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So You Think You Want To Sell Real Estate
By Michelle Overstreet
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Michelle Overstreet
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy Life before Real Estate
Born in March 1964, I'M the oldest of four children raised in the small Southern California town of Brawley. I have two loving parents who had no more than a high school education. I was a really shy young girl until you got to know me. My father would sometimes get upset because of my incessant chatting and would find himself raising his voice while trying to get me to button it up. Little did anyone know that my chatting was really a blessing.
I had mostly male cousins my age and with two younger brothers and one sister (who was seven years younger), I found I wasn't really into girl things. I remember some of my friends wanting to be nurses or stewardesses, but I can't really remember what I wanted to be.
Right out of high school, I thought very strongly that I did not want to do bookkeeping. I disliked math, and the thought of sitting behind a desk bored me. With nothing but a high school education, I ended up doing exactly what I feared the most-bookkeeping. Although I tolerated working with numbers, the thought of making it my career scared me, yet I did it for twelve years. My twenties just kind of whizzed past without much excitement. It wouldn't be until I hit my thirties that I realized I needed to do more with my life. The thought of going to college never entered my mind. I'm not sure why, but since my parents hadn't gone and no one had ever talked to me about college, it was never presented as an option. I'm sure I used the excuse that since Mom and Dad hadn't gone and seemed to be doing fine, I shouldn't have to go. I could earn a living doing something-but what?
I have many aunts and uncles and cousins, and we would get together for all the big holidays. I remember one of my aunts once saying she thought I would make a good real estate person because I loved to talk. (As it would turn out, being able to talk in small groups would become one of my biggest assets later in life.) I didn't take it seriously, because I was sure real estate would require college and a degree, and by then I didn't have the time or the money to send myself to college. I also remember thinking that I would have to be good at math. I did not like math; it made me feel dumb. So I plugged along, working for little more than minimum wage, and I took the crap every boss tossed my way. I would have to ask months in advance for the two to three days of vacation time and then justify why I wanted those days off. Sometimes my supervisor would make it sound as if it was a hardship when I asked for time off, so I felt guilty about requesting it. There was no way I could ask for any time off at the end of the month, because I had to work on reports for monthly meetings that the higher-ups were having behind closed doors.
I've always enjoyed money and the things money could buy, but without it, I really couldn't afford what I wanted-and then I discovered credit cards. My parents tried to warn me, but I thought that if they had credit cards, why couldn't I? So I went out and got every credit card I could possibly apply for. It took me three tries to get a Sears credit card, and when I finally did, I had a small limit of about fifty dollars. That was okay with me; at least I had a card from Sears.
My Zales card had a limit of seventy-five dollars, and I had to come up with cash to pay the difference for a ring I thought I had to have before I was able to charge the rest. I didn't know it then, but I was on the path to a debt that would be near impossible to get out of. But isn't that what living in America is all about? You can't buy a home in the United States without credit, and most people establish credit by obtaining credit cards.
By my late twenties, I owed a little over thirteen thousand dollars, including a 1988 Pontiac Fiero that I had refinanced through Household Thrift for the second time; every time Avco would send me a check in the mail for two thousand dollars, I would cash it and have yet another debt I didn't need. I was living the American Dream. I would pay my rent and my credit cards-the minimum amount, of course, because I had to buy groceries and pay my utilities, too. I lived from paycheck to paycheck, but I had a job working from eight to five for the local city-owned hospital. I had great benefits, but my pay would never really increase, because I did not have a degree. I was stuck in a career as an accounts payable clerk with no money and no future prospects for money. I had already been married and divorced by the time I was twenty-eight and somehow managed to end up with all the credit card debt from my failed marriage, while my ex-husband kept the house. At the time, I thought how lucky I was not to have that debt, but had I truly known that owning a home is a plus for saving money for one's future, perhaps I would have taken a different stance.
