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November 22, 2023 • Interview with Jason Hartman of Authority Magazine


Antonio Castelan’s Real Estate Insights: Succeeding with Innovation

Article Summary

Antonio Castelan’s journey into the real estate industry, rooted in his upbringing in a hardworking immigrant family in Houston, showcases his transition from a curious observer to a groundbreaking leader in real estate digital marketing. With Fortum Digital Services, Antonio revolutionized real estate marketing, emphasizing innovative strategies and customer engagement. He reflects on key moments and lessons from his career, from navigating legal challenges to integrating cutting-edge technologies like VR in property marketing. His approach underlines the importance of adaptability, thorough preparation, and the power of genuine connections in achieving success in the fast-paced real estate industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

Antonio’s path to the real estate industry began in Houston, where his immigrant parents instilled in him a vision for the potential of real estate investment. This early exposure, combined with a strong interest in technology, led Antonio to identify a gap in real estate digital marketing. He envisioned Fortum Digital Services as a revolutionary force in the industry, focusing on elevating property marketing through innovative digital strategies, including advanced 3D tours and AI-driven analytics.
My path to the real estate industry was somewhat untraditional. Growing up in a hardworking immigrant household in Houston, I was always intrigued by the dynamics of the local property market. My parents, despite their modest means, often discussed the potential of real estate as an investment. This early exposure, combined with my passion for technology and marketing, led me to identify a significant gap in how real estate marketing was being approached. I saw an opportunity to revolutionize this space with innovative digital strategies, and thus, Fortum Digital Services was born. Our mission was clear: to elevate real estate marketing through cutting-edge technology and genuine customer engagement.
Antonio recalls a pivotal moment in a high-stakes property deal, jeopardized by a zoning issue. This situation highlighted the critical importance of diligent legal preparation in real estate transactions. Fortum Digital Services’ ability to adapt and resolve this challenge exemplified their commitment to meticulous planning and innovation in overcoming obstacles, solidifying their position as a leader in the property management and real estate marketing space.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?

One of the most memorable moments in my career involved a high-stakes property deal that was almost derailed by an unforeseen legal complication. It was a deal that could significantly elevate our company’s profile. After weeks of intense negotiations, we discovered a zoning issue that put the entire deal at risk. It was a stressful time, but it taught me the importance of meticulous due diligence and the value of having a skilled legal team. We managed to navigate through the legal maze, and the deal was not only salvaged but also turned out to be one of our most profitable ventures. The lesson was clear: Always expect the unexpected and be prepared to adapt swiftly.
The quote “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today” deeply resonated with Antonio, especially during the early phase of his career when self-doubt nearly derailed his entrepreneurial ambitions. This mindset shift was crucial in pushing the boundaries of what was possible, leading to significant achievements in real estate technology and marketing, and guiding Fortum Digital Services to become a game-changer in the industry.

Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?

A quote that has profoundly influenced my life is “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” This resonates with me personally and professionally. There was a point early in my career when self-doubt almost led me to abandon my entrepreneurial dreams. However, embracing this quote helped me to overcome those doubts, push boundaries, and achieve things that once seemed impossible. It taught me that believing in oneself is the first step to accomplishing great things.
Antonio is spearheading a project at Fortum Digital Services to integrate virtual reality into real estate marketing. This initiative reflects their commitment to leveraging emerging technologies to enhance property viewing experiences. The introduction of VR property tours represents a significant innovation in the real estate industry, offering a unique and immersive way for clients to explore properties remotely, which is particularly relevant in the current pandemic context.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Fortum Digital Services, we are currently working on a groundbreaking project that integrates virtual reality (VR) technology into real estate marketing. This project aims to offer immersive property tours, enabling clients to experience spaces without physical constraints. We believe this will revolutionize how properties are showcased and viewed, particularly in the context of the ongoing pandemic where physical distancing is crucial. This initiative not only aligns with our commitment to innovation but also demonstrates how technology can create new possibilities in the real estate sector.
Antonio points out that Fortum Digital Services’ commitment to using technology to enhance customer experiences sets them apart. He shares a story about marketing a historic property using drone footage and AI analytics to weave a unique narrative, significantly increasing its market value. This innovative approach to property marketing showcases Fortum Digital’s ability to blend technology with creativity, making them stand out in the real estate digital marketing field.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

What sets Fortum Digital Services apart is our commitment to leveraging technology for meaningful customer experiences. A story that illustrates this is our recent collaboration with a client looking to market a historic property. Instead of the standard marketing approach, we used drone footage and AI-driven analytics to create a unique narrative around the property, highlighting its historical significance and potential. This approach not only captivated potential buyers but also significantly increased the property’s market value. It’s instances like these where our innovative approach truly shines.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

The person I am most grateful to is my father. He was the one who initially introduced me to the concept of entrepreneurship and instilled in me the values of hard work and integrity. A specific incident that comes to mind is when I faced a major setback early in my career. I was considering giving up, but it was my father who encouraged me to persevere. He shared his own experiences of overcoming challenges, which gave me the strength to push through. His unwavering support and wisdom have been instrumental in my journey to where I am today.
Antonio is particularly enthusiastic about the growing focus on sustainable and eco-friendly developments in real estate. He shares an experience where Fortum Digital Services collaborated on a green residential project. This project not only emphasized environmental responsibility but also attracted a new demographic of eco-conscious clients. Antonio sees this trend towards sustainability as a crucial evolution in the real estate industry, one that promises a more environmentally responsible and sustainable future.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?

