Texas REALTOR® magazine asked:
What lessons from an old job or another part of your life do you use in your real estate practice?
Read on to learn how REALTORS® apply knowledge gained from previous experiences—and advice you may be able to use in your business.
Answers have been edited for space and clarity.
“Doing hands-on remodeling and restoration taught me a lot about older homes and remodeling. Moving a 1940s home from San Antonio to Bandera, taking it down to the studs, adding on to it, and redesigning parts of it, I learned so much about what’s behind the walls and so much more. Since I focus on the urban neighborhoods filled with 50- to 100-year-old homes here in San Antonio, I can provide insight on the work done in remodeled homes based on my own experience and help clients understand the inherent beauty and history of these older properties.”
—Lynn Knapik, broker/owner, Lynn Knapik Real Estate, San Antonio
“As a school director for 10 years, I dealt with parents regarding their children, which involves so much emotion and can be intensified when the conversations are difficult. Buying or selling a home involves much of the same type of highly emotional attachment. Being prepared to deal with those difficult situations with calmness and keeping people focused are key to a successful transaction for everyone. I became adept at listening to their concerns with compassion and understanding and making sure people were heard and their feelings validated. This has been an invaluable skill that my school career helped me to develop.”
—Deborah Spangler, broker/owner, Spangler Realty Group, Montgomery
“As both a military airman and public school teacher, I learned that the protection of my asset (my client) is of the utmost importance. When clients know that you have their best interest at heart, they stay with you for the long haul and pass this assessment of you along to their friends and family. Having a career as a teacher has afforded me the opportunity to learn that education is at the forefront of taking care of my clients as a REALTOR®. Never assume the client knows what something means, what the next steps are, and what is expected of them and others in the transaction. It is best to let them know how the process works, let them know the steps involved, then monitor and assess along the way. It’s teaching all over again!”
—Faithful Carter, agent, Tucker Co., REALTORS®, Cibolo
“Working my way through college, I worked for a title company, which certainly helped me understand the title issues we could face when listing a home for an estate or a divorce situation. I also worked for a tax appraisal company, which has helped me to advise my clients on keeping their tax assessments lower. Immediately after college, I worked for an engineering firm where I performed and drew surveys, designed subdivisions, and got plats approved by planning and zoning and the city council. This has allowed me to provide additional guidance to my clients in their transactions.”
—Claudia Carroll, broker associate, Tyler Homes Group, Keller Williams Realty, Tyler
“I retired from a local municipality. I remember one city manager who took on customer service as a top priority. Nobody just wakes up one day and says, ‘Let me go over to the city and apply for a permit because I think it’ll be fun.’ The customer walking in the doors of city hall is coming in for something they’re not looking forward to, so it was our job to make that interaction as pleasant as possible. I also learned that, to a new customer, my word is all I had. It’s my bond. Today, when I tell a customer I’ll call them by 11 a.m., rest assured, they’re going to get that call on or before 11 a.m. If I don’t have the answers they’re looking for, I call to let them know that I’m still working on finding the answer. Customer service seems to be a lost art, so my buyers and sellers appreciate what I do.”
—June Tyler, agent, Krisher-McKay, REALTORS®, Baytown
“I spent 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and it changed my life in a positive way. I learned that to get where you want to go, you must attack life full-on and set goals and work hard and often. I am enthusiastic about everything I do. I do not wait for things to happen; I do all I can to make them happen. Those who sit back and wait are always wondering when their big break is going to come. I make my big breaks. Business can be created, rather than waiting on it to come.”
—Lee Wheeler, president and broker/owner, Wheeler Commercial, Beaumont
“My career in the U.S. Marine Corps has taught me to work as a team player, to listen very carefully to the needs of others, and to be very detail oriented in every aspect of life. The words Semper Fi mean always faithful to your fellow man. So when I first heard the word fiduciary, I knew I was in the right job for me! We are taught to be loyal, trustworthy, dependable, and focused on the job at hand. In my real estate business, I treat all my clients with respect and honor. I know that as a good listener I can better serve my clients in finding the perfect home for them and their family.”
—Shelia Fisher, agent, Walzel Properties, Houston
“For about a year and a half, I worked as a bellman, greeter, valet, and host for a boutique and celebrity hot spot hotel in Manhattan known as the Hotel Gansevoort. At first, I was genuinely starstruck by the famous celebrity guests, such as Calvin Klein, Christina Aguilera, and Richard Branson. Yet eventually, I learned the celebrities were welcoming, easy-going, and just wanted attentive, fun personal service like the other guests. This experience taught me to not be frightened or intimidated by wealth. Wealthy real estate buyers and sellers want quality, informed, and prompt real estate service just like everybody else.”
—George Vance McGee, broker associate, Austin Silent Market, Austin
“As an engineer in the oil and gas industry, I provided specialized support to operations teams and technical sales personnel internationally. I developed strong communication skills and relied on my ability to analyze data and make decisions. These skills have been invaluable in my real estate career so far. Communication and analytical skills are both traits that my clients regard highly. My past work in international markets helps me to work with a culturally diverse community with ease.”
