Importance of Finding your Niche & Giving Back to the Community with Brent Lee | Part 1




Brent is a seasoned Riverside real estate broker and business owner with a passion for education.  His specialties as a realtor include.

·        Residential Property

·        Investment Property

·        Short Sales and REO’s

·        Income Property

Brent is an advocate for his clients, agents and the more than 40,000 students of the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD). He is a problem solver, a lifelong learner, and a listener willing to tackle any issue, of any size, with a cool and calm approach.


As a real estate broker and the co-owner of Windermere Real Estate, Brent knows that the education is the foundation for good quality of life for all residents.  He believes that a strong educational foundation can be the nexus for stronger neighborhoods, economic development and greater prosperity for the region.


He has lived in Riverside all of his life and proud graduate of the Riverside Unified School District schools. Brent was elected to the RUSD Board of Education in 2013. He is currently board president and up for re-election this year.  Brent earned his BA in Economics and International Relations  with a minor in Spanish from the University of San Diego and a master’s degree in management from the Anderson School of Management at the UC Riverside.


Outside of real estate, and his duties as an elected trustee for RUSD, he spends as much time adventuring with his attorney turned entrepreneur wife, Ana, and his three uniquely extraordinary kids: Henry (#dapperhenry), Felix (#felixthefro) and Amelia-Bea (#ameliabeadelia).



Episode Notes:



Narrator  This is The Norris Group’s real estate investor radio show the award-winning show dedicated to thought leaders shaping the real estate industry and local experts revealing their insider tips to succeed in an ever -changing real estate market hosted by author, investor, and hard money lender, Bruce Norris.

Brent Lee  Hi everybody, welcome to the Norris Group real estate radio show and podcast. I am not Bruce Norris. This is Joey Romero and today we have a very special guest, Brent Lee. Brent Lee is the managing broker and co owner of Windermere Real Estate. Brent is a seasoned Riverside real estate broker and business owner with a passion for education. His specialties as a realtor include residential property, investment property, short sales and REOs, and income properties. Brent is an advocate for his clients, agents and more than 40,000 students of the Riverside Unified School District. He’s a problem solver, a lifelong learner, a listener willing to tackle any issue, any size with a cool and calm approach. I’ve been a witness to all that. As a, as a real estate broker and co owner of Windermere Real Estate, Brent knows that education is the foundation for a good quality of life for all residents. He believes in strong educational foundation can be the nexus for stronger neighborhoods, economic development, and greater prosperity for the region. He has lived in Riverside all of his life and a proud graduate from all the Riverside Unified School District schools. Brent was elected to the RUSD Board of Education 2013. He is currently the board president and up for re-election this year, that must be fun. Brent earned his BA in economics and international relations with a minor in Espanol, Spanish from the University of San Diego, and a master’s degree in Management from the Anderson School of Management at UC Riverside. Outside real estate and his duties as an elected trustee at RUSD. He spends much of his time adventuring with his attorney, turned entrepreneur, wife, Ana, and it’s three uniquely extraordinary kids. And I kind of chuckled because they really are, if you know them, who they truly are Henry, Henry (#dapperhenry), Felix (#felixthefro) and Amelia-Bea (#ameliabeadelia) And if you want to see some great Halloween costumes, I suggest going on Instagram and checking out those hashtags because they go all out and they’re my favorite thing to see every year when they, when they do. So my favorite I think still is the Royal Tenenbaums. So, Brent, welcome.  Oh, thanks, Joey. Appreciate that.

Joey Romero  So, hey, how did you get started?

Brent Lee  Well, when I finished college, I really was not quite sure what direction I wanted to go in. The only thing I was sure of was I did not want to get into real estate. My, my family and my, my mom in particular was was in real estate since I was a kid. And that was not something I wanted to do. But I think life had other plans for me. And I ended up coming back from San Diego after graduating college. My mom needed help with the Office running a property management. So, that was my first taste of, of what real estate was like, as a career as a 23 year old kid fresh out of college.

Joey Romero  What year was that? So, people can get an idea of when, when you entered?

Brent Lee  That was 2003.

Joey Romero  Oh, so it was about…

Brent Lee  That was 20 years ago…

Joey Romero  …and it was about to get crazy.

