Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Transitioning from real estate has become more complicated than I expected. I am currently working with a client, a very picky professional couple. They want to live in a better neighborhood and in a house with lower maintenance, but have no truly burning motivation for moving, so I've been wondering whether I should refer them. I kind of hate to, because I've spent several months showing them houses.

Well, guess what? Yep, we found the perfect house this past Friday, and they are now under contract. Woo hoo!

The complicated part is that they can afford to purchase before selling their current home, which is the path they have chosen. They'll have the luxury of moving out on their own timeline, then getting the house ready for market. We're looking at late October as the earliest the house would list, and I had hoped to be out of real estate by then.

Having a listing means, among other things, being on call 24/7.  I'm considering asking them if I could bring in another agent, but these clients happen to be close friends. I'll have to proceed carefully. I do know that if I list it, I would want to put 100% effort behind selling it. They don't need to be stuck with two houses.

I'm already planning to put back money from my fee earned from their purchased home toward staging and marketing their house. I would do my best, but fear my heart is no longer in it. Referring to a good, experienced agent may be the best thing for them. I'll have to think about this one. I want to do right by them, and also by me.

On another note, of my transition projects, the only one I've tackled with measurable success is cleaning up and organizing my home office. I've a long way to go, but I'm getting there. I need to work with budgets next. Having an unexpected commission check coming in October changes things. Nice income, but also unexpected expense as I will need to maintain monthly office fees and pay MLS dues for the fourth quarter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leaping Without a Net

So I've made the decision to quit my job as a real estate agent. And as I've done so often in my life, I have only a hazy plan of what to do next. This is called leaping without a net.

This time though, I'm wearing a bungie cord.

Kat's income is enough for the household, including money toward retirement and savings. Knowing we're doing ok without my income makes it even more important for me to have a transition plan in place.

I put together a list of projects to shape my days for the next month:
  • Make a list of all leads and clients, and decide whether to follow up or refer them.
  • Work with Kat to make a plan for cost-saving and simplifying.
  • Create a new budget for the rest of the year, subtracting expenses and projected income from real estate.
  • Clear out and re-organize home office space.
  • Work on Fumbling at Joy; re-purpose and polish it up. FaJ has been a toe in the blogging waters, and so far I like the temperature.
  • Review manuscripts and query letters. After receiving several rejections, I had received positive feedback on a middle grade novel from a literary agent and an editor, though both ultimately chose not to take on the work. In spite of the positives, I lost the faith. My reaction to the manuscripts will tell me if I should renew it.
I will need to be disciplined about working these projects into my days. Now that I'm not at the office as much, I'm doing more household management and volunteer work. I know from before how just those two things can completely take over.

Now to tie up a loose end -- I did speak with my broker. He was of course gracious and gave me suggestions for how I might transition out. If he weren't such a great guy, I wouldn't have felt guilty about telling him I'm leaving. So there was nothing to worry about -- a lesson I have been taught many times and will continue to learn.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

There is No Try. Unless You're Me

I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to quit real estate. My first and most important task, as I posted here, was to talk to my broker about it.

I haven't followed through. Not that I didn't try. We have training on Thursdays which he facilitates, and I had planned to talk to him after. For the first time, he missed the class. Another agent sat in, one that I like very much, and I spoke with him as a "practice." He was encouraging and had some good advice. So far, so good.

Last Wednesday I again went in to chat with my broker, and he was out of town! In hindsight, I should have set up a meeting with him in advance, but he is nearly ALWAYS in the office. I've been out of town myself since, visiting family, so I try again tomorrow. This is getting ridiculous.

Time to live Yoda's quote, "Do or do not. There is no try."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quitting is Hard to Do

Today -- if I don't lose my nerve -- I will tell my broker that I am leaving real estate. I had hoped to lie low until the end of September, not pursuing leads but perhaps helping people into rentals, which is a short-term sort of thing. As independent contractors, agents aren't required to be in the office, and most of us work from our homes when we're not out in the field. BUT, I had started a 12-week leads-generation class which has five weeks left, and my broker is starting another class for newer agents and wants me to attend. I don't feel right pretending for another two months.

This morning I wrote at length in my journal, working out whether I've made the best decision. I still don't KNOW, but I feel more sure each day. Certain enough to have that talk with my broker, even though I dread it. I've been through much worse than this, so buck up! (I say to myself). The day will pass and evening will fall and Kat and I will have supper together and all will be well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How Not to Design a New Kitchen

Kat and I have lived in our little house for thirteen years now. Our current kitchen decor dates back ten years, which is when we painted our cabinets white and the walls blue. I do love a blue and white kitchen, but the look needs freshening up. We decided to reface the cabinets, replace the laminate countertops, and trash the window toppers in favor of something simpler. Fresh paint and perhaps a backsplash should finish the job. All of this depends on budget as I don't want to borrow for a kitchen re-do.

One day last week I was exploring the kitchen section of our favorite home improvement store, when the floor person approached me. He seemed friendly enough, and as we've had good experiences with employees of this store helping us with DIY projects, I accepted his offer to send a designer on the store's dime to our house for a consultation. He assured us there would be no pressure to purchase anything, that the designer would be paid regardless of an order from us. "That's good," I told him. "Because we won't be ready to do this until next year."

Fast forward to the designer's visit. I asked him questions about color, "How do I better integrate my warm living room with my cool kitchen?"  "Uh . . . "

And the PRESSURE. Good gad. As we entered the second hour of his interminable visit, I wondered how we would get him out of the house. He wanted an order and he wasn't hearing 'no'. I began to think Kat would have to physically remove him. We were polite as he went over all the financing options (for an $8,000 job that didn't include countertops or anything other than the refacing), and offered incentive after incentive with each 'no'. "If you order within the next 24 hours I can give you 15% off the entire order. If  you order today I can get your countertops below cost." Etc, etc. By the time he left I was angry, though more with the floor person at the store than with him, and finally more at myself. The thought of consulting with a professional without having to pay for one overwhelmed my good sense.

I know a carpenter who has done fine work for a client at a reasonable price, and once the taste of this experience is out of my mouth, we may contact him for a quote, but we've pretty much decided to do it ourselves. I've been researching the process for refacing, and it doesn't look so bad, especially with Kat's expertise (She built our deck, some patio furniture, a murphy bed, and together we replaced our privacy fence).

Lately I've been slipping back into frugal-thinking mode, and that's because I've reached a decision to ditch real estate (not that I was earning a lot doing it, but the potential was there). This decision might seem hasty after the agonizing back and forth of the past few months, but it involves a lot I haven't yet discussed here. For the next few weeks I will live with the decision and work on Plan B to make sure I'm sure before officially pulling the plug. Right now, the kitchen re-do is a fun dream that's receded in the distance a bit, and I'm ok with that.