As I write this, tomorrow is my third wedding anniversary, which loyal readers of this column will know marks a milestone, because it was around the time I got married that I stormed out of my corporate job and decided to adopt a cool real estate life. The transition from employee to freelancer opened doors I’d never expected — including the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to write a book — but it caused all sorts of emotional and financial turmoil, too.
A year ago, I wrote "the first goal is, of course, stay married." Unless something absolutely catastrophic happens in the next three hours — and no newlywed worth their salt is going to absolutely rule that out — we’ve got that one covered. Ivan claims the character of the loyal and long-suffering husband is underplayed in this column, so let me say publicly: Honey, thank you. Hubby got promoted, too, which is a fact I’m as proud of as any ’50s wife.
For me, last year was my first full year working real estate in New York. It opened with a monster achievement: the close of a particularly hairy co-op purchase. It was my first sale representing a buyer, and at various times the selling broker, one of my sponsoring brokers, the buyer’s lender, and the buyer’s lawyer told me that we weren’t gonna close. My client believed me that we would, and we did!
I had another buyer success in getting a perpetual shopper to contract. She is one of those buyers who had to see everything, and did, and then backed out of the market, and then put her toe in again. We cycled around like that several times, and probably saw 50 properties. Her deal hasn’t closed yet, so I can’t count it as a chicken, but even getting a contract was huge.
Other than that, though, real estate was choppy, choppy, choppy. I write and speak about real estate half-time, and trying to prioritize the other half as an actual part-time real estate business is nerve-racking. I spent a lot of time with buyers who wandered off, decided they didn’t have money — my favorite was the guy with $10 million who decided he was too poor to buy a $1 million apartment — and just in general soaked up my time. I took a listing with high spirits in March and now, five offers later, I’m still hawking it. Getting jumbo financing is still a struggle, and many, many customers are deciding to rent instead.
Of course, I know the market is a slog. I had a heavy-hitting New York broker — one of those guys with a million-dollar-commission paperweight in his office — tell me that the market now is difficult, it’s all about the buyers, and that’s why he’s OK with not having any listings right now. And I thought, "Erp, what’s going to happen to ME if YOU don’t have listings?" But the truth is, my listing presentations get better every time.
I also had the joy of learning that I could work while pregnant, although that was a far more torturous experience than anything I had been led to expect. They call it "morning sickness" because "constant vomiting" is too shocking a phrase to use in polite company, but let me tell you: Saltines, lemonade and ginger are for the birds. I developed a deep love for the medical drama "House" because everyone on the show was sicker than I was. I was so sensitive that I felt a little seasick continually, and I would throw up anywhere that had new carpet. Christopher Columbus and his men were on a little ship on the open ocean for five weeks; I was ill for double that, and I learned to work anyway. If that didn’t prove to me that I was tough, then I had the sadness of learning I could work after a miscarriage.
That whole trauma made me want to drink wine, spend money, and spend money while drinking wine. Despite that impulse, our marital finances are improving, although still incrementally. This past year we paid off our credit-card debt entirely, which was one of our goals and a huge milestone. It’s still a struggle to pay our quarterly taxes, but we’ve learned how to live on what we make. Our mortgage debt came down, but our HELOC debt bumped up a little. (I blame the new driveway I bought for our beach house.) The score last year: mortgage debt $518K, HELOC and credit-card debt $23.4K. This year: mortgage debt $508K, HELOC debt $25.5K.
Goals for next year? Well, we’d like kids, although we’ve learned painfully that there are some things that you can’t just plan. My husband is turning 49, so I’d like to throw him a good party or at least slink out of the country. Our friends have been so wonderful lately; I’d like to spend more time with them. Working around the family thing, and the writing thing, I’m going to list and sell some real estate. For one thing, I’m getting good at it, and for another, I’d like me one of those fancy paperweights.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
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