In the fall of 1981, I was stationed on the USS Enterprise CVN-65. It was in dry dock in Bremerton Washington. I had been married almost a full year. My first hitch was about to end in November. A decision had to be made soon. Stay in or get out. Being married put a little more pressure on that decision. Staying in would mean a lot of time separated from one another during many future sea duty tours. It would be a shared decision. We decided that I should get out. My acquired skills in the Navy were not going to allow for a huge income. My skills were aircraft director, needle gunning and swabbing decks. My guess was that real estate was a good way to make money. Real Estate would be it!
I would have to learn what real estate was all about, take an exam and become a real estate agent. I chose to take a class with Century 21. It cost $120.00. Having to save money for our civilian nest egg, any expenditure was taken very seriously. I studied every waking moment. I would lock myself in our bedroom for hours to have uninterrupted study time. At work, the reverberation of the muffled sounds of a needle gun pounding on a bulkhead, my thoughts would be of deeds and real estate laws. There were six other students in my class. Civilian men and women in their 30s and 40s. I was the kid at 25 years of age. The exam was the hardest test I had ever taken. It was made up with some questions having eight possible answers. You would have A, B, C, or D and then some would expand and offer A, B, C, D, or A and B, or A and C, or B and C, or C and D. Really, test preparers? Those used to be my favorite type of test question. My hard work paid off; I passed. The same could not be said for the other six students. The broker that taught our class immediately contacted me and offered me a job.
I started working out of his office almost immediately. I would finish my work on the ship and go straight to work with him. I was learning everything I could about the computer’s multiple listing service. It was new in the real estate business. It was also my first experience working hands on with a computer. I caught on pretty fast. Type in the blocks for the price range, number of bedrooms, baths and just about any combination of home variables and hit enter. Out will come a printed (dot matrix) list of all the homes on the market with those characteristics. So when someone came in or called, you could easily find a list of homes tailored just for them. .
The country was going through a recession at the time. That might explain why in class there was so much emphasis about how the real estate market was like a roller coaster. I learned the hard way that a prime rate of 21% is not conducive to making a living in real estate. Especially when working for commission only and no referral base to back you up. It was disheartening to have desk duty and pass on referrals to the broker and seasoned realtors. I would sit in the office for hours with no cold calls. In six months I listed only one home. I did not sell any. All of our nest egg was about gone. This is a tough business. Back then creative real estate was getting started. Things like assumable loans, balloon payments, anything to help the market. For us it was just not working. I made the decision to go to Oregon and try something else, anything. The recession was not too good for the job market either. I ultimately chose to re-enlist back into the navy.
Before I would do that, I thought uumm…. Real estate agents have access to every home on the market. I took my wife and me on a tour of the hundred thousand and multimillion dollar homes. Homes on the shores of Puget Sound are awesome. From three story log cabins to gated high security mansions. I enjoyed meeting the owners, most of whom told me they wish they had signed with me. Not as much as I wished! A commission on one of them would have made a big difference!