Katie Kurtz: A Real Estate Whiz with an Eye for Design
We’re thrilled to introduce you to Katie Kurtz! Not only is she the owner of her own boutique design firm, Adorned Homes, but she's also a licensed realtor with Engel & Völkers. Since her early 20s, Katie has been purchasing and remodeling investment properties. That helped her discover a passion for home renovation and interior design and laid the groundwork for starting Adorned Homes in 2013. Throughout all of her professional endeavors, Katie has balanced creativity with practicality so well that she makes it look effortless—keep reading to learn how!
Tell us about your company.
Adorned Homes serves clients looking to redesign and renovate their residential spaces.
I have training in kitchen and bath design and am a licensed real estate advisor with Engel & Völkers. I specialize in working with home buyers and sellers looking to either renovate their home after buying or clean up their home and get it ready to sell. Whether a property is large or small, almost all buyers and sellers need some sort of design help!
What was your first job growing up, and what did you learn from it?
I had a whole bunch of different jobs before college! My very first job was coaching kids’ gymnastics, since I used to be a gymnast myself. I learned that kids really look up to their older peers, so setting a good example and being a leader is vital.
Tell us the story of why and how you started your business.
Starting my business was a very long time coming! I’ve officially been in business since 2013, but the seven years prior to that are really what made my success possible.
Before we were married, my husband, Dan, purchased his first property. We were around 21 at the time, and I helped him design and renovate that home. He bought it right before the market fell, and because of the recession, he wasn't able to sell. We ended up keeping that property and rented it out while moving on with new projects.
Around the same time, I graduated college. I originally started in the graphic design program at UMD but quickly realized that interior design was my passion. I didn’t need a degree in it, though; I needed a job to support my investment goals. So, I switched to a dental assisting program. After graduating, I got my first real job at a pediatric dental office and purchased my first place, a condo in Minneapolis across from the Walker Art Center. I loved it. It was the first time I was really on my own, supporting myself and renovating another property.
A lot of people thought I was nuts buying that place when I did. My parents were worried about me being in the Cities, and I was barely a month into my first job out of college. I bought it anyway! Two years later, I sold it for $35,000 over what I had purchased it for, even smack dab in the middle of the recession.
A few months after buying that condo and starting my new job, I realized that I needed to continue working toward my design goals. I wanted more concrete knowledge of the industry, but I didn't want to take on the expense of another four-year degree. So, I started taking classes with the National Kitchen & Bath Assocation, which offered a shorter program focused on the important details of design, drafting, and code.
In 2009, Dan and I got married, and we spent the next four years renovating investment properties. We stayed in each one for about two years and profited with each sale. I ended up getting my real estate license in October 2013. It just seemed like the natural next step since it allowed me to start getting the commission from the buying and selling of our properties.
I started helping my new real estate clients with their renovations, which led me to start Adorned Homes in 2013. The business grew quickly but organically because of my background in the industry. I’d already made a name for myself before starting a business, and since I worked full-time at the dental office right out of college, I didn't have to struggle financially for those first few years.
In 2014, Adorned Homes was selected to be one of three teams to compete on Rowhouse Showdown, a renovation reality show hosted by the famous TV carpenter Carter Oosterhouse and filmed in Cincinnati, Ohio. The buzz from the show gave my career a boost, and it taught me a lot about the importance of being authentic. Clients want to work with people who know their stuff and over perform instead of oversell and underperform. The experience also opened my eyes to different design views and ways to approach a particular job.
What is a typical day like for you?
My days are all so different, but they always start by waking up around 6:30 or 7, checking emails and social media, and reviewing my calendar for the day. I feed the dog, have breakfast, and then get out of the house by 9 if I have meetings. If I have late appointments on a certain day, I'll spend the morning on personal tasks like picking up the house, doing laundry, grocery shopping, etc. I try not to schedule meetings on Mondays because those days are so important for me to prepare for the week and do office work.
Tell us about a hard time in your life, career or personal. What did you learn from it, or how did it make you stronger?
