It's 2009. My (Christina) husband is at MOS training for the Army and I'm working 3 jobs (food server, retail, & dance teacher) whilst planning a wedding, preparing for recital, and a big move to Fort Campbell KY... the story of the Jersey Shore Beach Bum moving to Fort Campbell is a whole different story) I'm browsing on a military site for rentals and I come across a super cheap new construction townhome- $725 per month! I call the REALTOR® who's number was online RIGHT away. Immediately he began telling me why I should just BUY it. "It's cheaper to buy", he says, "and you have a VA loan, so it won't cost you anything. These are super salable, so just buy it and you'll make money when you sell it." I presented the idea to my fiance who thought I was insane. (he's the logical one and I'm the risk-taker) I told the agent that $725 for the RENT was just fine and took it sight unseen, like an idiot... anyway I digress. We arrived late June 2009.
The townhome was beautiful! I should pause to say that prior to this, I'd been living in a run down OC 2 Bed house on Central with no dishwasher and no AC or heat, so this was luxury to me, people! I soon realized that these were the quick build townhomes in a dangerous area... Our neighbors who had fallen for the spiel over the phone before PCSing (military move term) were hugely regretful. All of our doors were being kicked in and robbed and the landlord decided to do us a solid and install alarms that were not even connected to the police. That way we had a solid (though false) sense of security. This sucked.
About 2 weeks into my arrival, I took a job as a dance teacher at a local studio in neighboring Clarksville, TN. I met my very first and BEST friend in the Army, Karrie. Karrie and her green beret hubby had just purchased their first home. She brought my husband and I through it and we marveled. Like, literally needed to clean up the drool .... She was my age- 23. She bought this beautiful home. Was it possible for me too? Karrie encouraged me to begin house-hunting. there was only one problem...we were stuck in our lease.
We knew that there was only one way out: The REALTOR® in charge of the townhomes. We called Timothy (the agent- not his real name) and asked if purchasing a home was possible or if we needed to wait until our lease was up. Timothy assured us that we would be able to get out of the lease. After all, he would handle it. He had been in the biz "for thirty years", so we totally trusted him. We were so excited. We got our pre-qualification from Fulton Bank and called Timothy, who advised us that he would be showing us three homes and three homes ONLY. Of course we had no idea what we were doing, and he was so experienced, so we assumed this was the way. We waited for him to send us some homes... to even ask us what we wanted in a home...he never did. So we stood there like a deer in headlights. We had no idea what came next. One night, I decided to jump online and see what I could find myself. When you are given a pre-approval for a your first mortgage, you become house-obsessed. OBSESSED. (Don't lie, you've been there too!)
We chose three homes that we were interested in with our limited knowledge on what anything meant. The pictures looked great though! (All agents are LOLing right now) We set appointments with Tim to see them. We arrived at the first house slightly early. In Army culture, early is on time and on time is late. We were neck deep in military culture. We waited. Ten minutes passed. No Tim- No worries! Ten minutes late is normal. He's a busy man. We hit thirty minutes late. We called Tim. No answer. This was starting to get annoying. We were amped to see our first house and anxious to get out of the townhome community. Approximately 45 minutes after our scheduled appointment, Timothy showed up in his Prius, sweating, with no time for us. No apology for being late. No acknowledgement of the fact that we sat there for forty-five minutes waiting for him. Nothing.
After seeing three homes that we found on our own, which did not work at all, Timothy attempted to sell us on an old foreclosure that we would have drowned in financially. (I only know this now that I have had ten years of real estate experience.) In Jersey, it might've been the best we could find, and in that case, we likely would not have purchased a home on an Army budget and zero cash that we were working with, but we weren't in Jersey. We were in Tennessee, a military town with a booming real estate market and tons of inventory. Every other neighborhood was new construction. Unfortunately, we had little access to new construction online as there were no photos, and literally NO direction on what we should be doing. I felt worried and unsure. I felt stressed and overwhelmed. I felt confused and annoyed that I was not being guided. Was this what the home buying process was like?? Did Realtors simply show up 45 minutes late and not apologize, and then open a door and get paid?? That seemed very strange to me, considering my Grandfather and Father owned a real estate brokerage in Jersey and our house phone would ring constantly with client calls. He was constantly on the phone giving advice and guidance. Where was this guy?
After deciding that the run down foreclosure was not for us, we figured the only option was to go find a house
on our own. We went driving around Clarksville. We stumbled upon a house on Cider Drive. It was listed for sale and completely vacant. We peeked in the windows and KNEW we had found our first home. We called Timothy excited. He told us he would meet us there at 2pm. We arrived before 2pm smiling from ear to ear. We were ready to make an offer already!
At 5pm, Timothy showed up. 5pm. FIVE. Three hours late. My blood was boiling. I was hot, angry and and on the verge of tears when he arrived. How was this okay? I knew that people in the South were slower and that in the Northeast, we move much more quickly, but this felt like we were completely disregarded and not at ALL valued. Timothy let us in the house to do our own recon, as he talked on the phone to apparently clients who mattered more than we did. We loved the home and were ready to make a purchase. We followed Timothy to his office.
