Whether it’s getting behind the wheel of a vehicle or any number of other life-changing moments, you almost always remember your first time.
And for those in the real-estate profession, that very first transaction often brings back memories – some happy, perhaps some a little embarrassing.
And given how much the real-estate world has changed in recent decades, there is much reminiscing to do.
One Realtor, Casey Samson, Samson Properties, gave a summary of how the industry has significantly changed since he started.
“Wow,” he said when asked about the first transaction, which was “back in 1981, Money Corner off West Ox Road. I would say it was a nice old couple, but now I am older than they were. They were very patient with me and we did eventually sell the home without incident. It is amazing to think how far things have come:
• From cards delivered to every real estate office, to MLS, to the Internet.
• From office phones, to fax machines, to personal computers, to cell phones and iPads.
• From a small ad for open house in The Washington Post to targeting buyers on social media.
• From guessing on pricing to sophisticated pricing models that lock down prices.
• From collecting agent cards of visiting agents to Website analysis of traffic and comments, as well as instant notifications of price reductions or contracts.
• From driving around presenting to sellers and agents and getting signatures on contracts to electronic signatures.
• And the biggest innovation of all, going from the NVAR 300-page map to GPS.
I was presented with a brochure from 1998 when selling a home the other day. It looked turn-of-the-[20th]-century to me.
Real estate has evolved to a high-tech, online, fast-moving, pricing-driven, social-media marketing machine, but old-school principles like service and picking up the phone still are critical to success.”
What memories do other top producers have? Here are some:
Karen Briscoe, Huckaby, Briscoe, Conroy Realty Group, Keller Williams: “It was 2002. I was a new agent for about one month. Someone called the office about a condo listing in the Old Town Alexandria area. I didn’t just want to take them there and be a door-opener, so I checked other listings in the area to show them. They didn’t like that original listing, but eventually bought the second one I showed them, which was more of a townhouse. That definitely was a thrill.”
Mark Middendorf, Long & Foster: “It was in 1989. My best friend wanted to wait to buy until I got my license. We did a one-page contract, front and back and presented it to the owner. It was pretty cut and dry back then, with no computers. Houses also weren’t staged back then they way they are today. It was all so very different.”
Carol Temple, Coldwell Banker: “I absolutely remember. I sold a modest frame house on Lincoln Avenue (near West Street) in the city of Falls Church to a young couple. I don’t recall the sales price, but I do remember that my commission was a whopping $630. What I remember most vividly was that the buyer called me the following spring to relay her experience submitting their Virginia income-tax return. That was 1973 and, at that time, taxpayers submitted Virginia tax returns to the treasurer in the jurisdiction where the taxpayer lived. After April 15, the homeowner received a phone call from the city of Falls Church treasurer’s office letting her know that there was a mathematical error on the homeowner’s return. The caller offered reassurance: ‘I just erased your numbers and replaced them with mine.’ We got a big laugh out of that.”
Casey Margenau, Casey Margenau Fine Homes & Estates: “It was a John Sekas remodeled home on Creek Crossing road in Vienna in 1989. I was the buyer-broker on that first sale, which was unusual back then. I had passed my test and gotten my license, but I had not yet received it in the mail, and I didn’t even have a lockbox key. We closed within a month of me getting my license.”
Dean Yeonas, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “It was 1979 or ‘80 and I was the listing agent of a townhouse in Reston. The other agent was an older broker and he really went out of his way to help me through the transaction to get everything right. He treated me like I was his kid. If I saw him today, I would give him a hug. Because of him, I try to be the same way with younger agents in the same situations.”
Jack Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “I was the listing agent on a brick colonial in Arlington in 1978. A home inspection was wanted back then. It was a challenge and an eye-opener and took a lot of effort with my father working me through the process. Before that, at age 12, I was cutting the grass of a home my father had listed. He gave me the keys to the house if I needed a bathroom break. A potential buyer came by and wanted to go in. I let them in, and my father eventually sold them the house. He attributed the sale to me being smart enough and having the instinct to recognize them as serious buyers and let them in. He told me real estate was in my blood.”
