Stephanie Vitacco is a broker who has been in residential real estate for more than 25 years. She has worked her way to the top, LITERALLY! She is the #1 agent out of more than 150,000 Nationwide at Keller Williams. Her knowledge of the real estate market in northern Los Angeles county is unparalleled. Is it her incredible ability to remember numbers and work nimbly through complex matters? Is it her giant heart and compassion for her clients? Is it her support team that never fails to come through?
If you know Stephanie, you will say she’s a complete professional package. But do you know about her LOVE of animals and how she is unwavering in the well-being of the four legged critters she encounters? She is tenacious. Listen to see just how far she will go.
Listen to Stephanie’s story here.
Click here for transcript
From Los Angeles, this is the Echelon Radio Network.
Jerri Hemsworth 00:17
So this is Jerri Hemsworth. And I’m here on the Echelon Radio Podcast with one of my, well, I feel very blessed to call her one of my good friends and colleagues, Stephanie Vitacco, of Team Vitacco, and Keller Williams. How are you?
Stephanie Vitacco 00:38
I’m good. How are you?
Jerri Hemsworth 00:39
I’m good. I was thinking this morning, and I was so excited that you were coming today. I was like, this is going to be a great day,
Stephanie Vitacco 00:49
It will be fun.
Jerri Hemsworth 00:52
We’ve had so many great conversations, not only about work, but life balance and all of that. And I’m always in awe of your backstory of why you became a real estate agent. How did you and why did you become a real estate agent?
Stephanie Vitacco 01:13
It’s a good question. So that was a long time ago. Well, we try not to count. Yeah, no, we’re not going to count. So I had, I was very young, and I had been in the fashion industry. And I was getting too old for that industry, so I was told, and I wanted to get into a line of work where I would have more control. And so I had an acquaintance who was my age who was in real estate, and he was doing very well. And I thought that it looked interesting. So I thought, you know, I’m not really sure what I want to do. I think I’ll just get my real estate license. And we’ll see how this goes. And that was a long time ago. So I kind of stumbled into it by saying, I’m going to give this a whirl. It wasn’t like I knew I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or I didn’t go to school for something specifically. So I thought I knew that I wanted something that I would have control of my income, control of my time, which in real estate, you don’t have any control of your time. That’s a fallacy. Yeah. But if you do dedicate yourself, there can be strong financial rewards, and that was important to me to be able to create that from myself by myself without having to rely on another person to be able to create financial stability. So I thought real estate would be a good avenue to explore. So I jumped in. And that was the beginning.
Jerri Hemsworth 03:06
Did you like it right away?
Stephanie Vitacco 03:07
Oh, God, I got beat up. I mean, it really brutal. Yeah.
Jerri Hemsworth 03:11
Did you ever want to quit?
Stephanie Vitacco 03:14
I think I did go into the conference room one time and closed the door behind me so that no one could see and cried, which, there’s no crying in real estate. But yeah, you know, I mean, I was really young, I was really naive. I had no business experience. I, I had no skills, and there’s no training, you just jump in. So it was like being dropped into a fast flowing river without any raft. And I had to figure out how to swim. And that was okay, though. Had I known otherwise, I might not have jumped in.
Jerri Hemsworth 03:50
Well, was there any mentor, anybody you can turn to and ask?
Stephanie Vitacco 03:55
The company that I started with gave me a mentor. Husband and wife team, they were very successful. And within the first I think four or five weeks, they left on a very lengthy vacation. So so I was left like, okay, who do I go to? So what I did was: there were three guys in the office that were older than me, but we’re still relatively young. And they were successful. And they all sat together and they were right next to each other. So I was very young. And so I went over to them and said, Hey, you know, so-and-so’s out of town. I really don’t know what I’m doing. If I have any questions, can I ask you? And of course they said sure. What were they gonna say?
Jerri Hemsworth 04:43
Go away. Go away, little girl.
Stephanie Vitacco 04:45
Pretty much right. So I would it got to the point where, I mean I can be a little intense when it comes to trying to do what I want to do or accomplish and so I would literally go there all the time. ‘I have a question. I have another question. I have another question.’ And it got so bad where every time I would get up from my desk and walk over there, they’d all pick up their phones.
Stephanie Vitacco 05:10
yes. But you know, you got to figure it out. So I would just go wherever I needed to go to get the knowledge that I needed to to get, until I could get the experience.
Jerri Hemsworth 05:23
So tenacious, would be one of your traits?
Stephanie Vitacco 05:26
A little bit.
