My First Day in the Real Estate Business
In 1999 I was getting ready to graduate from Carlisle High School. My birthday is in July, which equated to me graduating at seventeen years old. I had known from a very early age that I wanted to be a real estate agent. Looking back, I don’t have the answer as to why or where that became a goal or focus, but it was something I held firmly to. Things may be different now, but back then, you had to be eighteen years old to sign up for real estate classes at Hondros College (which is the institute that most utilize to cram for passing the state exam)
I had some time to kill.
I wasn’t a lazy teenager, I had been employed at the local Dairy Queen since I was fourteen, and had worked my way through those ranks in just three years to become a night shift manager. I wasn’t blessed with patience, and nothing aggravates me more than sitting around doing nothing and waiting. I was looking in any and all directions for a foot in the door, or some real estate experience, but my hands were cuffed.
A whole year… shit.
One of the more attractive things to entering into real estate was the course time at Hondros. I could spend three weeks in school, pass the state exam, and be a real estate professional. Three weeks!?! That was my language. I had a good time in high school, but I was not a text book student. I'd rather drive an ink pen into my leg, than sit it school any longer. I developed a problem with authority. Anytime that authority was what I interpreted as unjust, I stood up to it, and that became my personality.
Brent Warmoth 2001
It must have been my mother that pressed the idea of an actual college into my head. I know I didn’t want to go to school anymore, I had done my time. I was a “C” student, with zero scholarship help. I might have gotten a hundred and fifty dollars to help with first semesters books at Miami University for being left-handed, but again, that was all my mother spending red eye hours to research and dig those types of things up. So there I was, in a desperate attempt to be moving forward in some way, I was locked in to attend Miami University for small business management with a focus on real estate. If nothing else, I’d be doing SOMETHING.
At that time, I was a member of a local Church of Christ. I spent a good portion of my youth attending that church with my brother and our friend Eric McDougall. We had grown up with a small youth group of kids and most of us were graduating in 1999. Much like an awards ceremony at a high school, the church was going to hold a ceremony of it’s own to acknowledge us kids that were graduating. It was held one Wednesday evening after regular service. We all were to take a minute at center stage, explain who we were, what high school we attended and what our future ideas were. After individual applause we were each given a certificate of some kind and a Bible with our first and last names inscribed in silver at the bottom right corner of the front cover. It was special, I still have my Bible.
The following Sunday after service I was approached by a well-known deacon of the congregation. It startled me. I had been attending this church for over seven years, typically every time the doors were open, and this guy had never spoke to me. I will refer to him as John.
Once a quarter the church would have “state of the union” meetings. Eric’s dad was also a deacon of the church and had to attend these discussions. As he was our ride home, we often were to sit in on these gatherings. All of us kids were afraid of John, but we respected him. When these meetings were held, he was all business. He would lecture about the finances and spoke very eloquently and stern. He was always dressed to the nines. Even in July and August, you never saw John without a full pressed suit on. We would often joke that the only reason the church was able to stay afloat was John’s money. We knew he was rich. He would often invite the youth group over to his home for Super Bowl parties or bible studies, that sort of thing. He didn’t speak to us, but he was always willing to open his home to us. John lived in a mansion. It was a mansion to us then and still is. Adjusting for inflation, John’s house is worth around $800,000 and would swallow four of our houses. It was no secret that John was a real estate Broker in the area.
John approaches me with a firm handshake this one particular Sunday morning after service.
“Hi, Brent. John Doe.” I must have stuttered “Yes, sir?” He says “Earlier in the week I heard you say that you wanted to become a real estate agent?” I again stuttered “Yes sir.” He flipped me a business card that was already strategically pinched between his index and middle fingers. “Give me call, if you want to see my world.” These were his exact words, they are singed into my brain for life.
John promptly turned and dismissed our conversation. I felt like ten thousand angels were swirling around me. I had caught my break, this was the foot in the door I had been praying for and I was too foolish at the time to realize that it was right under my nose. I now have a leg up on anyone that was flirting with the idea of entering into the world of real estate. When I got home, I couldn’t wait to tell my mom. There was a sense of celebration throughout the whole home that Sunday. Everyone was acting like the Miami Dolphins had just called and asked me to join their team, and I sincerely felt that way. I didn’t care what “call if you want to see my world” meant. I didn’t care if I had to float around his office and empty trash cans, I just wanted to be inside a real estate firm any possible way.
Mom convinced me to not seem too desperate and to wait a day or two before calling, so I did, but finally the moment came. It was time to call John and see what riches lay before me. This was long before the days that everyone had their own personal cell number. As wealthy as John was, I don’t even think he had a cell phone, perhaps a pager. I dialed the numbers embossed on the card he gave me. A treasure that I coveted as if it were my birth certificate. My call rang to his residence, his wife Jane answered. I told her who I was and that I needed to speak to John, also that he had told me to call. There was a long wait for him to come to the line. I remember hearing her breathe and seems like I can remember hearing his dress shoes clacking across the marble tiles in his home to retrieve the phone.
