Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy New Year!

Greetings from the Big Apple. I'm about to embark for San Francisco, where my boyfriend left his heart about seven years ago. I spent Christmas with my family in Washington DC. It was the first time in many years that I had more than four days down there, and felt downright leisurely. I owe that to my new career as a real estate agent. After six years, I'm finally going to spend time with my boyfriend in California. Three weeks off in a row. Unheard of in a salaried job!

Let me thank those who commented on my last post. I'm still not 100% back yet, but I think I'll be ready to work after nearly four weeks off (my birthday is a week before Christmas... so it's like a month of high holidays for me!). Not that I wasn't doing anything real-estate related. I was working on my email list, speaking with landlords and working with current customers. December didn't yield much in the way of clients for me, yet somehow I feel a turnaround coming.

I am still having lots of trouble focusing on what's important. Today, for instance, I could have done a lot more than I did. I know that I'll always have more on my list than I can accomplish in one day, but I'm lacking focus that is sorely hurting my chances at making it in this profession. So focusing on time management is one New Year's Resolution.

Completing my personal internet presence is another New Year's Resolution. For one thing, I resolve to blog two to three times per week, instead of once every four to six weeks. That means shorter posts, but more information - I intend to write here about some of the buildings that I see, and perhaps (if I can figure out how) post some photos of them. Also I will be having a section called "what I learned today". This is a game that we play at Pennsic over dinner. There's so much to do at Pennsic, that when we all get together to eat dinner, the ranking member of the table asks each person what he or she learned that day. Usually it's something deep, something practical, and usually something medieval. It won't always be on this blog, but sometimes it will sneak in!

What I learned today: Wrapped Godiva chocolate somehow doesn't taste as good as individual chocolate pieces bought from behind the counter. But the bars taste pretty good. Maybe I just got a really stale batch!

On a final note, I finally watched the recent movie "Phantom of the Opera" made from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Now, I'm not the biggest fan that you will ever see. But I have seen the stage musical twice (once in DC, once in Toronto, NEVER in New York; maybe I should scrape $20 for a rush ticket before it closes next year), I have been to the Opera Garnier in Paris to probe box 5 (thanks to the very nice lady there), I have pretty much memorized the original cast recording (I like to sing along - it's hell to drive anywhere long distance with me), and of course, I have read the book several times. So, that makes me enough of a fan to make some comments:

The first thing that has always bothered me about the stage musical of the Phantom is that they never make the Phantom UGLY enough. Sure, they kind of scar up the right side of his face, but quite frankly, that doesn't really scare me. I mean, Gerard Butler is still handsome enough with half a normal face that I wouldn't really recognize it. To paraphrase the kid from "The Man Without a Face", I can see the face beyond the scarring. In Gaston Leroux's book, the Phantom doesn't really have a face. His has a "death's head" - eyes receded back into his skull so far you can't see them, no nose to speak of, and his skin is soft and pulpy and tears easily (he actually takes Christine's hands and tears it with her nails when she grabs his mask off in the book). And he wears a satin mask over his ENTIRE face, none of this sexy half-mask stuff. I understand the idea of license and the difficulty of working with prosthetics in theatre & film, but if they want me to buy the idea of the phantom being hideous and scary, they need to do a lot worse than what they did with Gerard Butler's face in the movie. I mean, that could have just been a freak accident from a fire - entirely plausible!

Secondly, when the phantom is wearing his mask in the movie, it's very obvious that he doesn't have his makeup on. The most glaring example is that the right side of his head has no hair on it in the final scenes. But he has a full head of hair WITH SIDEBURNS early on in the movie. Even when he's singing on stage in Don Juan Triumphant, you can see the hair. Then when Christine unmasks him, there's a terribly obvious edit right at the pivotal moment that totally distracts me. So amateur! Many actors in many other movies have suffered through the prosthetics necessary. You'd think they could make him up for the ENTIRE scene.