Brent Lee  Yeah. Little did I know what was I get myself into.

Joey Romero  If you didn’t get into real estate, what, what, what was Brent Lee’s dream at that point?

Brent Lee  I really thought I was going to work for the government in some fashion. I was interested in potentially pursuing a career in the Navy, maybe working for one of the intelligence agencies. And was like, shortly after 911 You know, world was a different place. And that was something that was really intriguing to me, especially with my background in international relations and economics. I thought it’d be a good fit for me. But you know, like, all, all plans, you know, you gotta be ready to change. So, I am glad for the path that I’ve taken. And I think it all worked out for the best for me and my family.

Joey Romero  So, how soon like, early on how soon were you selling homes?

Brent Lee  I committed to do that property management job for a year and but only took me about 30 days to learn property management was not my calling. I’m somebody that really likes to like not only show my value, but have that value, reciprocated and feel appreciated. And property management is not the career for that, right. You’re You’re always the in between between the landlord and the tenant. You know, even the best landlords you know, want to save as much money as possible. Even the best tenants still want things, you know, working a certain way. So, I’m trying to satisfy the tenants needs while satisfying the landlord’s needs and make a happy medium, there was a constant tug of war. And I was just not my personality.

Joey Romero  Okay, so take us to your, your first sale.

Brent Lee  Well, you know, thank goodness for family. They’re the ones that will trust you first, right so my, my, my wife’s Aunt Bea, she she knew me since I was in high school, my wife and I have known each other since we were juniors in high school. So, we’re kind of already family. And so she, she trusted me, she had an income property that she bought years before in Riverside, she lived in LA and Montbello, actually and she was ready, she was tired of being a landlord, too. And so that she gave me my first shot at listing a property, which, you know, I’m, I’m forever grateful for. And not only for that, but she was just a special person in our family’s life. And that’s actually my daughter’s named after. That’s what that’s the Bea in Amelia Bea. So, that would that was my first sale, of course, I learned a lot, I made lots of mistakes. But you know, she, she, she let me learn through that experience. And also being in a family business, you know, I have my mom there to lean on, and to help me through and to get that experience, so that I could, so I can grow in this in this career field.

Joey Romero  Did you think that you were actually going to stay in the real estate for a long time where you thought, well, I’ll do this, I’ll give it a shot and see where it goes, or where you like, you know, I’m hooked, I love it.

Brent Lee  I was hooked pretty early on. You know, even while I was doing the property management, I saw what the some of the other agents in our office were doing to tell buyers and sellers and that was super appealing to me. I like the flexibility of the career, I like that there was a, an opportunity, the more you put into it, the more the more success you could have. And that’s kind of how I’m wired. I like that if I, if I put more into it to get more out of it. From the, from the income side. So, we’ll seeing that as in the property management, I knew this was something I was gonna like. And from that first opportunity, that first listing, that first closing, I was I was pretty much hooked.

Joey Romero  Now, you came in, right before this craziness, you know, we’re, you know, everybody was selling homes. And two and three times, you know, it seemed like people refinance selling homes like crazy, you know, in 2004 or five and six, you know, before you know, all the stuff hit the fan. Can you talk, can you talk about, do you remember anything in particular about that timeframe?

Brent Lee  You know, I mean, I do, I mean, it was a crash course in you know, just the volatility of the industry that we find ourselves in, and how especially on the residential side for you know, the just the traditional home buyer traditional home seller how emotions are so closely tied to a transaction and that it’s not just about dollars and cents, but a lot of other x factors. So, I think experiencing that the, the fuel of the market as it continued to grow, and people just trying to get in on the action to whether it was to try to make a buck or to try to, try to own you know, pieces of California real estate. It was you know, fast paced and high emotions and, you know, really exciting and stressful all at the same time.

Joey Romero  Now, you’ve you’ve been a you know, property management, an agent, fast forward as to what your duties are now, like, what are you doing as far as being the co owner and broker like what are your duties?