Jerri Hemsworth 05:28
I’d have to agree with that. I think that’s what helps make you successful today. honestly,
Stephanie Vitacco 05:34
it’s worked in my favor.
Jerri Hemsworth 05:37
You have a thing for numbers. I have known only one other person that almost [has] like a photographic memory for numbers. But you really know dates and years and the law and figures and numbers. What is that about? When did you realize you had a thing, a gift, with numbers?
Stephanie Vitacco 06:01
so my father would probably beg to differ with you. He is a doctor of math. now retired. So I don’t know if I got it from him or just being raised by him, of course with my mother, but you know, getting that that input. But numbers, I just I see things in numbers, and they just stick so I will remember someone’s phone number, but I might forget their name. It’s, it’s backwards. But it’s just, it’s how my brain works.
Jerri Hemsworth 06:29
So I guess you remember zip codes, phone numbers.
Stephanie Vitacco 06:32
I’m very good with numbers. It’s just the language of my brain works with numbers very well. It’s just weird. It’s just how it’s wired.
Jerri Hemsworth 06:42
But I think it shows when somebody today talks to you about anything that has to do with real estate, you are on it with numbers and figures, and percentages and dollars, and how things work, in such a way. I’ve never experienced it with another person, let alone in real estate. And when you are talking, again, about anything in real estate, you have a business, it’s all business for you. You are so good and I’m not just blowing smoke, because I hear this repeatedly from people who’ve worked with you. And I’ve worked with you. There is a comfort and trust with you that I think is really not common.
Stephanie Vitacco 07:44
Oh, wow. That’s nice to hear.
Jerri Hemsworth 07:46
And I’m I was curious if you were aware of that. And if you can point to one or two things that have helped you become that way. And if numbers is one of those things.
Stephanie Vitacco 08:02
So I think numbers are important. And I think for me, how I like to receive information is also how I like to give information, right? So if someone’s explaining something to me, in their world, whatever their profession is, as it relates to me, I want to understand, I want to understand the logic behind it, how it got there, where we are, and where is it going? And usually the numbers will will tell you that as it relates to whatever that industry is, or statistics, etc. So I just I just tried to communicate with people how I would want to be communicated with. Kind of simple.
Jerri Hemsworth 08:44
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So you were this tenacious, young lady in the real estate office and fairly new to the real estate world?
Stephanie Vitacco 08:55
Oh, brand new to the real estate world. I remember, I mean, I would ask my father. I mean, I was so young, I was still living at home. I had moved out and then because I got my real estate license, I asked my parents if I could move back home until I could get steady. And I remember going home and having my dad explain to me what the word equity meant, because I did not understand what it meant. So, I was greener than green.
Jerri Hemsworth 09:23
Okay. Today, you’re one of the top Keller Williams brokers you in the nation, in the whole United States. And I’ve watched you grow to that height over the last 10 plus years. And I want to ask you about leadership. You have a team behind you. I call it the the Vitacco engine you call it Team Vitacco. There is engine in the office in Encino. At what point did you realize that engine was going to be necessary in order to be successful?
Stephanie Vitacco 10:11
So I was probably in the business maybe three years and I was busy, I was very busy and I would work in the business during the day. And then in the evening, I would work on the business. You know, there’s so many facets to a transaction. And I was literally, you know, in the office till midnight, one in the morning, back there at seven in the morning. And just because you know, you take on a client and take on that responsibility, you’ve got to service it properly. So there was one point where my cubicle, if you will, cuz they just gave me a small cubicle. I asked for more space, they said, Sorry, you’re not worthy of more space. I said, Okay. I’m the kind of person that I like to work on the floor a lot. I like to sit on the floor and spread things out. And this was before computers too. So I would just start sitting on the floor, and then I encroached into the aisle.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:08
Suddenly the floor of other cubicles were full.