Finally, they made the phantom way too young. I see from Mr. Butler's bio on IMDB that he's about 36, though he doesn't look it to me. Emmy Rossum was about 17 when they shot it. That gives them a good age difference, but the phantom should actually be older than that even, in his mid-forties. They create a different history in the movie, saying that he had lived pretty much all his life from his teens at the Opera. In the book the phantom did start out with gypsies in a cage, but he escaped and spent a lot of time in the Near and Far East where he designed a labrynth for a sultan and perfected his mastery of the deadly Punjab lasso (which is not mentioned by name except as the "magical lasso" in the movie). And, since the phantom is so much older than either Christine or Raoul, he dies first, not Christine, the youngest of all the involved characters.

Oh, well. It is a good version considering that it's a movie adapted from a musical adapted from a book.

Good night all. It's 1:30 AM and I haven't started packing yet :(

Friday, November 18, 2005

Getting It Out of the Way Fast

Well, I have now passed the two-month mark at Citi-Habitats, the largest (volume-wise) real estate agency in the city. Unfortunately, things are not going as well as I would like. There are a lot of things about the rental business at CH that are very different than they were at Wenton Realty. My major problem is TIME MANAGEMENT. Now, I went through the "First Things First" course that Stephen Covey taught years ago, but somehow I am still not really able to get this done. Sure, I am able to define two or three things that MUST get done on a certain day, but I never seem to get past those things - and on to the true "Quadrant II" activities that really set you up for success.

At CH, marketing is important, but it is much more time consuming. I was able to post some 25 ads per day at Wenton Realty with the click of two buttons to craigslist. People search these things, if you can believe it. At CH, even if I do have more than the 6 ads that I'm allotted (I currently have 10), they take FIVE clicks to get into craigslist. And since I only have 10 ads online (whereas at WR I had some 60-70), I would have to post some 15 more manually every day - that would take me about two hours. So quite frankly, my marketing has suffered.

Plus, my commute has more than doubled. My previous office was in Union Square, about 2.5 blocks from the nearest F line subway stop. Now, I must transfer from the F to the V or E, which can take 10 minutes, then I have a 6 block walk to my new office which is in Midtown East. I can't just work from home as I don't have the access to the rentals database that is required. When it turns over into the new database, I theoretically should have this ability and that will cut down time. However as far as I am concerned, that conversion will not happen because, as in all my corporate experiences, these things never happen on time. Currently I believe they are six months behind. Hmmmm.

Yesterday was what could be called a "character builder". Two very annoying (and finanacially detrimental) things occurred. First, an exclusive listing that I had signed on Saturday was negated by a judge, who gave the husband of my client (they are getting a divorce and it is nasty) the right to choose a broker. Naturally he doesn't want me. So, there went a $700,000 listing down the tubes. Part of me selfishly is hoping that he'll get lost all this weekend and fail to execute an agreement by Monday, but I know that it is unlikely that will happen. There is a very slim chance of recovering this exclusive.

Then, I found out that a certain listing that was the first desire of a buyer I have been working with now has an offer on it, a decent offer that is likely to go into contract. I have no other listings to show this buyer at this point, so I'm screwed. Hopefully she will stick with me and will become more serious about buying. The industry addage is that all buyers have to lose one before they really start playing the game. This never happened to me. I was always lucky enough to get exactly what I wanted exactly when I wanted it. Maybe this is why I am having such a hard time.

I call these painful experiences "getting it out of the way fast". I'm trying to gain lessons from each one - it's the only silver lining I can take out of them. I feel like people all around me are making deals and that things just aren't happening for me, or perhaps are happening TO me. But I can't give up. I've just put too much time and effort into this. I know if I can survive the first year that I will make it eventually, but I feel like the counter has started all over again.

Boy, sometimes I feel like this blog sounds really whiny. Do I sound like this all the time?? I know I have spine and resilience - everyone says so, but I feel like a fake. Does everyone else feel this way and hide it?? I tell myself that is the way of things. But I have to wonder. People seem to be succeeding all around me. What are they doing that I'm not?

