Best of Lawrence Profile: Local realtor Bailey Stuart sees her role as a navigator for buyers and sellers

Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored content produced by the Journal-World’s advertising department. Businesses who received a top three award in the Best of Lawrence competition are eligible to participate in the Best of Lawrence Spotlight Series program, which includes a question-and-answer profile. Look for future profiles in the print and online editions of the Journal-World.

Congratulations on being voted the “Best of Lawrence”! How does it feel to receive this recognition from the community?

I’m feeling pretty humbly stoked right now! In a community boasting 300-400 real estate agents, it seems like everyone has not just one, but probably five real estate connections. Lawrence is a hub of capable and hardworking Realtors, and I’m genuinely touched by the overwhelming support I’ve received.

What do you believe sets your business apart?

I’ve never fully embraced the ‘salesperson’ label. I want my clients to feel assured that I’m not just trying to ‘sell’ them on a house. I view my role more as a navigator, drawing on my years of experience to guide you seamlessly through your real estate journey. My primary goal is to ensure you buy or sell property on terms that resonate with you, aligning with your expectations and timeline.

As your trusted advisor, I firmly believe that adopting an ‘us versus them’ mentality, as some in the industry do, undermines the collective goal shared by all parties in a real estate transaction: a successful closing. It’s crucial to emphasize that this perspective in no way diminishes my duty to my clients. I approach this responsibility with the utmost seriousness. I’m always committed to acting in my clients’ best interest.

Can you provide a brief overview of your business’s history, including its founding, initial goals and how it has evolved over the years?

From the beginning, my goal was clear: to demonstrate my value and knowledge to customers and clients. Fast forward some years and that first goal evolved slightly to earning repeat business and referrals and treating each client with the same enthusiasm and dedication as if they were my first. This evolution mirrors the dynamic nature of the real estate landscape, and I am committed to staying in tune with the needs of my clients.

My journey is deeply rooted in my family’s longstanding involvement in residential new construction in Lawrence and Douglas County since 1981. Growing up surrounded by the intricacies of home building–from the construction process to discerning various levels of quality and post-construction maintenance–laid a foundation of knowledge from an early age.

Partnering with McGrew Real Estate as my Brokerage really shaped my career from the start. The amount of knowledge and experience that surrounds the management and staff is obviously a win but it’s also the collaborative environment that’s in a league of its own. If an agent needs support or guidance – it’s always there.

How has your business evolved or grown since you first started? What key milestones have you achieved along the way?

I recognized that cultivating trust and showcasing expertise were pivotal in a realm where clients and opportunities don’t simply appear magically. Over time, this dedication paid off, and the turning point came as satisfied clients began referring me to their friends and family.

Since 2020, my business has witnessed substantial growth, with each passing year bringing over 20 transactions. This success is a testament to the trust my clients place in me and the expanding network of referrals. It’s been an awesome journey so far and I remain focused on delivering unparalleled service.

Could you share an example of how your business has embraced innovation to stay ahead of the curve?

Technology and real estate are seamlessly intertwined and I’m always open to innovative approaches that enable us to work smarter together.

Oftentimes, managing a single transaction involves handling an extensive file with 10, 20, 30+ documents. I utilize technology to streamline this process, ensuring efficiency and organization. Acknowledging that time is of the essence, the integration of electronic signature tools and digital contract platforms becomes pivotal in simplifying the paperwork process. This not only improves efficiency but also contributes to a swift turnaround, reducing time in crucial transactional phases and lessening reliance on physical paperwork.

Pricing, a crucial aspect in real estate, is far from black and white; it exists in a perpetually dynamic state. Determining a recommended list price involves considering numerous factors, and among them, the use of data analytic tools stands out as particularly important. Employing a data-driven approach allows me to factor in market trends, providing valuable insights that inform decision-making and shape effective marketing strategies.

Before the internet, house listings were physically in a binder at a real estate brokerage, but now future home buyers can browse listing photos from the comfort of their couch. I’m a firm believer in going the extra mile for my sellers by ensuring their home is presented in the best possible light. Providing high-quality photos not only captivates potential buyers but also highlights the unique features of the property. Additionally, incorporating a virtual tour adds an interactive dimension to the listing, allowing prospective buyers to explore the home remotely. These improvements not only enhance the overall marketing strategy but also significantly benefit sellers by attracting more attention and increasing the likelihood of a successful sale.

Could you share a memorable customer success story that exemplifies the impact your business has on the community?

A buyer went to social media for real estate agent recommendations. (One of those 80 comments in 20 minutes types of posts.) The house this buyer identified in the post needed significant rehab – meaning, almost for certain not a typical transaction with conventional mortgage financing. We connected and I showed the buyer the house. Like many first-time buyers, I discovered that the conversation about ‘different types of financing’ and ‘non-conventional/rehab type loans’ was brand new information–understandably not easy to follow. But even at the start of our relationship, I could see the determination and work ethic. “Take my hand, I’ll help you through this” – was the overall feeling at this point. I connected this buyer with a couple of different lenders but ultimately it was decided that purchasing at this time wasn’t feasible but if a ‘financial to-do list’ was worked on over the next 6 months or so, approval may just be possible. THIS BUYER worked their tail off and within THREE MONTHS, I got an email that said approval letter in hand and it’s time to start looking again! But, this was during the extreme housing shortage and high prices, and finding homes to fit the pre-approval amount was a challenge – Needless to say, we were swimming upstream.

Fast forward – A house was purchased that had room for sweat equity but far from rehab. Improvements were immediately started to make this house a home and over the last 3 years it has turned into quite the investment.

It’s not uncommon for us to work with clients for months, sometimes even years. Throughout this period, there’s always the uncertainty of whether we’ll be compensated for our time. This is because real estate agents typically receive payment at the end of a transaction when the property officially closes. I knew this buyer may not be able to buy a house right now and I knew there’d be extra time involved IF this buyer was eventually approved for a mortgage. I think of this transaction often and it still makes my heart happy that we stuck together to make this true success story.

What do you believe has been the biggest contributor to your business’s growth and reputation in the Lawrence area?

The last sentence from a clients review “….If you’re looking for someone with a Midwestern work ethic, knowledge based reasoning and generational ties to the Douglas county area, look no further!”

What do you wish more people knew about the Lawrence housing market and what advice do you have for someone thinking of buying or selling property?

Real estate markets are local! Sure national and state stats and news generally share a similar trends but when you start getting down to the nitty gritty data that drives list prices, time on market, appraisals, sold prices, heck, even what type of (Buyer’s or Seller’s) market we’re in and for the age old question, “Is now a good time to sell/buy?” – you really need a local expert.

My involvement with the Board of Directors at the Lawrence Board of Realtors has shown me that while our area has many great real estate companies, I wish more people knew that the brokerage and agent you partner with is an important first step.

As I said above, there is no shortage of capable, hardworking agents in our area but please don’t take the decision and partnership lightly. Housing markets are dynamic and active agents that are continuously in and out of houses have the upper hand for pricing and condition knowledge.

Showing houses is far more than opening a lockbox and unlocking a door – Every single house helps fine tune our local market knowledge, which makes us better buyers agents and listing agents.

My advice – Meet with more than one agent to discuss your future plans. See if what they offer aligns with your expectations and goals. You’re interviewing them and they’re interviewing you…it’s a partnership and should feel comfortable.