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More than a Realtor: Meet Olivia Kunevicius

Today we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Kunevicius.

Hi Olivia, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I see myself not only as a Realtor but as a storyteller. What really draws me in is the real story. I love hearing people’s real stories and real emotions, not from a sales perspective or trying to sell the house, but what’s real to them. That’s what speaks to me and gets me inspired. My top priority is always how people are going to feel in the space. I never think of houses first, I always think of people first. So much so that I created a blog called Humans at Home that’s all about how people interact in their homes. My clients are my career, and without them and their unique stories to tell, I’d just be a salesman at the end of the day. I don’t sell homes, I help people start new chapters.

It’s a privilege to work with clients, whether buyers or sellers because it’s so intimate. People really let me into their lives. I literally visualize that when they’re opening their front door to let me into their home, they’re really letting me into their lives. I have a front-row seat to listen to all the rich stories of both buyers looking to create their ideal home and sellers who are leaving the home they’ve worked so hard to establish. Those stories are never given the spotlight in the traditional world of real estate marketing. It’s always about showcasing two things, either the perfectly staged photos of the house or self-promotion for the agent. After 13 years as a Realtor, seeing only perfectly packaged images has gotten boring. The reason I created my blog, Humans at Home, is to share all these rich, authentic stories with you. Showcasing these real-life stories of the people behind the real estate as told in their own voices is what I find most interesting. I feel tremendous gratitude that my career allows me to make a large impact around one of the biggest decisions in people’s lives, where they choose to call home.

A specific avenue that I’m starting to pursue on the blog is telling the stories of homeowner entrepreneurs. Those homeowners are using real estate as a means to fund their dreams of being business owners. To take the concept of using real estate as a vehicle for wealth creation to the next level by using it as a means to fund a business to create further opportunities is something I find very inspiring. I can relate because it’s my story too. My husband has been able to start and grow an architectural design-build firm, desibl studio, over the last three years due to equity earned from our real estate investments. There’s no other way we would have been able to self-fund a business if it weren’t for real estate and for that, I’m grateful. I’m able to utilize his expertise along with his team of architects, designers, and custom cabinet makers to provide a huge benefit to my clients who are looking to transform a home into their own. It’s been a stellar win-win situation.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A smooth road – what’s a smooth road? The thought of that makes me chuckle as life has thrown me some serious curveballs over the last few years. I started the blog back in 2016, so I had a handful of posts under my belt when unexpected disaster struck. My sister had a sudden cardiac arrest in March 2017 when we were in Santa Fe out at a dance club celebrating a friend’s birthday. After two weeks in a coma, she miraculously survived against all odds but was left with a severe brain injury as a result. Upon waking up, it was apparent the only things she could do were blink and talk. The last four years have been a journey of helping her through brain injury rehab to re-learning all the activities of daily life literally again. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2019. She had to go through cancer treatment and mastectomy surgery during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. A friend of mine said to me, “for you, Olivia, when it rains it hurricanes.” At that time, that statement captured exactly what my family and I were feeling. Things have certainly gotten better in 2021 as my sister is cancer-free and the intensity of the “hurricane” has subsided.

I kept working through this entire four-year journey since my work was part of my life that represented normalcy, as in, something I could control as I had no control over how quickly my sister’s brain would heal. Secondly, I was too nervous to take an extended amount of time off as for anyone that works mainly on referrals, you always want to keep providing service to family and friends that get sent your way. So I kept working, although I did take some time off from the blog. After I started back up again documenting my clients’ stories since it truly nourished my soul, everything was going well for a period of time until I lost my photographer, my own very nice, a new camera was stolen, and the Humans at Home website literally disappeared to a white screen of death in some type of tech mishap all in the same day. I felt totally defeated and thought it might be a sign I should just give this up. Sure, it was a passion project that nourished my soul, but all the elements literally disappeared in a day, so what was the point. I got the website back up through expensive recovery efforts, which thankfully worked, but I let it just sit idle since I had no photographer or motivation to start over.

