Meet Leslie Guiley, Managing Broker of Arizona

Real estate runs in Leslie Guiley’s blood. While her family drew her to the industry, what’s kept her committed for over 15 years is her love for supporting agents and local communities.

That’s what makes her a great fit for her new role as Side’s designated broker of Arizona.

We chatted with Leslie about her career journey, from working as an agent at a luxury brokerage to launching her own indie and eventually discovering Side. We also learned why the market in Arizona — like the temperature — is hot, hot, hot.

How did you get into real estate?

My dad worked in investment real estate. He helped doctors and other professionals buy single-family homes and apartment houses as investment properties. He always had a yellow pad in the car and would slam on the brakes and ask me to write down addresses of homes. I didn’t understand why he would get excited about homes that never seemed that interesting on the outside but what he knew was that they were good, solid rental properties. I never understood the importance of what he did until I understood personal finance.

Once I fully understood the economics behind it, I decided I wanted to buy my own investment property. So I got my real estate license to learn how to make that happen. I wanted to learn from one of the best so I applied for an agent and office management position with one of the top luxury brokers in Scottsdale with the goal to learn as much about the business as I could.

Some people reject going into “the family business,” but you embraced it. Why is that?

I think the stronger underlying passion for me was personal finance. Earlier in my career, I worked in the investment division of Chase Manhattan Bank. I saw how the management of personal finances affects people’s lives — when they don’t manage it well and when they do. I also managed a SBA loan portfolio and taught business planning which taught me how having a strong foundation in savings and how home ownership helped people realize their dreams in business.

I wanted to be a strong manager of my own personal finances and build residual income and retirement savings. Then that interest led me to residential real estate and to building my own business and portfolio.

Before becoming a designated broker, you co-founded an indie. What was that experience like?

In 2014, I partnered with some colleagues to start a brokerage, and with a lot of hard work and some great agents, we grew that firm to around 200 agents. I was the chief operating officer, and last year the office recorded nearly $1 billion in sales.

In 2018, a brand came calling — a very large real estate franchiser — and we decided to partner with them and take on their brand.

We got some great tools out of the deal, but we lost our indie spirit. We were not us anymore. We were them. It wasn’t the same, and although I did my best to embrace it, our agents reminded us daily they preferred the boutique local brand.

Why do you think indie brands are so beloved and valuable?

Indie brokers have a strong connection with the community. With a boutique brokerage, clients feel like they’re getting insider knowledge, access to experts who have been doing this for years. They’re not just a number, but a member of an exclusive club.

I also think people like supporting local businesses — it makes a difference in our communities.

So what brought you to Side?

Having founded my own indie and then partnered with a much bigger brokerage, I understand the desire to take a leap and own your brand, but also the need for adequate back-office support.

To me, that’s Side.

I had heard of Side before, but what really got me interested was hearing Guy Gal speak at a conference and say, “No partner ever joins Side. Side joins them.

When he said that, it just clicked. I remember thinking, “That's the right way to do it. Let’s provide all those back-office tools and help the agents be themselves.”

Why do you think top-performing agents partner with Side?

Having founded an indie brokerage, I learned that the back-office tasks that you spend a lot of time and effort on aren’t always the most appreciated, because they don’t get seen.

With Side running the back office, our partners can spend more time interacting with clients and the community — the things that matter most. And when agents are out in their element, being seen, that’s when they make the most money. The fact that Side handles the rest and helps make them look good, that’s powerful.

What’s the Arizona real estate market like right now?

It's hot. Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, is the fastest growing county in the nation.

After the Great Recession, the Arizona Department of Commerce was tasked with attracting high-paying jobs to the area, and they’ve done an excellent job. Not only are we a major center for chip manufacturing, but we've also become a major player in the electric vehicle space. So there's a ton of jobs available here, not to mention warm weather and great universities.

When people get priced out of Phoenix, or they want a smaller city they look at Tucson, which is also a great place to live and retire. We have seen people who live in the hotter parts of Arizona wanting to escape to the cooler mountain air in the summertime, which has spurred growth in places like Prescott and Flagstaff.

Arizona is still affordable compared to places like California, Seattle or Chicago, so lots of people are still moving here. But we’ve also had significant price increases — approximately 25% to 30% a year for the last two years. Things are starting to shift as interest rates move up, we have seen some price declines but mostly on homes that were overpriced to begin with. There is still strong demand.

What are the biggest challenges agents are facing there?

There are two challenges. One is low inventory. Homebuilding slowed for years and builders could not ramp up fast enough with supply chain issues and skilled labor shortages in the construction industry.

The second is, with the market being as hot as it has been the past few years, everyone is an armchair expert. We are moving into a market where the advice of a seasoned local expert will be of more value as consumers are faced with a more challenging market. It will still be a very good market but one where smart solutions and a high level of service will win the day. Buying and selling a home is still the largest financial decision in the lives of many people. It’s highly personal and can be emotional, and people want an expert at their side.

What are you looking forward to most during your first year at Side?

I’m most excited about seeing the Arizona partners that we have in the pipeline launch and grow their brands, and having new partners join us and realize that they can be their own unique brand and more easily run their business with Side. I think so many great agents want that but don't even realize it's possible.

I’m also excited about getting involved in the community. My job is to be out there supporting agents and supporting the industry, those are two things I love to do!

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