Since joining Spaces Real Estate in 2013, broker Julia Stoner has generated more than $4 million in revenue. She and Roman Serra were recently tapped to spearhead Spaces Invest, the firm’s new multifamily sales division.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in Rogers Park on the North Side, which might make me one of the few Chicago brokers who actually grew up in the city. I attended St. Margaret Mary Grade School, Regina Dominican High School, and Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I obtained a double degree in marketing and finance. I’m a middle child of four: Jenny, Joey, Julia and Jamie. Ironically, my parents are Jim and Jan, and yes, we’re the J Team.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
I didn’t necessarily have a specific dream job but aimed to find something both enjoyable and challenging! When I was in college, I went door-to-door selling education books for a company called Southwestern. I moved out of state and lived with a host family, where I was given a specific territory to sell in. I worked six days a week for 12 hours a day for two summers. I knocked on my first door by 7:59 a.m. and knocked on my last door by 8:01 p.m., while sitting down with at least 30 families per day. Needless to say, it taught me how to handle rejection and set challenging yet attainable goals.
How did you get your start in the industry?
Out of college, my first job was working 9-5 at a marketing company downtown. My duties were remedial and I felt unfulfilled. I decided to reach out to a friend, Hans Schlegal, who at the time recruited me to sell books. While we brainstormed careers, he asked, “If there is anything in this world that you would sell, what would it be?” The first thing that popped into my mind was real estate because I felt that I would be more of a consultant and less of a salesperson. The next day, I lined up an interview for a leasing position that I found on Craigslist with Spaces Real Estate. I got the job on the spot and just celebrated my seven-year anniversary!
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my boss, Bentley Phillips. I told Bentley that I wanted to change gears from renting apartments to selling condos at a brokerage like Keller Williams. He refused to let me do that. He told me there was a need for someone like me at Spaces in multifamily investments for one major reason—my leasing experience. I rented anywhere from 15 to 20 apartments each month and worked with more than 1,000 renters during my leasing career.
That gave me an extensive knowledge of apartments that I can now share with our buyer clients to not only help them acquire properties, but also develop realistic pro formas by using my familiarity with the market to help them maximize their returns. In August 2018, Roman Serra and I created an innovative division of Spaces Real Estate called Spaces Invest, which focuses exclusively on multifamily investment sales.
Our process begins with advisement. The experiences we had in leasing really translate to our work through Spaces Invest, as we’re more easily able to develop building plans and overall investment strategies on behalf of clients. This ability to provide underwriting and pro formas for new developments is supported by our experienced leasing team of 80 agents. By tapping that network, we’re able to lease projects up to full occupancy, stabilizing the asset and maximizing returns. So, leasing remains a big part of our overall business plan.
What does a day in the life of Julia Stoner look like?
In the evening, I like to read up on the broader market to stay abreast of trends and opportunities. I’ll revisit these articles again in the morning before my daily meeting with Roman, during which we’ll discuss prospecting and maintaining relationships. Then, the remainder of my day consists of managing our sales funnel and monitoring the status of new and existing deals. We also make it a priority to meet with clients and referral partners as often as possible.
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy sales and meeting new people each day. As our commercial business grows, we get to meet whole families and learn their stories. Real estate gives me the opportunity to work in the same neighborhoods I’ve lived and grown up in, so I feel a special connection to it that I enjoy sharing with clients.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
Roman and I are excited to grow our team. We just hired our first team member who brings 15 years of experience in commercial sales. Our duo has been incredibly successful thus far, selling over $26 million since Spaces Invest was established last year. We can’t wait to see what opportunities the next year brings.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
After a day’s work, I’m either running down the lakefront with my dog, Bandit, grabbing drinks with my girlfriends, or finding some new home improvement projects to tackle with my husband, Will. We recently bought a two-flat in Edgewater, and I’m the best landlord you’ll ever have.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
My husband and I spent three weeks traveling around Japan for our honeymoon last year. I absolutely love everything about Japan: the food, the culture, the ease of transportation, the cleanliness and simply how passionate the Japanese people are. Our next big trip is Thailand, Vietnam and Laos in January.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I’d love to see Interra Realty’s Joe Smazal and Lucas Fryman, who just brokered the $16.8 million sale of Shorewind Towers. Specifically, I’d like to know how they got that client. [Editor’s note: way ahead of you.]