The real estate industry, as it stands today, is a thrilling field for several reasons. Firstly, the integration of technology is radically changing how we conduct business. For instance, when we introduced virtual reality (VR) tours for properties, it was a game-changer. Clients could now ‘walk’ through a property from the comfort of their homes, significantly widening the market reach. This technological revolution is just the beginning, and its potential excites me every day.

Secondly, the industry’s resilience, particularly in the face of economic fluctuations, is noteworthy. During the economic downturns, while many sectors struggled, we witnessed a surge in certain real estate markets. This resilience not only highlights the sector’s strength but also its potential as a stable investment avenue.

Lastly, the growing focus on sustainable and eco-friendly developments is a positive trend. Recently, we collaborated on a project to develop a green residential complex, which not only promised a reduced carbon footprint but also attracted a new demographic of environmentally conscious clients. This shift towards sustainability is not just a passing trend but a significant step towards a better future.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

My concerns about the real estate industry are centered around sustainability, market accessibility, and ethical practices. Firstly, while strides are being made towards sustainability, there’s still a long way to go. We need more stringent policies to encourage green development and renovation. For instance, offering tax incentives for eco-friendly constructions could significantly boost sustainable practices.
Secondly, market accessibility remains a challenge. The skyrocketing property prices in urban areas are making home ownership increasingly difficult. We need innovative financing solutions to make real estate more accessible. For example, partnering with financial institutions to offer more flexible mortgage options could be a step in the right direction.
Lastly, ethical practices in real estate transactions need more focus. Transparency and honesty should be the industry’s cornerstone. I recall a situation where a client was nearly misled into a bad deal. It was our ethical responsibility to intervene and provide honest advice, which not only saved the client from a potential loss but also strengthened our reputation for integrity.

What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a really fantastic work culture?

Creating a thriving work culture in real estate requires a balance of professional development, inclusivity, and recognition. Leaders should focus on fostering an environment where continuous learning is encouraged. For instance, regularly conducting training sessions on the latest market trends and technological advancements. This not only keeps the team updated but also instills a sense of growth and development.

Additionally, inclusivity and diversity in the workplace are crucial. A diverse team brings varied perspectives, enriching the decision-making process. Companies should make a conscious effort to embrace diversity in all its forms, which could significantly enhance our creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Lastly, recognizing and rewarding hard work is key to a positive work culture. Celebrating successes, big or small, boosts morale and motivates the team. Regularly acknowledging individual and team achievements, ensuring that everyone feels valued and a crucial part of the company’s success.

Antonio advises embracing the slow seasons as opportunities for strategic planning and growth. He shares an instance where, during a market slowdown, Fortum Digital Services utilized the time for in-depth market analysis and refining their marketing strategies. When the market rebounded, they were well-prepared and ahead of the competition.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

I. Embrace the Slow Season: In real estate, the market’s ebb and flow can be drastic. Newcomers often panic during slow periods, but these times are golden opportunities for planning and strategizing. Once, during a particularly slow winter, instead of despairing, we used the time to analyze our portfolio and refine our marketing strategies. When the market picked up, we were miles ahead of competitors who had remained passive during the lull.

II. Invest in Relationships, Not Just Properties: Real estate is as much about people as it is about properties. Building strong, genuine relationships with clients, contractors, and other realtors can lead to opportunities that no amount of advertising can buy. A memorable example was a partnership with a local contractor that began informally over coffee. This relationship later opened doors to exclusive deals and collaborations, proving that sometimes, a casual conversation can be a significant investment.

III. Stay Informed Beyond Your Niche: While specializing is important, being knowledgeable about the broader market trends, economic indicators, and even international real estate news can give you an edge. I once closed a lucrative deal by discussing global real estate trends with an overseas investor, which wouldn’t have been possible if I had limited my knowledge to my immediate market.

IV. Develop a Niche but Stay Versatile: Specializing in a particular type of real estate can set you apart, but versatility ensures longevity. Early in my career, I focused on residential properties but gradually expanded into commercial real estate. This diversification was pivotal during market fluctuations when one sector would outperform the other.

V. Prioritize Your Well-being: Real estate can be all-consuming. It’s crucial to maintain a work-life balance. A burnout episode early in my career taught me this the hard way. I now ensure regular breaks and hobbies outside work, which ironically, has improved my productivity and decision-making in business.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If I were to inspire a movement, it would be focused on cultivating global empathy and understanding. In a world increasingly divided by opinions and beliefs, fostering a culture of empathy can bridge gaps and create a more harmonious society. This movement would encourage people to step into others’ shoes, to understand diverse perspectives, and to act with kindness and consideration. Such a shift in mindset could have far-reaching effects, from resolving conflicts to creating more inclusive communities. The power of empathy, when harnessed collectively, can lead to profound changes in how we interact with each other and address global challenges.

Final Thoughts

Antonio Castelan’s insights provide a roadmap for success in the dynamic world of real estate. His journey from a curious observer in a modest Houston neighborhood to a leader in real estate digital marketing with Fortum Digital Services highlights the importance of innovative thinking, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the industry. His stories and experiences shed light on the nuances of succeeding in real estate, emphasizing the need for continuous learning, embracing technology, and maintaining a client-focused approach. For an in-depth look at Antonio’s unique perspective and strategies for thriving in the real estate industry, read the full article here –