Posts Tagged ‘ Real Estate ’

Incremental Growth.

I know it has been a few months since I last posted.  I guess life kind of ebbs and flows — sometimes I’ll have the bug to post twice a day, sometimes not twice a month.  But as this year has progressed, it fascinates me to realize that I have been growing all along and hadn’t even realized it.  This year was a very important one for me in many ways, and by the time this post is over, you might know me a little better, if you care to.  (NOTE: I say “I” way more times in this post than I typically care to, but I found it difficult not to when looking inward at my own self.  Believe me, achieving an inflated sense of self is not my goal at all here!)



You may remember a post that I wrote last year about Seasonal Affective Disorder (click the link to the post in a new window), and what it means to me.  I was a brand-newly licensed Realtor in an office that maintains a very high level of energy, and an ethos and culture of integrity, honesty, and gratitude.  I loved it.  But they would sit us in class after class, meeting after meeting, and tell us that we needed to be “setting and executing goals for our business.”  Our “business.”  Well, I didn’t have any, and I didn’t know what it felt like to plan goals for “my business.”  It depressed me that I felt like I was only going through the motions when I filled out these plan forms (because I was).  “Wait!  So all I have to do is sell six listings and six homes to buyers, and I’ll make a hundred grand next year??  <Facepalm> Why didn’t I think of that?!”  It was impossible to practically and functionally imagine the effort it would take to achieve what I was writing down, simply by virtue of the fact that I hadn’t sold even one home yet.  I didn’t even know how the home buying process worked at that point.

I was unhappy with my job instructing aircraft maintenance because we weren’t paid spectacularly well (we still aren’t), and some of the students I had were grown men who somehow found it acceptable to try to bully their way into passing grades.  (They failed.)  I was also depressed because it really can be a struggle to be so far away from my dearest friends and family.  Then, about mid-way through the year, we learned that the for-profit school that I worked at was being closed down.

It was a trying time for Alli and me both.  I held onto the school job for as long as I could before running the risk of being let go — the instructional staff was kept on to “teach out” the remaining students — but the time came for me to find a life raft before the boat sank.  I found a job as a Service Advisor at Audi, and quit the school to develop skills in a different industry all together.



And then it all clicked.  I don’t know what it is, but things began to fall into place all at once, in early October.

They announced that the school was reopening, and my boss told me I was the first person he wanted to come back because I had such a great relationship with the students, and am so enthusiastic about aviation.  I agreed to return because during my short time at Audi, it became clear to me that even if I had been able to sell more homes, the minimum 60-hour-per-week work schedule wouldn’t have allowed me time for it anyway.

I had two homes close in three months.  After doing my first deal in real estate waaaaay back in March, I had virtually no activity until October, when my second home deal closed.  Given current trends, I thought that was it for the year, but then, out of the blue, a dear friend out here introduced me to a friend of his who needed to buy a home on a pretty short timeframe — five weeks.  As it happened, luck was on our side and we got it done, and that home closed last week, in early December.

I filled out my first Profit and Loss statement, and my real estate business is in the black.  It hit me as I was doing this that I do, in fact, have a business to set goals for now.  My P&L showed me in plain numbers that the business took in nearly $1.2 million in revenues, and despite only being in the black by a few thousand dollars, it’s still in the black after operating expenses and taxes.  Many businesses run at a loss for the first couple of years, so I am pretty grateful that my family and friends have given me opportunities to help.

I am a business owner.  I have wanted to “own my own business” for the better part of a decade now, talking about it as if a business is something that you can buy, polish up, and drive occasionally (but never in the rain).  It wasn’t until I realized that I have spent the year transacting business — taking in commissions (revenues), managing where the money needs to go (operating costs and taxes), and managing my pipeline and reputation as well (planning for future business) that I thought of myself as an actual, self-employed business owner.  Of course, I am not yet fully self-employed — I still rely on my work at the school for income — but I am on my way to getting there.  I have high hopes for 2014 in this regard.

I am once again a student, enrolled in Eastern New Mexico University’s Aviation Science program (it’s all online, and they give 67 full credits just for having earned the FAA’s A&P licenses!).  Hopefully in the next couple of years, I’ll finally have the Bachelor’s Degree I should have earned ten years ago!

I can feel that I am growing in very small, slow increments.  Business is getting better, now that I recognize what I need to do to earn it.  I am honing my craft as a communicator while instructing our students at the school.  I am developing the way I interact with people with a level of care and awareness that I have never before had.  I have never had this happen to me before, and it fills me with an excitement and hope that I haven’t felt since I was a kid.  Factor in that Alli and I are still happily “dating” like we were 8 years ago when we first met, and what more could a guy ask for?

