The Elevator Is Broken, Take The Stairs...

Real Estate Agent with Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 CA BRE# 01261476

This will unpopular with the fast-track mind set.


Zig Ziglar said "There's No Elevator To Success, You Must Take The Stairs" if you want to develop the experience, skills and financial ability to succeed in homeownership or in any career, like Real Estate, you start out by going step by step. The development of competence and character comes from the time spent on the climb - but you must climb step by step. Eventually you may build up the strength to jog them, but build the muscles before you dash on up.


My sister and I run property management businesses for our own rental properties in The Bay Area, CA & Reno, NV. We chat all the time and were discussing today about how so many of our tenants and my buyers (especially of a certain generation) seek the express elevator to the trophy house and refuse to climb the stairs. To which I added, "I see many sales agents attempt the same shortcut through buying leads."

The stairs are the logical steps you take to adapt to the progressive responsibilities, experience and skills required for owning or managing the property and or your client. The elevator may be more fun, like winning the lottery or getting a sudden inheritance, but I still recommend the stairs, here's why...

Buyers benefit from taking the stairs because it allows you to gain experience with managing a home, maintaining a home, managing sub-contractors for repair & remodel projects; presumably starting out with a condo or smaller house on an average size lot. It's much easier to learn on 1,200 sq. ft. homes located on 5,000 sq. ft. lots than 4,000 sq. ft. homes with swimming pools and solar leases that are located on acreage. Especially if you've never rented or owned a house before. The upkeep, repairs and upgrades and be daunting when you are starting out (financially and experientially).

Houses are like spouses; they require consistent attention and care:

  • Utility Bills
  • House Payments
  • Insurance
  • Property Taxes
  • Repairs
  • Upkeep
  • Updating & Remodeling
  • Cleaning
  • etc.



REALTORS* benefit from taking the stairs for similar reasons, because if you've never owned a home, its harder to sell a home because you really do not know what the process is like to experience, therefore you can't empathize or understand your clients fears, needs or emotions.

Furthermore if you've never sold a few entry level properties, trying to jump in to luxury homes, investment properties or distressed residential real estate is doing a disservice to you and your clients.

I saw many inexperienced agents in my office go broke during The Great Recession crash of 2007 because they were personally speculating on real estate. They had little experience in real estate and investing, yet were buying up multiple properties in '05, '06 and early '07, telling me I was missing the boat. Well, glad I did, because it was the Titanic as it turns out.

I had a friend call me 2 years ago and request I call her new agent brother and give him a "pep-talk" on how to write an offer for this $3 Million Dollar Buyer he'd just schmoozed into letting him represent. I said I can tell you right now my advice, "refer the buyer and learn from that agent and earn from that agent. Because I could not possibly impart on him my 20 years experience in a 10 minute conversation and he had no business trying to learn his craft on this buyer's luxury deal.


A real estate business and career is one of constant learning from our experience, problem solving, prospecting, negotiating, industry leaders, legal updates, market conditions, training / coaching, to name a few.

There's always exceptions to the "rule" but my long-play advice to buyers and REALTORS* alike, is to climb the stairs: acquire the skills that pay the bills and grow into your home and your career and enjoy the learning and earning along the way; it builds longevity in and gratitude for what you have.



1. Image by Wendy CORNIQUET from Pixabay 

2. Image by kinkate from Pixabay 

3. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

4. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

5. Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Posted by

Thomas J. Nelson
REALTOR®, CRS, RCS-D, CDPE, e-Pro, Certified Military Home Specialist, Luxury Home Specialist, Author, Keynote Speaker and  Podcast Host 

Serving Coastal San Diego from Carlsbad to Coronado, Downtown, Balboa Park Area,
La Jolla/UCSD & Mission Bay Park Areas
I Offer Rebates to Veterans
& Active Duty

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Disclaimer:  Nothing in this blog article is to be construed as legal advice, tax advice, medical advice or financial advice.  For legal advice see an attorney.   For tax advice, health or financial advice see a tax attorney, certified public accountant, or other qualified professional.

Comments (23)

Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I am of a belief that owning a home is very similar to that of learning to ride a bike.  Need help when getting started and shouldn't try to ride something bigger than you can handle

Oct 07, 2021 10:13 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Very well said, Thomas.   And the advice isn't just for the real estate field. When I used to staff companies, I remember getting new college grads who wanted Management trainee jobs. They want to go right in without training or experience. 

Oct 07, 2021 07:20 PM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Even when the elevator is working, I will still opt to take the stairs instead.  I want my parts to keep moving so that I don't lose the use of them, haha.

Oct 08, 2021 05:36 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Thomas, for sharing your experience and your advice.

Have a great day and a lovely weekend.

