This article originally appeared in the May 2019 edition of NOVA Real Producers Magazine. It was written by Karla Lutz Bowling.
Kelly Gaitten is one of those people you meet and you immediately feel a connection. Kelly is an associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway PenFed Realty. She’s the kind of person you can’t help but want to be friends with, and if you’re lucky enough to have her as your real estate agent, you’ve hit the jackpot. It’s easy to be charmed by her energy and passion for life because it comes from a genuine concern for others and the ability to relate on a personal level.
Her insight into her clients’ needs is intuitive. “Building this business into a career is very rewarding. Real estate is not sales; it’s psychology. Figuring out someone’s needs, wants, and real reasons for buying or selling is the best way I can help them. Everyone is going through something — life changes, health changes, or happy things like getting married or having a baby. It’s exciting to be involved in people’s lives during those big events. I do my best to minimize the stress of the transaction. We can’t always accomplish that, but it’s my goal,” she says.
Kelly has been around the real estate industry for most of her life. She got her license in 1989 at age 22 at the suggestion of her parents who were real estate investors. However, after a year she decided to put that career on hold when her father became ill with cancer. Her mother, Pat Lynn, still owns, manages, and maintains several commercial, residential, and mixed-use properties in Kelly’s hometown of Occoquan, Virginia.
Kelly has never been one to shy away from hard work. At 13 she was already showing her entrepreneurial spirit by mowing grass and picking up groceries for neighbors. In high school, she worked at the Godiva boutique in her hometown and waited tables.
“After high school, I went to college for a few accounting and business courses, but I never finished. I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to be or find my direction, so I went to work! I got an entry-level job in Alexandria as a temp. From there, I worked my way up to an executive level assistant, first for the president of a civil engineering firm, then moved on to Freddie Mac. In 1997, AOL recruited me to be an executive coordinator, and that is where I met my husband,” Kelly says.
Kelly credits her husband, Steve, for giving her the courage to get back into real estate. “His love and support have helped me become a more independent and confident person. He believes in me like my parents always have. After we got married, we took off for a few years to renovate our historic home. In 2001 we decided we were ready to get back to work. I was struggling with whether to return to an office job or to put my license back to active as a full-time Realtor®. I was afraid to step out on the ledge. One day he asked me if I wanted to work for someone else my entire life or bet on myself. I told him ‘I want to bet on me!’ That was a turning point in my life and career. The reassurance to make that decision helped me blossom further. Confidence was all I needed. I had everything else, and I never looked back.”
Once Kelly stepped onto that ledge, she began to soar. Well known as one of the top producing real estate agents in Northern Virginia, Kelly specializes in luxury homes, horse properties, and historic homes. Her career volume is more than $200 million and her last year’s volume was $26 million. Kelly boasts a 5-Star Rating on Zillow, Google, and Facebook and was recognized as one of Washingtonian Magazine’s Best DC Area Realtors (2015 – 2018), and Northern Virginia Magazine’s Best Real Estate Agents in 2018.
Her awards are numerous including 2009 President’s Circle, 2010 Leading Edge Society, 2011 Chairman’s Circle Gold, 2012 President’s Circle, 2013-2016 Chairman’s Circle Gold (Top 2% of the network), 2016 Legend Award (for 5 consecutive Gold Awards), and Chairman’s Circle Platinum (Top 1% of all agents in network) in 2017 and 2018. Additionally, she has been recognized as a HomeLight Top Buyer’s Agent, Top Seller’s Agent, and Top Producer in 2018.
Although her particular expertise is with luxury properties, Kelly points out that she works with buyers and sellers in every price range. She has experience with virtually every type of property including land sales, single-family homes, and condominiums. She has listed wineries, B&B’s and large estates. “I try to be humble every day — get up, go to work and do my thing. I can have a meeting with a high-level executive selling their home on the golf course or a first-time buyer. Both will get my full attention and level of detail. Be fair, treat everyone like you want to be treated,” she says.
Kelly’s expertise in historic properties was instrumental in the decision to choose her as the exclusive listing agent for “Carter Hall,” in Millwood, Virginia. This exquisite property is listed at $12 million and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Stonewall Jackson once used it as his headquarters during the Civil War. The estate includes a spectacular limestone manor house, expansive lawn, and terraced gardens with sweeping panoramic views of the Shenandoah Mountains in all directions. The property has a total of 14 buildings on 87 acres. Currently, it serves as a conference center for the charitable foundation, Project Hope.
Kelly says her problem-solving skills are a vital component of her success. When faced with a problem, she doesn’t look at it as an obstacle. Instead, she approaches the situation with an attitude that she has been presented with an opportunity to find a solution. “I once had a boss tell me ‘don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.’ I use that every single day,” she relates.
Kelly’s advice to new and up-and-coming agents is to remember there is nothing that can replace perseverance. “It took me ten years to get to a notable level of success. I just kept pushing every day. Don’t get distracted. Stay focused, and it will pay off. Most of all, keep your chin up. Even when things get slow, you can get out and make some heat. Reach deep down and outside of your comfort zone. I keep pushing myself to do that every day. Don’t get complacent. This business does not allow for it. Stay humble.”
Kelly attributes her success to the strong foundation her parents gave her and their example of living by The Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. She adds that success may not always look the way you expect. “Setting a goal and meeting that goal is a great start. Some successes are years in the making. Patience, diligence and passion define success for me.”
Kelly is passionate about taking care of her clients, but also tries to strike a balance between work, home, and her personal life. “This business can really pull you in. It’s easy to get distracted from life. I try not to miss key events, and I prioritize spending quality time with my family. My husband plays the guitar, and we enjoy singing together when we have time. I also enjoy painting and drawing and recently started painting with pastels. I love to golf, and my husband and I walk three miles every single day with our dogs. That time in the early morning is key for my mental and physical well being. Once I get that done, I feel like I can tackle anything!”
Kelly likes to face each day with a positive outlook and a goal of making a difference in the world around her. She makes friends effortlessly, and her endearing personality is a natural ingredient for building lasting relationships with her clients. Her favorite quote by Maya Angelou is a perfect summary of how she lives her life: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”