Tim advised us to pay full asking price, although the home had been on the market for four months with no action. We didn't know any better. We did what he said. He told us the terms that we would we would be offering, instead of explaining how it worked and empowering us to make an informed decision and feel in control. He called the agent and made a deal on the spot. Of course he made a deal on the spot. IT WAS A FULL ASK OFFER ON THE HOME OF A WELL KNOWN ACCUSED (now convicted) STATUTORY RAPIST FUGITIVE YOUTH PASTOR WITH NO ACTION ON THE HOME! Different story for a different day, so I digress. The point is, we should not have been paying full list price for that home. We also had to fight tooth and nail to get the agent to pay our security deposit back, because while he was SO confident that he could handle the security deposit, he had lied and tried to pawn it off as our responsibility. AFTER we were under contract. Cider Drive would become the only home out of five that I would lose money on. $14k, in fact. I would end up selling this home to my own buyer clients once I became a REALTOR®, and taking a $14,000 bath, on top of paying my brokerage their portion. (Whenever my clients get upset that their home isn't worth what they paid when they initially bought it, I am incredibly empathetic.)
That experience was borderline traumatic for me. I'd worked in a high end restaurant and at a high end retail store and I dealt with clients young and old as a dance teacher for many years. In none of those jobs, was I ever taught to provide a client experience as horrific as the one I'd experienced buying my first home. I felt like I'd been sold by a used car salesman like Matilda's Dad. Incase you don't know who I'm talking about, see the pic. There is a definite reason that people think that REALTORS® are comparable to this guy.
A little over a year later while in Hawaii dreaming about my future, as I do, I'd become inspired by Barbara Corcoran's autobiography, "Shark Tales", and become a REALTOR® myself. I decided that attempting to do it on my own could potentially lead to me becoming a Timothy, so I did what every humble, hungry, smart woman does.... I sought the best of the best. I called the top 2 teams in Clarksville and interviewed with them both. Ultimately I chose the Christian Black Team, a team that I am very proud to say that I am an alumni of. The team was run by a young husband and wife, Christian and Masina Black. They were WONDERFUL. They were hustlers, they were leaders, they were kind, and they were excellent at what they did. I sat open houses weekdays and weekends, dreaming of being a great REALTOR® who would provide an awesome experience for my clients.
Eventually I would move back to New Jersey, where I would join a top agent in Cherry Hill, then move back home to Atlantic County and join with a top team in Margate, enter into high level (and ridiculously expensive) business coaching, and join forces with a top team in Ocean City to absorb the knowledge, best practices, mindsets, and goals of the best of the best, before going on to build out my vision. Nine years of witnessing and hearing story after story the same experience that I had had when purchasing a home has fueled me to become fierce in my fight for excellence. Does it mean I win every time? No way. I fail. A LOT. But I analyze every failure (sometimes agonize over it) and use it to drive my team and the client experience forward to be more excellent. It's not always easy. In fact, it is ALWAYS hard. It doesn't just happen. It takes intention, passion, constant drive, strong leadership, systems, models, tools, tracking and analyzing to create excellence in an industry where there is so little. So it is always hard. But it is always worth it.
Sometimes, I take pity on Timothy, because I think we only know what we know. You may not know this, but a majority (an overwhelming majority) of REALTORS® are part time. When you become an REALTOR®, you become a business owner, not a sales person. Most (literally almost all) new agents don't even almost realize that, which is why so few are successful and sustainable. If we were salaried, perhaps we would have better training and direction on how to become great, but that's not how it goes in this industry. Agents are left to find out how to create, operate, and sustain a business on their own.
There is spotty at best training available at some brokerages, but for the most part, the responsibility lies on the Agent to figure out their own path of success and even at the top brokerages, real education costs MONEY - LOTS of money- ($1000 per month for a 30 min call 1x per week, anyone?) just to figure out your industry, how to be successful, and how to serve clients the way the NAR expects us to. I've paid thousands for conferences, thousands for coaching, hundreds for a simple course on just how to get business- FROM my own brokerage. That kind of setup, unfortunately is exactly what produces lots and lots of Timothy's who work part time to pay their bills with that being at the forefront of their minds, but truly have no idea what they are doing. The buyers and sellers are the one's who pay. It's a freaking total bummer. The stress of buying and selling a home is present no matter what. Our jobs, we believe, are to make that process smooth, easy, and mayyyyvbe even a little fun!
So in June 2018, Rockstar Real Estate & Media Group (formerly The Sciarretta Collection) came to life! We have gone through several team members who are no longer with Rockstar, because of our commitment to excellence. Every team member MUST step up and prove their commitment excellence or they're out in 30, 60, or 90 days max. We're raising Christian and Masina Blacks. We're not raising Timothy's. It's hard. And it's worth it. So let's see what happens over the next 30+ years, shall we! Where will we will grow? We're not sure just yet either, but we are crystal clear on our commitment to excellence and living out the vision, so whatever happens, our clients win. I hope you'll choose us. xo Love, Chris