If you don’t know Kris Lindahl, you probably haven’t driven a Twin Cities highway.
His face is plastered on billboards throughout the metro and on just about every social-media site. Lindahl is the head of a Twin Cities real estate team that sells hundreds of houses every year, but he’s also a marketing powerhouse who will stop at nothing to make you know his name.
Lindahl has only been an agent since 2009 when he worked for Edina Realty, but most recently was with Re/Max Results, the largest ReMax franchise in the country.
In January 2014, he launched the Kris Lindahl team. Last year, that team had about 30 agents who sold 800 houses. This year, they are on track to sell 1,500 houses.
Lindahl recently split with Re/Max Results and is now building Kris Lindahl Real Estate.
Q: You have a double-major education degree, but you never went beyond two student-teaching gigs, and then you sold upscale water systems to homebuilders. At what point did your professional life take a detour to home sales?
A: I had a friend who was like, ‘You should really get your real estate license,’ so I just did it and I started selling a lot of real estate.
Q: Did you grow up thinking about becoming a real estate mogul?
A: No, I always wanted to be a teacher.
Q: So where’s the overlap between the classroom and the closing table?
A: Teaching and educating and giving back are a huge thing for me. It’s why I wanted to be a teacher. It’s what I live for, but I wanted to do something different.
Q: You have only been selling for less than a decade. How did you manage to build your business so quickly?
A: By mid-2011, I was the No. 1 short-seller in the state. I did short sales for 3 ½ years until the market started to change and I made a pivot and got away from short sales. So many short sale and REO [real estate owned] experts didn’t pivot and now they’re out of the business.
Q: How did you make the transition from short sales and foreclosures to regular home sales?
A: It was a real tough process. I had a lot of clients that I got out of difficult situations and that enabled me to build a traditional business. In 2013, I sold 147 houses. In 2014, I sold 175 houses.
Q: At a time when the trend is toward consolidation and bigger brokerages with international brand recognition, why did you make the break from ReMax?
A: A lot of people who had seen the brand we’d developed through radio, TV and billboards would ask why I was with this specific brokerage. I just think we outgrew them. They played a critical piece in our development and where we’re headed, but there’s a point at which it doesn’t make sense.
Q: With all the technical and management support that is available from the big brokerages, what can you do that you couldn’t do before?
A: I want to innovate without franchise restrictions. We needed to have our freedom to continue to build on what we’ve done. I now have 100 percent control over our brand, so we don’t have brand restrictions. When we were the Kris Lindahl team we ran independently, so all the systems and marketing we built and developed was specific to us and not specific to the broker. So when we flipped the switch to leave, nothing changed, other than we are now in control of our brand and our marketing.
Q: It seems like your face is everywhere. How many billboards do you have?
A: At any given time, anywhere from 60 to 100-plus.
Q: How much do you spend on marketing?
A: It’s well into the six figures.
Q: Do you ever get recognized?
A: Everywhere. In every single restaurant and in any public place I go, I get recognized, whether a restaurant or a sporting event. I love it, it shows me that what we’re doing is working.
Q: What’s your best-known billboard?
A: The one that comes up the most is the purple billboard I put up in Philadelphia next to the stadium when the Vikings played their final [NFC championship] away game. Almost every single person brings up that purple billboard.
Q: What’s your goal, to be the Dick Enrico of real estate?
A: Our brand is already there. I don’t want to become a public superstar. ... I’m just focused on what works.
Q: Are you sure you are not just a shameless self-promoter?
A: I believe I’m the most misunderstood broker in the Twin Cities. People think I just love looking at myself, but it’s not about being an egomaniac. It’s just that I’ve invested millions in my brand and it’s working. It has nothing to do with me driving down the highway and just looking at myself. It has more to do with branding. It makes such a huge difference.