Learn how Moti Shiferaw's journey from Ethiopia to the U.S. informs his business and, in part, led him to victory in this year's 30 Under 30 Web Choice Award voting.

Moti Shiferaw’s journey from Ethiopia to the United States has propelled him in both his personal life and career. Though he’s a top-performing salesperson for Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda, Md., now, Shiferaw says moving to America as a teenager was challenging. “We had a good life in Ethiopia, but my parents wanted to give their children a better future,” says Shiferaw, now 28. His mother secured a job in the United States, which prompted the move.

He remembers expecting the entire U.S. to be like New York City. “I was very confused for the first two or three months. My expectations and reality were completely different,” he says. Initially, he also struggled with the language barrier, which complicated the transition. "In 2017, my English was horrible. But I took English in college,” he adds. The English class helped a great deal, but he was studying cybersecurity, and the major didn’t really appeal to him. He decided to return to the original goals he had as a boy living in East Africa.

“There’s a big real estate company in Ethiopia—AYAT Real Estate. Everyone in Ethiopia knows that company, and I wanted to be a part of it when I lived there. I wanted to invest and be in the real estate industry.”

So, while in college, Shiferaw decided to look into investing. He quickly realized he didn’t have one of the key components needed for investing though: capital. Additionally, keeping up with his studies in school and trying to figure out the investing thing didn’t balance well. He entered the real estate business as an agent instead and quickly realized his passion was helping clients find their dream homes. “Everything changed after I got into the business,” he says. “I fell in love with the job, the relationships, and the interactions I have.”

Ultimately, Shiferaw decided to leave college to focus on real estate full-time. His specialty is serving the East African communities of the Washington, D.C., metro area. According to Pew Research, there are roughly 260,000 African immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area, with more than 50,000 from Ethiopia, making the community a sizeable part of The District’s makeup. As an East African immigrant himself, Shiferaw realized he was uniquely positioned to help community members realize the dream of homeownership.

“I know the struggle of language barriers and lifestyle changes, and one of my biggest achievements is being able to help people like me get into homeownership. I can explain everything in our language. I can be their bridge to the information they need,” he says. Shiferaw being bilingual and his dedication to helping those who might not otherwise be homeowners achieve the dream of homeownership set him apart and give him an edge in the market, making him a prime candidate for REALTOR® Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2024. His impact was made apparent when his community showed up for him, helping him secure this year’s Web Choice Award. Shiferaw received 5,862 votes—more than 2,000 votes ahead of the next contender—during the April 3-10 online voting period. “I had big support from both Ethiopia and America,” he says.

The moment Shiferaw learned he was among this year’s 50 finalists in March, he contacted a close friend in marketing to help create a promotional video to rally votes. “I made the video in three languages—two Ethiopian languages and English,” he says. The video was shared on Facebook, TikTok (where Shiferaw has 20,000 followers), LinkedIn and Instagram (where he has 5,000 followers). Over 100 people reposted his video on Instagram daily. “The support was amazing. It gave me more exposure and more business. I got three listings from the campaign,” he says.

In Nekemte, Ethiopia, where he was born, a Facebook page owner with 200,000 followers also helped rally support for him. Shiferaw even hosted a three-hour live TikTok show, sharing real estate insights and answering questions from first-time homebuyers. He encouraged his audience to share his voting page. “I wasn’t just saying, ‘vote for me.’ I provided value to those listening. It was for people with questions who were joining live,” he adds.

Shiferaw has accomplished much in the industry in a short time: He was named Rookie of the Year for his company in 2023; he helped his parents purchase their first home in the D.C. area; he’s consistently a top producer; and he’s helped many achieve homeownership. He’s even on his way to realizing those investment dreams, with plans to purchase an investment property or two in the next year.

Three years ago, Daniel Walcott, an agent from the same brokerage, was selected for the 30 Under 30 class of 2021. Shiferaw began envisioning the same for himself. “I remember voting for him. I didn’t even have my license yet. I became an agent in August 2021, but I followed the top agents,” he says. With determination, Shiferaw pursued his goal.

“It’s not just about talking. There’s a responsibility to achieve it. Every time I mentioned it, I felt the pressure to make it happen. That’s how I approach things in my life,” he says. When he learned he was named one of this year’s 30 honorees, his vision had come true.