Man oh man…what a story. It being July 4th today and with extreme gratitude and praise for even having the opportunity to have a lucrative career in anything…I thought I would share my story, pains, pathway to success in the Texas Real Estate Industry. I know that being blessed enough to live in this limitless country and having the freedom to even pursue what I wanted is 50% of the reason I found success. The other 50% was working my ass off, being smart with my money, and failing forward. Although…there were plenty of thoughts of ‘just give up’, you are not good enough, this is too risky. But I did not. And 15 years later I am still standing.
Here is a little backstory before we begin. I graduated from University with my undergraduate degree in Finance. I had my first interview and scored my first job at a Hedgefund company in Nashville, TN and worked there for 6 months…realized quickly cubicle life, the same pay each month with out bonus or commission and 8-5 with a timed lunch break was not the one for me. I found an opportunity to move to London for 6 months and work thru a Blue card program, I broke up with my boyfriend (it’s ok, we were not a fit and would eventually happen anyway) and went for it. I worked at TGI Fridays in Covent Garden, lived in a hostel and traveled Europe every chance I got. I was trying to decide what to do with my fancy finance degree and my life that it was time to build back in America. I was thinking to go to LA and go to fashion design school. However, my Dad found a lump in his neck that started as a pea size and grew to a grapefruit by the time I got home. I agreed to take care of him after surgery and take him to his 6 months of radiation ahead. So I moved from London back to DFW and started caring for him. He said his last words before he went into surgery…literally, they removed his voice box. The cancer overtook his larynx and voice box, but the cancer did not take his life and we and he are still greatful to this day.
One day in October of 2003 after Radiation we decided to take a field trip to a new home community in Frisco called Panther Creek. He wanted to buy some new construction homes and hold them as rentals. We met the sales counselor, Heidi, who’s assistant quit earlier that week and she needed an assistant quick to cover her 2 days off. She asked me if I was interested, my dad nudged me and I said…sure. I started the next day. I stayed with her for about a year and moved with her to her Denton community due to lack of sales and that pesky cocaine problem that she seemed to have, which ultimately led to her getting fired in November 2003 and the new sales counselor that took her place already have her own assistant. So I did a few odd jobs like selling things on Ebay and helping my dad on his soda route for a couple of months and then in December my name got passed around to Newmark homes. I interviewed, got the job and started the first week of January filling in for Tanya during her maternity leave.
While Tanya was out, I sold 9 houses in 90 days and negotiated my way into a promotion of my first official neighborhood that I was in charge of at Stonebridge Ranch in Mckinney, TX in April 2005. I sold the 15 spec homes the company had to offer in about 3 months and closed out the community where 8 of the 15 closing happened while I was in Chicago on Dec 31, 2005. I actually got audited for my 2005 tax returns because my income went from $12,000 in 2004 to well over $120,000 in 2005, which is more than 10 times increase…an apparent trigger for an Audit. I then got assigned to close out the remaining 20 homes in the Murphy community, Hunter’s Landing where I met my future business partner, Sarah, for Janus Real Estate Group. Once I closed that out in approx 9 months, I then moved to a neighborhood in Mesquite to help sales increase and sold about 10 in about 6 months and then to Grady Niblo Estates in Dallas where I sold 13 homes that never closed (which means I did not get paid the $90,000 I ‘had on the books’) because Newmark filed Bankruptcy and sold their company to Wall Homes. In new home sales you always have money ‘on the books’ which means you write a contract for a new build in January but by the time the house is constructed and ready to close it would be anywhere from September to December for most builders, so your money, your big money, is always several months or almost a year out and if you leave you dont get paid. Grady Niblo was only 1 of the two neighborhoods that did not get picked up. Below was my attempt to get convince the company to keep the neighborhood. Below is part of my self-appointed presentation I gave to the VP of hiring, purchase manager and land man all at different times. I think they thought the presentation was pitiful, but they appreciated my tenacity and hired me on at Wall Homes.
At Wall Homes, I met some of my closest friends I still have today and learned how to navigate a Sales Manager not liking me. I killed him with Kindness, worked harder, and kept selling in all the neighborhoods he moved me to and most importantly would not give up. I worked in Plano, Frisco, and Lewisville. Trust me, it is not a common thing to be in as many neighborhoods as I was in. I eventually came to be ‘The closer’ and both companies would move me to neighborhoods to give them energy and close them out. On January 7, 2009, I believe, Wall Homes filed Bankruptcy and let 80 of their Sales and Construction Staff, me being one of them. I remember packing up my office in Lewisville and feeling the same feeling of repeat that I did at Grady Niblo Estates in that I had about $60,000 on the books that I never got paid for…and as I was speeding home in my BMW X3, I got a speeding ticket. The good news, is that I learned 2 valuable lessons in these formative years of making commissions and investing.
