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Hot chicks of real estate

It's not politically correct to say such things publicly, but Lydia Lin doesn't let that stop her.

Watch a video of these self-described “hot chicks” at the end of this blog.

Vote at the end of this blog.

Lydia Lin is not always politically correct.

Lydia Lin owns One Realty LLC.

Anyone who meets Lin, the owner of One Realty, a Denver-based boutique real estate firm, quickly learns that she speaks her mind – and even when she says things that would quickly get a politician in hot water, somehow she manages to pull it off without being offensive.

Hot chicks idea

A case in point. She called me about two months ago and suggested I write a story about some of her recent hires. She even suggested a headline: “One Realty has the hottest chicks in real estate.”

I am never one to shy away from a hard-hitting story, but I cautioned Lin that some would find that sexist.

“But it’s true!” protested Lin, a self-described “Jersey girl,” with an economics  degree from Rutgers University. In addition to owning a 20-agent real estate firm in the lower Highland neighborhood, she also co-hosts  Happy Hours many nights in Denver hot-spots.

Lydia Lin and five of the women at One Realty stand outside of her office on 15th Street, minutes from downtown. One woman could not make it.

Of course, some competitors might argue that Lin’s assessment of the relative beauty of her female brokers does not rise to the crème de la crème when it comes to curb appeal of agents, so to speak. After all, there are any number of Denver brokers – men, as well as women – who look as if they could just as easily be strutting down a runway, as selling short sales, listing homes, representing buyers, and finding properties for long- and short-term investors.

Beauty in eye of the beholder

“We think we are hot, others may not,” Lin offered, during a two-hour session I spent with Lin five of her brokers on the third floor of One Realty’s office at 2536 15th St. on a recent morning.

The women talked about how their looks are both an asset and a detriment, but in no way defines their ability to provide service to clients. Several of them have worked in the mortgage and title insurance industries before becoming brokers, or have owned their own businesses. They treat their work seriously, but not themselves. They teased each other at times, and there was laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

Model broker

Lin said the idea of promoting the looks of her female brokers occurred to her when she hired Stephanie Johnston. Johnston, 29, has been a model who has graced the pages of Maxim magazine and Playboy.

“You’ve heard of Playboy, haven’t you, John?” Lin asked me. (Yes, I have.)

Johnston, a tall blond with the girl-next-door/athlete look, mildly protested that she would wish Lin would stop telling people about her Playboy shoot.

Anyway, as soon as Lin posted Johnston’s photo on Facebook, she received about 10 comments – all of them from men.

Can I buy a home from you?

“I said this new Realtor I hired is going to be awesome,” Lin recalled. “One guy wrote back: She already is awesome.”

A male friend of Lin’s opined that he has to figure out a way to go into debt, so he can buy a house from Johnston.

Hiring hot women certainly wasn’t her intention.

“I just seem to attract good-looking women,” Lin said. “I never gave it a thought, until I started receiving all of these comments from guys. I hire people because they are hard-working, smart and good with people, not because how they look.”

Johnston, who currently is working with an all-cash buyer, who at first thought he didn’t need a Realtor, said that her looks are not her defining feature.

“I am very driven,” Johnston said. “I love people and I really want to help people. Until I found my first buyer, I didn’t know how much a real estate broker could help people. He didn’t have any friends or family here.”

She gave him a GPS for his car so he could find his way around Denver, and sent him lists of homes for sale, because he was at first so adamant at going alone. He quickly became overwhelmed, asked Johnston for help, and now he likely will close on an investment property in early January.

Drawing a line

Lin cautioned that some guys might just hit on her.

“If they just want to go out for cocktails, forget it,” Johnston said. She also found that looks can hurt. She said that some wives have been threatened by her appearance.

“I try to relate to women and make eye contact, and be very nice and respectful,” Johnston said. “But sometimes when you are dealing with a young couple that are looking to buy their first home and start a family, the wife will say, “No way are you going to be driving us around.”

(Lin piped in that she has never had that problem, “But I’m not as stunning as you.”)

By contrast, Sofia Lock, said that a lot of her clients are women.

“People say my accent helps,” said Lock, who originally is from London, England. “We know that we are not hard on the eyes. But the thing is, once people start talking to us, they learn that we really listen. And once we start working for them, they quickly learn that we do know what we are talking about and we will do a very good job of selling their home or finding the right home for them.”

