Finding My Foothold in Real Estate
I haven’t always been a Realtor. In fact, initially I was turned off to becoming a real estate agent. From what I had seen, real estate agents were a bunch of fake people in nice clothes with cheesy personalities. My journey into becoming an entrepreneur started out many years ago.
It all started when I was working as an Account Manager for a home health company. You know, those small companies that send nurses to the home after a patient is sent home from the hospital. So it was my job to create business relationships with the nurses at hospitals, doctors, their staff, and the Social Workers at Skilled Nursing Facilities.
As I started to track where the patients were going, I found that many of the elderly patients were heading back to these places called Care Homes. A Care Home, is the same as an Assisted Living Facility for the elderly, except it’s in a house, usually with 6 residents. So I decided that I would start visiting these Care Homes. Not knowing much about them, I did some research, and found out that they are everywhere! Over 400 in Alameda county.
So I went to these Care Homes, met with the owner/operators and learned their stories. As I began visiting more Care Homes, I could see that some were run MUCH better than others. Some had happy clients, and it was obvious that they were being treated really well. They had good food, the clients were listened to by the staff, and the homes were clean. But there were others that cut corners. There were the Care Homes that always smelled like urine, served gross food, and had sad clients. I was extremely dissatisfied with those dirty Care Homes. They only saw the client as a paycheck.
So I thought to myself — “I should open my own Care Home.”
I saw the opportunity to make a difference. I made a business plan. I started taking classes on the weekends to get my certification to be an Administrator. I saved my money. Finally, I told my boss that I was going to quit, and open my own Care Home. He, being the entrepreneur that he is, encouraged me to do it.
I located a home to rent, then I painted, prepped, and planned. I contacted all my old contacts and they referred clients to my Care Home. Concordia Care Home was up and running.
The next 2 years of operating my Care Home can not fit into this story. There are too many crazy stories, but needless to say, it was some of the most impactful, difficult, caring, and learning years of my life. I don’t anticipate anything that I can not handle after running a Care Home. The people and relationships were on the weight of my shoulders. This was truly a 24/7 business.
In the time that I was in Home Health and running my Care Home, I also did client placement. My knowledge of the East Bay community of Care Homes helped me refer clients to the right home if mine was full or not the right fit.
After 2 years of running and operating the Care Home, I decided to close the doors and go back into a corporate job as a Home Health Manager.
As an entrepreneur, it was difficult to have the restraints of a corporate job again. At that same time, my friend bought a run down hotel in Hayward, not too far from where I ran the Care Home. This Hotel was a slum (to be honest) and needed to be completely rebuilt. The major problem was, the previous owner had left it in horrible conditions. There was mice, roaches, graffiti, stray cats and crime throughout the hotel. Very few of the long term tenants had jobs, credit, a clean criminal history or anywhere else to go. So I was hired to find them places to live. I talked with each tenant over the course of the next 3 months. I worked with them, handholding the whole time. With my connections, I made some calls. I toured them to different places to live within the community. I was able to successfully find all 18 tenants new homes in a record time.
My friend noticed that I had a good personal touch and a strong work ethic. He suggested that I get into real estate as an agent.
But I had my reservations…..
As I said in the beginning of the story, I was turned off to becoming a real estate agent. Years before, I attended a real estate networking group as an outside vendor. I sat in the meeting, and the other agents talked and shared about the new listings they had coming to the market. It was brutal to watch. Not because of the information, but because of how they talked about it. One agent would share information about their open house, then another would chime in with a bad joke, then another with a worse joke. All while laughing with this fake chuckle and false optimism that they were having fun and providing a good service. I hung out in the back until it was my time to present. I collected a bunch of business cards, mostly with head shots that were taken 15 years prior. I have been in sales for a long time, and my feeling after leaving that meeting was that in order to be a real estate agent, a person would need to morph into a personality of a ditzy high school cheerleader.
At that moment, I thought to myself that I could never act like that — no matter what business I was in. I consider myself someone who can be genuine, and relate to people in any circle. I didn’t always feel that comfortable though, because it took a lot of life experiences to be authentically comfortable in my own skin. I know this will sound weird, but it’s ok to be yourself in business. No one told me that when I was younger.
I was told to dress this way…
Say this line to close the deal…
Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer…
All of the ‘one size fits all’ approach was preached to me and I believed it — for a while at least.
Many years had passed since my first impression of the realtors I witnessed. I had been in sales positions. I had managed employees. I even ran my own business. I had learned to be comfortable in my own skin, I realized I didn’t need to put on the ‘snakeskin’ personality of the realtors I despised.
So, in September of 2016 I got a fresh start leasing apartments in San Francisco and I got my real estate license soon after. I was excited and intimidated at the same time. The main office is in a fancy building downtown on the 20th floor. The San Francisco rental market is infamous for being competitive and expensive. I had a lot to learn. There was over 200 buildings, neighborhoods that started and ended every few blocks, and a microclimate that changed faster than I could handle. But I adapted quickly. I studied the 42 page lease so I could answer every single question that came up. I toured every building. I asked questions to tenants about why they were moving here. And after meeting thousands of people, and leasing hundreds of apartments, I can boldly say that I am an expert when it comes to leasing apartments. Sure, I made a few mistakes along the way, but with some good support, I was able to fix issues quickly. Leasing apartments is fun, exciting, and also tiresome. It requires me to get to San Francisco on an hour long BART ride. There are days I walk up to 7 miles showing people different apartments. So naturally, I wanted to branch out and take on bigger challenges in real estate. But I wasn’t sure where to get started.
I was ready to take full ownership of my future. I was looking for an opportunity to marry my love of learning with my entrepreneurial itch. Real estate seemed to check the boxes. But working for yourself is no easy task. Since I had already run my own business, I knew that taking calls all day and working 80 hours a week was more typical than sitting on a beach and just raking in the money.
You see, ever since the day I got licensed by the real estate board, I was targeted. Brokerages started mailing me fancy letters bragging how they were the best and I should work for them. Coaching programs popping up online, saying they would get me results. Online marketers promising me that they would create Facebook and Instagram posts that would have clients flooding in. Get rich quick signs and I had to do was call a phone number. But I knew better. I knew that would lead to cold calling, spamming, and becoming a real estate pest.
So I searched for something that aligned with my values. That is when I found and joined a group that emphasized something much more. In this group, I found other like minded people. The focus of this group was to deliver value to the community through a personal message. And there is where I found Remy Fortier.
The first time I met Remy I felt like I already knew her. I had listened to her podcast, ‘Union City Advice Givers,’ and I had read her stories on her website. Through her stories I already knew the struggles and victories in her life. The first time we met in person was at her first Impact Club event, where she presented a $5000 check to a local charity. I was impressed at what she had built. I knew at that point I wanted to be in business with someone who stood for something greater than a real estate transaction.
Leaning on her 10 years of experience as a Realtor, I have been able to help clients get financing when they thought they couldn’t, save money on their home purchase, and negotiate when it seemed like it couldn’t happen.
My story wasn’t written overnight. Either will my legacy. It is being built day by day, connecting with people one at a time.