At 24 years old, real estate broker Mahsa Darabi - dressed in a matching tan, fitted-jacket and pencil skirt - exudes the professionalism of a seasoned expert. Outside Starbucks on State Street in Lake Oswego she scans through house listings on her laptop and returns clients' phone calls.
She is well spoken, personable and listens more than she talks. Perhaps it's her poise, posture and attentiveness to her surroundings that sets her apart. Her eight-year professional modeling career may be a contributing factor.
Others seated at neighboring outdoor tables can't help but converse with her. And she chats and smiles - her light blue eyes pierce though the afternoon sunshine.
Darabi, a 2001 graduate of Lake Oswego High School, works as a real estate broker at Windermere Realty Group, located on Carman Drive. Her family resides in Lake Oswego and she spent the last couple of years marketing Portland Metro-area properties, and spending time in her favorite area.
'Real estate is all about people and building relationships. That's what I like to do, so it came naturally to me,' Darabi said. 'Being that person that hands them the key to their dream home, that's the best feeling.'
Balancing a home life, and two careers - as a model with the Portland talent agency Ryan Artists and full-time broker - Darabi said both career paths found her naturally.
'I think houses are like people. (Houses) have their own personalities. They tell a story. I always tell my clients, you'll know it's the right house when you walk in and its got that feeling,' Darabi said. 'I truly believe that a house is alive.'
Being the thread
Darabi acts as a thread, to hold the transaction and home-buying or selling process together for her clients.
'Take care of your client, take care of your client, take care of your client,' she said. 'Our goal is to make (finding a house) a seamless process.'
And Darabi credits her success to the balances she achieves between her personal and professional lives - she works hard to play hard.
'In this business, if you're not consistent you're not going to make it,' Darabi said. 'Some people think real estate is part time. It's not if you want to be successful. You need to be consistent and set boundaries.'
Darabi refers to the notion that real estate agents are always, 'on call.' Darabi said that she takes her job very seriously and arrives in her office about 9 a.m. She said that she's very productive and completes more tasks in a day than some people complete in a week.
'It's because when I'm focused on real estate, that's what I'm doing,' Darabi said, 'not running errands.'
But at 6 p.m. she turns her cell phone off and nestles into her home life with her husband of two years.
'If it's a life threatening emergency - which usually, real estate is not - call my home phone. No problem,' Darabi said. 'I don't believe you can go home and work every night and every weekend and be a normal person.'
Within her few years as a licensed broker, Darabi said she has closed 'difficult deals,' made life-long friends and learned what is truly important to her - relationships.
'The first transaction taught me to be patient, and not emotional,' she said. 'Be emotional enough so that you're a person, but at all times have your client's best interests in mind.'
Darabi continued, 'The harder the transaction, the better Realtor you become. You learn to tackle obstacles. And at the end of the day the most important thing is open communication - with the other Realtor and the client.'
Her co-workers admire her ambition.
'What I appreciate about her is her attitude and her enthusiasm. It really carries over to her competence and problem solving (abilities),' said Craig Zimber, vice president of Windermere Realty Group, who also works at the Lake Oswego West office.
'It's nice to see when people she knows call her for advice, asking, 'how's the market doing? What should I be doing right now?' It's nice to see that people look to her as a resource.'
Darabi said that she's not afraid to dream big and have a vision.
'But if you're a good person, you'll attract positive things in your life,' she said.
Having half her clients seated at her wedding was tribute to that. She finds comfort in watching a clients' face light up after walking into the house that they want to call a home.
Her advice to someone getting into the industry?
'Be patient. Don't look at the tree, look at the jungle - the big picture,' Darabi said. 'Don't focus on the transaction. Put your energy into things like building relationships. Instead of sending out 50 postcard mailers, go and see 50 people and talk to them.'
This personal touch, she said, sets her apart from the crowd.
'In real estate I don't measure my success by my transactions,' Darabi said. 'I measure it by the relationships I build and the lives that I've changed.'
Working at Nordstrom years ago gave Darabi an edge on her sales, she said.
'I learned that selling is not about knowing the right things to say,' she said, 'it's about being a good person.'
And the department store taught her how to juggle many tasks at once, like how she now considers real estate and modeling her professions.
Darabi started modeling when she was 16, posing for jobs that came up here and there. Four years ago, Darabi signed with the Ryan Artists talent agency in Portland and modeling took on a life of its own. Darabi has posed for Adidas, Nike, Hewlett Packard, Logitech, Intel, von natur and the clothing line Amai Unmei, which was featured on the Today show.
'It's fun. I love being in front of the camera and feeling different personalities, because that's what modeling is - you're acting,' Darabi said. 'It complements real estate because if there's a shoot, I can work it around my schedule or (model) at night.'
Sometimes, photo shoots - like the one for Internet phone company Vonage - needed Darabi there in an hour to get the job. And Darabi said that if she doesn't have an appointment scheduled, she can usually make this work. Her car is an 'office on wheels,' she said.
'She just had a unique look that clients have been asking for and couldn't get,' said Kit Garrett, fashion director at Ryan Artists.
Garrett continued, 'To have somebody like her that's so professional and stunning and accommodating (is valuable); she's the full package. She's punctual, professional, presentable and engaging. She's articulate and well put together.'
What's the best advice someone told her as she began her modeling career?
'Don't get a nose job. Half the people told me to get a nose job, but this nose has gotten me all the ethnic jobs,' Darabi said. 'I would not change to make one (modeling) client happy. I stayed true to my roots. If I change my nose, I have to change my mom's nose, and my dad's nose and my whole darn family. This is who I am, take it or leave it. I'm Persian.'
Recently, Darabi landed the cover of Ultimate Northwest magazine, a luxury entertainment publication printed six times a year.
'Being on the cover of a magazine is something that I never thought could happen,' Darabi said. 'That was the coolest thing that's ever happened.'
While participating in runway shows and modeling the latest fashions and accessories are fun, Darabi said she would never let it jeopardize her real estate career.
Rather, helping clients with real estate needs, meeting new people, cooking, entertaining and spending time with her husband are Darabi's priorities.
Projecting five years out, Darabi said she wants to 'play more, work less and make the same amount of money.'
'That's it,' she continued. 'And just maintain a great quality of life and balance between real estate and personal life.'
Darabi has simple, but well-defined, goals for the future.
'Just to be happy in whatever I do. I hope to someday have a family. My husband and I love kids,' Darabi said. 'And just to be healthy and happy in real estate and to remember that being successful is wonderful, but being a good person, mother and wife is more important than that.'