SEASON 1, EPISODE 8

VP of Transaction Management at EasyKnock: Avery Waters on Scaling Your Business and Overcoming Growing Pains to Succeed

Release Date: August 25, 2022

Back


In this episode of the Closing Table Podcast, we are joined by Avery Waters, the VP of Transaction Management at EasyKnock.

Avery educates us on how she grew her team to 12, how she runs the transational team, and the attributes you need to succeed as a leader in the commercial real estate industry. 

EasyKnock is an institutionalized residential sale leaseback company that offers its services through its platform, MoveAbility. EasyKnock purchases a home, offering a sum of cash. The homeowner-turned tenant can stay in the home as a renter while they look for a new home to buy, and use that money for the down payment. EasyKnock was founded in 2016 and is headquartered in in New York.

What’s discussed: 

2:18 - Avery’s journey in the real estate space

6:46 - What are the top three transferable skills that Avery acquired?

8:45 - How to be a better communicator?

10:11 - What is Avery’s preference in terms of communication?

11:39 - How does Avery handle her work volume?

14:28 - Importance of collaboration within the team

15:43 - How does Avery work on improving collaboration?

18:06 - What skills did Avery improve to become a leader?

20:27 - Has the deal closing process evolved along with technology?

Transcript:

Intro:

You are listening to the Closing Table by ProDeal, the Commercial Real Estate Industry Insiders podcast. Closing deals is what separates the good from the great in this business. That's why we pick the brains of the world's best lawyers, lenders, developers and brokers. With a reputation for getting the deal closed, stay tuned for insider tips on how to succeed at the closing table and bring your business to the top. Now let's start closing some deals. Welcome back to the closing table. 

I am your host, Ian Group, and today I'm here with Avery Waters. Avery is the VP of Transaction Management at EasyKnock. If you haven't heard of EasyKnock, they're absolutely crushing it. They're the first tech enabled residential sale leaseback platform, and they just won the client collaboration solution of the year in the annual PropTech Breakthrough Awards program. If we talk about collaboration. Avery, is it. She runs their transaction management team of 12 people. So, you know, she's doing a lot with their clients. I've known her for four years. She's awesome. She has a lot of great insight, information, this podcast, and I hope you enjoy it. Before we dove right in, though, just a reminder that this podcast is brought to you by ProDeal. The Data Room for Deal teams at ProDeal. We work with some of the biggest and best lenders, sponsors, law firms who are doing some of the biggest deals in the world. Deals have lots of parties, lots of documents. It's time that you get out of your PDF or Excel spreadsheet. You put it all in a place that was purpose built for you, for your deal team, and for collaboration with other parties. So head over to prodeal360/demo. Fill out that form. Let us know that you heard about ProDeal through this podcast and we'll give you one month for free. Plus, we'll throw in a one on one onboarding session with our customer success team. And now let's dove into today's conversation with Avery Waters. What I would love to start with is just understanding your background, because I know you've had a long career for at least a decade in the real estate space, so I would just love an overview of your background and what you've been doing. 

Avery Waters:

Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, prior to kind of jumping into real estate, I was in the banking world, which, you know, I never thought I would really kind of lean into that type of work. I did go to school and got a business management degree, but wasn't a huge math person, but really found kind of just just kind of that job right out of college. But it's something I did I was really interested in. And then I realized kind of taking it even a step further. It was really real estate which which really interested me. So I kind of made that transition to the mortgage industry and started out as a loan officer. I had actually just recently personally bought a house, so I've kind of briefly been through the experience and then and then a month later kind of dived into the industry itself and I really liked it. I will say, you know, at first it felt very black and white, which was kind of what I was used to from, you know, my previous jobs and and places I had worked where, you know, you kind of have set boundaries, set guidelines, and everything's just kind of trying to fit in the box. But one of the things I liked and I was, I think, fortunate to at the company I started, that they were really in the early stages of growing their mortgage department and which later became really important for me as I kind of transitioned to my current job and the startup world, which was, you know, taking something and trying to scale it and suddenly having a ton of interest, a ton of influx. So even though it was, you know, overwhelming at times, especially when I was very green to the mortgage industry, it was actually, I think, really helpful, as is my career progress because it's it's kind of learning how to dove right in and kind of roll with the punches and figure things out as you're going, which, you know, you don't always have time to kind of ease into things. So I think that actually ended up being really helpful for me later on. And also knowing, you know, foundation is key and you should always start with a strong foundation, but you also need to run lean, you need to be nimble and not everything is going to be perfect. So I think really when I first started at that mortgage company, I learned a lot about that. But it was still a pretty you know, it was mortgage. You know, it's pretty standardized and regulated. So but learned a lot of of kind of my basic real estate skills there. Lending skills got a lot of experience there. Got to, you know, loan officers. Sometimes it varies how much they're involved with kind of more of the processing side of things. I was kind of fortunate because I was a little more involved with the processing on underwriting side of things because it was a smaller company at the time when I started there. So I got some extra experience, you know, just being able to kind of see things firsthand, which later transitioned into my role later on, which really was helpful. And like I said, you know, I really like the mortgage industry, but one of the things that kept coming back is, you know, it's it's very rigid at some points and very black and white at times. And I really was seeing a lot of people that, you know, maybe didn't fit in this this box but had, you know, assets owned real estate wanted opportunities as well, which really led me to looking for, you know, my next place, my next home and finding a company that was really kind of shaking up the industry, doing something different. And that's where I came to find out how my easiness and so, you know, moved over to easing up when it was very early early stages and actually you know met you Ian and the protocol team like not to this a couple of months after I started there in 2018. So it was it was really the best fit for me and exactly what I was looking for at the time and use a lot of those skill sets that I had learned in the mortgage industry. And even though we weren't a lender, they still fit with what we were doing. And I've been here ever since, just trying to trying to close deals. 

Ian Group: 

Yeah, it's crazy that we met in 2018. Yeah, that's kind of a long time ago.

Avery Waters: I know, right? It was like way longer than, you know, four years ago at this point. 

Ian Group: 

Yeah. Well, you mentioned skill sets. I'm curious if you think of maybe the top two or three skills that you have acquired starting from when you were working for for the mortgage company and then translating those to easy not. What would you say are maybe the two or three, one, two, three top skills that you learned that were really transferable? 

Avery Waters: 

Yeah, I think, you know, one of the the biggest ones, I mean, besides just kind of understand outstanding real estate in general and kind of the different pieces that go into it, you know, kind of more of a, I would say general skill sets was just how to. Communicate in different platforms. And obviously, you know, when when I first started and I was I was dealing with customers in both instances, you know, phone was still very prevalent. Email was becoming more and more, I think, what people were comfortable with and just understanding not only when you're communicating with customers, but, you know, internal colleagues, a lot of it's written as well and underwriters and dealing with all those different pieces. So I think really improving, you know, how you're communicating people. And I generally found it's helpful to I overcommunicate generally speaking. I found that to actually be extremely helpful is as I've kind of continued in my career with especially just dealing with complicated situations, especially in real estate, there's a lot of moving pieces. Everyone may understand a piece of it. And so a lot of what I feel is just to, you know, like I say, make sure everyone is on the same page. Everyone is understanding, bring the right groups of people together to discuss. So that's that's something I really feel like I learned and saw the pitfalls of when when, you know, kind of that communication drops or there is a lack. And, you know, a lot of times everyone says, you know, even especially when you're giving updates and giving customer service, that sometimes in real estate it's a lot of hurry up and wait. And sometimes you just have to at least give whoever is involved, whether it's a customer, internal or your lender, that we don't have an update right now. But this is where we're at and I think that helps a lot. So that's probably the biggest one. 

