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Team Member Showcase: Suzanne Johansen, Project Manager

Team Member Showcase: Suzanne Johansen, Project Manager

“Everything I do is oriented towards trying to free clients up and improve their homes to maximize their return on investment.”

Have you ever wondered what a PM does in real estate, exactly? Now’s your chance to find out! Suzanne speaks to Rachel Saunders, our Marketing Manager, about her job, past experience, what she brings to clients, and how she came to real estate. Read Rachel’s full interview below!


How did you initially connect with Andrew and David? Through mutual friends, in 1991.

How do you bring value to clients? My goal is to make clients’ lives easier and take over every detail of renovations. Everything I do is oriented towards trying to free clients up and improve their homes to maximize their return on investment. Once we arrive at a budget, my goal is for clients to literally just hand me the keys and walk away; I manage the entire project!

Also, because people actually live in their houses, they don’t think of their homes the way we do. We see each home as a stage set in which we’re drawing focus to certain areas. We bring a staging perspective, rather than a living perspective. Staging is all about the photography. The idea is to make each home a blank slate onto which potential buyers can project their lives.

What does your day look like? I work around the clock. I start with phone calls, emails, and scheduling my week. I check in with our vendors, and I spend a lot of my time on site, visiting properties. At night, I work on budgets and schedules.

Have any particular issues or problems popped up over the years? Nothing insurmountable!

How often do you change who you use to do renovations? I’m constantly on the hunt for new vendors. We have a core team of painters, handymen, and stagers… but each project is different, so we are always looking for more people. Our clients feel safe when they see me interacting with our core team because it makes them realize how close-knit we are and that they’re really part of a family! Clients love to see how seamlessly we work together.

What do you most love about your job? The people, especially our team– such amazing, talented people! I love solving problems for people and making their lives easier. One thing I especially love is that at base, we are helping people make major transitions in their lives!! It is also really fun to see different properties transform with new kitchens, refinished floors, and other improvements.

What do you think is most important in real estate? How do you derive meaning from your job? I love seeing young women get into houses! It changes your whole life– it definitely changed mine! Owning property is a way to build wealth and stability, and it is so beautiful to see young women get into the market. David got me into my home in 2011 at the absolute bottom of the market and it was the greatest thing ever!! My home’s value has gone up massively– such a great investment.

What did you do prior to real estate? I worked as a project manager in a graphic design studio. We specialized in sustainability reports. We did a lot of nonprofit work. Greenpeace was a client that initially drew me, but we also worked with big corporations like HP. These sustainability reports are really interesting; they analyze supply chains, HR, waste handling, plant practices, and so on. For each organization, the environmental concerns are different; for example, Nestle was very worried about water and plastic bottles and was constantly trying to find ways to lower its impact. My job was at the intersection of sustainability and social impact.

Related to all of this, I got a project management certification, which gave me tools to approach ANY project, from a thousand-page website to writing a book to starting a restaurant. When you break it down, every project uses all the same tools. Getting team members aligned is a big part of it, but so are budgets and schedules. Managing people is about 70%; project managers often spend the majority of their time dealing with people.

I also worked at KQED. I started as assistant to the Vice President, which basically meant I was his secretary.  He gradually gave me more and more work, and I eventually ended up managing pledge drives.

What do you do in your off hours? What are your life passions? Animal rescue! I have four cats and volunteer at the humane society and at Maine Coon Adoptions. I help sellers whose cats have escaped during their move. The pet’s transition in the move is so important and often gets forgotten– when I meet people, one of the first things I ask them is often how they plan to move their pet. For any cat or dog, you have to take their feelings into consideration because a move is a big deal! Dogs are more adaptable than cats. Cats need to be transitioned into a new house gently, first into a small room with their food and toys, then into the whole house. You have to ease them in!

Thanks so much, Suzanne! 


Stay tuned for next month’s interview, where Andrew interviews our Marketing Manager, Rachel Saunders!