Archie Harders, Long & Foster: “Though 37 years ago, I remember it well. It was a bungalow in Rosemont, Alexandria, selling for $179,000. I remember the sellers being pleased with the language I used in the brochure. I remember the selling agent; we became buddies. I still chat (on Facebook) with the sellers, who now live in North Carolina and celebrated 54 years of marriage.”
John Mentis, Long & Foster: “It was a referral from another agent. This was in 2003, which, although similar to today’s market in that inventory was painfully low, everyone could get approved for a loan because the lending guidelines were so lax. So transactions were extremely streamlined and simple: no inspections or contingencies, multiple offers on every property, and cash was king. The transaction itself went very smoothly as a result.”
Christopher Wilkes, Washington Fine Properties: “Ahhh, the olden days. One of my first real-estate sales was in 1999 and was a condo listing at The Belvedere in Rosslyn. It was a one bedroom unit overlooking the river and priced around $140,000. The seller was overseas in an area where even landline phones did not work well, so calling and faxing was a challenge. After 20 days on the market and more than two dozen faxes later, we closed and the seller and buyer were extremely happy.”
Bill Groom, Long & Foster: “After coming home from college, my father had plans for me to get my real estate license and join him in our family firm – J. Fuller Groom Realty. While I was taking classes to get licensed, my father wanted me to experience what an open house was, and how to conduct one, etc. My father told me not to really talk, just be a guide and show anyone around the house that came by. A young couple loved the house and wanted to know how to make an offer. My father actually signed a contract with them the next morning. I made a lot of money that day, and basically just showed a house to someone. Looking back, I wish all my deals were that easy.”
Eli Tucker, Eli Residential Group: “My first transaction was with a close friend in Baltimore City, way outside of my market. I remember that I forgot to setup my access card for that area and, on our first showings, it was cold and snow all over the ground and I couldn’t get us into half the homes we wanted to see. I must have called my broker 100 times for advice. Thankfully, he was patient and understanding. Ultimately, they got a house they loved, at a good price.”
Steve Wydler, Wydler Brothers of Compass: “I remember two things. It was a $2 million house in McLean in 2003 and, at the closing table, my client asked if that was the biggest deal I’ve ever done. I remember how happy my clients were, and I realized I would like real estate, because you have a human personal impact.”
Craig Mastrangelo, Re/Max Allegiance: “What I do remember, and serves as a barometer of just how far we have gone as an industry, utilizing technology, is that all contracts and listing agreements were hand-written and all negotiations (i.e. counter offers) were sent back-and-forth via facsimile machines. Over time, contracts became illegible and often, after ratification, we would have to draft up a legible version for the parties to sign (again) just so the terms could be read.”
Gloria Adams, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty: “At the closing in the late 1980s for a home on Balls Hill Road, the paperwork wasn’t ready because no one was available to type up the HUD-1 forms. I asked them if I could type them up, they said OK, and it took me about 20 to 30 minutes. But it got done. That was doing things the old-fashioned way. I will never forget that.”
Joan Stansfield, Keller Williams: “My first transactions were rentals, which was great practice as newly licensed agents are not at all trained how to show homes, negotiate or write contracts. I recall being nervous and quite embarrassed when I got locked out of the first home I showed – with keys and paperwork inside – and sent my client and her mom to the next home while I got help. That same rental client has since purchased, sold and purchased again with me over the past 12 years.”
Robert Hryniewicki, Washington Fine Properties: “I remember all the details. I represented a buyer in her purchase of a one-bedroom condo on the second floor at the Columbia condo residences in west end of D.C. Since the unit was located within the historic part of the building (formerly the Columbia Hospital for Women), the unit had 11-foot ceilings.”
Betsy Twigg, McEnearney Associates: “It was a 1980 condo sale in Arlington. I was surprised I could really pull it off, because I didn’t know what I was doing, but I held my breath and it worked out. My clients thought I knew everything, so I guess I did pretty well fooling them. They are still my clients now, and now I’m selling their children property. You look back now with the way real estate is, and you wonder, why it can’t be so easy?”