Stephanie Vitacco 11:10
Absolutely. I just kind of like, slowly like the blob. I was sitting on the floor one day, and I had all my files spread out. And a woman who was twice my age, came over to me and she, I’ll never forget, she had her hands on her hips and she stares down at me and I look up at her as I’m sprawled out working. And she said, “you need my help.” And I said, “what, what do you mean?” She said, “Look, I’m going through a divorce.” Real Estate sales takes a very specific positive energy. And if you’re not in a good space, I mean, you can be very talented and skilled, but it takes a specific energy. And she said, “Look, I know what I’m doing. I can help you. You know, I need I need to make money. But I don’t want to do real estate sales right now. And I said, “Yeah, I need help. But oh my gosh, I’ve never had an employee. I’m this new agent. I’m doing business, but I don’t know what I’m doing and how am I going to afford you?” And she said, “let’s just do it for 90 days and see how it goes.” So she was very smart. Because she knew much more than I knew. So I said, okay, fine, because I was terrified to take on an employee. I mean, what if I don’t sell a house? Right? I mean, how am I going to be responsible for this person? And I do have a very extreme level of responsibility. So I said, Okay, we’ll do it for 90 days, I could deal with that. At the end of 90 days, it doesn’t work. We’re good. Well, of course, she freed me up so much, that we had to hire someone else. So that’s how I learned how to grow it because of her. And that was the beginning for me. And then I realized how to leverage, okay, yeah, no, I don’t need to be the one, you know, making 17 copies of this for the Department of real estate or, you know, doing this part of it, etc. And then over the years, it’s just morphed and grown. And it’s a constant work in progress. Because the market is constantly expanding and contracting. Just as soon as you get it humming in one direction, it changes.
Jerri Hemsworth 13:16
And look at what we’re looking at today. We’re in May of 2021, here.
Stephanie Vitacco 13:20
Insanity. Have you ever seen it this nuts? No. When COVID hit last March ,when they announced shelter in place, March 19. It was a Thursday afternoon. Sure you remember where you were, who you were talking to. I said to my husband, “Well, I guess it’s been a good couple of decades. Who’s gonna want to buy real estate? Who’s gonna want anybody in their home? And the next 14 days, the next two weeks after, because there was still tremendous momentum in February going into COVID. Or going into a shelter in place. And although we had heard of this COVID thing, it wasn’t here. We had no idea that we were on the ledge, and we were just about to get pushed off. So I thought everything was going to be dead. And there was tremendous momentum going in. So the first two weeks, I put 10 houses into escrow, of which six promptly fell out, of which four went back in. The real estate market was as volatile as the stock market was. It was just up and down and all over. Then the next two weeks were dead. And I think that was the point where everybody— We talked during that time. We’re like, it is absolutely dead. Yeah. Oh, that was also when there was one day I was on Ventura Boulevard. And it was like, 3 in the afternoon, which is usually when Ventura Boulevard is bumper to bumper. I was the only car. I thought I was in The Truman Show. It was bizarre. I think everybody was just we were also terrified.
Jerri Hemsworth 14:53
Ventura freeway the same way.
Stephanie Vitacco 14:55
It was kind of nice, if I needed to get anywhere. But the next two weeks were dead. But then something happened about, maybe it was beginning of May. And that’s when a lot of people who had been in some sort of process of going on the market, prepping for it, their house is going to be ready or somebody in the family passed away or the tenant moved out. But now all that got put on ice. But now people were four to six weeks out, and they’re like, we got to do something. We can’t just have this house empty and idling. We’ve got a mortgage to pay, what are we going to do? We need to be in our new place. So things started to slowly move. So what had happened, though, was the only other time in my career that I saw complete halt of any inventory coming in was the ’94 earthquake. But that was the only other time where the production or the the the incoming inventory just cut off. So here, we went into COVID with low inventory, then nothing. Nobody was listing their homes for that first month. And then all of a sudden, when people did start to peek their head out of home and say, ‘okay, who’s willing to participate? Who needs to transact? And it was really the mandatory sellers. At that time, it was no discretionary buyers and sellers. So inventory went super low. And then coupled with that, they dropped rates to the lowest that they’ve been in our lifetime. And it was the perfect storm. And it was, I mean, it just blew the lid off. None of us could have ever seen it coming. And it was just insanity. I mean, and still to this day, it’s not uncommon. Where it was scalding, now it’s just hot. But it was where I would list a property and in nine days, I would have 110 showings and 38 offers God. And I would have that on several properties. It literally got to the point where I created an email response to agents. Because I was getting literally in like, over one weekend, I had 150 offers come in on various properties. And so my email response was, “thank you so much for your patience during this very unusual and challenging market. Please tell your clients we are working as expeditiously as possible. We’ll get back to you as fast as we can.” It was like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant. And that’s how it was across the board. It was just blasting. And it’s still going because interest rates are low. And well, two things happen, right. And I was actually interviewed by a national newspaper at the end of last year about the COVID effect. And pre COVID, people were spending 80% of their waking hours outside of their house. And they were spending money on travel and concerts and vacations and dining and shopping and theater. And then all that stopped. So for the people who were still making money, they were now spending 80% of their time in the house. And they were not spending money. One of my clients who actually works at a bank said that for the first time in his career, they saw the bank balance increase. The reserves increase, just because people couldn’t spend money. So it was the perfect storm. And it’s just, I mean, last year was my best year ever. Is that horrible, like to say that during COVID?
