Kaki Lybbert does not get flustered. But she did need a little extra time to ponder her answer to a question many successful REALTORS® get asked: How do you avoid getting burned out?
Those who know Lybbert well won’t be surprised to hear her answer: “I don’t know. Burned out is not in my vocabulary.”
“It’s not my nature,” she says. “Even if you told me tomorrow, ‘There is no more real estate to sell,’ I would find something else to do. Going, going, going … it’s just the way I do things. So, I’ve never worried about being burned out.”
Lybbert is a top producer and has been for quite some time. When you talk to her, it’s easy to see why. She is equal parts problem-solver and pragmatic; straightforward and sincere; driven and dedicated. These attributes are just some of the reasons she’s about to start her latest adventure—serving as your 2018 Texas REALTORS® Chairman.
Texas REALTOR®: What launched your career in real estate?
Lybbert: I had a business partner and we were doing land development—selling plots to homebuilders, individuals, or big groups like Hampton Homes. We’d done several different projects, and it paid a lot in real estate commissions. My partner suggested I get my real estate license and we’d work through me. So I did. Of course, I had to be sponsored by a broker. But I started working at it, and it was a good fit and I liked it. I really liked it. I still have the development company, and we don’t do much anymore, but real estate was just such a good fit for me that I stayed with it.
What about it was a good fit for you?
It’s problem solving, which is what I like. I like the challenges of real estate. I like the people.
At that time, I had two small children. I still worked a lot of hours, but it allowed me flexibility. It’s one of those careers where you’re the master of your own universe … you know how much you earn is really about how hard do you want to work. I tend to be a hard worker. So I did really well. Within a couple of years, I was the number-one producer in that company and ended up changing to another one and continued in that position.
There’s always a solution. You just have to think about it and find it.
How did you reach that level of top producer?
I liked what I was doing. I was driven. That’s just my nature. A few years into my career, somebody called and asked if I would sit on the board of directors for the local board of REALTORS®. I did that, and later someone talked me into moving up into one of the leadership spots. But I’ve got a history of being in leadership positions for other entities, so it was a natural fit. And I liked it. The people are the greatest. Once I got into the leadership side of the business, I continued to be a pretty high producer.
You’ve been in the business for more than 20 years at this point. What have you seen change over the years?
Well, the obvious is the technology. When I first got into real estate, we were still using the MLS books. We also had a computer that you could use to get into the MLS, but they were still delivering the books. That is probably the biggest change that most any of us who have been here this long have seen—the technology side of everything at your fingertips.
For quite a while, it’s meant I can work anywhere. No longer do you have to write the contract, go present the contract in person, go back and get more signatures, and then still have to go back! That’s all gone. You can do it that way, but certainly you don’t have to, and your clients are expecting this to be easy.
But, there’s been a lot of change in every industry in 20 years. And you know, everything is exponentially changing.
Are there things that haven’t really changed about the business?
The people part of it hasn’t changed. We’re still dealing with what is for most people the largest purchase they will ever make. Their concerns are exactly the same today as they were then: How am I going to pay for it? What’s the best house for me? What is the best location? Where are the best schools? All that stuff is all the same. Even for my great-great-uncle in Dallas in the early ’20s, when people were first getting licensed. Their experience was probably exactly the same as far as dealing with people. It’s just the pieces that put it together have evolved.
Are there are other REALTORS® in your family tree? I know you’re interested in genealogy and you’ve done a lot of research about your family.
My father was president of the Dallas Homebuilders Association, which at that time was one of the largest homebuilders associations in the ’50s. Out of college I worked for him at his building materials company. So it’s always kind of been on that side, but I didn’t really know how many REALTORS® we actually had in the family until I got into genealogy. I’m a native of Dallas and most of them were in Dallas. I found some from the early ’20s.
My great-great-great grandfather came here with Stephen F. Austin in 1828 or 1829. I recently purchased a historical map of Texas that shows property ownership, and I found my grandfather’s name and property. And right next to him is Stephen F. Austin’s property, which is really cool.
