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TOO REAL: MY 1ST SIX MONTHS IN REAL ESTATE

Too REAL: My 1st Six Months in Real Estate

The Disclaimer
This article will contain profanity. It will also contain some real talk and some emotional bias.  I care about people, neighborhoods and society in general and it is reflected in the piece below. Ok, now proceed to read on if you dare. Otherwise. Stop. Right. Fucking. Now.

The Realtor Douche Chill
Winter 2017
The sleet was turning to snow as I stood on the curb waiting for my client. As I wiped the precipitation from my phone I saw a BMW X3 pull up to directly in front of me. The driver flipped his sunglasses off and exited briskly and smoothly as if he were being filmed. In order to get to the front door of the fixer upper we apparently were both showing at the same time he was going to need to go around me or talk to me.  I extended my hand and began to introduce myself.  “Hey, Matt Ward with Delicious Real Estate.” I told him. He smirked and  shook my hand saying nothing. Then he slipped past me and bounded up the stairs. “Are you a Realtor?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “Yes, I am with (big box brokerage).” He said without even turning around to face me. I turned and laid my eyes on the encore to his doucheness which was his real-estate related personalized license plate.

Brock, I will call him because he seemed like a Brock, was unhappy with his life. He was begrudgingly showing a listing in a neighborhood he would never ever consider living in, gentrified or not.  His client was late and he had much better shit he could be doing. Brock had to cancel brunch with friends. *gasp* The same friends who would easily turn their backs on him if he were to admit to smoking pot or something worse like voting Democrat.

“Fuck that guy” I said to myself as I stood on the street wiping my phone against the inside of my pocket to dry the screen. 

The Move
June 2016
My wife and I had made the decision to make the move back to Ohio to be closer to our families.  We had been in the south for nearly a decade. First meeting in Carolina Beach, North Carolina and living together there in an apartment blocks from the beach, then buying a house in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2010.  At first, like many cocky and cheap home sellers we tried to sell our home ourselves. We made a few big mistakes, first of which was pricing it too high. We listed it on the MLS in the summer of 2015 and pulled it offer the market in December of 2015. We hired an agent in February of 2016 and listed it later that month. Within 60 days we were in contract with a buyer. The closing was scheduled for the end of June.

House Selling Troubles
Due to things beyond our control the closing on the sale of our home had been pushed back three days. We decided to move anyway because the truck was rented and most of our things were already packed (don’t fucking do this).  The day after we got settled in at the place we were staying in Ohio I read the email from my agent politely letting me know that the buyer could not buy our house because their financing fell through. We were fucked. The sentimental attachment to the house we brought our new born son home to was quickly  being replaced with situational disgust.  There would be no crying after we handed the keys over, maybe some drinking but definitely no crying.

My wife and I made a hard decision. We were going to have to drop the price by thousands of dollars to try to get the house back in contract as soon as possible. That is what we did.  Within three weeks we were in contract to close in almost 60 more days.  Awesome, everyone loves paying rent and a mortgage at the same time.

Paying Rent and a Mortgage
A generous friend who had almost an efficiency apartment worth of space in her basement was let us crash there. Our original plan was to do this for a few weeks before buying a new house. However, after cutting our losses on the sale and still not having any of the proceeds of the house sale in our hands, weeks turned into months. We became THOSE people…

To make money I kept writing for the newspaper back in Knoxville by traveling back and forth and picked up a part time gig delivering pizzas. My wife began working as a server at a restaurant at Easton. We both hustled our asses off to make ends meet while paying rent, a mortgage and for our son’s preschool until the house finally sold. It was one of the most financially trying times of my life. In preparing our house for sale I had spent far more money than we anticipated we would need to. It drained what little savings we had. Fortunately our good friend charged us a reasonable amount to live in her basement.  Imagine for a second, a mother, father and 4 year old boy all sleeping on mattresses on the floor in the basement of someone’s house.  Yeah, not ideal. But you make shit work sometimes.

The Idea to Sell Real Estate
In frustration over a glass of wine one evening I tossed out the idea to my wife and our friend of getting my real estate license.  From my years booking and producing comedy shows I knew my skill set would allow me to become a successful Real Estate agent. Our house closed and I set aside the money to take my classes.  It was decided, I was going to become a Realtor.