Brent Lee  So, yes, at at Windermere Tower properties as the managing broker I oversee about 50 realtors in our office and then a relatively small support staff for those agents so overseeing and supporting agents with you know, education, I think that’s something that’s first and foremost, we want to make sure that we’re providing good education to our agents so they can best serve their clients keep themselves and their and their clients out of trouble and able to make good decisions. Compliance, so you know, it’s a, it’s a real estate has a lot of changes in terms of, you know, legalities and disclosures and forms and contracts. And just making sure that we’re staying in compliance with that. So, my role here is to oversee that you know, obviously the, the budget and the finance making sure that that we can stay, stay in business, we’ve been in business for 30 years, and I want us to be in business 30 years from now, so making good, good decisions from from the business side. And then I do also still, I still sell, I love selling, I love people, I love, I love the relationships that I’m able to make in this business. So, I like to help buyers and sellers. I’m fortunate now to work with my sister in this business as well. So, she’s, she’s, she’s, she’s allowed me. You know, we’ve worked together now for about seven years on the sales side. So, she, she’s really supportive in, in our business of helping buyers and sellers. So, that allows me more flexibility to help support our agents in the office along with, with the others, other, other leadership team that helps in that role, too.

Joey Romero  And I know your mom was a an integral part of, you know, you get into business and staying in the business. But outside of your family, did you have a mentor professionally?

Brent Lee  Yeah, I think probably a little bit later in my career for the last 10 years or so there’s a gentleman named Michael Fanning. He’s based in Seattle, and he works for Windermere Services. So, we’re a franchisee of Windermere. And he is, when I initially met him, he was in charge of kind of education role. And we’re one of the few Windermere offices in California. So, we kind of felt like we were on an island. For the first few years, we were part of this franchise. And it wasn’t until really, I connected with him, that I felt a real connection to the brand that we associate ourselves with. And what it means to be a coach, and a leader for agents, you know, up until then, I really only knew what it was like to either help in my community, or help my clients with their real estate goals. So, he helped teach me a lot about what it meant to be a leader of agents, and how to, how to be effective in that role, and help others reach their goals with their clients. So, I’m really grateful for the relationship and the mentorship that, that Michael has provided to me not only professionally, but personally, he’s a dad too. He’s only about 10 years older than me. But to see how he’s balanced his, his work life, with his, his life as a dad and his two kids. That’s something that I’ve always admired. Something that, that has always stuck in my mind, that he said, and I kind of use my own version with my kids. He says, every day, he dropped his kids off at school, he would tell them be awesome and help somebody. And that always stuck stuck in my mind. So, every time I drop off my kids at school, I always tell them do good, be good. So, that’s kind of my own version of what he’s kind of inspired me to do, professionally and personally. So, I was looked at that with my agents and my, and my, and my, my kids, we always say, right, if you, if you, if, if you, if you do good, you will be good, right? So, they’re kind of one in the same. But I like the order. And I think the order that you saying that is pretty important, too.

Joey Romero  You said something there that you felt like you were an island. Now, both in your career and for your residence. Were you purposeful in staying in Riverside?

Brent Lee  100%. You know, I say initially, probably again, when I was in college, all I want to do is get out of Riverside, right, I needed a break. But I think you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore. And as the kind of grew up a little bit and matured, I think through college, you know, as a beautiful and wonderful place that San Diego was, or is it wasn’t home, right? It wasn’t where my roots were, wasn’t where some of my relationships were. It wasn’t familial or familiar. So, it was important to me and to my wife. To get back to where we, we were, our roots were and to raise a family, grow our business, and give back, give back to the community that helped us, you know, achieve the success that we’ve had so far in our lives.

Joey Romero  Now, as we were talking before we actually started the radio show. You know, Aaron was always a big proponent of Realtors, you know, he he wanted to give them as much value as we did to our real estate investing clients. And can you talk about one of the things he always talked about was be an expert, where you are, you know, don’t don’t if you live in Riverside don’t, I mean, just because you get an opportunity sell in Bakersfield doesn’t mean you really should. You know. So, can you talk about being a local expert?

