Some people tell you they were “called” into what they do. I got a calling to become a real estate agent, but it came from my friend Jesse. When he called I was volunteering at my church bookstore. It was a short conversation, he basically said
“Hey I’m getting my real estate license, do you want to come?”
Of course, he was joking, sorta. It would be a little bit more difficult than just driving down the road and picking one up (although not by much). But when he suggested it, it completely made sense. I’ve lived in Chester County just about my whole life. My family moved to West Chester when I was young and while I was attending Delaware County Christian School. In high school, I transferred to Henderson and then got my undergrad from West Chester University in Literature with minor in Journalism. I felt uniquely qualified as a life-long resident of the area and knowledgeable in all sorts of things about Chester County. I had a broad, yet intimate, connection with this area and have been through the many changes and market shifts we’ve experienced.
But I also knew that Chester county didn’t need just another real estate agent. I knew that real estate was not only saturated but was going through a slump. However, even then it was easy to see the technology shift that was happening. Real estate agents were still operating out of a print mindset. The big agents used to get their business from ads in the newspaper and those real estate books by the door at Wawa. They had to squeeze as much information into a tiny space and only sometimes included a picture. They looked a lot like this:
1St:Ch, Lr, Dr, Kit Brkfst Area, Lndry,Pr/Fp 2Nd:Mbr/Exit To Bal & Ba,
3 Br Office/ Den Southern Col/Balcony & Deck Overlooking Sec-
Luded Parklike Yd & Stream. Upgrades. 4/5 Br Pc-5596
(No kidding! That’s the description from parents’ purchase in West Chester!)
Although the internet was around for about a decade before I got into real estate, the mentality was still the same. It was just the facts and a handful of photos, some agents weren’t even using digital cameras or staging their listings (let alone Scientific Staging™)
I began to pay more attention to listings in the area. I remember one in particular. It was a townhome: three bedrooms, two baths. The MLS only had 5 photos, very low resolution, and the house wasn’t staged, so a photo of the room was just two beige walls attached to a beige carpet, just like every other townhome in that neighborhood. But despite the lackluster marketing, I went to see it. It was amazing. It had a finished attic space that was great for an office or den. Also, an unfinished basement, but clean and with cellar steps out to a covered patio. Being an end unit not only added 50% more windows than interior units but because of how it was situated, it had near endless parking (most units hardly had enough spaces for residents, let alone guests). It should have had multiple offers, but instead, it sat on the market for 3 months and sold $13,000 below asking price.
Buyers cannot possibly see every home on the market- if there’s a unique story or feature in the house, then that seller is missing out on tons of potential eyeballs and offers on the property. The websites agents were using were clunky and very difficult to use.
Just a couple years before I barely knew how to use a computer. Now I could create websites, record podcasts, edit video, and create graphics all from my iMac. And this was before the iPhone and iPad put that capability in the hands of everyone. I also saw the potential of little-known sites like WordPress, Twitter, and YouTube as efficient ways to communicate and share stories. I knew If I was going to do this, it would be different. I knew with my advanced technology skills, I could help sellers achieve better results.
But my motivation was more than just taking pretty pictures. I saw a documentary called “Call of The Entrepreneur” and the premise was that business is not a zero-sum game. There is room at the table for everyone and anyone who works for it. I liked the idea of win-win situations, helping people, and solving problems. The movie described a business owner as someone who applies work and creativity to a resource to produce value that wasn’t there before and therefore creates profit. That’s important because I believe money can do so much more than just buy stuff. Of course, the documentary made it sound like being an entrepreneur was pretty easy. I would soon find out there are plenty of struggles along the way (I cover those in part 2). But business is not the goal, just a vehicle to get to a goal. In high school, I had a pretty apathetic attitude (I was a “slacker”), but now I wanted to make a difference- that shift happened midway through college. When I was in college, I was very involved with campus ministry. In fact, Joy and I met while playing in the worship band at Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), and for a while, I thought that was going to be my future. I understood evangelism when it came to people’s spiritual needs- but eventually came to realize often it also involves addressing one’s physical needs.
This came after hearing about a pastor who was like a modern-day Mother Teresa who worked with Campus Crusade in Mozambique. My Junior year I went to a conference and was one of about a thousand college students who sat stunned as a director of Cru told stories of hope, compassion and modern day miracles happening in Africa. It opened my eyes to a massive world outside of my day-to-day experience.
It changed my perspective and my goals. It changed what I thought “making a difference” really looked like. I knew I wasn’t called to the slums of Mozambique, but everything I did had to be for a higher purpose and providing as much benefit to my community as possible.
I knew a real estate business would be the best way to serve the West Chester community and make an impact right here at home. That spring I enrolled in real estate school, took my test, got my license, and joined my first brokerage. I was quite excited having found something do with that Literature degree, despite my slacker tendencies. I was ready to start building something not just for myself and my future family, but my community as a whole.