I hope your year has been filled with personal growth and productivity, and that your business has boomed!  Thank you for reading this far in, sorry it’s a bit of a novel.  Have a great rest of the week!



Hey all! I hope that you are plenty-well-stocked for today’s impending blizzard (if you are in the DC area, that is). I stopped off today and picked up a few essentials…it’s not even 2 am, and I’m glad I did! (Of course, if you’re from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri or Chicago, IL (where most of my folks are), you’re more annoyed that flights were cancelled and stretches of highway are closed than you are scared of a little snow. Geesh…a little snow on the ground, and everyone starts driving like it’s their first day driving again!

Don’t Hate! And don’t let the chumps in our industry give you the wrong impression of me, either!

Listen, I just wanted to make you aware of a new blog I’ve started called Dream Big. The main intention of the blog is to keep you as informed about real estate as possible, and it will be particularly helpful if you live in the DC Metro area. Even if you don’t, however, I hope you’ll find the content to be informative, personal, and above all, helpful. You’ll also get a first-hand glimpse into the evolution of my business within real estate…after all, it’s a challenging, competitive profession, and I’m convinced I’ve found my niche in life.

The new blog is still a baby, so don’t be alarmed if you happen to notice a layout or theme change or two in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for checking it out, and here’s to a fantastic rest of the year!

Not Even Two Months Of Inventory!

I was sniffing through the latest real estate data for our area out here in Northern Virginia, and I saw something that shocked me, even as a rookie agent.

Inventory Right Now–Under TWO MONTHS!

In real estate, we have what’s called “inventory.”  We measure inventory in “months”–as in, if no new homes were listed on the market beginning right now, how long would would it take to sell them all?  Six months’ inventory means just that–it would take six months to sell all of the homes.  (Six months, by the way, is generally known as a “balanced market”–if the number rises or falls too far from six months, the market will become tremendously out of whack.)  It’s basically supply vs. demand;  three or five years ago, when this area had 14 months’ worth of inventory, there were too many homes for the amount of people there were to buy them.  Back then, it was a “buyer’s market,” which means that buyers were able to get closing costs (and plenty of other things) paid by sellers, who were practically begging someone to take their property off their hands for them.If you click on the link above, scroll down to the second-to-last graph, labeled “Inventory vs. Closed Sales.”  You’ll notice on the right side that the graph shows that we have just under two months of inventory in Fairfax County.  Inventory here is almost three times smaller than it should be in a balanced market, making the market very decisively in the seller’s favor (or, a “seller’s market”).  We (real estate agents) are seeing more and more commonly very-well-equipped properties which are priced well staying on the market for three or five days, and selling under five or eight competing offers.  It’s very competitive right now to find great homes for your clients.

If you happen to find yourself looking to buy a home in a market as intensely comeptitive as this one has become, here are some tried-and-true tips to win against everyone else.  And if you are looking within the Washington, DC area, you need to get me on the horn as soon as possible, so I can help you find a house that feels like home when you first open the front door.  (I know, I know, and I’m sorry…I’m working on trying to find a picture of my mug that will fit there…but in the meantime, feel free to browse the area’s inventory at your leisure!)

I’m glad that I was able to find a great place for my clients (we are under contract and working toward a mid-March close date), and I understand now why we were out-competed in the first three properties they wanted to buy!  Lesson=Learned!

Ramp it UP!

I skipped the New year’s Day post intentionally…it’s so cliche, and I’ve probably broken any resolutions I’d have put down already anyway!

So I began this year actually pretty mopey, for various reasons.  One of them, I’ve writtenImage about before, and I realize now that I am coming into the end of what I call the Winter Doldrums.  Last January (about a year after my Dad passed away), my Mom got the green-light to have both my Dad’s ashes and my grandfather’s ashes interred at Arlington National Cemetary.  21 Guns and everything.  It was sobering and humbling on so many levels.  Equally awesome is the fact that they are next door to each other.  I’ll visit them both this weekend in honor of Dad’s passing, and I’ll get a photo and put it up here, if I can manage one.  I used to think I do my best thinking while I’m in the shower (some of it, I still do), but now I’ve learned that I do some of my best thinking while I’m visiting Dad.  I don’t know what it is.  I come away from his resting place hopeful, motivated, and optimistic about things to come.

