Let Gary McMillen be you guide to selling real estate

  • By Andrea Brown, Herald Writer
  • Thursday, November 1, 2012 8:16pm
  • LifeReal estate

In Gary McMillen’s class, it’s OK to snack, doodle and daydream about million-dollar homes.

In fact, it’s almost required.

McMillen teaches aspiring agents the brass tacks of real estate. Everything from law and contracts to mold and math.

“You are going to have to deal with rectangles,” he warns students, as if geometry is a matter of life and death.

“Squares are rectangles,” he adds, much to the relief of half the class, who weren’t so sure.

The 90-hour course is required to test for a real estate agent license in Washington state. McMillen puts it this way: “It’s a doctor’s degree in real estate.”

Students can take it in a live lecture classroom or online. Many opt to take the textbookish version online.

“It is boring as heck online,” McMillen says.

The 70-year-old instructor brings warmth and passion to a tedious topic. He brandishes a dry-erase marker while using phrases such as “You bet your nippy.” Depending on his tangent, his blue eyes penetrate or sparkle.

“He doesn’t play games,” says student Amador Zamara, an Everett contractor eager to tackle the embattled yet emerging housing market.

McMillen holds class on weekday evenings and all day Saturday at Century 21 North Homes Realty on Highway 99 in Everett. Fluorescent lights glare overheard, and evidence of stale coffee hangs in the air in the cloistered arena of folding tables and stacking chairs. There might be three students or 10. It’s a rotating curriculum, meaning students can start anytime. Some take two months to complete the $500 course. Others take years.

They come from trailer parks, town homes and mansions: truckers, bouncers, bankers, farmers, immigrants, engineers, nurses, journalists, cocktail waitresses.

To prepare for the proctored state exam, McMillen drills them with grueling mock exams.

“Those were harder than the actual test,” says McMillen grad Dafna Shalev, a Bothell paralegal and Skyline Properties agent.

It pays off: McMillen says 90 percent of his students pass the state test on first try, well above the statewide rate of about 70 percent.

“The people who write the tests want to mess with your head and confuse you,” he says.

McMillen is encouraging, in his own way.

“You can’t believe how many idiots have real estate licenses,” he says.

It’s a cutthroat industry.

“You don’t understand this yet, but most people would love to go around you,” McMillen tells the class. “They will use you and abuse you and throw you away. You are going to meet so many people you don’t like in this business.”

This seems hard to believe, coming from such a likable guy.

“People come into this business all vim and vigor,” he says. “They think, ‘Hell, it’s fun to go look at houses, so I’ll get a license.’ They say they like people, can talk to people. They can talk Mariners and Seahawks.”

That helps, for sure. But you also have to talk lot size, survey and square feet. That’s where those rectangles (and doodles) come into play.

Still, that’s not enough.

“The real challenge is not getting a license; it’s learning how to sell.”

The how-to gospel according to Gary: “Join a church, even if you don’t believe: You’ll get business from it. Dress like you are going to meet Bill Gates. You don’t need a new car, but it should be clean. Don’t neglect volunteering; it gets you around people with money.

“Everybody is a potential client.”

Indriani Thie can vouch for that. The Seattle Century 21 agent scored one of her first clients in the waiting room while her car was getting serviced.

She commuted from Shoreline to take McMillen’s class after graduating from college last December with a finance degree. “He’s funny. He tells a lot of stories,” Thie says. “He’s a very good instructor.”

With 30 years of teaching real estate under his belt, plus 20 years as a salesman, McMillen knows how to work a room. And after 50 years of marriage, he knows how to listen.

He trained agents and sold real estate in Kansas and Florida before moving to Washington about six years ago to be near his daughter and granddaughter. He bought a condo in Redmond that’s now worth a heck of a lot less than what he paid.

It happens. Even to the pros.

You bet your nippy.

To learn more

Number of approved real estate schools in Washington: 170

Approved real estate courses: 1,561

More information: www.dol.wa.gov/business/realestate/brokers.html

Source: Washington Department of Licensing

More in Life

Great Plant Pick: Pinus contorta var. contorta, shore pine

What: Who is not impressed by the beauty and toughness of this… Continue reading

Jesse Sykes brings her evolving sounds to Cafe Zippy in Everett

She and Phil Wandscher make a return trip to a club that she values for its intimacy.

Compost: It’s what every gardener really wants for Christmas

A pile of decomposed and recycled organic matter is the gardener’s gift that keeps on giving.

Need a centerpiece? Plant paper-whites for December beauty

The white flowering plant brings the garden indoors in winter, even if the bulbs were never outside.

Take a closer look: Winter gardens share gifts in subtle way

Go on a neighborhood walk this month to enjoy the seasonal beauty offered by a variety of gardens.

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Ugly Sweater Party and Canned Food Drive at Whitewall: Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing… Continue reading

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

Most Read