DOWNEY – It was September 2014 when I walked into the office of Steve Roberson, broker and owner of Century 21 My Real Estate, a midsize realty company in Downey. I had requested the meeting because I was 32 years old and at somewhat of a crossroads in my life. Steve, a fellow member of Downey Los Amigos Kiwanis, was a person I trusted and respected.
I loved my job as editor of the Downey Patriot and Norwalk Patriot newspapers (still do). But I had a nagging itch to try something different. After all, I was young, healthy and without children – what better time to take a chance on a second career?
I enlisted in Steve’s training school the following month, and in February 2015 I qualified for the state exam (nailed it). It took a couple of months for the State of California to process my application and background check, and my license was officially issued in May.
I was off and running. The next step was to buy business cards, create marketing materials (not an easy task for someone who doesn’t like to smile in photographs), and start getting my name “out there.” I created a Facebook page, started hosting open houses almost every weekend, passed out door-hangers in my neighborhood, and started calling everyone I knew, announcing my new (second) career.
My goal was to get people to view me not only as “the Downey Patriot guy,” but also as “that real estate guy.”
I’ve learned there are similarities to journalism and real estate. In both professions people reveal to me personal and intimate details about their lives. And in both jobs I deal with people who are often looking for guidance and support.
The hardest part has been explaining to family and friends my new second career.
“Oh, are you still working at the Downey Patriot?” they ask. (Yes.)
“Sell one or two houses a year and you’re set!” they say. (Not exactly.)
“Are you related to Carol Pearce?” (I wish.)
There’s a perception that real estate work is easy work, which is bunk because successful real estate agents are some of the hardest-working people of any industry. One of my mentors, George Gordon, likes to say that real estate is the lowest-paying easy work and highest-paying hard work you can find.
Anyone who’s purchased property knows there’s a mountain of paperwork attached to each transaction, and my job, in essence, is to understand that paperwork and translate it to clients in easy-to-understand terminology. (It’s not dissimilar to covering City Council meetings, come to think of it.)
There’s also the emotional aspect to real estate. Most of my clients so far have been first-time homebuyers, and many times they are families, with kids, who are tired of renting and are looking for a place to settle down long-term. There are also home sales due to divorce, death, and other unfortunate life events.
No, real estate is not an easy industry.
My other challenge has been more personal. Like many young, idealistic journalists, I grew up with dreams of becoming the next Jim Murray. I wanted to travel with the Lakers, have an assigned seat in the Dodger Stadium press box, and maybe take home a Pulitzer Prize for my trouble. I longed for my stories to be published in the L.A. Times. (Steve Harvey ran one of my photos in his “Only in L.A.” column, which is the closest I ever got.)
Going into real estate felt like I was throwing in the towel on those dreams.
Thankfully I have an understanding newspaper boss in Jennifer DeKay, who not only allows her staff to grow professionally, but encourages it. She’s allowed me to grow my real estate business while continuing to serve as editor of the Patriot.
Who knows, maybe some day one of my stories may still get published in the L.A. Times. But instead of sports, it may be in the “Hot Properties” section.