Jerri Hemsworth 18:20
I understand completely. I feel that when there’s so much tragedy and loss, and people’s lives are destroyed, families are being destroyed. And there’s a guilt at knowing that my business has succeeded. I understand that. So my personal thing is to give back to small businesses, give back in ways that I can, with what I have saved and not spent. How can I put it back into the economy and make sure people have jobs.
Stephanie Vitacco 19:01
Yes, right. That’s awesome.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:04
So I want to switch gears a little bit with you because another major aspect of you as a human being is your love of animals.
Stephanie Vitacco 19:14
Oh, they’re the best.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:17
I thought I had a huge heart. I thought Brian had a huge heart. But you kind of blow us out of the water. How many pets have you rescued from houses that have been abandoned? I mean back to 2008 when you and I did some business and there were so many bank owned homes. And the stories that you had of animals you have rescued. Have you ever kept count?
Stephanie Vitacco 19:50
No. I don’t count. When they’re in need, I find them a home. They find me though. They do find me.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:56
You are Dr. Doolittle. Maybe you should be Dr. Do-Much, Dr. Do-A-Lot. You even went to a neighbor’s house that you saw a dog that was in the backyard living on concrete. And it broke your heart. And this was just a neighbor’s dog that you knew wasn’t getting the love and attention and it took you how long until you approached the neighbor and said I want your dog?
Stephanie Vitacco 20:29
So, every Saturday morning, a girlfriend and I do this five mile walk. And in the backyard, there’s this beautiful dog and he was on the side yard and it was dark. And it was dirty. And it was horrible. And he was a husky. My firstborn was a husky. So I told the woman I walk with, I said, we’re going to go knock on that door. That dog needs to walk. No one’s taking care of him. And she’s like, oh, gee, Stephanie, come on. So it’s a Saturday morning. 7:15 in the morning, and she’s standing at the curb. She’s like, you go for it. And I knock on the door. Nobody comes to the door. I ring the bell. Nobody comes to the door. I knock again. And finally somebody comes to the door bleary eyed, I must have woke them up. And I say you know, you probably think I’m crazy. But I see you have a husky. We walk five miles. Huskies need to exercise. I’m happy to walk them. They look at me like I’m out of my mind. I said, I’ll give you my driver’s license. I’m a local real estate agent. I’m not going to do anything stupid. I’m just concerned about your dog. The guy’s like, okay, so he agrees. And I told him, I said, just give me your number. And what I’ll do is on Saturday morning, when we walk by, because it was at the start of our walk. I’ll text you that I’m going into your yard. And then when I return him, I’ll text you that I put him back. So every Saturday morning and I’ve walked the dog and I got a leash. But you know what’s horrible? The dog was two years old. And when got him on a leash, no one, it was very clear to me, no one had ever walked that dog. He didn’t know how to walk. Like if you ever walk a dog for the first time. I mean, even as a puppy, but just was a two year old dog. He had never been walked. Disturbing. Oh, so fun. I just love that dog. So long story short, walked him, walked him, walked him for months. And I finally said to [the owner], I sent him a text one morning. And I said ‘my friend would love to have your dog.’ Now, I didn’t want the dog. I just wanted him out of that environment. I got two dogs, two cats, a husband, that’s enough. So my husband keeps telling me ‘Stephanie, you’re not 10 years old. You can’t keep bringing them all home.’ But I can and I will. So I just knew I could find it a good home. So I actually talked to my friend about it and said ‘listen, if I can yank that dog out of there, will you take them?’ And she said yes. I said okay, fine, because she said she had wanted a dog. So when I would go see the dog in the morning, the dog would like literally, he would see me and he’d hear me at the fence, and he would do circles like this. And they had totally neglected him. His water dish was full green or he wouldn’t have any water. It was horrible. So I said ‘my friend is looking for a dog like this. Can I ask where you got him?’ Like, just maybe he would say ‘here you go.’ And he’s like, Oh, my brother bought him on Craigslist or something. I said, Okay. And then I just kept hinting, hinting. Then I just asked, Do you want to sell your dog? I see that you guys don’t don’t take care of the dog. You don’t have time for the dog. Maybe you want to give him a better home? ‘No, no, my brother loves that dog.’ Okay. And then on the Fourth of July when I texted him and said, ‘would you mind bringing the dog in because I know their ears are sensitive? ‘Oh, no, we can’t.’ I said, well, why not? ‘Because we have wood floors, and we don’t want to ruin our wood floors.’ So I’m like, okay, we’re going full throttle here. ‘Okay, how much do you want for the dog? My friend wants to buy the dog.’ ‘It’s not for sale.’ Okay. So I came back and said—
Jerri Hemsworth 24:07
Here comes the tenacious part, people.