I then went through a bout of depression; I have since concluded that if you have no direction or drive and just go through the motions of life, depression is inevitable. My bills were so high-from taking on my ex-husbands debt, too-that one day I found I had two dollars left in my checking account to last me until my next paycheck. I was hungry and had no money for food or fuel for my car. I stared at my five-gallon water bottle, which was one-third filled with pennies I picked up off the street or in stores. Out of desperation, I rolled thirty dollars in pennies just to buy groceries. "A penny saved ..." I had always heard, but the truth was that pennies were all I could save. I had no savings because no one had ever told me of the importance of saving. I thought it was something you did when you had money. I exchanged my pennies at the bank and went to the grocery store with paper money because I was not about to go with ten pounds of change, and as I stood in line with what I could afford, I noticed the man in front of me. He had nice ostrich-skin boots and gold jewelry, and he smelled of cologne, while I was in jeans and tennis shoes that were about nine years old-and he paid with food stamps. I was a little confused, but when I got out to the parking lot I saw this man unloading his week's worth of groceries into an expensive-looking Jeep Laredo with gold trim. I hopped into my overly financed Pontiac Fiero, but even though I was stressed about my own financial situation, I was not about to admit that I needed financial or food aid. I was still supporting myself with help from no one else. I had not been raised to take advantage of government money given to those willing to stand in line while someone else dictated their life choices. Something would have to change for me financially if I was ever going to have more than the bare minimum. I wanted the things other people had, but I wasn't sure how to get them. In only a few years more, things would change.
Chapter TwoThings Are About To Change
I started dating a great guy, David, whom I eventually married. He is my biggest advocate, both emotionally and financially, and a blessing I would never consider doing without. We dated for almost two years before he asked me to marry him, but before the happily ever after, my life took another turn. With his blessing I moved to San Diego, where I was determined to sell real estate, but in truth I was in a big-fish pond with sharks; since I still did not have the experience to keep up with those more experienced agents, I decided to go home and marry my sweetheart. By that time, I was completely broke. I had hoped things would be financially better when David and I married. David was a self-employed entomologist (bug man). Being self-employed meant he was rich, right? Boy, would I learn about being self-employed and the responsibility and money it takes. But before all that would happen, David had taken me house hunting at a new subdivision, and he told me the lady with no personality behind the counter was actually a licensed real estate agent. What? But how could that be? This woman could not possibly be a licensed real estate agent, because she was unfriendly and never even smiled as she tossed the brochure in our direction and pointed to the models for previewing. Heck, I was more of a talker than she was. I'm sure that's when David decided I would make a great real estate agent, and he took me to talk with his mother.
David's mother had been a realtor in the Phoenix area for over seventeen years, but when she spoke of it, she would paint a picture of how complicated it was and how smart you had to be to sell real estate. However, she also painted a picture of a somewhat glamorous life in which there was a lot of money to be made. David talked me into getting my real estate license. At first I thought it was for selfish reasons on his part. I thought my eight-to-five job in an accounting dept wasn't good enough if we were to make a life together. I was suspicious because no one had ever expressed an interest in my well-being before.
David's mother was not so sure I had the brains. I thought, "I'll show her." My type-A personality showed just how hardheaded I was. I only had a high school education, but since I learned I didn't need to do anything more to take a real estate principles course, I decided to go for my license. David's mother did tell me I had an advantage because I was a cute girl, and good looking helps when you sell something, she said. However, when she asked me questions about real estate or legal terms I would freeze up. I looked up the course online and cringed at the five-hundred-dollar price tag for the real estate principles book. I decided on a home-study course. I'm an early-to-rise person, so I would get up at three in the morning, study until six, and then get ready for my eight-to-five job. It took me nine months to read what I considered to be a foreign language, and then I was still nervous, so I took the same course at the local junior college just to make sure I was ready.
I'd read an ad in the paper from a real estate broker looking for a hostess, so I decided to apply. The broker just smiled when he heard I was getting ready to take the exam the following week and asked me what I had done to prepare for said exam. "Well," I told him in all seriousness, "I've been listening to cassette tapes all week long, and on Sunday before the exam I'm going to Costa Mesa for a crash course." He threw his head back with a loud roar and announced that there was a 70 percent failure rate for first-time takers. I was mortified but felt like I knew what I was doing, and then he announced, "Do you know that what you've studied in the real estate principles book has nothing to do with what is on the exam?" No, how could I know that? I was certain that if this was true, I would fail. So why, then, I wondered, had I studied that darn book so hard? When it was time to take the test, I stood paralyzed with fear outside those menacing doors with about forty other people. I suddenly realized, as I listened to their conversations, that over half had taken the exam at least once already and some more than twice.
