Sold on being a solid agent

EVERETT — Often, and with a grim expression, people offer their sympathies to Casey Price over his recent career change to real estate.

He just smiles, cites his sales numbers and finds something positive to say.

The slower market means he’s more disciplined, he’ll say. His youth and lack of experience makes him hungrier for a sale. And he finds it encouraging when other agents tell him there is never a good time to enter real estate.

“I was encouraged by that because it means now is as good a time as any.”

That unflappable attitude is part of the reason why Price, 26, has survived his first year as a real estate agent, and has done well enough that he plans to make this a career. He has closed 16 deals, eight of them since April. Not bad, considering it takes many novices three or four months to close the first sale, said David Maider, the broker at Price’s Windermere office.

“It’s a great time for a new agent to be in the market because they don’t know any different,” Maider said. “We have a lot of people in this business that don’t realize the real estate business has cycles. Some are very discouraged and they are working pretty hard to earn their money right now. Casey is working hard but with an attitude that doesn’t have that past history.”

Maider estimates about half of all new agents leave the business within a year. Price is doing well partly because he sticks to a business plan, something most agents don’t bother with.

“He and I regularly sit down and discuss his business plan,” Maider said. “I bet 80 percent of agents don’t have a business plan. They don’t know how they’re going to succeed and Casey does.”

An Everett native, Price earned his license to sell real estate 15 months ago, right when the subprime mortgage mess began to make headlines. He wanted to make a career change because his marketing job offered little opportunity for advancement in this area.

It’s not a move he made rashly. He pored over real estate books, went to open houses to watch agents work and interviewed people in the business.

Once he received a license, he took just as much care choosing what real estate office he would join. He could go with a desk-fee office, where he would rent a workspace but keep all his sale commissions, or he could choose a split-fee office, where all the agents share what they earn.

He settled on a Windermere desk-fee office in south Everett. Choosing a desk-fee office was a riskier move, but one he hopes will pay off in the long term.

“If I’m going to do this, I’m going to jump in with both feet and take the risk.”

His office is a bustling, busy space he shares with about 60 other agents. For around $1,500 a month he gets a small desk in the middle of a dozen cubicles. That fee helps pay for an office receptionist, association with the Windermere office, educational opportunities and the support of his colleagues. He likes his seat in the center of the activity, 10 feet from the office’s broker; he said he learns more.

Price also pays for all his own office supplies, his laptop computer, photocopies and the printing fees for the three boxes of 500-count business cards he has nearly finished handing out. He pays for his cell phone bill and the gas and upkeep of his car. Those aren’t cheap, considering he has logged 32,593 minutes on his phone and 28,000 miles on his used Volvo sedan.

His success has a lot to do with adopting good work habits. There’s a difference between doing work that matters and filling time with fruitless activity, he said.

Some of the work that matters includes handwriting personal cards and notes to potential and existing clients. Some of these cards mention his business and others don’t. So much of working as an agent is about building relationships with people, he said. When he first started work, he wrote 250 notes to everyone he knew. He figured if he had to work for someone, why not the people he already knew?

Price is a voracious learner. He continues to take classes, read and seek advice from other agents.

He also daily checks properties on the Multiple Listing Service and visits properties for sale. He said he views more properties in person than the average agent — an estimated 600 in the last 15 months.

“That’s an important part of my business, not just looking at homes online but walking through them,” he said. “I feel I know Everett when I’ve gone through homes: which neighborhoods are the best price and the best opportunity and which are overpriced.”

He holds two to three open houses on Sundays a month. Price represents both buyerS and sellers. While he enjoys working as a buyer’s agent, another agent gave him an important piece of advice: If you want to last, you need to list.

Representing a seller comes with some important benefits for an agent. Holding open houses allows him to meet people who might become clients, he said. Planting a for-sale sign in a neighborhood with his name on it serves as an important marketing tool. Outgoing and affable, Price said he doesn’t have trouble making conversation with strangers.

One attribute that does bring him a bit of trouble: his baby face. At one open house, he was restocking flyers in the for-sale box when a neighbor approached and asked, “Is your dad listing that property?”

“Consistently, people walk into an open house and people say, ‘Are you old enough to sell real estate? You look about 14.’”

Price said those awkward moments serve as a conversation starter and an opportunity for a good laugh. Wearing professional clothing, such as slacks, a dress shirt and a tie, helps. And this winter Price added another element to his wardrobe: the sweater vest.

“I don’t know if it worked but I felt older,” he said. Maybe because his father wears sweater vests.

Price said the most challenging part of his new career is staying focused on work. On a warm sunny day, sometimes it’s hard to not slip on the shorts and flip-flops and forget work.

“Everything about my job is about being self-motivated,” he said. “I show up to the office and no one is there to say, ‘Casey, this is what you have to do today.’ “

Price believes the path to success isn’t waiting for things to happen. An experienced agent told him the job was like riding a bicycle uphill. Stop peddling and you start rolling backward.

“I knew it would be work and I didn’t get in this to coast.”

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com.

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