Active Rain December 25, 2008

What Made You Get Into Real Estate?

There are those who will perjoratively state that ours is a retread occupation, where failures from other walks of life seek a way to earn a living after flopping elsewhere. I beg to differ, but it is true that for virtually all agents, real estate is not our first career. I know of no college that confers a Bachelors in Real Estate. I know of only one person in college who even planned on selling real estate after graduation, and every other agent I know did something else before -teaching, nursing, insurance, building, and a thousand other varied professions. Some agents I know come from some rather counterintuitive backgrounds, such as dentistry and law. Somehow, know we all found a reason to get licensed and ply this trade.

For me, it was the relentless recruiting of my college roommate Kevin over the almost 7 years since we graduated Villanova. He began selling houses immediately, just as he planned. I went into sales for a publisher. Being the single guy, and the youngest, I was always tapped for travel and relocation. In 6 1/2 years, I lived in Philadelphia (thrice), Maryland, New Orleans, Boston and New Jersey. I could be in Pittsburgh one week and Cleveland the next. I had a fancy title, but I couldn’t put down roots and I was tired. It was about this time in 1995 that I was ripe for change. It was just before my sixth transfer in as many years, and I had been with family over the holidays. My friend called me for the 100th time to pitch me on relocating to Rochester to become a Realtor (even now it sounds like a line from a Woody Allen Movie). He probably expected me to say no thanks for the 100th time, but this time I said “yes.”

I resigned my position with the owner of my company (whose deplorable conduct in the aftermath confirmed every suspicion I had as to why I should leave in the first place) and arrived in Rochester, NY in July of 1996, new salesperson’s license in hand.  

I knew nobody save for Kevin and Paul, who owned the company. I had no other referral source. I had a funny downstate/NYC area accent. I had no girlfriend and no savings. I did have Paul and Kevin’s support, however, and my own tenacity. Per their coaching, I was an expired and FSBO fiend. In my prior life, when the customer was parochial schools, I learned to spot every bingo sign. Now my tires screeched when I saw a For Sale by Owner yard sign. That would be my strategy for 5 years, and it worked very well. I took to this business in large part because it was devoid of the corporate politics of my prior position, and there was no “Big Lie.”

The Big Lie in my first career was that the company was going places, and that we were all in on the ground floor. When it got big, we’d be on top of the heap. But no company will outperform the competence of the upper management, and I often felt like the foot soldier of a mad general who cared nothing for what the field intelligence said when it ran counter to his ego. In real estate, there is no Big Lie. There are too many successful people with duplicatable practices. Success leaves clues, and we are in control of our destiny simply by replicating what works.

I left Home Safari after 5 happy years and moved back home to Westchester to court my future wife. Today I run my own independent firm styled in large part like the brokerage Kevin and Paul ran. My destiny is in my hands, this fits better than a corporate setup, and I like it that way.