At an age when most high school kids were spending their after-school hours at soccer practice or working on their geometry homework, 16-year-old Keri Nicholas was busy learning about home inspections, contingency offers and real estate appraisals while working at a nearby Menlo Park real estate office.

As an assistant to high-powered agent Barbara Tyler in the early ‘90s, Keri quickly learned the ins and outs of helping Peninsula residents buy and sell homes. She enjoyed the experience and probably in the back of her mind thought she might be a pretty good agent herself one day. Safe to say, she was right.

Over the past two-plus decades, Keri has become one of the nation’s superstar real estate agents, one who is regularly sought out by the most discriminating Peninsula buyers and sellers, including Silicon Valley executives, venture capitalists and other high net worth investors.

With sales volume of $88.5 million last year, Keri was the number one Peninsula agent for the region’s leading real estate services company, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. She was also sixth in the nation for Coldwell Banker out of more than 100,000 agents. And the Wall Street Journal recently ranked her 37th in the U.S. out of more than one million Realtors in the country. She has already sold more than $100 million in homes in 2011.

Interestingly enough, Keri has accomplished all this while still working at that very same office on Santa Cruz Avenue where she temped in high school. In fact, today her own office at Coldwell Banker is the one that Barbara Tyler had used for so many years.

“Keri is really an amazing success story of a local kid who’s gone on to do incredibly well in business,” said Rick Turley, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. “Over the years, she’s established herself as one of the smartest, most successful businesswomen on the Peninsula and certainly one of the most knowledgeable and savvy Realtors in the United States.”

“Keri is held in the highest regard by colleagues and competitors,” said Wendy McPherson, manager of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Menlo Park Santa Cruz office. “She’s really earned a reputation for her strong work ethic and having the highest standard of integrity and professionalism, year after year.”

Those who work closely with Keri say she works extremely hard for her clients, often spending nights and weekends in the office or out in the field to make sure everything is done right. She’s known for her attention to small but important details, her knack of getting listings spruced up to show their best and get the highest price, and her keen negotiating skills on behalf of both buyers and sellers.

“There’s really no magic pill to success,” Keri said in a recent interview. “It really comes down to a lot of hard work and taking care of all the details to make sure everything comes out right. I’m a complete workaholic. I really try to keep my life in balance, but honestly in this business there is no 8-5 set schedule. You work around the clock if necessary to get the job done.”

Keri said she’s well aware that for many of her clients, buying or selling a home is the most important financial investment they will ever make. “I understand how important it is to get this right for my clients,” she said. “It’s their hard-earned money we’re dealing with and I want to make sure I do everything within my power to help them achieve their goals.”

Despite the tremendous sales volume she manages, Keri doesn’t maintain a large team of assistants and agents as some other nationally renowned Realtors do. Instead, she prefers to work one on one with her clients instead of handing them off to someone else once she gets their business.

Her total “team” consists of Keri and one assistant. “We’ve built a pretty lean, streamlined operation,” she said. “Over the years as I’ve gotten busier, I’ve also gotten more efficient in managing the whole process. We’ve streamlined the business very well.”

One of the things that sets Keri apart from many other agents is that when she takes on a listing, she spends a great deal of time and energy dramatically improving the property so that it sells for top dollar. She doesn’t simply hire a stager to put new furniture in the home. In some cases, she does everything but a complete remodel if necessary to make it show well.

“There’s a lot you can do to really spruce up a home without spending a fortune if you know what you’re doing,” she said. “In some of the homes I work with, if you put $25,000 or $50,000 into them you may walk away with $150,000 or more when you sell. It’s all about showing extremely well so that you make the right first impression with buyers the moment they see your home.”

Over her long career, Keri has established a talented and reliable network of industry experts to help with the myriad of projects, everyone from stagers, painters and landscapers to architects, designers, electricians and handymen.  The team of contractors plays a vital role as Keri sizes up what needs to be done to a particular home.

“My job is to stand back and have a critical eye when I prepare a home for sale,” she said. “If an agent simply takes a listing, puts a sign up in the yard and sends out some fliers, they’re not earning their commission in my mind. I believe in treating every property as if I’m selling my own home and do whatever I would to prepare it and market it just like I would do for mine.”

After two decades in real estate sales has Keri thought about doing anything else in the future? “Honestly, no,” she said. “I’m still enjoying what I do very much. If you love what you do, you’ll most likely be successful. When I stop loving it, I guess I’ll think about doing something else.

Keri said part of her success is due to her family and friends. “I’m very lucky that I have a wonderful family and great friends who are very understanding of the time I spend on my job,” she said. “I do my best to come in at eight and leave at six and spend free time doing yoga and other things for myself and for them. But this job doesn’t always work on a normal schedule, and my family and friends understand that.”

Keri Nicolas can be reached at the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Menlo Park Santa Cruz office, 930 Santa Cruz Avenue, by phone at 650.329.6654 or via e-mail at