Real Estate at Columbus State Community College
I decided to take classes at Columbus State Community College instead of Hondros because I wasn’t in any hurry to become licensed. I had attended Columbus State in the late 90’s eventually getting and associate degree before then going to Franklin University and earning a bachelors in Marketing.  I took my first class, Real Estate Law, by itself in Fall Quarter 2016.  After passing this I took the rest of the classes (Real Estate Finance, Real Estate Principles and Practices and Real Estate Appraisal) in the winter term of 2017.

Choosing my Brokerage
I was immersing myself in all things real estate and Columbus. During a google search I had found podcast that was Columbus focused called the Confluence Cast. I then honed in on an episode that talked about Columbus Real Estate. Host Tim Fulton spoke with Real Estate Broker Joe Peffer of Delicious Real Estate.  In the podcast my ears perked up when Joe began to take a very disruptive tone about the Real Estate industry.  Antiestablishmentarianism speaks my language. I have definitely blasted Rage Against the Machine while driving a mini-van to pick up my son from school. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me, crossing guard of oppression.  The more I got thinking about my time in Corporate America the least attractive the big real estate agencies seemed to me.  A smaller, boutique locally owned brokerage made a lot of sense.

Delicious Real Estate GroupLife is Delicious
Another thing that attracted me was the name of Joe Peffer’s brokerage. Delicious Real Estate. The name was hard to forget. I would later learn that most people liked the name. When I said it to them I would watch a smile emerge on their faces almost without fail and then they would repeat back to me “Delicious Real Estate.” Others however, really, really hated it. Mostly dudes. Older dudes. Sad dudes.

I met with representatives of a few larger brokerages to learn their spiels.  One took their agents to a sales retreat somewhere. I didn’t pay attention to where as the thought of a vacation to a place with hundreds of other real estate agents sounded about as fun as wearing a Hillary Clinton T-Shirt at a Trump Rally.

Another promised that you would be paying for all of your fees if you became a recruiter in their multi-level marketing global takeover plan.  In the end the all offered pretty much the same thing with training or brand strength being the only distinguishing factors. I wasn’t super interested in becoming a small fish in a huge pond or any other overused analogy.

Joe Peffer gave me his pitch which I won’t discuss since I am currently with his agency. All I can say is it had was less overhead than the others and largely a decision made based on his attitude about the job at hand. Joe was so nonchalant during our conversation that by the end of our meeting over beers I had no idea that he had agreed to take me on. I recall later asking him on the phone “So….. what do you think? Would you like me to be an agent at Delicious Real Estate?” To which he replied, “Oh, yeah, I thought we had already squared that away..” Fucking Joe, so laid back.  Exactly what my sales style and personality needed in a ‘boss’.

In making my decision I remembered a section of the Gary Keller book ‘The Millionaire Real Estate Agent’.  The section focused on keeping your costs low until you began making money.  Applying that principle with my natural affinity of flipping the bird to ‘the man’, I chose Delicious Real Estate.

Getting My License
I finished my last Real Estate class at the Westerville branch of Columbus State Community College and lit a cigarette as I headed out into the parking lot.  I don’t smoke. Well, I hadn’t bought a pack since the mid-90’s anyway.  With all that was going I had picked it up again. Kinda. I still despised the smell of smoke on my hands and clothing. My mind was circling around how quickly I could schedule/take/pass my exam so I could hit the ground running. It was the beginning of May so I knew I had to get something on the books in the first few weeks of being an agent or I wouldn’t be getting paid until the end of the Summer.  

I finally got my test scheduled. Unfortunately, the local testing centers were all full until mid-June so I decided to take my test in Cambridge.  I got myself ready in the true procrastinating style I have never shaken from high school (studied the last 48 hours before the test only) and drove to Cambridge and passed my test.

Day 1 in Real Estate
I passed my test on June 1st and quickly paid all my dues and got my Ekey and MLS access scheduled for later that week.  By June 9th I was up and running and ready to show houses. Another perk of picking Delicious Real Estate was that Joe sent me leads right away. In my first month Joe sent me nearly a dozen leads from Realtor.com. 

Realtor.com Leads
I think this is one of the things we aren’t supposed to talk about. Leads.  For those reading this who have never worked in sales, a ‘lead’ is a contact who might possibly want to buy your products or services. One of the ways my brokerage was generating new leads was by subscribing to Realtor.com’s lead generating service.