I got Gary Keller’s book, “Shift”–effectively Volume II of the Bible series that he’s written for Realtors–from my brother in-law’s new bride (thanks again, Steph!) for Christmas, and it.  Is.  Fantastic.  The information in there is undeniable, and really gets me riled to get after it.  After all, business won’t find me if I don’t get in its way.  Over and over again, I am thankful that I found a place as committed to giving its agents the tools they need to be successful businesspeople…I don’t see too many NYTimes Bestsellers from folks working at ReMax or Long and Foster, and I definitely don’t see as many of them.  Gary Keller is just a dynamo, and he has recruited the right people (looking at you, Matt Sutter) to find the right talent for the organization.  The folks in this office are the people I thrive on being around.

I think my present situation keeps me pretty well-grounded.  For half of the day, I am a student in the real estate industry, learning everything I can about prospecting, marketing, honing my message, finding what works, learning to be bold, brave, and direct with people. Then, I go to work.

I go from being the student to being the instructor…except nothing’s changed.


Who’s the new guy?

I work at a for-profit aviation maintenance institution, where each night, I give my students every piece of hard-won advice, every tip, trick, mistake I’ve made, and triumph I’ve conquered.  These soon-to-be aircraft mechanics take classes called “Cabin Atmospheres,” “Turbine Engines,” “Fuel and Instruments,” and “Comm/Nav,” where they will be taught all of the ways that airplanes solve difficult problems.  How do airplanes fly themselves?  There’s a system for that.  How do airplanes keep the passengers from freezing when it’s 50 below at 37,000 feet?  There’s a system for that, too.  These things are all in the curriculum, taught from the book, but I’ve found a way to bring my students–my customers–value that many other instructors don’t.  It’s easy, really.

Everyone hates being the new guy.  You don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know where the chemicals are kept, where to dump the 40 gallons of fuel you just drained from the plane, where the bathrooms or break room are, who you must report to…it just stinks.  You are being analyzed under a microscope from the moment you walk in, when you’re the new guy.  What I try to instill in my students are knowledge and methods and skills that will make their time as the “F-N-G” (take a guess what that stands for…yep, you’re probably right) as easy as possible.  I make them learn some of the skills they see once at the beginning of school (or sometimes never at all), and not again until they walk onto a hangar deck somewhere.  I do this because they get more inherent value out of that than they do under other instructors.  I work hard to make sure that my students understand that I’ve got nine years of experience, and they can have it all if they’ll just pay attention.  The fear of being the F-N-G has been a wonderful motivator, even to those who don’t much care to pay attention.

I am so looking forward to this year for several reasons:  First, my goal is to really ramp it up when it comes to keeping in touch with the several tribes I have around the country.  (“Tribes” is actually a Seth Godin term, and you are not whole inside until you’ve gotten to know Seth Godin.  Trust me.)  I’ve fallen down on that at times, and if you’re mad at me for it, I’m sorry.  Secondly, this is the year I plan on making my very first six-figure income.  I have the knowledge and a plan, and the courage to implement both this year.  The reason I’m so excited about this isn’t so much money (though, of course, it’ll be nice); it’s that I’ll have the ability to spend more time with those I care most about this year.

And finally, if I’ve taken home six figures this year, it means I’ve done between 10 and 13 transactions, which means what?  Exactly–I won’t be the FNG any longer!

Here’s to an unbelievable 2013.  How are you challenging yourself this year?  Are you the FNG?  What can you do to make that phase last only as long as it needs to?  What are you a student of this year?  What are you teaching yourself, or taking a class to learn?  What do you plan on getting better at?

As always, I appreciate that you took the time to read my post here.  I’ll talk to you all again soon!

Real Estate Initial Impressions…

So it’s been three or four weeks since I passed the test.  That very next day, I walked into a brokerage which is lead by a guy I was put in contact with probably four or five months ago–Matthew Sutter, at Keller-Williams Capital Properties in Fairfax, VA (or, KWCP, for short).  He and I shook hands, sat down, and I signed the papers which would make me officially affiliated with KWCP as a real estate salesperson.

I did some homework and met with a Long and Foster broker out here near the house before I signed up with KW; she was pleasant, but never once mentioned the words “building a team” or “managing your business,” whereas I’ve known that a major emphasis is put on that at KWCP since well before I was licensed.  I chose KWCP mainly because Matt turned out to be one of the first people I’ve ever mentioned my big, hairy, audacious goal to who literally didn’t flinch when he heard it.   See, Matt’s a special breed.  He seems like he’s barely older than me–35, max–and he’s achieved a 7th-level business in Austin, TX, and moved here to northern VA as a Team Leader (downplaying title for a CEO within KW) to get this office off the ground.  They have grown like crazy over the past three years, making it onto the Inc. 5000 list for all three of them–almost unheard of for companies, especially for a real estate brokerage firm.  He’s fit, (presumably) financially stable, driven, and successful.  The day I met this guy, I remember thinking, “I want this to be me in ten years.”