Brent Lee  Sure. You know, real estate is definitely local, right? And I think you can even have a niche within a city like Riverside, right? Because I think you have these diverse neighborhoods with diverse features and amenities that are unique, just within a city. And then you magnify that across cities or counties or regions. And really, I think a realtors value is, is in their market expertise and their local knowledge. So yeah, I always admired Aaron for recognizing the value that a realtor can have to their clients. And he was, I think, probably better than most Realtors at how to articulate that value. But I think that while you know, a realtor can sell anywhere, if you’re licensed in California, you can sell anywhere. What kind of differentiates, you know, a good realtor from a great realtor is to be able to demonstrate their their local knowledge and their expertise, and be able to share that with their clients so that they’re, their clients, especially on the buy side can make good decisions. And then on the sell side too is articulating what makes that particular home in that particular neighborhood with those particular features, you know, a niche, a desired asset they can’t get anywhere else, and helping articulate that value to help their clients get the most out of their house when they sell.

Joey Romero  Well, one of the things that you guys used to do is place UCR professors, right?

Brent Lee  Yeah, so a big part. And, you know, thanks to relationships that that my mom built early on in her career and continue to foster throughout her career, was connecting with local businesses and organizations with their recruitment efforts, right, I think, you know, one thing we’ve always battled in the Inland Empire is brain drain, I think that’s vastly improved since I was a kid. But we wanted to help do our part in, in battling the brain drain, we knew what a great community Riverside was, what a great, a great region the Inland Empire was. But we didn’t always tell our story really well as a region, or we allow other people to tell our story for us. So, what we found that worked really well with these relationships with whether it was UCR, California Baptist University, or Riverside medical clinic and Riverside Community Hospital, was going to their HR departments and saying, Hey, let us help you with your recruitment of professionals, we know that you are a great employer, and you’re going to provide a great salary and benefits to whether it’s the professor or the doctor, whoever that you’re recruiting. But it takes a professional and a personal decision to make a commitment to relocate. So, let us handle that personal side, and be able to satisfy any concerns or answer any questions that family might have about neighborhood safety, schools, restaurants, entertainment, you know, enrichment outside the school, let us take them around and sell Riverside so that it makes them say yes to that job so much more easier.

Joey Romero  And that doesn’t happen unless you are that local, you know, expert.

Brent Lee  Correct.

Joey Romero  So, now, I’m going to segue into the community. You know, when I was when I was in insurance, I used to sell insurance. And, you know, my mentors would always say, go get go join the chamber, go do the Hispanic Chamber, do all that. And those are great, you know, but I always felt that it was just like, it just it lacked a little something it didn’t it didn’t target, you know, at my interests, you know, I still went to all those. But, you know, I really, you know, my heart was in it. You know, it wasn’t till I met Karen Roberts, she was the executive director, the old executive director for Habitat for Humanity. She, she pointed me one time, and she says, you know, in her, she was, uh, I think she was Austrian, right?

Brent Lee  She said, she’s a great lady.

Joey Romero  Guiding, you know, you know, she was a joy, you got to go, you got to go to this pick group, there’s a new thing. I’m like, you know, what I’m kind of tapped out with, you know, joining groups and things like that. And it wasn’t till actually, I started kind of doing that, that I stopped joining things, or associations for, for gain. And I kind of flipped in, you know, what, I’m just gonna get involved because it’s the right thing to do. You know, so. So, when I, when I joined the Pick Group, and I got involved with the pig group and in the community, you know, I was just like, what value can I bring to the community, not because I’m gonna get something out of it. For me personally, it was, because I’m going to show my young family that it’s important to give back to your community, nothing else, you know, it’s, it’s not easy. You know, it’s always you can say, it’s easy to join a cause or to get behind something when there’s a tragedy, or there’s something that happens to you and your family. I didn’t want to wait for that. You know, I wanted to show my kids hey, it’s the thing to do to give back while you can. And so that’s one of the things that that I did. Can you talk about why it was important to you and your family to get involved and get engaged in, in the city, that Riverside where you work?