Fast forward to 2020, and I found myself in what has turned out to be my dream brokerage, milehimodern. A large part of what sets mhm apart from the rest and why it’s such a great fit for me is their incredibly talented support staff, including an award-winning in-house marketing agency. During a marketing meeting in 2021 with Bry Guy, the Marketing Director, and Jordan Facin, the Graphic Designer, they helped to reignite the fire that had originally helped me launch Humans at Home. Their encouragement gave me the confidence to once again pursue the blog as they helped me again to see the value in what it brought to me and my clients. Sometimes you just need the right people to see value in what you’re doing to motivate you to keep going. Another sign it was ready to restart, my lack of photographer dilemma had quickly resolved when I found out Jordan did freelance photography, and Humans at Home was up and running once again. Jordan is brimming with passion for the project, and I find his creative excellence to be a gift.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
The saying goes that no one ever plans on becoming a Realtor. No one actually goes to school for it. That definitely rings true for me too. My major in college was Environmental Studies, for God’s sake! I got into real estate to get out of debt. I had landed in a mountain of debt from a bad experience with a failed start-up. I needed a strategy to dig myself out. My dad was in real estate part-time, flipping houses in Cleveland, my hometown. He’s the guy who always bought all the courses so he had all the know-how. What I brought to the table was the fiery motivation to generate money to get my life moving forward. So, I started flipping houses with my dad in Cleveland, funded by my grandpa. We bought our first house for $7,500 in 2007. I learned how to think like an investor, first and foremost, which has served me well. I still get a kick out of the fact that we bought our first house for less than what you’d pay for a car.

I moved to Denver in 2008 and got my first job at a real estate brokerage promptly when there was a mass exodus out of the industry due to the Great Recession. The market was shifting dramatically, so I knew there was only one place to be successful. I worked at a small brokerage that specialized in selling bank foreclosures and short sales for five years. When you learn your craft by cutting your teeth on the most difficult and convoluted transactions, there’s an opportunity to grow a much more solid foundation of knowledge. Once the market started to shift and improve, my perception of selling real estate has been one of smooth sailing ever since, whether selling resale properties, new construction, or helping clients grow their investment portfolios.

I’ve always had a natural inclination towards being a therapist, and it’s amazing how much that comes in handy as a Realtor! Guided by the principles of human psychology, I combine a high level of emotional intelligence with strategic thinking to provide my clients with an experience that makes them want to refer their friends. Intentional, active listening allows me to hold a stand for my clients’ sincere desires firmly at the center of their journey, not letting them get swayed throughout the process. Being a caring advocate that’s holding them to their ultimate goal, guiding them to find the absolute best solution, is my mark of success.

That ability has translated into a recognition that I’m very proud of – the Five Star Real Estate Professional Award for exceptional customer service that I’ve won for the last consecutive 11 years. Less than 1% of Realtors nationwide can say they’ve won for 11 years in a row because it’s not an award that can be bought. It must be earned and can only be earned by consistent positive client feedback. For that, I’m grateful and very motivated to continue providing an exceptional level of customer service and care.

Since my job is to empower my clients to make the best decisions, they need to know the real deal behind what they’re getting into, especially when it comes to contemplating a home remodel. As I was working with my husband to renovate our own properties along with those of my investor clients, I noticed a trend starting about eight years ago where more and more people were watching HGTV and thinking the home flipping shows portrayed a real, accurate picture of the process. As a result, an increasing number of my owner-occupant clients, not investors with a crew of professional contractors, felt a new confidence that they could do their own DIY, large scale, home renovation projects, with no experience and zero know-how because they saw it on HGTV and thought it looked easy. What!?! This was insanity. I decided to create an online show called The Property Fox Show, where I document the real deal behind renovating properties in and around Denver, the good, the bad, and the ugly. My husband wasn’t excited to be on camera, but I roped him in regardless. I’ve been doing this for the last six years and am excited to have new episodes in the works right now that I’ve never targeted before, documenting the process of scraping houses that are too run down to salvage and building new construction.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland is a Rust Belt city, so there are lots of rundown buildings and homes. Industrial warehouses and historic homes that in their heyday were gloriously fantastic but are now just dilapidated remnants of their former selves. I’ve always had a huge affinity for seeing the possibility within the old and decrepit. I grew up in the suburbs and never liked the cookie-cutter nature of the big subdivisions and chain restaurants. I loved going downtown and seeing the uniqueness all around, even if that was colored by rotting buildings and urban decay. There’s inherent value in preserving the history, which allows for the soul of the building to be reinvigorated even through the process of renovation. Whether it’s a historic home in need of a total overhaul, or just an outdated kitchen that needs a modernized layout, I thrive on having that vision to see the possibility in what could be. For those clients of mine who don’t have that ability, it’s truly a gift to be able to share that vision with them and get them excited about what they might be able to create in a home they’re considering making their own.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Jordan Facin Jessica Mielke

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