I worry that I don't love this business enough. There's not really a business that I love so much. They say to really succeed that you can't just be in it for the money. Well, I'm in it for the money. Perhaps what they mean is that I need to focus on doing what I love doing best. I love investing best. Citi-Habitats isn't the best place for investing. Would I be happier working for an investor? Someone who could teach me more about investing? I have been successful at investing. Quite frankly, it is what is keeping us above water right now - our two investment properties are holding their own and starting to pay some of the bills for us with the cash they are throwing off. I knock on wood and pray that this continues. Thank god I managed to do this before I left my job. Where I would be if I hadn't I shudder to think.

I'm very jealous of my boyfriend Michael's blog Michael finally has some good following, whereas I don't really. He does manage to post more often which helps things. I'm going to try. I'd love to get some more discussion, but then again I need to focus less on me and more on how my experiences can help other people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Starting Over AGAIN!

So friends, here we are some three months later, and what a three months it has been. Wenton Realty is no more, my friends, and I mourn for it. The owner decided to take a salaried job with Citi-Habitats, one of the largest firms in the city, and close his little brokerage down. It was hard - his agents weren't making money, except for me. I was keeping my head above water and even climbing out of the hole. I even began a sale that was going to get me completely out of the tank.

Then it all tanked.

I looked around for some other places to work but decided on Citi-Habitats because they allow agents to do both rentals and sales. But it's a much harder row to hoe. Much less exposure for me. The systems aren't as good - a lot of manual labor to post to Craigslist. Just harder to do, more time intensive. And the manager controls all leads that come directly into the office - but he has 65 agents to give them to, not just three. I'm not doing so great right now. I went straight from one training to the next - scheduled to finish next week. It took up a lot of time but the fact is I just can't work as well. I have to travel a minimum of half an hour just to search a database. It drives me crazy. I've had no calls at all from Manhattan, just Brooklyn. I might have to consider switching again, but AGAIN, after a time investment of almost two months?? It's the kiss of death, I think.

I'm a very stubborn person and I don't want to give up. I think if I go back to office life I'll kill myself. I think the only way to go is forward. This is a very anxious time for me, and I'm very sad. Sad for what Wenton Realty could have been. Sad for what I could have been for it. I loved the arrangement I had there. In a way I guess I'm mourning for that still.

It's quickly becoming painfully obvious that referrals are king here at Citi-Habitats. I'm procrastinating a bit but finally started getting some of this. I guess I've always been one to try to do things on my own. Asking people for help is very difficult. But, I can't go back. I've burned that bridge and want it to stay burnt. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where I am for now. Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Future or Just a Sabbatical??

If there's one thing that going live without a net will teach you, it's how much of your life is really up to timing & coincidence. And how important time is. Although I thought I knew this when I was working on a salary - even salary & commission - it's so much more apparent now. Before, my time was worth $20/hour. No more, no less, so if I didn't get as much as I could done, well, it didn't make a difference. Now, 24 hours can be worth nothing, while one moment can be worth half a million dollars. The trick is knowing which one and getting it right when it comes along. I haven't had any half million dollar moments yet, but I'm working towards them.

I'm also learning just how important credit is - it really smoothes out the bumps. Before, it was something to be protected, jealously guarded, not used. Now, I need it, and thank goodness I have it. Sometimes I have trouble making payments, although the mortgages are being paid on time every month - I'm making just enough to ensure that. The rest comes when it comes. I haven't had a moment to finish up my taxes yet - but it's on my list. Hopefully I'll finish it out during the long weekend. Looks like my plans for the Fourth have fallen through, so I'll have plenty of time.

Well, kind of. I'm still trying to paint my bedroom. If I can just get this done, I can remove so much clutter from the living room and perhaps even make a private oasis from which to work, where there's no tv to distract me :( It's not so much when I'm alone as when my boyfriend's home - he's got that thing on all the time. I've been sleeping in the living room for the past week. The painting's going slowly, and before I finish I have to paint our pavillion so he's not sleeping in a sieve this Pennsic - the new tent still not having been finished :( But I need an industrial sewing machine for that, and that's way down the list of things I need to spend my money on.

I have begun tithing 10% of my income to charity. I've always enjoyed giving to charity, and this ensures that I can do so on a regular basis. I'd also like to start tithing to my SEP IRA - that's to come.