The Shady Part(s) about Realtor.com
Well, first off they are owned by NewsCorp who also owns Fox News. Not my jam. However, that is not where my primary complaint about their business practices. Here is how it works.  The contact form on the website and app sends your information in email form to folks who paid for that privilege, not the listing agent on the property you are inquiring about.  Even though the contact information of the listing agent appears directly above the contact form, it doesn’t go to them. That is borderline deceptive. Now, as a consumer using the app,  your phone blows up, your email blows up and your text messages blow up.

Working the Sphere is Gross
I sold Cutco knives for a few months in the 90’s.  It was my first sales gig. In the orientation they had me write down the name of everyone I knew.  Years later I would come to learn that this list that they had me create was known in sales circles as my “sphere” short for sphere of influence.  I ended up selling a set of knives to my mom and then quit and kept the training set which I still have to this day.

My real estate readings had also referred to the sphere of influence as a source of leads for creating business. Before I had gotten my license I began to slowly reach out to friends I hadn’t spoken to in some time.  It felt disingenuous with some, but with others we never even talked about Real Estate.  We talked about their lives and if they were actually interested in the re-connection with me then they asked about mine. I used Facebook as my primary vehicle to do this. Sometimes it started great conversations, other times my messages were ignored completely. Either way, it felt a little gross to be hitting people under the guise of simply reconnecting when I knew in the back of my mind what had motivated me to do it was business.

How much does being a Realtor cost?
It’s not cheap folks. So the barrier to entry is somewhat high.  Schooling was $1500, testing was another few hundred, becoming a member of the local state and national Real Estate Associations is about $1200. Required classes to keep up on continuing education are about $200 and the leads I decided to purchase on my own have run me a few hundred dollars per month. You drive hundreds of miles, spend countless hours showing houses to folk who may or may not buy any of them and have to feed yourself when you are away from your home being an agent.  Not Cheap. After running the numbers I showed over 200 homes in my first six months in real estate. If you say each of those cost me just $3 in travel and time spent that is $600.  So that totals $4,412 roughly to become and agent and operate for the first six months. Not. Cheap. Was it worth it?  Hell yes it was.

Flash Forward Six Months
In six months of being a Realtor I have gotten to meet some real fucking weirdos on both sides of the fence. Realtors who don’t have any contact info listed to get a hold of them and buyers who pretended to be house hunting simply because they were lonely. However, I have also met some of the coolest people I have in my life. I met an investor who has a hand in bringing a non-profit to town that teaches at risk persons martial arts for self defense (Springheart).  I also have connected on Instagram and then IRL with some of the folks responsible for improving the inner city neighborhoods that need it most.  The people, I knew before getting into this would make the job worth it.  They are. Indeed. Quirky, emotional, diverse and real.

I didn’t meet many “Brock’s” in those months.  I met a lot of kind, helpful and intelligent agents. Sure, in the field of battle that is negotiation I had a few of them open hand slap me in the mouth, but I ended up better for it (but that doesn’t mean I can’t still say ‘fuck them’). I know what to expect for them and will come better prepared in our inevitable next encounter.

For Buyers and Sellers
Demand honesty and communications from your Real Estate Professional. Don’t choose an agent because you saw them on a sign or because they are the #1 Real Estate Agent by sales volume. Choose them because they are part of your trusted network already. Don’t sign contracts to work with a buyer’s agent.  Most importantly, if your friends becomes a Realtor, don’t use someone else as your agent. That is like stabbing them in the heart. This job is manic. It’s pay then no pay for a while then pay.  It’s hard as FUCK to get your inner circle to remember you are an agent, regardless of how many time you post about it on facebook. 

For Prospective Agents
Remember your heart when you decide where you want to sell real estate. If individualism is important, then brand should be secondary to you. If you desire structure and constant support, then maybe one of the larger agencies that is heavy or training and mentorship would be a good fit.  If I can impress ANYTHING on you as a new agent, it’s that you HAVE to be making some other money on the side to pay the bills until the ball gets rolling. I hustled long after getting my license making sure money was always coming in.  Here, six months later, I am sitting with thousands of dollars in the bank and all of my bills paid right on time.  All because I prepared for the slim beginnings that come with a new career in Real Estate.

That’s it, thanks for reading. Prospective agents, If you ever want to sit down and have a beer or coffee to talk about joining me at Delicious Real Estate, I would love to do so.  Friends and other readers, if you ever have a real estate question or problem, message me. I don’t have to make money off you to help you. Lean on my expertise. Life truly is Delicious when I get to truly help people for a living.

Matt Ward