Ian Group:

If we took that just like one step further, what can somebody listening to this do to be a better communicator? Is it sending more emails? Is it maybe sending more concise emails? Like what is like the tip here for that kind of skill? 

Avery Waters:

Yeah, I would say I would say I'm sure nobody needs more emails, probably less. I know we're all right. There's probably not. Everybody is cringe when they heard that but no. And you know, I would say concise is is very important. I think also just understanding it may sound simple, but I realize now I catch myself sometimes where I, you know, have have forced myself to kind of go back and do it is reread an email once you send it, especially if it's complicated and there's a lot of different pieces to it that you're trying to communicate. I mean, you know, picking up the phone is sometimes the best case. But, you know, if you have a group of, you know, quite a few people on an email that that's, you know, that phone call may not necessarily work for everybody. But I think, you know, being concise, being direct, of course, being pleasant as well. You know, I always get that, that it's kind of this common thing in real estate that everybody is going back and forth all day. And but I it's just funny. I have noticed that people will recognize, especially in this industry, when you're like nice and, you know, just common courtesy. And I think just just like I said, being direct and getting your point across in a clear way, but not not skipping over something you think everybody should already know, because chances are there's somebody out there that missed that. 

Ian Group: 

Are you someone that picks up the phone or do you are you someone that will tend to email?

Avery Waters:

And I will say I would love to be the person that can pick up the phone every every time it rings. And I try to when I can. But unfortunately I'm also, you know, meetings and that it's it's easy to say not easy to do all the time. Totally. I do think, you know, I understand that the norm in this industry is email. And I also understand sometimes that is the fastest way to get through versus, you know, I myself and a lot of the people I work with internally and externally multitaskers you know to the that is probably the biggest thing we we are all definitely have have that skill set as well. And so I think you know, it's just knowing when is appropriate, right? Like if it's something super involved, if you're dealing more on a one by one on one basis with somebody and, you know, it's a it's a complicated thing. I think picking up the phone is probably going to be a better outcome than than sending someone to an email back and forth. The larger group, I think it's more email based, but I mean, just time it's like if you're if you take a minute phone call, I'm sure, you know, the amount of emails you can also send during that time could also definitely outweigh that one phone call. So I think it's a balance. 

Ian Group: 

Totally agreed. So in your role it easy knock, you're in charge of transaction management, right?

Avery Waters: 

Yes. Yes. I oversee.

Ian Group: 

You're overseeing a lot of deals, right, you guys? Yes. So talk to me about that. Tell me, like, what's what kind of volume are you looking at? How do you handle everything? Yeah. 

Avery Waters: 

Yeah, exactly. So, you know, right now, using our you know, we say, you know, over 100 acquisitions and dispositions a month. And so that's that's a lot that we're acquiring and a lot of that we're disposing as well. And it's not a set amount or a set split every month. But, you know, we have continued to you know, we there's some things that you can mirror for both types of transactions and there's some things that are going to be completely different. So. I will say that that's kind of is as much as, you know, some people would say, oh, you have to buy and sell. That's a lot like some of it is. We've found ways to kind of mirror, you know, part of acquisition piece and obviously have defined our process in that. But obviously it's a lot of a lot of volume to undertake and, you know, a lot of what I think has been vital and having us continue to be able to scale and still be able to, you know, have the same attention to care and quality that we did when we bought one house or whatever, you know, at the at the beginning is just, you know, making sure that you can automate as much as you possibly can so that you can focus on the things you can't. And that's really important, obviously, from from our standpoint. I think also it's it's recognizing when there's certain parts of the process you can rely on vendors and partners for versus internal parts of your process. I think you also it's really important to have a really strong team. I'm really grateful that, you know, due to kind of the nature of our business, you know, we touch quite a few different pieces of what I would say, kind of under the real estate industry umbrella. So, you know, a lot of my team, you know, is is has different backgrounds that they come from, whether it's title companies or mortgage industries like myself or realtors or, you know, some type of coordinators or things like that. In the real estate space, all of those different people have brought some sort of insight and and, you know, feedback or, you know, have brought some sort of suggestion that maybe, you know, none of us have because we came from, you know, a lending mortgage industry. So I think that's been really helpful and in bringing to our process as well. And because just because I did something like this for, you know, the first two years doesn't necessarily mean that somebody else doesn't have a suggestion of how to do things better.

