In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.

Maria Dampman

Inman contibutor and powerhouse Virginia agent Maria Dampman knows what it is to seek and find balance as a pro real estate agent.

When she’s not working with clients or writing about real estate, she is riding horses or managing the menagerie at Smiling Cat Farm, the animal rescue she owns and runs in Purcellville, Virginia. We reached out for her wisdom and insight as we continue our “Lesson learned” series.

How long have you been in the business?

I have been in the business for nearly five years. A close friend of mine got into selling real estate about a year and a half before, and it sounded challenging but yet fun. I loved the freedom to set my own hours and be able to still manage my farm. I needed a career with flexible hours, and this has been the perfect career for that!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That’s a tough one. I have recently been diagnosed with a severe and rapidly progressing form of rheumatoid arthritis, and depending on how I continue to respond to treatment, I could still be out galloping around on my horses or I might be in a wheelchair, only time will tell.

I know I will still be in real estate in some capacity, still writing and still living on my farm no matter what happens. Real estate has taught me there is always a way when there is a will!

I would love to say in five years I’m involved in a prosperous real estate sales career focused solely on equestrian estates, farms, vineyards and other rural homesteading properties. I’m sure I will still be writing about real estate and farming topics on the side, and hopefully, riding my horses in national-level horse shows!

What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?

Set boundaries. Real estate can easily become an all-encompassing entity that swallows you whole. Set hours for work and hours for play.

I make a daily appointment to ride my horses as this keeps me sane, and I never take calls when on my horse. Set hours that you answer the phone, and sometimes you just have to shut the damn thing off!

Make time for family and friends, remember to eat, and if you are working with a client that is toxic in personality, fire them before they destroy you.

How did you learn this?

The hard way. You cannot give of yourself when you are so depleted you are barely surviving. You cannot live on coffee and adrenaline alone — eventually it will kill you.

Just like in a crashing airplane, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. You can’t help others effectively if you are crashing in your own life.

What advice would you give to new agents?

Advice for new agents: Set your boundaries early, and stick with them. Make time for those those things in life you don’t want to miss like your child’s dance recital or a friend’s birthday dinner.

Schedule everything you don’t want to miss out on just as if it was an important business meeting. Having trouble getting to the gym? Schedule it as a recurring appointment.

Your recharge time should be just as important as work time. How much work do you think you will get done if you are laid up in the hospital from exhaustion?

Remember, you are allowed to say no sometimes — you are not a beck-and-call agent but a well-educated and highly respected professional. Setting appointments and boundaries helps you more easily schedule a work-life balance and helps you set good habits from the beginning.

No matter what, with some creative thinking, there is always a common ground and a compromise that can be made where both parties “win.” Always be friendly, helpful, ethical and courteous.

If you follow this rule, not only will you have easier transactions, you will also make some great new friends in the process.

Are you an agent with a story everyone can learn something from? Reach out to us ( We look forward to featuring more of our best agents and brokers in a future edition of “Lesson learned.”

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook or Twitter

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