Q + A with Alia Khan

We caught up with a woman of all trades, Alia Khan, to talk about real estate, food, and much more. Check out our conversation below!

1.     For those who don't know you, how would you introduce yourself?

I’m a recovering-attorney-turned-realtor with a side of yoga-teaching thrown in for balance. (See what I did there?) I also freelance for Eater DC and Curbed DC.

2.  After 5 years as a law associate what drew you to switch gears into real estate?

Phew, that’s a long and winding story. The very truncated version is that I had reached a point where I felt that, for a number of reasons, that I was never going to feel happy or fulfilled practicing law. I did my undergrad in business and longed to get back to my business roots. And I’d always had a passion for restaurants and the culinary world, so the restaurant industry seemed like it could be a good fit. While still at my law firm, I landed my side gig as the Dining Editor for Bisnow Media, which mainly puts out commercial real estate publications across the country. I was writing about the business side of the restaurant industry and learning more than I ever could have dreamed about its inner workings. I soon came to realize that the restaurant industry wasn’t really for me, but that real estate definitely was. It provided an ideal combination of intellectual challenge (my legal and negotiation skills are crucial) and creative outlet (I do all of my own marketing, branding, graphic & web design). Because I craved a career that allowed me to develop a personal connection with my clients, residential real estate made a lot more sense for me than commercial.

3. You were a food editor for Bisnow Media. How did you land such an amazing side job?!

I just left the post in April because I needed to be able to focus more time and energy on real estate. As for how I landed the job – I threw my hat in the ring during their last call for a new Dining Editor, made it through their multiple rounds of trials, and they picked me! I had already been networking and volunteering time within the restaurant industry, so had developed a good roster of contacts that I was able to turn to for content for my audition piece.  My business and legal backgrounds lent themselves to the business angle that Bisnow seeks to provide its readers. And I’d been blogging about restaurants on my own for years already, so I was a good fit!

4. How do you keep up with such an ever-changing city?

During my time with Bisnow I developed a number of fantastic contacts in the real estate world that I work hard to stay in touch with. These include developers, brokers, and BID officers across town. I also read voraciously and am always meeting new people, checking out new places, and just generally keeping my ear to the ground. 

5. Do you have any real estate tricks-of-the-trade to share with our readers?

Yes. Hire a fabulous Realtor. One that you’ll want to be friends with after you’ve bought your house . Your Realtor is helping you make an incredibly important personal decision, so you want to be totally comfortable that they understand you and your lifestyle at a level where they will be able to help you make the right decision for YOU. The typical metrics like years worked in the business and volume of business honestly don’t matter as much as whether or not the chemistry is right between you and your Realtor, and whether they are really a person that you trust to guide you through such a complex and important process.

6. How do you stay sane in the midst of such a demanding career?

I make a concerted effort to carve out time for self-care. That means practicing yoga 3+ times a week at my studio (Tranquil Studio_, going for a run 1-2 times a week, and getting my 8 hours of sleep in every night. Whenever I let my physical and/or mental health slip, my professional performance suffers significantly.

7. As a Texan, you grew up with great Tex-Mex. What is your favorite Tex-Mex spot in D.C.?

Mi Cocina! The Dallas-based Tex-Mex restaurant opened its first East Coast location up in Friendship Heights last year, and I LOVE the food. But, for better AND for worse, I live far far away from Mi Cocina, so my visits are limited. When the craving hits hard and I don’t have time to whip up some enchiladas or queso at home, I head down the street to the Tortilla Coast on the Hill. It’s definitely not the same, but it hits the spot when I’m desperate. And their chips and salsa are actually pretty good.

8. Ok, we also have to ask....any other favorite spots?

I tend to fixate more on favorite meals rather than favorite spots. Some of my go-to favorites: the chicken fried steak at Ted’s Bulletin, the popcorn shrimp + Calamari with a side of mac and cheesy at Hank’s Oyster Bar, the shrimp Pad Thai at Rice, the Bacon Rigatoni at Liberty Tree, the St. Arnold’s Mussels + frites at St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar. (Clearly, “eating light” doesn’t figure heavily into my routine…)

9. How would you finish the following sentence? Creativity is....

…Absolutely imperative to a well-balanced life. It’s also often stifled in the corporate world, and not only is that a shame, but it’s totally counter-productive. I think the crazy popularity of sites like Pinterest and Etsy proves just how many people out there have creative sides just dying for an outlet. I know that when I don’t have time or space in my life for my creative side, things feel… off. Whether it’s dance or pottery or painting or gardening or music or writing…figure out what it is that you love to create, and carve out time to do it.