In just two weeks I will have been pursuing this lifestyle for five months. Not doing as well as I thought I would, but I'm starting to see some things peak. I need to create systems, and I also need reconfirmation from my boss that he still has faith in me. If not, then I may need to start over somewhere else. It would be a shame, though - six months is thought to be the real starting point in a real estate career.

So I'm going to sign off, do some housework and prepare for a bunch of those half million dollar moments that will come my way soon! Happy Fourth to all.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Real Estate Brokers Have Feelings Too!!

In five days I will reach my three month anniversary as a real estate agent. I have seen moderate success, being in the midst of my fourth lease transaction. I have managed to gain one exclusive listing which is generating lots of interest but no offers yet. Anyone want to buy a coop on Prospect Park?

I find that most people in New York don't think much of brokers. Worse yet, they seem to be so lost in their own world that they think my time is theirs. They don't seem to care that we have no salary and don't get paid unless a transaction is completed. Worse yet, they think we are people to be avoided.

Obviously someone out there has given us agents very bad reputations. I wonder who that could be? The nature of the business doesn't give me a lot of time to get to know people and show them they can trust me. It's sometimes a very lonely job.

If I could tell people one thing, it's to be prepared with your paperwork before you come out to look. I have actually had people come to tell me "I didn't know for sure that I would find something I liked, so I didn't bring my paperwork". And they kind of act like petulant children, as though they were shooting ME in the foot instead of themselves! I understand that people want to pull back and think about things, but if I had a dollar for each person I've met that wanted to think about an apartment, called me the next day to apply, and found out that it was taken already, I'd be able to buy lunch & dinner for a week!

My friends, you MUST be prepared with the following items when you go to look for an apartment in New York City:

copy of photo ID
bank statement showing funds
two paycheck stubs or letter from CPA certifying self-employed income
copy of most recent tax return
letter of employment stating position and salary.
All of the same above for a guarantor if you need one!

People ask me: why do I need all of this? Quite frankly, it's because landlords want to make sure that you are a good tenant, and without all of this stuff, people have found ways to game the system. In New York, the landlord-tenant courts are notoriously friendly to tenants, so if a landlord gets a deadbeat, he may be forced to wait up to 6 months to get this person to move out if he pleads hardship. THAT's why they ask for all that stuff!

Do all landlords require all that documentation? No, but all of them require some of it. You never know which home you will fall in love with, so it's best to bring all of it.

You know, if I were to show up at an appointed time with no idea as to what's available, how much it costs, or where it is, you would say that I'm wasting your time, right? Well, you're wasting my time if you show up unprepared to apply for an apartment that you like. So be kind to your local New York City broker and get all this stuff together before we meet. I promise you, I will hold up my end of the bargain!

Check out my latest listings (and what I look like) at

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sunday, March 27, 2005

This is Not an Abandoned Blog!!

Good evening friends!

Happy Easter!

This post finds me happily writing from beside the sea at my father's house in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. I have had a pleasant time and will be heading back to New York tomorrow evening.

It has been some time since my last post and though this blog has sat idle, I have not been. It has been in my thoughts for quite some time and I am excited to get back to it.

I personally have gone through several changes which have pushed blogging to the back of the priority list. Chief among those is the fact that I actually finally quit my job! That's right. I actually quit my job and have become an independent contractor - specifically, a real estate agent. Look for a link to my real estate brokerage's website shortly!

Now that I am no longer employed, I am exposed to a wonderful new world. I have already completed two deals and am learning firsthand about the swift consequences of my actions - lessons that are muted when you are on a salary, even one as miniscule as my former employer's. I hope to share with all of you my journey further into personal freedom!

One thing I have already learned is that sometimes time is more valuable than money and therefore it is best to pay someone to help you out. To that end, I will be looking for someone to help me out in my ongoing need for web presence - namely, to design a site for me. If you are interested in doing so, please contact me - I would be very happy to hear from you.

I have been horribly lax in my tax preparation and will probably not be able to post until after April 15. Until then, adieu!