To say that Sean Ragen and Corey Dutko live and breathe real estate might actually downplay this hunger they share. As Corey so eloquently states, “We are real estate nerds and huge advocates for buying and selling long-term.” So much so that at any given moment, their companies are investing upwards of $7 million. They are all in, and readily admit they love to dissect the market, track inventory, and advise clients. “We know a multitude of ways to make money with real estate. It’s not like there is just one way to do it. And we are willing to help people make money however they want to; we are so passionate about what we are doing,” Sean adds.
Initially, they started this venture to make sure their families would be taken care of. It’s grown into so much more, and they’ve begun multiple businesses together: Dutko | Ragen Homes & Investments is a traditional real estate firm; Northern Virginia Investments is strictly for investments; Easy House Buyers is the youngest company of that investment arm; and finally, HRC Holdings, LLC, which facilitates their rental portfolio. Their modus operandi has spurred their growth and furthers their mission, where they are “looking to influence as many people’s lives as positively as possible through the vehicle of real estate, both clients and team members, and help build their wealth,” Sean remarks.
Sean’s path to real estate was determined early on in life. Growing up in Annandale, his father was in the custom home building industry for 30 years. In high school, Sean was reading books on flipping houses. “I knew real estate was for me, but didn’t want to make the trek to Howard County, Maryland, and join the company my dad worked with. I always knew I wanted to work in sales.” So when he graduated college with his economics degree in May 2007, he signed on with a large team at Long and Foster. In spite of the housing meltdown that was brewing, he and the team hustled, selling between 500 to 600 homes.
Corey’s path wasn’t quite as straightforward. He jokes that he started working when he was only four years old, accompanying his mom to work. By day, she was a property manager, and at night, she would clean offices with Corey by her side. Although Corey did get his real estate license when he was a senior in high school, he said one of his teachers talked him out of going into it straight away, advising him to go to college. With his marketing degree, he graduated college and then began working as an adjuster in insurance — a job he was dispassionate about. Within a year and half of that, he chose to move on and began selling homes with the same firm that Sean was at.
It was 2008, at the height of the mortgage/housing crash. It was a tumultuous time in the real estate world. But here is where they met, persevered, and built a solid friendship and foundation, rising through the ranks as two top buyer agents. Eventually, Corey went to work in the foreclosure department. In 2012, a few years later, they were presented with an opportunity by a client who was flipping homes…and Northern Virginia Investments was born. Soon enough, they decided to expand and scale their business. In 2014, they opened the doors of Dutko | Ragen Homes & Investments. They’ve been growing strong since.
Cultivating their team and creating a culture where like-minded people can thrive has been one of their top priorities. They don’t grow for the sake of growth. They are slow to onboard new agents, and look for individuals who share their mindset of “work hard and play hard; life is short,” as Sean says.
According to Corey, the cool part of this team is that, prior to joining, most of them were family and friends already, which makes them “that much tighter,” he says. They still insist on doing things together. “Back when gyms were open, half of us would go to the gym together. Or we’d hit happy hours together. When people’s kids were having performances or different things, we would go to them. We really are a family,” Corey continues. They pride themselves on having one another’s back. When this team hits their goals, they love to go on trips to celebrate. They’ve been to Mexico and Jamaica, among other tropical destinations and, if COVID-19 cooperates, they will be heading to Costa Rica in the near future.
Another piece that Sean and Corey bring to their team, as coaches, is fiscal responsibility. Sure, dreaming big is not only encouraged but a prerequisite but so is living within your means. “Financial independence and financial savvy are important. [We encourage people] to actually reduce expenses and increase savings. That is important to us because we care about people.” This is part of their long-term retention plan.
Just for Fun
Clearly, Corey and Sean are ambitious and energetic and try not to keep it all about work all of the time. They like to have a good time as well. They enjoy boating, fishing, and traveling, as well as staying fit and being active. Corey and his wife Ryla have a son in three-year-old Zain, and Sean has a fiancée in Bethany Pittman.
They also enjoy playing and watching sports. Sean is the professed “local football guy.” He says, “Having grown up inside the Beltway my whole life, the Redskins or RedWolves — whatever their new name is going to be — was always an easy decision for me.” Corey, on the other hand, confesses to the very “unpopular” local decision of rooting for the Dallas Cowboys. He jokes, “That is what has driven Sean and me together in sports for all these years, and makes for dynamic conversations every football season.” That said, Corey has somehow been converted to a Nationals and Capitals fan.
When asked if either has a secret talent or obsession, Sean mentions that his younger sister Chelsea is deaf, and he and all his family are fluent in sign language. Corey says that, while he doesn’t really have any, his wife Ryla is an awesome musician.
When the two chose what their theme songs for life would be, they were on the same page, each picking different Eminem songs. Sean chose Not Afraid and Corey chose Lose Yourself. One other thing they agreed on: if they were to write a book together, they’d call it, How to Build Wealth Through Real Estate with People You Love.
Six Tips from Corey and Sean for Upcoming Top Producers
1. Hire a coach when you can afford one.
2. Identify your top 20% of activities — not all activities are created equal.
3. Show/walk through 25 houses a week.
4. Talk to 10 people a day.
5. Get really good at holding open houses.
6. Don’t be afraid to hire and empower your hire.