In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
After starting out her real estate career in Washington, D.C., Penny Craig returned to her former home area in Central Florida, where she works with buyers and sellers looking to relocate to the Sunshine State.
She brings an investor’s head for numbers — and stellar client service — to her work with families and retirees. Find out how she learned the hard way that in real estate, nothing is ever a sure thing.
How long have you been in the business?
Even though I’ve been a long time resident of Florida, I started my career in real estate six years ago in Virginia. When I was younger, my mom took the real estate classes and exam and didn’t pass by one question. For whatever reason, she never retook or revisited it, and from that day I was fascinated by real estate.
As I grew older, real estate became more and more popular with infomercials and TV shows about real estate investing and flipping.
With my mom’s past interest always in the back of my mind, I was drawn to these shows.
Fast forward — my husband and I were temporarily living in Virginia to help with his family, and I took my curiosity of the field into the classroom and got my license. Once we moved back to Florida, I started all over again and got my license here.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My interest has always been in real estate investing. In the next five years, I’d like to see myself focused on that. I love helping families find their dream home and helping sellers accomplish their goals of selling their properties, so that will always be a part of my business; my main focus will be on the investing and flipping aspect.
I’m passionate about looking at properties that most people would not want anything to do with and [turning] them into something that people would love to live in.
I would also like to have a portfolio of investment properties in order to earn passive income — my money working for me. My ultimate goal is to build my future so I can spend more quality time with my family knowing I still have a business that is bringing in money regardless of what I’m doing.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
Through my years in real estate, one of the big lessons I’ve learned is to expect the unexpected.
How did you learn it?
Early in my career, I had a client that owned a restaurant in a very prominent mall in Northern Virginia. Rent in the mall was pretty costly, and this restaurant had been there for many years, so the natural assumption was that they were very successful.
I was very excited to be able to work with such a client of this stature early in my career, as their price point was pretty high. They had their own lender, and they were even pre-approved.
We called this an A-plus buyer. I followed up with the lender, and all seemed golden, so we started our search for their new home. We spent many days searching, and then found “the one.” We put an offer in, it was accepted, and away we went.
Things seemed to go smoothly all the way up until just a few days before closing.
Then it happened: We couldn’t close due to financing. How’s that possible? They have this seemingly successful business, they were pre-approved, and we were all the way down to the wire.
Well, buying this house uncovered years and years of someone “cooking the books,” years of unpaid taxes, and the lender was a friend who was trying to help and didn’t do all the due diligence that was required.
I was on the phone with the husband, with the wife crying hysterically in the background, to say they have to get things straightened out.
I didn’t hear anything from them for a week. I took a trip to the mall to see them, and the restaurant was gone. All closed up — gone.
What began as a perfect scenario, took a turn for the worse, and I learned the hard way to always expect the unexpected.
What advice would you give to new agents?
My advice for new agents is simple. Never, ever count or spend your commission until the ink is dry on closing day. Like my restaurateur’s purchase, a transaction may seem fine all the way until the week of closing.
I had one client who, after looking at home after home, stepped into one particular house, still in the foyer, and said, “This is it!” There were multiple offers; ours was accepted, in part, because the agent said mine was the only one that had the contract written out completely and perfectly (that made me feel good).
Everything was running smoothly, and less than 24 hours before closing, my client sent me an email saying they wanted to delay closing. I, of course, inspected the situation and found that they had some frustrations with the lender and title company because we were still waiting for the final numbers. They insisted upon a new lender, a new title company and [extending] closing for 30 days.
Although, I understood their frustrations, I knew even trying to attempt any of that would probably make them lose the house. I knew how much that house meant to them, and I didn’t want them to lose it. I knew it would be something they would regret later, so I had to put my [firefighter’s] hat on.
Going back and forth between the lender and title company for several hours was pretty draining and stressful, and in the end, it worked. I was able to shift us back in gear, and we closed on time the very next day.
They have thanked me many times for the home, and they can’t stop talking about how much they absolutely love it. That is the most rewarding part of this job — being able to protect our clients from something they would have later regretted. It also helped me realize again, that you can never guarantee how things will go, so never count your chickens until they hatch!
Are you an agent with a story everyone can learn something from? Reach out to us (contributors@Inman.com). We look forward to featuring more of our best agents and brokers in a future edition of “Lesson learned.”