Monday, December 7, 2015

The Accidental Agent

 “You should go to real estate school,” our realtor Jennie told me late last spring as she drove my husband Kevin and me around Gig Harbor looking for our latest live-in fixer upper. And a few months later, after I unpacked most of our boxes in the home we bought from a bank and was looking for something to keep me occupied while Kevin and his crew finished building a home for a client, I clicked on a few web-links, charged my credit card, and began my studies.

I signed up for real estate class without my usual careful research, without investigating the ramifications at all. I enrolled thinking that when I was finished, I’d get my license and then, armed with a lockbox key, I’d be able to scope out houses without having to bother our realtor. I would save her time, and us a little money, and I’d no longer be trespassing when I walked around the yards of vacant for-sale homes peering in windows.

Simple, easy, wrong.

Two-thirds of the way through my coursework when the topic turned to broker regulations, I realized that if I got my license, I’d be in a continual loop of continuing education. But that was nothing compared to the commitment Jennie had made to me: My license would only be good if I was affiliated with a firm—hers—and for the first two years all my activity was required to be closely supervised and approved by the firm’s designated broker—her again.

I passed my licensing exam, got fingerprinted, and went to Jennie’s office to sign an independent contractor agreement. I paid fees to join the Multiple Listing service and obtain my lockbox key, and signed up for classes on navigating databases and real estate forms. And then, I took some time to contemplate my answer to the question Jennie asked the day I joined her small cadre at Infinity Real Estate: “Now that you have your license, what would you like to do with it?”

The obvious answer was simple: Save on costs for YellowRibbon Homes (the company I founded with my husband). If I were the broker that negotiated the sale on homes we bought to renovate, part of the commission would come to me. And, if I listed our completed homes for sale, there’d be no need to pay me commission. But that hardly seemed worth all the time, energy, and money I had and would need to put into being a licensed real estate broker.

And then, while I multi-tasked folding laundry and sorting paperwork with the TV on, ideas formed as I watched HGTV shows like The Property Brothers and Fixer Upper, where the business partners—two brothers; husband and wife—are licensed realtors and licensed general contractors who combine their skills to help clients find and renovate homes to meet their needs.

Why not become “The Property Couple” and use our interests and skills for an identified client, rather than always renovating homes on spec and hoping to find a buyer? I enjoy hunting down properties, researching records, and exploring possibilities. Kevin has a wealth of knowledge and skills to turn ideas into reality, and we have quite a bit of real estate involvement as both buyers and sellers.

I made a mental list of our real estate history: 

-Purchased a vacant single family home with conventional financing, extensively remodeled, and sold that house after 10 years. 

-Bought land with cash, took out a construction loan, installed a manufactured home on a site-built first floor/foundation with all the necessary infrastructure—water, electricity, septic—converted to a conventional loan when finished. Refinanced that home several times before selling. 

-Purchased 2 condos for family members. One was a short sale. Rented out one of the condos for several years before selling. 

-Assumed title and mortgage payments on a family member’s home for a number of years, went off title when the member was eligible to finance with a reverse mortgage. 

-Purchased a manufactured home on site-built foundation from a family member’s special needs trust, making private mortgage payments, rented out that property for a number of years before selling. 

-Purchased a vacant fixer upper for cash. Renovated and sold that house. 

-Purchased a project house with a hard money loan, converted to self-financing. Sold the renovated project house. 

-Rented a home for a year that required a number of repairs, many at our own expense, and became familiar with tenants rights. 

-Made offers on 2 homes that weren’t accepted. 

-Cash purchase of a bank-owned fixer-upper without “marketable title” (the garage was built over the property line) and proceeded with a boundary line adjustment to fix that issue. Renovation to begin in 2016.

-Current purchase contract on an occupied short sale property that also has boundary issues.

Additionally, the church I served in California had several rental cabins, and we dealt with landlord responsibilities of improvements, repairs, evictions, etc. And finally, I have been searching real estate and community data websites nearly nonstop since mid-2011.  

When I framed my experience this way, it helped me view my decision to become a realtor not as a whim, but as a natural progression of my skills and interests. And it helped me to see that although I’m newly licensed and have a lot to learn, I have a good amount of first-hand knowledge (and of some unusual issues) to draw on.

Though I wandered into a real estate career as an accidental agent, I’m now an intentional agent looking to make my vision a reality, aiding others in the important decision of where to live. The best way to find clients is word of mouth, and I’d appreciate your help. Please keep me in mind if anyone you know is looking to buy, sell, or renovate a home in the Kitsap Peninsula area of Washington—that’s the west side of Puget Sound. My email is

The Property Couple


  1. Congratulations Cathy! This is a great vision for your real estate career, and what I believe to be a niche opportunity in our market. I've been privileged to be part of the Yellow Ribbon Homes team, and see the phenomenal partnership you and Kevin have, as well as the wealth of skills and information you both bring to the table bring your projects to expertly crafted completion. Your shared commitment to honest, ethical construction practices (e.g. by the book... all permits obtained, home inspectors love your work), together with your determination to provide meaningful employment opportunities to our returning veterans, are much needed in our communities, and ripe for growth. Your core values mirror those of mine for Infinity, which is why I have felt so privileged to be affiliated with the two of you since you arrived in Washington. I have no doubt your addition as the YRH dedicated broker will enhance your success. I now welcome you officially to the Infinity Team, and look forward to helping you both achieve these new goals as you start this new and exciting chapter!!

  2. Thank you Jennie. Your support and expertise are invaluable.