At this point, I’m a licensed real estate agent, but I’m still finding my direction.  I show up to team meetings every couple of weeks, and do whatever I can to help out during them or other office-related events; this is mainly because I have learned how to be a good worker and houseguest over the past ten years–and both are successful doing these things among company old and new.  But the fact is, I’m still adjusting to the entrepreneurial aspect of this, and despite the comfort I take from feeling helpful, doing what I can to help out around the office carries the same productivity level as spending three hours designing a business card:  Exactly zero.

The truth is, I’m not quite sure what it is I’m supposed to do yet.  They say that the hours between 9 and 12 should be spent “Lead Generating,” whatever the heck that means…I’ve heard some agents say they cold-call everyone and their mother, and others say they have never had to bother with it.  Still others say they’ll knock on doors, or focus on a technology-based lead generation system.  I’ve learned that there are probably ten good ways to generate leads, but I don’t know which one suits me.  Hell, I haven’t tried a one of them yet.

I may not be a lead-generating monster yet, but I haven’t stopped networking.  The book to the left of this column has blown my mind on several levels, but one of them really struck a chord with me:  Networking is best done around a dinner table.  Think about it: people tend to open up and show their colors when there’s food–and plenty of wine–around, and for me personally, I get so energized around meeting new people that I decided to have the first of many dinner parties to come, in a week or so.  Heading into the holiday season, we’ll probably only do one more–if that–but come the new year, we’ll be running them probably once a month.

The great thing is, it isn’t even about the food.  A homemade meal is almost universally appreciated (even if it’s terrible, people usually appreciate the effort), but something I learned from “the Orange Book,” as I call it, is that the point is to get people around the table.  It’s a traditional, communal thing for us humans to do this, and I have a firm belief that around a table is where humans are at their most intimate (excepting the obvious other place that they are, of course!).  It’s true now, among all of my closest friends in my adult life, but it’s also been true among all sides of my family since I was a kid.  In my family, there’s been a kids’ table and an adults’ table since I could remember–simply because we couldn’t fit 25 or 30 people around the table–but it didn’t matter.  When a hilarious story comes up, it’s usually shared with the whole room, no matter who’s sitting where.  Christmases, Thanksgivings, Pool Parties, July 4th Parties, Tailgate Parties…everyone gets together, eats too much, pops that belt buckle out a notch, and talks candidly about politics, football, opinions on so-en-so’s kid heading down the wrong path–it’s all there, and it’s all because of food (and beer or wine…and in some cases, Bag-O).  I feel very close with a good majority of my cousins simply because of that time we spent each year hanging out and catching up.  It’s still the same as it ever was…only now the kids’ table is all grown adults, and some of them have their own kids to look after 😉

The really great thing is that I’m expecting between 6 and 12 people to show up for dinner, but it really isn’t to corral them into buying something or giving me leads.  I’m not selling timeshares in the Carribbean, for god’s sake.  In fact, I don’t want to talk shop much at all (unless it comes up naturally) because I won’t subject my friends to any kind of manipulation just because they’re a captive audience.  That’s just crappy, far as I’m concerned.  I really just enjoy the company of people around my dinner table, and I love introducing people to each other who can help each other accomplish things, or just get along well.  One of my best friends told me once, “You’re the glue that keeps this group together;” well, now I’m starting to take that seriously, and make it into something bigger than myself.  Here’s to the journey!

You Share In My Triumphs, And…

Wow, it’s been a while!

My losing track of timing with this blog was an honest mistake, I promise.

I’ve been unwittingly redirected, and I’m a little down about it.  You’ll probably remember what a big stink I made about returning to school at 30 years old, and how excited I was to tackle that enormous, daunting task.  I planned and thought and planned long and hard about how I was going to achieve all of these different goals that I have, wondering where I was going to find the time to be successful at all of them.

It seems that the system has made part of that decision for me.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that I won’t be able to qualify for the loans to pay tuition at American University.  It seems the $60,000 I applied for ($56K for tuition, plus $4K for books, parking pass costs, etc) was just too much for the lender to bear, given my and my wife’s prior student debt load.  It’s just as well, I suppose…I’d rather find out about it now, than to get halfway through the program and be stopped in my tracks, already $120K in the hole and unable to continue.

Even still, it’s a bit of a letdown for me.  Most in my small sphere (comfortingly) suggest that I could do it for far cheaper elsewhere–and they’re right–but I wanted to finally accomplish something I have tried at several times, but haven’t:  Earn a stinkin’ degree.  A Kansas State, I just wasn’t mature enough for it; at COD, I got screwed out of it (the A&P program I was in never got accredited by the state of IL, lost its funding, went to another school…ugh).  I wanted that piece of paper on my resume, an actual college degree hanging over my desk in whatever office I work in, all gleaming with a prestigious school’s name across the top, emblazoned with “With Honors” underneath.  In reality, I still do.  In the business world, pedigree means something, and for me, AU was the best place I could find to start.  The alumni association alone is a networker’s heaven.