Setback for women rights?

At one point, I asked the Realtors sitting around a conference table if just by having this conversation, if we were setting back the women’s movement.

“Absolutely not,” they responded, like a chorus from a Greek play.

“We know what we look like,” said Haleh Shahzrad, who had just started working at One Realty. “But we are not here to go out with guys. We are all business.”

Shahzrad, who is from Iran, is fluent in Farsi, Spanish, Japanese, and speaks some Italian. She has lived all around the world and she said that sales people who dote on the man and ignore the woman, have long irritated her.

“Why are you talking to my husband?  Or the man I’m standing next to? He is just here to make me happy,” Shahzrad said, cracking up the other women. “I’m the one making the decision.”

And a guy getting fresh with Shahzrad, might end up regretting it.

Ninja broker

While living in Japan in the 1990s, she studied Ninjutsu – the martial art of being a ninja. After four years of sudy, she became a fifth degree white belt. When she returned to Denver, she trained with a sensei (martial arts teacher) with a 10th degree black belt in Ninjutsu, until he moves his dojo, or martial-art academy.,  In addition to holds, throws and kicks, she also knows the art of throwing the Shurikan, the metal throwing stars popularized in kung-fu movies.

“I only had to defend myself once which is needless to say that it was not a pleasant experience for that intruder,” she said.  I asked her, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, if she thought her fighting knowledge could come in handy  in her new real estate career.

“I do believe knowing any martial arts, especially Ninjutsu, will be very helpful when I have my open houses, but I am hoping I won’t be forced to use it,” she answered.

Appearance opens doors

One Realty broker Camille Koehler noted that a few years ago she read a Harvard Business School study that said people who are good looking, or perceived to be good-looking, tend to be more successful, get more promotions, and generally make more money.

“It seems that your looks do open doors for you,” Koehler said.

It may sound like a cliché, but Lyna Nguyen, said inner beauty is more important than outward appearance.

“I think it is a function of confidence,” said Nguyen, who is fluent in Vietnamese and has had a background in mortgage lending and title insurance, as well as owning Subway and Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli franchises in Denver, before selling homes.

“If you are not worrying about your looks, I think people can sense your energy and attitude, and that makes you appear attractive to people,” Nguyen said. “I think we exude confidence and energy. That is what really makes you attractive to people.”

Commercial real estate calling

Nguyen said that she wants to gravitate to doing more commercial real estate deals. “Commercial real estate is still much more male-dominated,” Nguyen said. But the analytical side of putting together commercial deals has a great deal of appeal to her.

Johnston said she also would like to eventually focus more on the commercial side. I told her that sometimes commercial real estate brokers take out-of-state developers or investors to strip clubs. What would she do, take them fly fishing in the mountains?

“No, I’d take them to strip clubs,” Johnston laughed. “That way they wouldn’t be hitting on me.”

Lin said that she has received some push-back from the males in her office, who make up 60 percent of her brokers.

Poor, poor men

“Three guys came up to me the other day and said that even though they are not as good-looking as us, they have to work twice as hard,” which makes them article-worthy, Lin said. Several of the women, when they stopped laughing, or sighing in mock pity, offered that most of the men in the office are handsome.

Lin, who has been approached about doing a calendar of her women brokers as a charity fund-raiser, may have other attractive women joining One Realty.

Johnston, although new to the real estate business, already has been approached by a 24-year-old woman with two degrees, and is vastly under-employed, who wants to learn the real estate ropes.

“She wants to be my helper,” Johnston said. “She said pay me $500 a month and I’ll be your bitch. I told her you’re young, you’re smart, you’re hot. Get your real estate license and hire your own bitch.”

The room exploded with laughter.

In their own words: Hot chicks of real estate video.

Lyna Nguyen wants to do more commercial real estate deals.

Haleh Shahzrad doesn't like it when sales people ignore women. She also has trained to be a ninja.

Camille Koehler has formed an LLC in her name and has completed a number of fix and flips.

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Sofia Lock originally hailed from London, but has lived in Denver for years, and has retained her English accent.

Before her real estate career, Stephanie Johnston has posed for Maxim and Playboy. She is proud of her appearance, but doesn't want to be defined solely by her looks.