Ian Group:

I think that's a really good point, by the way, is to find a smart people around you. Obviously work with work with people that are are motivated and have something to bring to the table. But also, even though you've been looking at something for a couple of years, one way doesn't mean that someone can't change your perspective. 

Avery Waters: 

Exactly. And I think, you know, one of the things I will say about myself, which is hard, is, you know, I was very you know, when I when I first started with Easy Enough, we were much smaller company. So I was very much involved with with all aspects. And as you grow and you scale, which is great, that's what we all want. You know, sometimes it's a little hard to let go of, you know what, I did it this way for so long or, you know, and I think that's when I really recognized as we were growing the team that, you know, collaborative teamwork, collaborative problem solving. I very much have a strong emphasis on collaboration, whether it's within my own team or the department, because I've just seen how the success in real time of what comes out of that. I think sometimes people may feel awkward about, you know, maybe kind of stepping over into maybe outside their department and obviously there's appropriate ways to do that and constructive ways to do that. But I think it's really important, especially when you're kind of in a fast paced environment, you know, where there's a lot of moving pieces. I think sometimes things get overlooked and people are kind of, you know, maybe not sure if they should kind of step in or ask something or say, Hey, why do we do it this way or whatever? You know? And just kind of start that conversation I think is really important as well sometimes. 

Ian Group: 

How do you work on improving collaboration? What do you guys do, anything specific? 

Avery Waters: 

I mean, really, I think, again, I try not to have meetings just for meetings, right. But I'm really big on brainstorm and and also knowing when there's times that it's probably going to be most productive versus, you know, it's I'm not one to say like, hey, we're going to do this every week because we should just do this every week, you know? And and so I think part of it is, is knowing, you know, how often those sessions or meeting is going to be productive and not just bombarding people with that, but also creating other forums where like, you know, maybe not everybody feels like sitting on a call for 30 minutes and just talking through things. Maybe they want to slack you a suggestion or maybe there's different forums. So the company in general is very big on that and having different ways to to collaborate, not necessarily just like pilot sit on a meeting and and just talk through the stuff. And I kind of do a combination of both in my own team as well. And I think also just a lot of it is holding yourself accountable as well, like as a leader to say like, oh, I want to get your feedback and then never act on it or do anything with it or really, you know, follow up with it or that's I mean, if I was on that team, I would be like, Well, then what does it matter? They're never going to really do it and, you know, do anything with it, right? So I think, you know, holding, you know, showing accountability in that way. And also, it's not saying that every idea that comes to the table is going to be executed on. It's just, you know, I think I think that also helps build that trust by showing that, you know, feedback is very valuable. And yeah. 

Ian Group: 

You when you start out easy knock, were you the only transaction manager there?

Avery Waters: 

I was. I was for at least two months. 

Ian Group: 

So how.

Avery Waters:

Many people. 

Ian Group:

Are on your team now?

Avery Waters: 

So we have 12 now. And obviously, as time has gone on, those roles have become more and more defined.

Ian Group: 

Yes. 

Avery Waters: 

And which is is, you know, obviously very important as you're you're trying to scale and, you know, maintain the quality of of your transactions and the work you're doing.

Ian Group:

So what skills have you had to develop as a manager in order to go from being the person really doing the work, like the only person to now having a team of of 12. 

Avery Waters: 

Right.

Ian Group: Or you had to to learn or improve on to go from one phase to the next.

