Some people say they were “called” to 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. In a pretty 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 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. In elementary school my family moved to West Chester while I was attending Delaware County Christian School. In high school, I transferred to Henderson and after graduation, got my Bachelors degree from West Chester University. I felt pretty qualified as a life-long resident of the area to help home sellers and buyers in 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 Chester county didn’t need just another real estate agent. I knew that real estate was not only saturated with agents but was also going through a slump. At that point, saw something else happening- a total shift in technology. The internet was now fully integrated in every area of life, yet real estate agents were still operating in a print mindset. Just about every agent in the area was used to getting 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.
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 utilizing Scientific Staging™)
I began to pay more attention to homes in the area. I had to see for myself if there was really something there, if this gap was real or was there something I wasn’t seeing.
I remember one home in particular. It was a townhouse: three bedrooms, two baths. The MLS only had 5 photos, very low resolution. And the house wasn’t staged, so one photo of the living room was just two beige walls attached to a beige carpet, just like every other townhouse in that neighborhood. But despite the lackluster marketing, I went to see it.
To my surprise, it was amazing! It had a finished attic space that was great for an office or den. An unfinished basement, but clean 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 actually and sold 10% below asking price).
That was it, something had to be done.
Buyers cannot possibly tour 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. Most agents’ websites were clunky and very difficult to use. But that didn’t seem to concern most agents at the time. Honestly, even now they don’t seem too concerned.
You see, right out of college, I could barely use a computer. I would literally get a virus and I had two options, wipe the whole computer and reinstall Windows, or buy a new computer. There was nothing more frustrating than trying to get things done on those old PCs.
But, when Joy and I got married, our first gift to each other was a brand new iMac (note: This 2007, when Apple just started using Intel processors, skyrocketing them in popularity and Microsoft, well… it was when they released the failed “Vista” version of Windows). I could care less that Mac was about to become a so-called “status symbol” or that Apple would be the most valuable company in the world. No, the only thing I cared about at the time was now I could create websites, record podcasts, edit video, and make graphics all from my apartment. And all this before the iPhone and iPad put that capability in the palm of our hands. I was also learning about the potential of little-known sites at the time 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 some advanced technology and the right strategy, I could help sellers achieve better results.
But my motivation for getting into real estate was more than just taking prettier pictures. I also believed in the power of entrepreneurship to change the world (or at least my small part of it). That year I saw a documentary called “Call of The Entrepreneur”. 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. And when done right, with the right intention, everyone benefits.
The movie showcased business owners who applied work and creativity to a resource to create value that wasn’t there before (therefore creating profit). That is important because money can do so much more than just buy stuff, and how financial resources are used, says a lot about a business and how they treat their customers.
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. But business is not the end goal, it’s just a vehicle. In the past I had a pretty apathetic attitude (I might’ve been something of a “slacker”), but now I was looking for a way to make a difference.
That shift happened at an event part-way 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 that often it also requires addressing one’s physical needs.
My Junior year of college I went to a conference and sat with about a thousand other students and listened as a director of Cru told stories of a pastor who worked in Mozambique with the organization (on the Jesus Film Project). She was like a modern day Mother Teresa. This pastor’s ministry was just loving orphans in that country and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. But her stories also included the abundance and miracles that followed. It opened my eyes to a massive world outside of my day-to-day experience. Also helped me realize the importance of physical needs- and that a loving God cares about both physical and spiritual, therefore my job is to minister with both.
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 while providing as much benefit to my community as possible.
I knew a real estate business would be the best way I could serve the West Chester community and make an impact right here at home. So when Jesse called, I enrolled in real estate school, took my test, got my license, and joined my first brokerage. I was quite excited to find something do with that Literature degree, and a purpose to pursue. I was ready to start building something not just for myself and my future family, but my community as a whole.