Rob Ferguson, Re/Max Allegiance: “It was in 1991 and that was when you could buy a home and freely assume the mortgage of the seller without having to qualify for the mortgage. The property was in Herndon and the buyer was a landscaper in Arlington. He gave me $5,000 in cash for a deposit, which completely freaked me out. We closed in a few weeks and didn’t have to qualify for the loan or pay any more money out of pocket. It was quick and relatively smooth.”
Craig Burns, Keller Williams: “It is a vivid unforgettable memory. My good friends trusted me to list their home in Vienna and wanted to have enough money to downsize and move to Culpeper. Thankfully, they received multiple offers with escalations and were able to receive more then their list price. I was meeting with my team when the first offer was received. I literally started crying with joy, as I had left a career with 40 years experience. Freshly licensed, launching a new career with all the financial responsibilities had created just a little tension.”
Dawn Wilson, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty: “I was the listing agent for a lovely townhouse in Fairfax that sold quickly for over list price. It was meticulously kept and showed very well. The transaction went smoothly, and the buyer’s agent was very professional and pleasant to work with. As a new agent, I spent many hours making sure everything went smoothly and that each step of the way was done correctly. I did not want to disappoint my client.”
Dave Adams, Coldwell Banker: “My wife and I work together and I can vividly recall our first real-estate transaction. It was a beautiful home in Oakton that we listed and sold for $1.7 million. We priced this home correctly and it sold for 95 percent of the asking price. What did I learn? When the house is in good condition and the clients listen to your professional guidance and you price the house correctly, it will sell quickly.”
Natalie Roy, Keller Williams: “I remember that first deal, a listing, as if it were yesterday. It was overwhelming, and I learned you never know what lies around the corner. Every deal has its own complexity. Early on, I was fortunate that a more seasoned agent was available for advice at my brokerage. My first listing was a previous rental, and I learned the hard way, prepping a house for market is hard work and not a piece of cake.”
Dee Murphy, Long & Foster: “I remember it like it was yesterday. I listed a home in a neighborhood where all the comparable sales were short sales. I had to do a ton of research to justify the sales price to the buyer’s appraiser. The appraisal came in $5,000 under contract price. This was a huge win, because the comparable sales were $40,000-$50,000 lower. That was my first lesson of real estate: appraisals are subjective.”
Tania Hosmer, Keller Williams: “I obtained my Virginia license 13 years ago. A few years prior, I was vice president of a real-estate investment firm. In my first transaction as an agent, I represented our family in purchasing a bank-owned townhouse in Old Town Alexandria. The home had been gutted by the previous owner and sold “as is.” The transaction went smoothly, and we completed the renovation in about five months, despite the home being in horrible condition. Our family kept the property as a successful rental, and eventually sold it for a profit.”
Carol Ellickson, Sotheby’s International Realty: “I had a very unusual start more than 20 years ago. My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. I had gotten my real estate license right before she was ill, and I wasn’t sure if I could juggle working and attending to her. So my first client was a pediatric-oncology nurse who knew my situation and trusted me to list her home. With help, I was able to pull it all together, and the home sold quickly and my sellers were very happy. I could only work with one client at a time for quite a while, but I persisted.”
Mike Highman, Acquest Realty: “It was the fall of 1986 for a $130,000 rambler in North Springfield. When we went to settlement, the buyers came to the table with a bag of cash for the down payment. I didn’t think anything of it until the settlement attorney hesitated. We were in a different world of real estate at the time – 12-percent interest rates, dial-up to get listings on thermal paper, two-page contracts, and paper sheets of new listings came from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors via courier every week. Real estate professionals from the West Coast were talking about doing something about radon and home inspections.”
Joy Deevy, Compass: “It happened after I volunteered to do an open house for an agent in my office. A couple was looking to buy their first home. I offered to show them other homes after I realized the one I was hosting wasn’t the one for them. We found the right house and we wrote the handwritten offer (that’s how we did it 18 years ago). As I was going over the offer, I could see that they had no idea it was my first one. I think they thought that I had done several offers before. Since then, I have helped them three times in their home sales.”