So you’ve got very deep roots in Texas.
Very deep roots. I’m fifth-generation Texan, and the oldest graveyard in Brazos County is my family’s private graveyard.
I love going into old courthouses and graveyards. I can hardly go by a graveyard that I don’t want to go in and look around. One of my favorite cemeteries is the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. It is like Texas history. It is so interesting, the people there. It’s one of my favorite places to go.
What is it that interests you about the genealogy research?
I’m a history buff anyway, and you just learn so much about the people and the times. … I love the old maps and learning how they lived. It’s a big puzzle. I am a problem-solver, and genealogy is a big puzzle. And don’t ever believe somebody that tells you they have it all done, because that is impossible.
Is there anything about real estate that keeps you up at night?
No. No. I’m a problem-solver, but I’m not a worrier. I don’t dwell on stuff. Things roll off me easily. I’m pretty thick-skinned about stuff, and I’m not going to stress. I tell people all the time, “In this business, let it go.” Always take the high road, no matter what it is somebody says or does to you. It’s not worth your time to stress over it. Today may seem awful, but tomorrow is a new day. So, I try to follow that myself, and that’s what I tell other agents.
Always take the high road, no matter what it is somebody says or does to you. It’s not worth your time to stress over it.
Is that a message you’re trying to bring with you into your new position?
Not a conscious message. I mean, it is something that I tell people, to do your best and let the rest of it go. Don’t carry stuff forward. … As long as I do that, I can sleep at night. I may wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “OK, I need to do this,” when I’m working through a problem. But I don’t stress over the problem. I’m always looking for solutions. There’s always a solution. You just have to think about it and find it.
You’ve said that a responsibility of current leaders is to identify future leaders. Can you elaborate?
Anyone in leadership should make it their number-one priority to find their replacement. I will. My joy will be seeing somebody else come behind me and do it way better than I did. Of course I want to do well, but I want the next person to come along and do even better.
Success is when you have helped somebody else surpass what you’ve done. I love helping. I do a lot of new agent training or top producer training when I can. I love seeing the people who have an interest. I have a very short patience with people who don’t want to give back.
What are some ways you think Texas REALTORS® should be giving back?
It could be volunteering or even continuing their own education. It doesn’t have to be leadership. It could be doing something at the local board. It can be just taking more classes and getting better at your work. More skilled REALTORS® out there looks better for all of us.
The number-one danger to our industry is agents who are not competent—according to the DANGER Report NAR commissioned a few years ago—and that’s who I have a problem with. It’s all about their dollar. Everything has to be right for them. They’re not at all interested in the industry. So, it’s a very selfish attitude, and I have very little patience with that.
But there are so many great REALTORS®. I love finding the person who enjoys learning, wants to get on a committee, do something with their board, or even do community service. It’s that mindset of giving back to something other than you.
What do you want new members to know about TAR and the year ahead?
If real estate is going to be your profession, pay attention. Learn what’s available to you through TAR, like your member benefits. You don’t get successful in this business by staying in your little cocoon. I would love to see many more of you come to our conferences and regional meetings because it’s a people business, even beyond clients. As I work with people, I get so involved in their lives. And that carries on because it is a relationship business. It’s all about trust. It’s about doing the right thing. Care about your reputation. Know who your fiduciary duty is to; it’s not to yourself. You know, I like to cash the check, but it’s not about me. It’s about relationships.
Is there anything else you want members to know about your role in 2018?
I didn’t come into this position with a preconceived notion of wanting to fix something. There really isn’t anything to fix. My mission is to continue exactly what we’ve got going, because it’s so good. I also don’t come representing any faction. I’m not in any niche. I represent all Texas REALTORS®. Every piece of what we do here in Texas resonates with people from all over the country. NAR staff and other REALTORS® look to Texas and ask us, “Is there anything that y’all don’t do better than anybody else?” My answer is always no.