Why I Chose Real Estate: Blame it on the Airlines
I had the great fortune to be raised in a 1920’s lakefront cottage inSandusky, Ohio by a father and mother who met and fell in love on the shores of Lake Erie. When I was 3 months old, my parents bought their first house together on the Cedar Point peninsula. As a child, I felt that my home was one of the most unique and beautiful spots on earth. I still feel that way.
We walked out our front door and crossed Cedar Point Chaussee (French for country road) to a private beach onLake Erie. Walking out the back door, we crossed our backyard, dangled our legs over a seawall, and fished with bamboo poles in Sandusky Bay. Where else on earth can you have a waterfront and “waterback” home? Since that time I’ve lived on Maui, inLuxembourg,Idaho andCalifornia and visited most of the 50 states. The only place I’ve found that comes close to Cedar Point where there are private homes is a small stretch of land along the outer banks of North Carolina.
I adored our house on Cedar Point Road, built as a summer cottage with 5 bedrooms and a sleeping porch, a dormitory-type room that stretched acrss the front of the house and was a favorite place to have sleepovers with our friends. From the start, I knew how lucky we were to live there. The house had 64 windows that my mother complained about every spring when she single-handedly washed them. A cool breeze always blew through the house in summer and even in winter with all the old windows and 4 entry doors. Our heating bills must have been huge but my parents never seemed to mind. On the coldest days we’d sit on top of register grates in the floor to do our homework and dry our hair. That big, old house was the perfect choice for parents who loved the beach and for my southern mother who lived to entertain. For my 2 sisters, my brother and me, it was an idyllic place to grow up and invite our friends.
In winter we walked out the back door to ice skate onSanduskyBay. We skated until our toes were numb. We spent long, summer days floating on giant inner tubes in the lake, sailing our Sidewinder sailboat onSanduskyBayor streched in the sand working on tans. Occasionally my parents drove us a mile and a half down the road to Cedar Point amusement park where we each got to choose one thing to ride in the days when there was no entry fee and tickets to ride were 25 cents. We’d head home, our fingers and lips sticky from the cotton candy, candy apple or snow cone my dad bought us as a bribe to leave the park. When we turned 15, our first jobs were working at “The Point”.
Early on, I understood the wisdom of my parents’ choice to decide to purchase that particular house on that particular lot situated between Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie. They taught me the importance of “location, location, location”. They lived happily there for 34 years and reluctantly sold it once my dad could no longer maneuver all the stairs or handle the harsh winters. By the time they were in their 70s, Florida attracted them more. The house at Cedar Point that they’d purchased in 1954 for $25,000 sold for many times that amount 30 years later.
By that time, it was the mid-eighties and I was living on the West Coast. My dream job as a travel agent in Southern California had lost its appeal. PCs were becoming mainstream and airlines now allowed travelers to book their own reservations. As airlines no longer needed us to sell their most lucrative tickets, we would lose the 10% commission from each ticket sale. That would eighty-six the free and reduced tickets and trips we sometimes received for selling a lot of tickets-mostly to business travelers. Working 40 hours a week for $12,000 was okay as long as we had the carrot of free trips dangling in front of us. Without that, the thought of being chained to a desk all day for so little compensation lost its appeal.
During one particularly slow day, a coworker and I discussed a career in real estate. We reasoned that if the average house in the area sold for $300,000 and the average commission was 6%, we would only need to sell one house to make more than we were making in an entire year as travel agents. Making the switch to real estate seemed like a no-brainer.
Obviously, we were naïve about how commission splits worked. We were also incredibly optimistic as new and aspiring agents tend to be. We enrolled in real estate school together and ended up joining different companies. One month after getting my Realtor® designation, my doctor delivered his congratulations. I was pregnant. Despite debilitating morning sickness and the excitement of preparing for my first baby, I listed and sold my first property, a condo across the street from where my husband and I lived, within the first two months on the job.
That year turned out to be as productive as I’d imagined. I listed and sold 4 condos and 5 houses. My husband and I revamped, put on the market and sold our own condo in order to purchase a 4 bedroom ranch. We fixed up a nursery. The high point of that year was the birth of my daughter two days before Christmas in 1989 in our new home.
I spent the first year of her life juggling new parenthood with being a newly-licensed Realtor®. There were some awkward moments like the time a childless couple who lived in the condo next door to my listing asked me to stop by and check out their home. With my daughter cradled in one arm and a cloth diaper dangling over my shoulder as a barf barrier, I did my best to appear professional. My infant daughter chose that moment to projectile vomit on my shoe and the prospective client’s doormat. We all pretended not to notice.
Despite a few embarrassing moments, that first year convinced me that Real Estate and motherhood were a good mix. My former coworker from the travel agency didn’t feel the same. Six months in, she quit the business in disgust and went to work for McDonalds. She said she longed for something less stressful and more predictable. Flipping burgers at McDonald’s provided that for her. I thrive on the variety and unpredictability of selling real estate. I like that no two transactions are ever the same, there is always something new to learn and you get to work with so many interesting people from all ages and walks of life.
My daughter turned 21 in 2010 which also marked my 21st anniversary of selling homes. During her lifetime, we bought and sold our house in California and moved across country, settling on another coast 10 years ago-the North Coast of Ohio. I dreamed of moving back to Ohio and finding an older home like the one I’d grown up in surrounded by water and trees. My husband (now my ex) had other ideas. He did not want a fixer or anything that might require ongoing maintenance. We built a new home in Huron, Ohio in 2000.
This house is close enough to Lake Erieto hear the waves on windy nights, feel the cool breezes in summer and hear the fog horn at the end of the Huron pier. During winter I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to sit on a register in the floor to keep warm and my heating bills are low. Still, lakeshore living continues to call me and I know that the day is coming where I’ll answer that siren song and buy a house on the lake. In the meantime, my goal is to help others find and purchase homes on or nearLake Erie so they and their families can build the kinds of memories I had growing up alongCedar Point Road.
> Copyright© 2011 Ann Steinemann