10 Questions with Dawn McKenna: 'Nothing Is More Impressive than Proven Success'

It all goes back to vision. Dawn Mckenna has it in spades. She spots trends. She was an influencer long before it was a social media catchphrase. She pays attention to what the market is doing, but more importantly, she listens to what her clients are saying. She has never been satisfied with simply being the best so she keeps besting herself. Recently named a Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Ambassador, McKenna achieved as much success as possible in Hinsdale, Illinois — where she first started her business 17 years ago — and just kept growing. She continually ranks as Coldwell Banker Realty’s No. 1 agent in Hinsdale, the state of Illinois, and the Midwest. When her clients started asking her for help in other locations, she responded by expanding to Chicago’s downtown neighborhoods, North Shore suburbs, and Naples, Florida. She eventually amassed a team of 25 licensed agents and 29 team members, and never looked back. The year 2020 was no exception. Her business could have slowed down as the pandemic took hold, but her team moved quickly and guided their clients through a challenging buying and selling environment. They ended the year by setting yet another record, increasing team sales by over 50%. "We don’t just look for opportunities," she says. "We make opportunities." To get to know the newly appointed Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Ambassador better, we caught up with Dawn virtually and asked her 10 Questions.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat is your favorite part about selling luxury real estate in your market?

Dawn McKennaWith buyers, it is seeing the look on my clients’ faces when they go into their new home for the first time. I love seeing kids run around the house, slide down the stairs and swing on the swing set while the parents hug in their new kitchen. With sellers, I really love making the call when I say “We have a deal.” It is always a rush.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat was your first job?

Dawn McKennaWhen I was 16, I worked in a purse store and a candy/popcorn store in the Evergreen Plaza. It was my first experience with customer service. I learned a lot and ate a lot of candy and popcorn.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryIf you were not a real estate agent, what would you be?

Dawn McKennaI would go back to interior design, even if only to help my friends and family.   I love envisioning what homes or rooms can be – rather than being stuck on what they look like now.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s the most common question you get asked as a real estate agent?

Dawn McKennaWhether buying or selling, no matter which of the hundreds of ways it is asked, everyone wants to know: “What is the price?”

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat was the biggest challenge your business faced?

Dawn McKennaFor more than 10 years I had a lot of success delivering energetic, knowledgeable, stylish, and personalized service with just me, Lillian (Nawas) and Anne (Wiemeler). When I started the Dawn McKenna Group, a lot of people doubted our ability to scale. They did not believe we could deliver that same level and type of service no matter which DMG Team Member was involved. So, we went out, got a lot of good advice from people with experience with luxury brands, startups and real estate teams, made some key additions to our team, and committed the resources to implement the procedures and standards we needed. Our success in 2020 demonstrates that the doubters were wrong. We’ve proven that we can deliver the “DMG Experience” in five locations, two states and through 28 local expert agents.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryIf you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self about real estate?

Dawn McKenna"Whatever you do, hang on to Lillian and Anne! They not only will be critical to all of your future success, but they will also enrich your life in the process.”

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s the best piece of advice you ever got?

Dawn McKennaWhen riding the CTA bus with my Mom, she always told me to have confidence, always look your best, and don't be afraid to work hard enough to be the best.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s your advice for buying smart in your market?

Dawn McKennaI tell existing home buyers to overlook what the home is now and focus on what it can be. The easiest way to add to a home’s value is to unlock value that was there all along but was hidden by bad paint, bad design, or clutter. I tell new home buyers that unless they don’t care if they lose money when they sell, avoid the one-off, quirky homes. They should love their home and unique is great. But if they care about investment, they need to think about the next buyer.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s your secret weapon when it comes to winning listings?

Dawn McKennaIt’s not a secret. We come prepared with the best marketing material, local expertise in the market, and a global network that we use to help sell the home. And then we hit them with the stats. Nothing is more impressive than proven success, and we have lots of that in all of our markets.

Coldwell Banker Global LuxuryWhat’s the most interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

Dawn McKennaI still don’t understand the continuing reluctance of many buyers to buy older homes. There are some phenomenal buys available, especially if you are looking for space, charm and outdoor living space. Yet, many buyers won’t even look at a house that is 5 years old, let alone 25 or 50 years old. It’s a shame because there are some beautiful, gracious homes with a lot of untapped potential out there ready for the right buyers.


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