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Jumping Into Real Estate

Before getting started in real estate I loved my job and the work that I did. I simply couldn't get over the fact that the level of work I was doing didn't match up with the pay I was receiving. It ended up being another year of working 12-14 hour days, and weekends, to break even financially. At the same time, the company I was working for had an incoming CEO who was known for cutting costs and bonuses. The writing was on the wall and I took the plunge. Switching locations from Washington, DC to Jacksonville, FL didn't make a difference. I needed to switch careers. I needed to have control over my future.

Getting started in real estate is a first class education in entrepreneurship AND budgeting. Over two years of working professionally, I had managed to save $5,000 in after tax cash -- yet I still had a mortgage, car payment, student loan payment, and roughly $1,500 in credit card debt with a monthly outflow of $1,500+. Although my fiancée, Brittany, was supportive, we knew we had to have a plan. We found that I would be able to survive for roughly 3 months without making any income before my cash was depleted. That’s when I cut costs to the survival amount.

In my first month, I found that my broker was willing to pay for free color flyers. So I made some marketing materials, printed them for free, and passed them out for 2-3 hours EVERY day. This was great because while I was handing them out, I listened to podcasts on sales, and simultaneously exercised. On weekends, I held open houses every Saturday and Sunday, borrowing signs from my office. During week days, I was the first in the office. From observation, I knew most of the call-ins were happening in the morning so I aimed to get as much desk time as possible in the AM.

Lastly, I made the biggest risk of all. I started buying leads from an online site for $300 per month. I had heard over, and over, and over, and over again that buying leads didn’t work and that it was too expensive. Yet I had nothing but time and energy. And when someone tells me not to do something, I usually do it anyway -- really. So, I studied the different lead generation systems and pulled the trigger. It was an experiment – and I wasn't afraid to take on debt. I had lived in debt my whole life. If it didn't work out, I would be another $3,600 in the red. I could handle that. And, I knew from my finance classes that most businesses take years before becoming profitable. With my combination of flyers, desk time, open houses, and buying leads, I was making opportunities at a very low cost and with large rewards. I was all in. I couldn’t sleep, and I urgently needed to make this work.

The first month rolled in and while on desk duty in the AM a realtor called in and said he had a family member looking to buy a home over the next two weeks. He was looking to get a 25% referral fee. I agreed immediately and got the appropriate contact information. Within the two weeks, I had my customer happily under contract with a $220k home. At about the same time, my boss from my previous job contacted me and said he was looking to make an investment in a rental property. I scoured the hot market for an opportunity, found the perfect one, and executed. Before I knew it, I had two properties under contract in my first month for roughly $330k.

The next week, I asked my broker for more phone numbers to call while at the front desk. I wasn’t using time efficiently enough. He gave me a long list of random numbers and names – most of which were rentals – or wrong numbers. I left voicemails for nearly everyone. Again, I had nothing but time. From that list, I received a call back immediately from a Seller in Fernandina Beach. He said that my call was one from God and he believed that He put me on his path -- he was just talking with his wife the night before about selling their home. I went to list his house two days later. Within a day of being on the market, it was under contract for $265k (roughly $15k above the appraised value).

That one listing brought me one buyer lead who bought another house from me for $200k. Then that same week, a Seller called in off of one of my flyers. I listed his house and then hosted an open house every weekend and got two buyers and one additional neighbor who wanted me to sell his investment property. That new listing brought me two buyers. And one of those buyers referred to me two other buyers because of the level of service I had provided. My skills were improving dramatically and I was immersed. At that same time, I had also converted two online leads into customers who were under contract with homes in the $220k+ price range. I paid off the leads 4x over within the first few months – so naturally I doubled down on the strategy that I was told over and over and over not to explore and didn’t work.

Before I knew it, the business had grown extraordinarily fast relative to my peers and I could sense the resentment in the office -- something I had never felt before. It was strange to me. The other agents had never called the same people I was calling. How could we be in competition if we weren’t fighting for the same opportunities? That was the first time I realized that the office wasn’t a cultural fit for me (although my broker was awesome!) – so I started to work at home – alone – and I was, and am today, hyper-focused on creating my own culture and standards that I will not compromise.

Customers were starting to send me referrals and I didn't have the systems in place to serve them at a high level consistently. I was running out of time. So, I immediately stopped what I was doing and stayed up late into the night to create an automated system I could use to better serve my customers. I then spent time making the appropriate connections (inspectors, title, insurance, lenders, contractors, etc.) to serve my customers at the highest level. My work was starting to look more and more like a business.


I quickly found that working 12-14 hour days for myself was better than working 12-14 hour days for someone else. In fact, it didn't feel like work -- I was actually having fun. And it was fun telling Brittany, and my family, all about it -- all the setbacks, challenges, and wins. I started seeing my business grow and within a couple months I realized I needed to hire or team up with someone to help me grow even more.

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