—Christy Amos, agent, Truss Real Estate, Houston
“I worked for law firms for many years prior to becoming an agent. I worked as a legal secretary, an office manager, and a legal assistant. My time working with attorneys taught me to problem solve and to document everything. It taught me the importance of clarity in contracts and how crucial it is not to assume anything. Spending time around attorneys and legal documents allowed me to be comfortable with contracts and gave me confidence working with real estate contracts and addenda. Thanks to my law firm experience, when I got my license in 2001, I already knew how critical it was to pay attention to deadlines and to keep my files organized.”
—Pam Smith, agent, JP and Associates, REALTORS®, Cedar Hill
“I’m a professional with a master’s degree in public health. I have gained experience in leadership, non-profit organizations, and extensive understanding of computer/technical skills. In my most recent role, I worked at Tarrant County Public Health as an epidemiologist specialist. I actively use my background and professional experience in real estate to work through communication with different parties in a transaction. With my public health skills, I communicate effectively and clearly with my clients and utilize cultural competency awareness by responding to their diverse needs.”
—Luvleen Dharni, agent, Worth Clark Realty, Fort Worth
“Marriage, motherhood, and homeschooling our six children has taught me lessons I apply in real estate. We’ve always had small businesses on the side, and I ran them from home while taking care of our family. It takes tremendous organization, motivation, and commitment to do that for 22 years straight. Many days, I wore every hat in my arsenal just to do my job—I was the queen of multitasking. That’s real estate. You have to be organized; able to multitask and survive long, exhausting hours; able to switch gears on a moment’s notice; compassionate through it all; and able to end every day knowing it starts all over again tomorrow.”
—Cara Wright, sales agent/The Wright Group team leader, Fathom Realty, Odessa/Midland
“As a former Mary Kay director, I learned how to warm chatter, which means you basically walk up to people and start a conversation. That has helped me with cold-calling leads until I get one converted. Mary Kay taught me to focus on income-producing activities such as warm chatter, holding skin care classes, passing out samples of product in exchange for phone numbers, and tracking the number of faces.”
—Melody Villasana, broker, Home Charm Realty, Odessa
“I owned a kitchen and bath design center in Wisconsin. Homeowners would make their countertop, sink, faucet, and backsplash selections in our showroom. I learned it is best to have all deciding individuals in meetings to avoid delays down the road and have a smooth transaction. I also found it useful to ask many questions at the beginning and not to assume anything.”
—Gabriela Delatorre, agent, Purple Shirt Realty, Katy
“Every job I ever had—from typist in a policy typing pool to secretary to vice president of Brown & Root—has aided me in my real estate career. How? In every aspect: filing, typing, keeping/getting a schedule, and interacting daily with the public. I don’t need an assistant to do all the things I have done all my life. Don’t think whatever job you’re doing today at 25 or 30 is a waste. It may one day benefit you tremendously.”
—Mary Ann Lipsey, agent, RE/MAX Integrity, Spring
“I was an internal and external management consultant for many years. I specialized in the financial services industry, life, health, property casualty, reinsurance, and banking. I learned how to obtain and analyze facts, display the data, present the data, convince senior management of the findings, and close the deal.”
—Jasper Tramonte, broker/owner, Tramonte Commercial Brokerage, League City
“I learned how to simplify complicated processes and information to a level that a first-time buyer can understand. I’ve learned in past jobs how to calm clients down, which has helped me with clients and agents alike in this emotionally charged environment. In my past careers, I’ve managed multimillion-dollar retail stores, and that has given me skills to manage my career as a business and be properly financially prepared each year to succeed. My various management careers have helped me learn how to train my team and my peers in pertinent real estate and customer service skills.”
—Celine Crestin, agent/Realty Reimagined Group team lead, Realty One Group Prosper, Buda
“After 30 years as a radio and television personality, the transition to real estate was uniquely different, yet familiar. Communication and contact are always the foundation of any business. You have to be mentally ready. Being shy or introverted won’t work. Shaking hands and getting to know 200-300 people at an event was an integral part of the job. Some are surprised to learn that repetition and routine are a large part of the entertainment business. Answering the same question hundreds of times a week was expected. I love talking to people about anything, even during the frustrating and hectic times. I don’t mind answering the same question 50 times for a particular listing. The communication skills I developed in radio/TV have made me feel right at home as a real estate agent.”
—Clayton Allen Pickens, agent, New Home Guy Realty, San Antonio
“I was a news anchor/reporter on local and national TV for more than 10 years before becoming a REALTOR®. I had to think fast on my feet, be able to synthesize complex information and explain it in layman’s terms to a wide audience, talk to a variety of different people, and present myself in a polished, eloquent manner on camera. These are all skills I’ve transferred to how I quickly learn about different properties and neighborhoods, explain CMAs and contracts, and interact with different clients and customers. I appear on camera for video tours of my listings and host my own weekly YouTube/Facebook show.”
—Julie Yau Tam, managing broker, Lyn Realty, Houston
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