Donna Fitzgeraled at Newmark Homes taught me ‘to always save for a rainy day, because in this business there are plenty of them.’ That stuck with me and I listened to it, hard. I bought my first house in 2006, had a healthy savings account and was prepared for the Great Recession to come. The 2nd lesson I learned was that I just did not want to be in sales following the rules, I wanted to make the rules and own a company. Remember Sarah, who I met in Muprhy while at Newmark Homes? She built a company called Janus Real Estate Group in 2007 and asked me to be her partner in 2008. With gratitude I accepted and for a year I started investing capital, meeting her to work on Janus on my days off and started learning about the Realtor, property management and Rental Property Investor side of the Real Estate business. I always had the issue of how I was going to walk away from so much money ‘on the books’ by leaving New Home Sales, but one good thing that came out of Wall Homes’ BK for me, is it allowed me to fall 100% into Janus because when a company goes BK and lets their staff go, there is officially no money to walk away from. So a timing and opportunity would have it, I started full time at Janus the following day on January 8, 2009. I took $25,000 out of my savings account, gave myself 6 months to figure it out and put my head down and got to work.
Sorry about the bite marks on that card, my dog did not get enough attention those intense, drinking from a fire hose initial years at Janus. Sarah had a family emergency in February, 2009 and therefore I only got a little more than month of training. I got my Real Estate License in the most rushed state in March, 2009 and continued figuring out how to build a company while I was actually building a company. I would NOT recommend this method. Sarah had built the company very nicely in that we had about 30 rental properties were managing, had 2 Agents under the brokerage, had lease leads coming in from the property management listings, and had several investor clients who wanted to buy investment props thru most of 2009. I guess it was a good problem to have…but for this 29 year old, people pleasing, kind-hearted, gullible girl…this business was about to teach me some hard and deep lessons. Over the next 2 years, I learned everything I could, asked alot of questions, paid alot of money for the things I screwed up on, and grew the business in all divisions. I got my broker license as soon as I was eligible in Oct 2011 and took full ownership of the company in 2012.
Sarah and I are still very dear friends today. I started working with a hedgefund and learned how to work volume, built out a referral network in the their 3 main markets in Texas and helped the hedgefund buy 100s of properties in Texas from late 2012 thru beginning of 2015. That taught me alot. I grew the property management division to almost double the size and in 2014 I was at a decision and asked myself if I wanted to either sell it or scale it. I did not want to scale it as it was a business I just could not ever get comfortable with so I decided to sell that division. That was my first lesson in selling a business… I will write the blog on that experience because I got schooled hard on that one.
Additionally in October 2013, I started building my second company with Jay. We wanted to build the next generation Real Estate Company combining Technology in the areas that needed automation and emphasizing the importance of the things that only the brilliant human brain could do. We called this company Real Estate Concierges. No one could say it or spell it…so the lesson here was to do a market test before you name your company. It was a real wake up call when after 3 years, my own mom still could not say it or spell it.
When we launched this company almost exactly a year after we started building it in October 2014. I scaled back Janus expenses, sold my property management division, and transfered some of my agents to the new company from Janus. We had an Agent Employee model where we paid Salary and benefits to our agents. We realized 6 months in during a start conversation with our bookeepers that we would for sure go out of business IF we did not pivot. That was the first time I had heard that word and learned the hard lesson of how expensive, stressful, and fearful being wrong was. I adjusted the model and made it where we only paid apprentices. We lost about 75% of our agents/staff within the first 9 months of opening the company doors, by Summer of 2015 and I asked myself often why I was going thru this pain of running a company. Fast forward several employees and agents, expensive lessons, painstaking decisions, lonliness, broken and mended relationships and 8 additional Pivots later and here we are in July 2019. However, along the way and one of those pivots we decided to officially rebrand Real Estate Concierges in March 2018 to Mile27 Realty.
And I tell you…15+ years later from my start in Real Estate, I think I am just now finally getting it right. We have the right seats on the right bus, the right message, the right passion and the right mission.
If someone would have told me the journey would look like this, I can’t say I would have taken it, but at the same time that is an unrealistic question and unrealistic answer. If any turn had been different, who knows what dominos would have fallen differently. I LOVE what we have built, what I have learned and my passion to help our clients and agents Real Estate Smarter. Oh and buy the way, I have built my own real estate rental property portfolio along the way and that is what pull from to teach others how to do it better and with less pain. I and we honestly believe that anyone can build wealth in Real Estate b/c I and my partner Jay are those ‘anyones’ who did just that. That is the reason I write this blog, 100 short stores from 10,000 long hours in Real Estate.
Cheers to your best you yet, let us help you achieve it.
If you liked this story, check out our Mile27 Realty Youtube Channel to see visual stories like these and come back and visit more of our series on 100 Short Stories from 10,000 Long Hours in Real Estate.