“Brent! Glad you called, can you be at my place at eight in the morning tomorrow?”
I had played this conversation out a half a million times before I made the call. I didn’t see this scenario coming. Once again, he startled me, and once again I sputtered “Yes sir.”
He said “great, I’ll see you in the morning, wear something you don’t care to get dirty.”
Then he hung up the phone.
Now I’m really confused, but I’m still excited beyond belief. I replayed the conversation in my head over and over again trying to figure out why he would ask me to dress the way he did. I certainly had planned on dressing the sharpest I possibly could have for my grand real estate office entrance. I couldn’t sleep that night, to the point where one starts to worry that eight a.m. will come sooner than later and now I’m concerned with getting enough sleep and for God’s sake not being late.
Seven thirty a.m. I thank God I’m awake and prepared. With a pair of scrappy blue jeans and an old white t-shirt on, I climb into my bright blue ‘87 Pontiac Fiero and head off to the pearly gates. When I arrived at John’s house (five minutes early because that’s the kind of guy I am) he was standing outside of his big white truck parked in the cul-de-sac talking with another gentleman who’s also as nice of truck was parked in front of John’s. I exited my Fiero and walked towards the two men talking, making sure to keep my distance from their conversation and politely wait my turn to speak with John. They took their time discussing the matters that be for the day when John finally turned to me, acting as if he had forgotten that I was supposed to be there. I don’t even know if he knew who I was.
“We gotta talk money.” He barked. I said “Uh, okay?” “Ten dollars an hour good with you?”
By now you know my reply… “Yes sir.”
He explains to me that he has to get to the office right away, but he will return shortly. There is an empty wax box at the top of the driveway. He wants me to take that box and go around the parameter of his home and pick the weeds out of his professionally landscaped flower gardens. Needless to say I am no longer confused as to why he asked me to dress the way he did, I’m furious. How did me addressing the congregation that I wished to become a real estate professional translate to John that I was looking for summer work? I had a job at Dairy Queen! In fact, I was scheduled to work that night from six to close.
I convinced myself not to panic, that there must be some sort of miscommunication. I took several deeps breaths and thought, maybe this is a test? Maybe he just wants to see how hard of worker I am before he lets me “in”. I decided to do this job to the best of my ability, I had no experience in landscaping but picking weeds wasn’t rocket science. I snatched up the large box and sunk my knees into the first vacant spot in the bed of stinky, warm, moist mulch. I scooted along for over two hours, playing mind games with myself that I was going to pull up something expensive instead of a weed. I gave it may all. I gave it 110%. John arrives back at home just as I am on my last acre. I drag myself out of the bushes careful not to spill my way over-filled box of weeds. Trying to wipe the sweat out of my eyes with my shoulder, only smearing dirt all over my face, I make my way over to John for instructions on how to dispose of my collection. I was happy with the job I had done and John seemed to be too. He said “lay that down right there, Jane will get it, hop in the truck.”
Halleluiah! I’ve passed the test! He’s taking me to the office, I am done with this hell-hole. I’m embarrassed to be climbing into his nice clean truck because I am dirty and smelly, but I didn’t care. I was going to finally have a chance to talk to John face to face and maybe clarify our agreement, let him know what I really was looking for. He squealed around the cul-de-sac circle in a hurry to get out of his plat, driving at a speed that I felt was stupidly unnecessary. “Thanks for doing such a good job this morning, I want to show you something.” My eyes were stinging from sweat, but my attention was all his. We drove maybe a quarter mile down the street and he whipped into an undeveloped subdivision. There was a lot going on back there, trucks and construction folks everywhere, but there wasn’t much to see. It was nothing but paved streets puzzling through squares of dirt and temporary poles. There were street signs that had been erected and he was quick to point out to me that the main entrance street is his last name (Doe Ln.) and that all of the other corresponding streets were named after something to do with his family. I was impressed. I thought, I suppose that’s when you’ve hit the top, when you have a street named after you. John was looking for a specific lot, or more importantly a specific person. He found this guy and pulled up slowly rolling his window down. I was listening very inventively as if I would understand anything they were talking about. Detention basins… I remember that being said.
As we started out of there, John was jotting something down on a paper pad so I didn’t want to interrupt his concentration by trying to small talk him. We pulled back onto Doe Ln. headed towards the main road. I knew the office was down the main road to the right so to my dismay, we turned left. Where are we going now? The office is the other direction.
John brought me back to his house.
“There’s a ladder set up on the rear of the house, could you get up on the roof and get my gutters cleaned out for me, I’ll be back around lunch time.”