Stephanie Vitacco 24:11
‘How much did your brother pay?’ ‘He paid $500.’ ‘My friend will give you $500.’ ‘He doesn’t want to sell it.’ Next weekend, walk the dog. I said ‘the dog’s really sad.’ I’m surprised he didn’t block me and say ‘quit coming to my house,’ right? He did end up blocking me by the way. I think he changed this number. And I’ll tell you in a minute, I’ll speed up my story. So after doing this, and I was at $1,000, and he still said no. So then one day I put the dog back in and I left. And the dog, I mean he could see I was the only two hours he had out of a seven day period that was like out of jail. Have you ever had a text where you write a text and you’re like, ‘should I send that, should I send that?’ Snd then you’re like, ‘no, I shouldn’t send it. No, I shouldn’t—SEND. And then you’re like ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have done that. And I kind of did. And I basically said, ‘your dog is neglected, my friend will pay you $1,000. But it’s not fair to your dog. It’s really not fair to that animal.’ And I drove off. And about 15 minutes later, he said, ‘Okay, I talked to my brother. Bring cash, but make it fast before he changes his mind.’ So I go home, I get $1,000 cash. I tell my husband, and he’s just like, ‘Stephanie, no.’ He knows what’s going to happen, and I text my friend, ‘you still want the dog?’ ‘Yes.’ But she’s out of town. So the dog has to stay at my house for the period of time,. Again, two cats, two dogs, the whole deal. I get the 1000 bucks. I go over. I give it to the guy. I get the dog. I said ‘give me whatever information you have.’ Turns out the dog never had shots. They never had him fixed. Okay, so now I get the dog at my house. I make arrangements to get him to the vet. Get him fixed. Get him shots, all of that. My girlfriend comes back five days later. And I won’t even go into the details of that five days with this Husky in my house with everybody. It was a nightmare. Although I enjoyed him. Nobody else did. So I give him to my girlfriend. And then after two weeks, she says ‘I can’t keep the dog.’ So she gives him back to me. So then I’m like, ‘give him back. Give him back. I’ll find a home.’ So, very long story short, the dog was traumatized. That’s why. And an animal needs time. In fact, you gave me the name of the trainer. So, found another home for it. They said ‘we’ll take them on a trial basis.’ I said, that’s fine. They got the dog. They said, ‘Whoa, this dog needs a lot of attention and time.’ I said ‘just give it some time.’ And I paid for a trainer to go to their house and train him. They gave the dog back. Then I found another home and the woman said ‘I will take him as long as he gets along with my dog.’ And we met on the street and it was fine. And the dogs got along fine. Gave her the dog. And then once the dog was inside where it’s more territorial, no go. I got the dog back. Then I finally found this wonderful woman who took the dog and her Husky had died. I didn’t know her. I posted it on Facebook. I was like alright, I gotta go just out there with this. And she took the dog. And her Husky had died. And she almost tried to give him back and I said ‘no, no, just do this. I’ll pay for 90 days of training. Just give it 90 days.’ And that’s when I hired the woman who you recommended, J9’s K9s in Canoga Park. And I said, ‘just work with him for 90 days. And if at that point, it doesn’t work. I’ll take the dog back.’ Of course, my husband was like pulling his hair out. And it worked. So, she still has the dog. And I go to visit it now. And so that’s a long story.
Jerri Hemsworth 27:49
But it’s so indicative of who you are as a person. And as a professional as a friend, as a daughter. I have seen you through highs and lows. And I think, tenacious and ‘I will find a way to make this work come hell or high water,’ That’s you.
Stephanie Vitacco 28:15
Well, I think I think any animal lover would do this.
Jerri Hemsworth 28:18
But also in your business. And you find when something seems so bleak, or that it’s going to go south or something looks like it could be very tragic. You find a way to turn it around, and you find a way to make it better. And I think that speaks volumes to who you are as a person and a human.
Stephanie Vitacco 28:39
I appreciate that.
Jerri Hemsworth 28:46
I’m so grateful that you are one of my friends.
Stephanie Vitacco 28:51
Jerri Hemsworth 28:52
Thank you, Steph. Thanks for being here.
Stephanie Vitacco 28:54
This was fun, take care.
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