I was thrilled to pass the test. But there were hundreds of dos and don’ts I’d need to pick up on my own
takes less time to become a certified real estate agent in the state of New Jersey than it does to get over chicken pox.
The two-week course was extremely technical, with a heavy emphasis on various state laws. Who owns the airspace above the house? What are the ins and outs of “eminent domain,” the laws that dictate when the government can buy private property without consent?
You put in a full day for two weeks, you sit through some classes that are brain-numbingly boring, you have the instructor to verify that you actually showed up — those are the easy parts. Then you need to take a state test. It’s long, difficult, and tricky; there’s an agent in town who openly shares he took the test 22 times.
I spent a week in the library, studying with anyone who was willing to hit the books with me — besides one girl who just kept saying, “We’re never going to pass, we’re never going to pass…” I didn’t want to be around all that negativity. She took the test once, failed, and gave up. What a shame.
School had never been my thing, and I particularly hated taking tests, so I asked everyone to put in a good word Above for me. When the non-Jewish receptionist called from the pediatrician’s office to remind me about our well-baby appointment, I asked her to pray for me. She assured me she would. I went to the grocery store and found myself telling the bagging lady about this huge exam I needed to pass. She happily joined my prayer camp. No such thing as too many tefillos — right?
And it worked. I passed on my first attempt.
I was thrilled to pass the test. But there were hundreds of dos and don’ts I’d need to pick up on my own. I was hustling like crazy — sending emails to anyone and everyone, telling them that if they were interested in buying or selling in New Jersey, I’d be happy to help them.
Baruch Hashem, I got my first listing almost immediately. On Shabbos afternoon. Well, sort of.
We were taking a family walk on Shabbos afternoon when an elegant woman in a luxury car pulled up next to me.
“Do you live around here?” she called out her window. “Do you know anyone who may want to buy in this area?”
“Yes, and yes,” I told her. “But today is my Sabbath. Let’s be in touch tonight.”
She pointed out her house, and on Motzaei Shabbos, I followed up, getting the contact info of her neighbor who wanted to sell. (And also had a talk with my rav about what I can and can’t say to random strangers who accost me on Shabbos and offer me business.)
The Garcias* set up an appointment with me for the very next evening.
There was just one problem.
In order to list a home, I’d have to sign a contract with the sellers, spelling out the terms of my serving as their agent. And although I could tell you all about who owns the airspace above your home, I had no idea how to fill out the contract — I’d never even seen one!
Sunday afternoon, I went out with my parents and kids for pizza, but I was so nervous I couldn’t eat. My parents asked me what was wrong and I admitted that I was about to make a fool of myself.
A few years before, my parents had been thinking of selling their home and had been in touch with a real estate agent, Shaindy Katz. Now my father said, “Call Shaindy! She’ll help you!”
“I can’t do that,” I sputtered. “She’s never going to tell me all her secrets.”
“Just try,” he insisted.
Reluctantly, I dialed Shaindy’s number. To my surprise, she was incredibly gracious, walking me through the entire process, covering both the technicalities as well as potential pitfalls I should look out for. I was so grateful.
Five hours later, I was facing the Garcias in their well-appointed living room. Luis Garcia was a large man who worked in furniture restoration.
“So,” he said, in a booming voice, “how long are you in the business?”
I gulped. I knew I could say whatever I wanted — he had no way to verify it — but I wasn’t going to go that route. I took a deep breath and looked him in the eye.
“I got my license a month ago,” I said, “but I’m super motivated and driven. I will do everything I possibly can to sell your house.”
He looked back at me. I waited for him to show me the door, to tell me he wasn’t interested in working with a newbie. But, for the second time that day, I had a pleasant surprise.
“I’m impressed you were so honest just now,” Mr. Garcia said. “I’m sure it wasn’t easy, and I admire that.
“I want you to know that I have a soft spot for Jewish people. The first people who ever hired me in the furniture business were Jews. Those men were so honest and hard-working, and committed, every time I see a Jew, I get a warm feeling in my heart. I’d love to have a Jewish person sell my home.”
Just a short while later, I sold the Garcias’ house to the Levins, a young couple from Brooklyn. In the course of our negotiations, their agent told me that Malky Levin also wanted to become a real estate agent. The next time we met, I told Malky to feel free to call me; I didn’t yet have much experience, but I’d be happy to pass on any tips and advice I could. I’d been the recipient of so much kindness. I wanted to pass on the gift.
to be continued…
*All names and details have been changed
In a training course I took, we were taught that when looking for potential clients, you should go through the ABCs and think of every person you’ve ever done business with. A – your accountant. B – your barber. C – your caterer.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 800)
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