Avery Waters: 

Yeah, absolutely. And I definitely have, you know, had to learn. I think I mentioned it before, when you're doing something yourself and especially when you're kind of figuring things out as you're going to some degree, you're building something essentially from scratch or this small team and you know, everything is very lean and, you know, resources are limited, you know, and you've been doing it for so long, it's kind of like you could almost do it in your sleep to some degree. And so I think, you know, one of the things that that and I know I'm kind of going back to I said before, is hiring the right people, knowing trusting in that, you know, as far as your hiring goes, I also think it's important to, you know, whenever you're adding to your team to make sure that, you know, even if, you know, we all have limited time and especially in the early days for training, but making sure feel, you know, people feel comfortable is they're they're getting to learn a new process and, you know, over time building that trust with them as well and being able to take setbacks and, you know, allowing them to have autonomy when when possible. And I'm not big on micromanaging, but I do expect you to get your work done and having those kind of check ins and collaboration as you go. And I think over time, you know, you make sure that the people you're promoting are, you know, showing strong management skills as well. And I think that's how you build up the team. You establish strong paths for paths, path to promotion and things like that. Other opportunities. Like I said, you know, we didn't really have a super defined department and roles when I first started. It was a it was a team of one. And so I think a lot of people recognize and when you, you know, obviously through the interview process, you realize you have the right fit. When people understand the opportunity that does present itself by, you know, you're starting here, but you could end up there. It's it's, you know, it's it's just based on the work in the effort. So I think over time, you know, it's really going back to to trusting your team and the people you hired. 

Ian Group: 

Yeah, I like that. I have one just one last question for you. We've been talking a lot about leadership and tips around your team and transactions, but you've been closing deals since 2012. I would love to know, given that pro deal as a technology platform, has the deal, closing process process evolved with technology? Are we closing deals the same way that we were in 2012 or has things gotten better? But love your take on that.

Avery Waters: 

Absolutely. I definitely think I think things have gotten better. You know, unfortunately, there are some parts of the process that are still a bit archaic. But I think there's been an influx of of companies and leaders in the space trying to step in and solve those problems. So I'm very confident that over the next couple years, especially, I think a lot with what COVID kind of brought forth, that that those more technology driven solutions are going to be more mainstream. But I will say the biggest impact we've had is just from the closing front. That did become really crucial when when COVID happened, which is just, you know, signing closing documents, which are quite a tedious and cumbersome process if anyone has ever experienced them themselves. And, you know, being able to do electronic notaries in certain instances and using a platform and signing documents electronically, I mean, still being able to have them notarized, I mean, that's such a huge thing to me. I've even done it my own personal real estate transactions, and every time I do it, I'm pretty amazed that just taking what used to be printing out 100 pieces of paper, getting the notary come over, what? Sign all the pages. I hope you don't drop them as you're, like, shuffling them together, you know, it's just going from that to what that process looks like now is is amazing as far as I'm concerned. So I anticipate will only get better in the future.

Ian Group: 

That's the hope. 

Avery Waters: 

That's for sure.

Ian Group: 

Well, Avery, it's been a real pleasure. I really appreciate your time. This was a great conversation. Thanks for being on. 

Avery Waters: 

Thanks. And I appreciate it. This is great.

Ian Group:

Bye. 

Avery Waters:

Okay. Bye. 

Outro:

Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of The Closing Table, The Commercial Real Estate Industries Insider Podcast brought to you by ProDeal. If you're ready to start closing some deals, I highly recommend checking out produce. Here's why it's a due diligence platform that helps deal teams streamline track and organize due diligence. It's especially helpful for big deals, portfolio transactions or shops with high volume, with endless amounts of documents, checklists and emails. Isn't it time that you and your team use a tool purpose built for your deals? For more information, please visit our Website at  prodeal360.com and request a demo. Tell us you found ProDeal on the podcast and we'll give you 30 days for free. If you'd like the content and advice on how to rise to the top, please be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Now let's go start closing some deals. 

Ready to get ahead of the competition?

Schedule a demo