Brent Lee  Sure. And, and I mean, that’s something that’s really important to me and my family, and I was fortunate, you know, just growing up to see that modeled with with my mom and dad. So, to me, that was just normal, right? So I was fortunate. I know not everybody has that experience. But that was just normal. That’s just what you did, right? you if you if you were going to be part of this community, you immediately have to give something back, right. So, I knew that from a very, very young age. And one of the first things I did when I, when I came back to Riverside and started working for a family business was I joined the international release, International Relations Council, which is kind of the, the group that connects the sister cities of Riverside to the community, right. And that was important to me, because in high school, I was a beneficiary of that organization’s generosity. And I was able to do a sister city trip to Sendai Japan. So, I was grateful for that experience. That was my first big international trip, opened my eyes up to, you know, the world and traveling, and I was forever and still am grateful for that organization. So, when there was an opportunity to, to sit on that board, as a 23 year old kid still, essentially, I jumped at it. And, you know, I really didn’t know what I was doing. But I knew I wanted to help. And if they offered the opportunity, I wasn’t going to say no. And I think that kind of was the beginnings of, of my desire to continue to give back and build relationships. And what I’ve learned from that experience, is really say yes to the things that are important to you, right, there’s so many good causes, and so many important organizations that you can give your time, your treasure your your relationships to, but I think to be really effective, and this is something I think that Aaron probably taught us both, is you got to know when to say yes. And you got to know when to say no. So, as I’ve matured, and kind of learned what my strengths are, and what my passions are, I tried to say yes, to those opportunities that I think I can be effective. And where it doesn’t feel like work. And I think you mentioned that the pick group, right, I think that is a group that probably has changed my my life more than any other organization professionally or personally.

Joey Romero  What is the pick group? Can you describe…

Brent Lee  The pick group is Young Professionals group in Riverside that was started back in? What was it now? 2008, 2009?  Yeah, it’s 2008, 2009 with the intention of trying to create a nexus of young professionals to come together, support one another to, you know, connect socially developed professionally, and engage civically in Riverside. And we felt that, you know, if, if, if we could come together, we could be more effective in supporting one another, to achieve those three objectives. And through that group, you know, it’s really, it’s given me the opportunity to develop some of my greatest relationships, and my, like, best friends to this day are all a result of participating in that group. And it also was a safe space to grow my myself as a leader. I mean, if it wasn’t for the pick group, I don’t think I would have had this, the skill sets, however limited those skills were, or the confidence to run for the Board of Education. There’s no way I could have done it withou that network of young people to kind of push me and encouraged me to make myself vulnerable. And, and, you know, run for public office, right? At the local level.

Joey Romero  09 offically. Yeah. Especially in the early years of the pick group. I remember, just I mean, we were on fire. We were just a…

Brent Lee  Fire in our bellies. That’s for sure.

Joey Romero  You know, I was, I joined as part of the civic involvement committee. And that was, you know, headed up by, you know, General Ferrell and your wife, Ana. And we were just, I mean, I think I remember the board, like telling us to calm down because we were making the other two. The other two branches of the pick group, like, seemed like they weren’t doing as much, but we were like, we need to hear like that, that first year where we took on homelessness, and we really did. That’s actually the first time I ever met you was I don’t know if you remember, but it was in the scavenger hunt. We did a scavenger hunt for help where we, you know, drove all around Riverside and, you know, picked up backpacks, picked up, you know, jackets, you know, things basically things that we could donate to the shelter, you know, here in Riverside. And so that was a really fun event, which, you know, kind of,kind of killed two birds with one stone, you know, we did all this great work for the seven Cabomba committee, but then we also got together at the end of the day, you know, at Romanos and, you know, had, you know, some good food and hung out and I just remember you, you and Matt, you know, just kind of hanging out just kind of keep it to yourselves now that you know, we weren’t everybody, you know, kind of all friends yet, you know, but it was that’s the start of it. You know, and as and as I got more involved with the picker myself, you know, I ended up, you know, running the board development training program and getting on the pick board. And that’s where I really saw you, you know, in action. And one of my favorite things that and I’ve told you this before, one of the favorite things that you said, you always had the dissenting vote. It was always, not necessarily, necessarily that you didn’t agree with it. But you always, you know, wanted to point out like, you wanted to be the devil’s advocate, you know, that you didn’t want to just seem like, Yeah, whatever, whatever it is that the committee puts out, everybody’s just gonna sign off, you know, we really have to examine, you know, if it’s truly, you know, fulfilling our mission, can we involve everybody? You know, is this something that is truly for everybody at the pick group, or, or not, you know, or just, you know, the three or four or five of us that that really thought it up? You know, so that was one of the…

