of comes around because you help someone. And I think a big lesson for new agents, too, is you have to you have to help people at all price points. And in all in all situations, because you never know what's going to happen five years out. Like that guy. You changed his life in such a huge way.
Matt M. | 00:25:42:16 | I mean, providing someone with shelter is the most important thing in the world. You provided him with that. You never know where this guy is going to be in a couple of years. He could be the next founder of an electric car company or something like that. Or at the end of the day, he could be just living in that trailer, having a great time.
Matt M. | 00:25:56:09 | But you made an impact on his life.
Nico G. | 00:25:58:14 | Yeah, and he did. And he did for me, too. You know, again, it's very humbling to see what people think of as their home, you know, their shelter and what they aspire to. Not everybody aspires to live in a mansion or a $30 million piece of property. I don't I don't want that responsibility to have.
Matt M. | 00:26:19:12 | A really big staff. They would annoy you. It doesn't sound it doesn't sound funny doing that, either. Well, Niko, I just want to say a huge thank you for joining the show today. If someone wants to pick up a copy of Pandora's Lockbox, where were they? Where were they? Get it?
Nico G. | 00:26:35:03 | Well, the obvious is Amazon. It's Pandora's Lockbox, a wild and wacky real estate memoir is in Barnes and Noble. I think Walmart, Target, they will order it and the audiobook is coming out is being done like probably as we speak. So by September, for agents who like to listen to stories in the car when they're driving around that the audiobook will be available next.
Matt M. | 00:27:03:09 | Well, it's the middle of summer. It's the middle of summer romance. If you're if you're a realtor or you're traveling, pick up a copy. It's awesome. But also a lot of the lessons in the book are completely applicable for those people looking to do business the right way today. So I'll leave you with that. If you love the podcast guys, please take a minute.
Matt M. | 00:27:22:01 | Go on, go on your favorite podcast or and we review, we grow, we get better gets the more reviews that we get. So thanks everyone. And Nico, thanks for joining us today.
Nico G. | 00:27:30:18 | Yeah, you're welcome. Thank you, Matt.