By this time I’m fighting mad, I hate him, I hate that he has scammed me into being his slave, disguised as helping me learn about real estate, but off to the back of the house I went. Did I mention that in today’s standards this is an eight hundred thousand dollar home? There are peaks and gables to this house that are forty feet in the air. I have no rope, no safety harness, just a gigantic ladder shadowing over the top of the lowest roof line on the back of this house. I make the climb, I’m frightened every step, mostly crawling around on my belly scraping my knees and elbows on the blistering hot shingles as I go from East to South to West back to North tossing gobs of twigs and dry leaves from the gutter system. I’m at a loss for words at this point and have made the executive decision that I am going to climb down from this job, get in my car and head home and never speak of this to anyone. I’m down, I looked all around the home at the mess I had made spewing debris and the thought entered my mind about asking Jane for a rake to clean it up, but my Fiero was within site, I just have to get to the car.
“Hey honey!!” I heard shouted from the massive glass front entry door as I’m half way down the driveway making my escape. It was Jane, I went back up to see what she needed. She handed me a box of lightbulbs. Not just any light bulbs, these were crystal shaped light bulbs with a very intricate design to the glass, like a thousand little triangles to create the dome, these bulbs must have cost twenty five dollars a piece. She asked me if I cared to use the ladder to go around the house and change all the exterior light bulbs. These exterior light fixtures were works of art themselves. Each one of them was a puzzle to figure out how to break into to change the bulb inside. It’s now round one p.m., I’m exhausted, I’m crushed, I’m disappointed, but at any rate, I will change these light bulbs and get the hell out of here, I’ve got to be at MY JOB by six p.m.
I’ve got maybe two lights left to change, John pulls in.
“Oh I didn’t know you were going to do that, that’s great! Hey, I’ve got a pressure washer sitting the garage that I rented two days ago, you think when you finish up with those lights, you could pressure wash the deck on the back of the house?”
My “Yes sirs” have turned into a frustrated “Sure.” I’m defeated. This guy is going to work me into a grave today and he doesn’t even know my name. I know the size of the deck, I just stared down onto it from forty feet in the air. I don’t know what to say anymore, I’m dizzy. I wrestled this large gas powered pressure washer all around the twelve hundred square feet of the deck. Fighting bees, I’m soaking wet from the back spray. Jane comes out the back door “Honey did you take a lunch?” I let loose of the trigger, “No… Jane I didn’t know I was allowed to take a lunch? I just keep doing what you guys ask me to do.” She had a look of disgust on her face “Oh, John… Brent let me go in and make you something to eat, you’ve got to eat!” I continued spraying for another twenty minutes. There was something wrong with one of Jane’s legs. One was much shorter than the other or something, she walked with a terrible limp, so bad that it was pirate like, and I knew it was going to take a while for her to return from doing anything. She finally returns to the back door and hands me a plate containing a sandwich. Two pieces of wheat bread blanketing a slice of kraft hamburger cheese and a slice of tomato, also a diet Coke. I was so thirsty and hungry that I wasn’t about to complain. I hated diet soda, and I had never eaten a sandwich made of cheese and a tomato. I appreciated the lunch, I even more appreciated the fifteen minute break I took to consume it.
I know I have a job to finish, but now I am totally half-assing. I’m spraying the deck off, but I am not paying any mind to what kind of job I’m doing. I have to get out of this place. It’s past four thirty, I’m so sore from the work I had performed. I knocked on the back door to retrieve Jane. I asked her if I could make a phone call, I had to call Dairy Queen to let them know I was not going to make it into work that evening, which was NOT my work ethic, I never did that. It killed me.
John returned home once again around five thirty. I was finishing up pressure washing the deck. I didn’t care if he approved. I didn’t care what he said to me about it. I wanted to beat him with a claw hammer, and the next thing out of his mouth, to this day is one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever heard.
“Well, like I said, I rented that pressure washer a couple days ago, It’s due back in the morning, I’d really hate to have to rent it again, I need you to go next door and pressure wash my sons deck also.”
His sons house was to the left of his, if you were looking at his front door. His sons house was just as big as his house was. I said “Okay, John.” And he went back off in his truck. I drug the operation next door and pressure washed that entire deck as well. By the time I had finished, it was past eight p.m. I wrangled the machine back to a presentable return status and stored it back in John’s garage where I found it. I was broken and I wasn’t doing one more thing. I was leaving. I went and knocked on the front door to once again beckon Jane. She came to the door. Before she could say a word, I said “I have to go now, I’m heading home, I’ve finished up with the neighbors deck.” She said “Okay sweetie.” And then stood there wondering what else I wanted.
“Well I haven’t talked to John, am I supposed to come back tomorrow, or do you know what the plan is?” “I’ll have John call you, he’ll call you tonight and let you know.”
John never called me… John never paid me… John never spoke to me again at church.