Brent Lee  Saying that now, but I’m sure you and everybody in the room just that I was a jerk? And I probably was back then. And I think that’s what I said, like, that’s where you was a safe space to grow, personally and professionally, right. I think I learned so much from those experiences. And I look back and I’m like, gosh, why was this such a jerk at some of those meetings? But it was just because I was learning, right? I was trying to learn what it was like to work with other like minded young professionals who aspire to do more for their community and grow in their careers. But not really knowing how to do that, because we were so young, right? I was 20 in my late 20s at that point. So, I mean, I’m just really grateful for for you, and just that whole group. That was, you know, we kind of all grew up together, right? We grew up professionally together, because we encourage each other. And I think I know there’s other groups in town that are like that. But I wish there was even more, because I think if we had those kinds of opportunities to come together and talk about tough things, and feel, feel safe, without being judged. I mean, I just can’t, I just can’t imagine what the ceiling would be for our region. Well, there’s more people were able to do that.

Joey Romero  There’s a couple of things that came out of the pick group, one that I’m really particularly proud of is the board development training program, which is actually my brainchild, the brainchild of, of Ana, you know, she, I think she went through the Riordan program in LA. And she was like, you know, what, can we bring that to Riverside, and the pick group? And it was it’s a class that, you know, what would teach young professionals how to effectively serve on boards, because as we were starting to make a name for ourselves, people were asking for us, but did we know how to serve on boards? Or did we just have Tuesdays open? You know, right. So, that’s what, you know, the Board Development Training Program was intended to fulfill that need, and really give you the skill set to look at a budget to know how to market for nonprofit nonprofits, you know, to know what board governance is, you know, Robert’s Rules of Order. You know, all that stuff is stuff that we learn there. And I think I made probably, you know, along with, you know, the pickup in general, but the board development training program, I think my closest friends out of the pick crew came out of that, and I know that I was part of the first graduating group. And that’s, you know, you actually went through that, too, you know, and even though you were on the board already, you are kind of a seasoned, you know, veteran, you still went through it. And can you talk about your experience with the Board Development Training Program?

Brent Lee  Yeah, and I think thank you joy for helping lead that program for as long, long as, yeah, I think that’s a good legacy for you, and for the organization. And I think pick group’s grateful for your involvement and all those who help support that program and continue to support that program. And you’re right, like that was something that my my wife fell on, it was very important to her. It was, I think it was a way for, for young people to, young people to establish value. With the generation just above both of us, we wanted to find a way to be at the decision making table. But we didn’t have a big check to write, right? We weren’t, we weren’t, we can just write a check and say, Okay, we did our part to be on the board, we had to provide value of some other way. So, I think the board development training program was that gift to the community, for those that chose to participate in it. And I liked it also, because it was a connection. It was our gift back to those that were maybe a generation or two out of the pick group demographic, so that they could also participate and see what the paper was all about. But then use the value add that we were bringing to help serve on other capacities in the community. So the Reardon program, I think Matt Shea actually, through his, his experience, have learned of it and then, you know, Ana and him, you know, got together and try to modify it to what it is, what it was for Riverside, and then I’m sure it’s evolved from there.

Joey Romero  Yeah, it’s still going. I mean, this is…

Brent Lee  Yeah. So going, so going.

Joey Romero  Like, 13th year, I think? Yep. And I’d be remiss if I don’t mention, Gordon Barnes who has been so generous with that program, and, you know, every every couple years, you know, we asked him for a donation, and he only does it for the Border Military Program. He doesn’t, you know, support pick in general, but it’s been, it’s almost become a passion for us. And he shows up, or graduations, you know, he’s, he’s involved. So, it’s really cool. And that’s part of that connection that we have. I mean, I have Gordon Barnes cell phone, on my phone because of this, you know, and, and so that’s, that’s, that’s a really cool part of of what we’ve done. And, you know, from, from this program, you know, there’s been CEOs of nonprofits that have come out of this, several presidents of boards. I was the president of the board of the Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center for two years. I served six years on that board because of the Board Development Training program. So, there’s been some really cool things.

Narrator  For more information on hard money, loans and upcoming events with The Norris Group, check out For information on passive investing with trust deeds, visit

Aaron Norris  The Norris Group originates and services loans in California and Florida under California DRE License 01219911, Florida Mortgage Lender License 1577, and NMLS License 1623669.  For more information on hard money lending, go and click the Hard Money tab.



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