Remembering My Bat “Woman” / Batman like Triumph
By Bernadette A. Moyer
I wish I could remember the name of the book but I was just a teen when I read it. It all sounded so glamorous. The main character was a female and she drove a white exterior and tan leather interior Jaguar XJ6 and she was the “it” Realtor in town. Everyone knew her and she listed and sold property practically in her sleep. She did business at the country club, on the golf course and out at dinner in the most posh restaurants and bars.
Real estate selling seemed so romantic and glamorous to me so at the age of 26, after already having been widowed and left alone to raise my daughter I set out to seek my Maryland state real estate salesperson license. I wanted to buy a house and the only person I truly trusted was myself. I studied hard often going to the public library and staying in the “quiet room” where no one was allowed to talk. It was there that I studied and studied. I was on a mission and I was determined.
During my classes I heard about all the agents that came before me and how often they failed the state testing. Some took it as many as three times. I knew I didn’t have the luxury of failing. Taking the courses and then the test wasn’t cheap. Plus you had to drive into another town and be there in the early morning hours. I studied and I studied hard, I wasn’t even going to go until I was certain I was ready and could pass my test. Failure was not an option.
When my test results came back I had a 98% on the general and a 96% on the law portion, I only needed a 70% to pass. I was elated but this was just part of the battle, for years I was the youngest agent in my office. Most were much older and far better connected than I was but I had incredible determination.
Being a Realtor meant flexible hours and I could be there in car pool line to pick up my daughter and drop her off to school every day. I was tenacious as I started marketing my services. I never owned a home so I had limited personal reference and at that time I was renting a two bedroom apartment. Some of my fellow agents were living in multi-million dollar homes and here I was renting for something like $550 a month.
It was the 1986 and one of the first listings that came across my desk was “Villa Paca” a historic home then priced for just under 2 million dollars. To this kid and at that time it was a fortune. I may have said, “holy shit“ when I first viewed that listing. I soon caravanned and viewed it with my fellow real estate agents. I was all eyes and ears as I listened to them critique this property. Of course I didn’t utter a word since I was completely out of my element.
When my manager accepted me as a new salesperson she gave me a desk, a chair and a phone in what was called a "bullpen" style stationed office. I was pretty much on my own to make it happen. Everyone else seemed busy as they hustled around from appointment to appointment. They were listing and selling homes. There was a huge board in our office that listed the names and the property each agent had either brought in to sell or had sold. I wanted to be named on that board. Not being on that board pretty much meant I didn’t exist. And if I didn’t exist, I certainly wasn’t making any money. I initially just sat there staring out in space. What was I supposed to do next, did anyone even care that I was here?
I started to gather all the names and addresses of all my contacts. Having come from the restaurant business and a high end restaurant frequented by many well-heeled patrons, I started there. Then I included my babysitter and my parents. Both trusted me to list and sell their homes and I sold them. I worked in both general brokerage and new homes sales. In new home sales I received a small hourly rate of pay. Things started to come together.
My first year I hit over a million dollars in sales, but it was the hard way. I had 13 homes sell so the average house was fewer than 100k. I felt like a social worker on a mission to put every first time home buyer I knew into their first house. New home buyers became my mainstay and my bread and butter customers and clients. I purchased my very first home that first year in Real estate when I was just 26 years old. It wasn’t much but it was only a year old and like brand new. My townhouse was located in a nice neighborhood and under $90,000. I assumed an existing mortgage so right off the bat I had equity in my house. Clearly, well to me anyway, I was on my way.
There were times it was lobster and other times like peanut butter in what we could afford. Sometimes I had to go 2 or 3 months before I had a house sell and would receive a commission check. But then by my second and third year, a big one would go and my check would come and be over $4,000, over $8,000 and even $12,000. I learned so much in real estate. I learned about finance and mortgages and contracts and about home construction and plants and trees. I learned about land development. In real estate you knew where the “it” people in your town lived and who was getting married and who was getting divorced. You knew who was on their way up and who lost their job and their income. You learned who had money and who didn’t. It was a really social business as you were constantly networking. Every single person you knew or met was a potential customer or a client.
I witnessed agents come and others go. During my classes we were told, “Look to your right and to your left, 1 of 3 people will still be in this business a year later, the other 2 will be gone. I lasted for ten years and then when I met my second husband, we both wanted a different lifestyle. He didn’t like me being out at night and on the weekends. Most buyers are looking at houses after they work. I worked many nights and most weekends.
The only reason I made it all those years was because I did whatever it took to succeed. I didn’t quit. I held open houses for the older experienced agents in the hope of securing a new buyer. When everyone left town during the hot and humid month of August, I covered their business and took their calls. This often led up to my ability to secure a new buyer or a new seller.
I had the luxury of picking my daughter up from school, running through the drive thru for her dinner and bringing her into my real estate office as I worked during the nights. She was a regular in my office for many years. There were many Sunday’s that she came along as I held an open house. My real estate career was a great fit for our life together.
Realistically I probably shouldn’t have made it in the real estate business. I wasn’t even from Baltimore and therefore not all that connected, I was so young and I never even owned a home of my own. I just had this dream and the drive and the motivation and I knew that I could succeed if I just pushed hard enough. I did just that. I was so proud to have been a Realtor, I was proud to have purchased my home as a single mother who was only 26 years old. I was so proud to have had lasting relationships with my buyers and my sellers. There were a few times that I sold the same house to more than 3-new buyers. I had built a loyal following that enabled me to be successful.
I can’t look back and say it was all that glamorous like in the book I read as a teenager, there were moments, maybe when it was a tad bit glamorous. I never got the Jag SJ6 but I did afford the house, a new car and a private school education for my daughter.
Looking back on my more than ten years when I was successfully selling real estate and providing a nice lifestyle for myself and my daughter as a single mom, this may have been my “Bat Woman” like triumph! Holy Batman, if you think you can, you can!