The test was so difficult that I cried all the way home from San Diego. Back then, cell phones were expensive (something else I couldn't afford), so I had to wait to tell David that I was 99 percent certain I had failed and would have to take the exam over.
I did, however, pass that most difficult test of my life the first time around. I was ready for a new life in real estate sales and thought, I'm about to do the easiest job in the whole world, make a lot of money, drive a fancy car, and work whenever I want. I'm going to be rich.
Chapter ThreeMy Career as a Real Estate Salesperson
I've researched many "get started in real estate" books that seem to indicate getting your real estate license and getting started is relatively inexpensive; however, in my personal opinion, this is not the case. Now, let's talk briefly about getting your license in the state of California. If you are like most people and take your state exam with the minimum requirements and pass, you will receive a salesperson license, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the licenses issued in the state of California. Upon receiving this license, you must hold your license with a real estate broker. This means that when you've decided you actually want to sell real estate, you will physically hand your license to a broker and sign a contract for employment. Typically, this contract is good for one year, but don't let this scare you. Your commission amount is fixed for that term, but you are not obligated to stay with that broker the entire one-year period.
Now, there are two kinds of real estate brokers. There is the broker who is licensed by the state and has decided not to belong to the California Association of Realtors, in which case he is a licensed real estate broker. Then there is the broker who has decided he wants to be included in the majority of real estate agents who subscribe to a code of ethics and has joined the California Association of Realtors along with the National Association of Realtors and is now a realtor. You can work for either one of these two types of real estate brokers as they are in fact the same.
But because I was a salesperson and wanted to subscribe to this code of ethics, I made the decision to work for a broker who required me to join the local board of realtors and the state and national associations of realtors. As my new employing broker was a member of this local board of realtors, he basically stated that anyone under his license who was also licensed must join the local board association and pay annual and monthly dues, so now I was a realtor. After spending money for my books; schooling; exams; license; and joining the local, state, and national boards of realtors, I was committed for about twenty-five hundred dollars. At the time, this was a large amount of money. Come to think of it, it is a large amount of money even today. Most people don't have that kind of money lying around, but I would not suggest putting these costs on a credit card, because there will be more expenses ahead. Later on, you'll find that more money is required to market yourself.
Okay, so you've made the decision to work for a realtor. Now, remember, if you are a salesperson you are required to hand a broker your license in order to do sales. In the state of California, there are safeguards in place to protect you and your customer when you sell a piece of property. Your broker is supposed to guide you through the sales process and help ensure your customer has a good experience. At this point, you go into an office where you want to work. You hand your broker your license, you sign a contract, and the broker shows you a desk and a phone. Now what? You get to figure the rest out for yourself. About nine out of ten brokers will do this. There is no formal training to speak of, and no one else out there shares this information unless you pay for it. In my mind this is because you will be their direct competition when you do figure it all out. Before handing your license to anyone, interview the broker of that office and ask questions about training. This should be a critical factor in your decision to go to a specific office if you are new to real estate sales. Remember, there are no dumb questions in real estate, just dumb results for not asking. I was not armed with this knowledge, so I never knew to ask. Broker A was happy to sign me up and show me my desk.
I was so excited about having my real estate license I decided to take a five-day vacation from my "real job" at the hospital and be a realtor for a week. My first day I got to the office right at eight in the morning and sat in a quiet room looking around until the receptionist walked in at about ten after nine. The first agent showed up around ten that morning, and the last agent showed up around two that afternoon. Three days of that and I was about to lose my mind. "How do you people make any money around here keeping these hours?" I announced to Sandy, the receptionist. Most of the time I was lucky if the broker decided to make an appearance by midmorning, and I really needed to talk with him because all this sitting around was starting to bug me. I wanted something to do, and I wanted to make money, but, again, when you are self-employed, you really must also be a self-starter. But how can you start when you don't have direction, some sort of guide?
Excerpted from So You Think You Want To Sell Real Estate by Michelle Overstreet Copyright © 2010 by Michelle Overstreet. Excerpted by permission.
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