When Niibeis Alexa Elliot bought her first house at 21, she realized she wanted to help other people experience that same thrill.
By age 24, she saved up enough money for the necessary training to become a realtor and to get her through the first year or two it would take to build her business, Colorado Home Front, a residential realty firm based in Highland Ranch, a bedroom community just south of Denver.
In the more than two decades since starting her business, Elliot (Arapaho) has grown the company to $40 million in annual sales, earning numerous awards along the way.
Even so, she credits her humble beginnings on a reservation in Wyoming and later with her adopted family in Los Angeles with instilling the entrepreneurial spirit she’s leveraged into her career in real estate.
“My adopted parents didn’t have a lot of money so if I wanted anything, I had to work to pay for it,” Elliot said. “I worked since I was about 11 years old scooping poop at the pony rides.”
Elliot confesses to attending “almost every ‘be your own boss’ course I could afford” along her journey to start and own her own company.
“One thing I learned is that if you want to be successful and get the things you want in life, be an entrepreneur. Working for someone limits you in most cases,” she said. “I wanted to spread my wings and fly.”
Elliot said her business treats buyers and sellers as investors first, seeing real estate as one of their largest assets. The goal goes beyond just selling a house, to focus on helping buyers build wealth.
“We help clients with estate planning, asset protection programs and wealth building. We show every client — even first-time homebuyers — how to build wealth and save thousands in interest with accelerated mortgage payoffs,” she said, noting that “it does not make sense to invest in other investments” when buyers are paying so much in interest at the start of their mortgages. “We help our clients cancel this debt faster.”
ADAPTING TO SUCCEED
Yet despite offering valuable, potentially life-changing advice to homebuyers, Elliot said many people devalue the services real estate agents offer, even viewing them as unnecessary. According to Elliot, real estate agents offer valuable expertise that buyers and sellers won’t have access to otherwise.
“That is why we had to add services that help clients with strategies, better legal contracts, save them money, and protect them from mistakes. We have had to adapt for what clients are willing to pay for, like contract work, finding buyers, and getting them the best offers in the fastest time possible,” Elliot said. “Buyers want us to find the best deals and help them with the buying process so they don’t lose money. … We look at ourselves more as real estate consultants with real estate licenses than just an agent.”
Elliot described an industry-wide consolidation among large nationwide firms as her company’s “greatest hurdle.” To stand out against those behemoths with their deep pockets, Elliot is developing a new agent-owned advertising co-op to better compete with the larger online firms.
“This is a new concept as all the agents work together to get leads, making us more powerful and everyone gets a chance for ownership (in the co-op),” she said, adding that the goal is to pool budgets to make larger marketing grabs, which is especially crucial in such a hot housing market as the Denver metro area.
Despite being at a disadvantage, Colorado Home Front’s business has held up so far this year, even with a slump stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has closed on 70 homes in 2020, just slightly behind the pace of last year, when the company completed 104 sales, Elliot said.
That activity comes as competition continues to ramp up in the Denver market, which has had fewer sellers and more buyers this year than in 2019, according to an October 2020 market trend report by Denver Metro Association of Realtors. In fact, the report noted the metro area had just 5,301 active listings, which was lower than any previous September on record by 2,215 listings.
As well, Colorado Home Front has worked to adapt to a new set of standards amid COVID-19.
“Our team prides itself as a digital real estate firm as clients can list a home online with several options to save money on the listing fee. We will even drop off the sign and lock box for a no-contact transaction. With technology we can almost buy and sell a home completely online,” Elliot said.
Elliot hopes her story can be a model to other Native entrepreneurs – many of whom don’t receive the same acknowledgement as members of other minority groups, she added.
“I think one of the biggest problems is we don’t have a lot of people to look up to in the business world. In most cases, people can name famous people in every culture but ours,” Elliot said. “I’m trying to change this and so are many other Native business owners but we don’t get much press or help. We don’t want anything given to us, just the same news, press and partnerships with business others enjoy.”
To that end, Elliot and her team host an internship for Native American students interested in real estate.
“They’ll come and we pay for their hotel lodging and an income for a time period,” said Dan Chapman, marketing manager at Colorado Home Front. “They get to work with us and the staff learning the ins and outs of real estate.”
To that end, Elliot says she keeps her culture at the forefront of her business so that others will recognize it.
“Hopefully some day when someone asks to name a successful Native American business woman, they mention my name so future generations will have someone to look up to,” she said.