This isn’t necessarily a hard time in my life, but it’s something that I really had to work on. I come from a family that is very quiet. My mom, not so much, but my brothers and dad very much so. Because of that, I was always very conscious of the things I said and was super reserved with new people.
When I got my first real job out of college and was forced to take charge, I started to voice my opinions about how to make things work better. I learned that what I said was intelligent and valued, which helped me worry less about how I was perceived and made it easier to speak freely with people I didn’t know. And, after we were on the reality TV show, I realized that I could literally talk to anyone—famous, rich, powerful, or just anyone on the street. They’re all just people, and I’m not intimidated anymore.
What advice or tips would you give to a new business owner?
Be open to all opportunities. When you prepare to start a business, you really need to open doors for yourself. Don’t expect to be handed opportunities if you’re not out there making connections, asking to be involved in things, and promoting your business’s vision. My business has grown purely because of the people I’ve met and the things I’ve been involved in. If something sounds fun, I ask to be a part of it! Eventually, people will start asking you, and once that happens, you’ll get new clients coming to you as well.
What’s next for your business?
Above everything, I’m driven by creating financial stability through investment. I want to create a strong base of properties and investments that will support my family, even if neither my husband nor I have regular jobs. It lets me have the freedom to work on projects that really excite me and utilize my creativity.
Starting new businesses and ventures is easier with a base like this—I know I'll have the regular income from investments to support us if something doesn’t take off. I don’t want to ever have to rely on one thing. I like to have my eggs in a bunch of different baskets!
What do you believe is your single strongest skill that’s helped you succeed?
My creativity and ability to think outside the box. I apply these attributes to almost every job I take on, even those that don’t directly call for artistic skill. Creative solutions help me with budgeting and tricky projects or clients.
I can literally walk into any home and see way beyond face value. It’s the single most important skill that I carry with me when working with design clients, real estate clients, or investment properties. Every investment property we’ve purchased has always been the home that’s sat on the market forever because no one saw its potential.
Tell us about your life outside of your business. What do you like to do?
I spend a lot of my free time with my bulldog, Turtle, and husband, Dan. We love dog-friendly places where we can bring Turtle along with us! I love to cook and am dying to get into a new home and have a big kitchen again (we just received an accepted offer on a house!).
I used to bake these fancy fondant iced cakes with designs and cutouts, but I’ve recently started to cook more often because it takes much less time. Dan thinks if I weren’t a designer/real estate advisor, then I should be a chef, but I couldn’t handle the late hours!
I also travel as much as possible. I love to escape to a new city with good restaurants and interesting culture. If I just want to relax, then the beach is the only place—swimming and just laying around on the beach is the ultimate vacay!
How do you balance your career and family/personal life?
It’s so hard because as a business owner, it’s easy to work ALL THE TIME—evenings, weekends, you name it. I make to-do lists and time block on busy days.
I’m also very adamant about only working a certain number of hours per day. If I have a late evening, then I will take the morning off, no regrets. I’ll stay in my pajamas until noon on a Monday if I know I’ll be out working until 9 p.m. that night. It’s time when I can get housework done, read a book, or grocery shop—the stuff people would normally do after they finish work at 4 pm.
The only time I’ll take a last-minute appointment is for an existing real estate client if a new home has just hit the market and we need to act quickly. Otherwise, I schedule all appointments within my work hours for the week.
By doing all of that and sticking to a schedule, I can free up so much time to spend at home with my husband and fur baby!
QUICK FUN FACTS
What’s your favorite charity? Dress for Success—their mission is to prepare women to find employment and develop marketable skills. The organization teaches women to be independent, confident and collected.
What age do you want to retire at? 45. I’ll probably always do something, but I hope to have enough income-generating properties so that I don’t have to work a regular day job.
One travel location on your bucket list? Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Are you an introvert or extrovert? Introvert.
What’s your favorite blog, podcast, or book? I love the book Chasing Slow and Oprah’s podcast, Supersoul Conversations. She interviews a lot of great people!
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