It seems silly, I suppose, to go after a college degree out of wanting to accomplish something, more than for strategic or marketability purposes…but I guess it doesn’t really matter whether it’s the chicken or the egg that came first, in the end.  A degree is kind of a win-win in that case.

For right now, I work nights, and my days are free.

Just yesterday, I passed the exam to become a licensed Realtor in the state of Virginia.  I’m really excited about the prospects of this, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ve somehow made a grave mistake which I’ll pay for dearly later on.  I’m not usually such a paranoid fatalist, but this one has been nagging at me.

How have you handled choices like these in your life?  What have you done to overcome them?


The Great Unknown…Returning To School and Career Change At 30.

The time has come to stage my coup.

I’ve been accepted into The American University’s Kogod School of Business, and I can’t wait to get that ball rolling in the fall.  Further, the time has come for me to transition out of aviation (for now) and into a subject that I began focusing on and learning about over five years ago now:  Real Estate.

Business and Real Estate–two things I have no formal experience or education with yet.  I’m leaving the comfort of showing up to work every day at 8am (or 7, or 5, or 6pm), punching the time clock, working on tangible, mechanical things and seeing tangible results…the truth is that I have no idea what will happen in the next couple of months.

It’s both exciting and terrifying.

But you know what?  Nothing will happen if I don’t do it myself, right?  I’m ambitious–sometimes too much so, according to some–and I’ve been waiting for five years to be able to act on this.  I only put it off that long so my wife could properly finish her graduate degree in Arizona, and we lived on my salary alone before we moved out here to Virginia.

Frankly, I’m nervous about how we will survive here while I’m in school.  Our bills aren’t exorbitant, but our cost of living here is.  A nice place in a relatively safe area has been running us nearly $1700 per month in rent, and that isn’t unreasonable out here.  We have basic cable, two sensible, reliable vehicles, and some credit card debt to deal with, but otherwise, we aren’t spendthrift.  We had smartphones (which I got us for cheap during a free upgrade period with our provider), but we downgraded them to save $60 a month on the (required) data plans.  We’ve held off on buying an iPad, despite how handy we would both find one to be–and how much we salivate every time another iteration of it comes out.  We’re getting rid of cable, because it makes more sense to rely on Netflix or Hulu than to pay out the nose for three hundred channels of “WasteYourTimeHere.”  We’re trying to find a cheaper place to move, but we don’t want to dig up $3400 to break our lease early–and that’s if we could even find something.  The occupancy rates at apartments are so high out here that we didn’t even bother looking at several of them because we simply couldn’t find parking near the leasing office.  It’s a great time to own an apartment building.

We’re downsizing as many of our expenses as possible to keep our bills within my wife’s salary alone, in anticipation of my starting school, and the income lag from starting in real estate.  I’ll pick up a job to get through it if I have to, but I’d prefer to have the ability to focus my energy on schoolwork, internships, and networking opportunities if I can.

And then there’s the real estate.

I plan on being a licensed Realtor by September, when school starts.  I figure it will pay off because I’m pretty decent at networking, I talk to everybody, and being in classes with hundreds of students every day gives me the chance to build a friendly rapport with a captive audience.  This will let me capitalize the most out of my time there, because look at this:  The average price of a home in Muncie, IN is something like $185K.  The average price of a property here in the DC area is nearing $400K.  Some of the contacts I have figured out that it would take literally three times as many homes sold in Indiana as it would to make the same money here.  DC will treat me well, if I can wiggle my way into it, and figure out what makes it tick.   As it stands right now, though, almost no one knows me, and I have but a few people in my address book here in the area.  That, of course, is up to me to change, and I intend to; it’s just that everything takes time.

I’m excited about my prospects, though.  I’ve been doing my homework on these choices for years now, and I’m confident they are the right way for me to go.  In five years, I expect to have achieved my goals.  I am standing on the precipice of a turning point in my life.  I know I’ll do it–I know I need to–but it doesn’t stop me from being consumed with trepidation of the unknown, and frustrated by the constant juggling I’ll have to do until I cross the finish line.  I guess that just means I’m human.

Enough about me–what’s new in your life?  What’s the next Great Unknown project you are tackling?  Has it gone according to plan for you?  Did you anticipate the issues you ran into, or were you blind sided by some of them?

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