Oct 08, 2021 07:36 AM
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

This is a very good post that we all can learn from.  Thanks for sharing.

Oct 09, 2021 05:40 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Even my friend who uses a wheelchair would appreciate the crazy staircase metaphor. :

Oct 09, 2021 11:22 PM
Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D
I live in Las Vegas... everyone lives here and decides to become an agent because they all think it’s a snap!
Oct 10, 2021 12:20 AM
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

Exceptionally good advice!  Works for many levels and many people in many scenarios.  Your Graphics and Photos were gorgeous! Thank you!


Oct 10, 2021 12:23 AM
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

Great advice Thomas! Sometimes you give people this advice and it just goes right over their heads. On the flip side, I give empty nesters/ retirees the same advice but in the opposite direction. Sometime when people retire or become empty nesters, they'll go straight to a house half the size or even smaller. They end up calling later to say it is too small and they're not ready for a house that small. I remind them just as they worked their way up to their family home, they need to work their way back down to a small house. 

Oct 10, 2021 05:40 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets - this is a great post and I'm glad to see it was featured. There are many truths. My parents were the Landlords for the building we inherited from my grandparents. Yes! It's true! "Houses are like spouses; they require attention and care." The list you provided is absolutely true. Every single summer my siblings and I helped my father with the property management chores and they were intense. Nobody got out of the duties that needed to be done. As a kid, I learned all about discipline, responsibility and doing things the right way the first time because having to redo took up more time on chores and less time for play. According to my family rules, there were no shortcuts and negligence was not an option. 

Oct 10, 2021 10:05 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good afternoon Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets ,

What sage advice..there are no shortcuts to success and that quote of Zig's is one of my all time favorites. 

Oct 10, 2021 10:42 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Ecellent post Thomas!  I so agree - one step at a time makes for a successful business.  Trying to get to success over night rarely (if ever) happens for anyone.

Oct 10, 2021 02:41 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Thomas,

Good observations. Every new skill needs a little practice before you get good at it. That includes home ownership.

Oct 10, 2021 08:58 PM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse Advisor

From the agent perspective- it goes back to the saying- All Real Estate is Local. In my market- as a new agent (5.5 years ago), buying leads was essential. Most new agents in NYC are better off working in rentals and you can earn a decent income - six figures if you are willing to bust your butt- and then learn the sales market here. In my case, I had 16+ years capital markets experience, a condo owner- and President of my condo association- which I took control over from board members that were agents that ran the building into the ground and I fixed. I needed a lot of exposure fast- or you go broke. I could have found a large team where I was the junior man on the team, earning very little while I learned- but that didn't exactly make a lot of sense for my background either - with the exception of working for a team that mostly does new development or luxury (the luxury market here starts at $4m). That might have made more sense- but everyone wants those spots and it's rare to be hired straight onto a team like that with no experience yet.  Perhaps I could have been an exception (very possible) - but I had a specific vision when I started- and 5 and a half years later- not only did my vision work- but it's been largely unchanged to this day.

I just needed the slingshot to propel me forward in my real estate career- but in the last few years almost all of my business has been referrals. Buying leads from the Big Z can be a good thing to the right audience- albeit a small audience of agents.


I do realize your post was not intended for the outlier agents. I entered the business not knowing some procedural norms or selling techniques - but I knew the product I was selling better than 80%+ of agents when I was just a rookie (getting a real estate license needs to be much harder). 


Back to your point- I considered making the career switch into real estate years prior to actually doing it- which allowed me time to learn a lot more about the complexities that exist here. I was a rookie that had greater knowledge than a large portion of the agents that had been working in the business 5+ years. 

In some ways I took the stairs, in others, I found the express elevator- and it was precisely what I needed- but it's not the path I would suggest for the majority.

Oct 10, 2021 11:15 PM
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 602.710.8161 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

Thomas, thought-provoking content and great visuals to illustrate it. I enjoyed reading it and will book mark for another inspirational read in the future, too.

Oct 11, 2021 05:44 AM
Matthew O'Hare
Osterville, MA

Sometimes the journey is the destination. 

Oct 11, 2021 07:44 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Thomas - that is a really great analysis.  The only way to learn home ownership is being involved step by step.

Oct 12, 2021 03:29 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

I like the analogy of not missing any steps aka shortcuts as it pertains to life and this business. Great information, Thomas.

Dec 02, 2021 10:15 AM
faye schubert
Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

The stairs build confidence and knowledge as you increase your ability to climb to higher levels of success.

Apr 21, 2022 07:07 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
& Host of Postcards From Success Podcast

Wow, you went into my achieves faye schubert - thank you for your comments and the "follow". 😊

Apr 21, 2022 07:28 AM