Editor’s note: RISMedia Storytellers is a new series allowing people to share exceptional lessons, moments, relationships and events in real estate in their own words. Do you know a real estate professional who would make a great Storyteller? Please let us know at email@example.com.
In times of crisis, you need to be there for your community—that’s what service is, and that’s what REALTORS® do. But there are people to whom service is foundational to both their life and their business, who put relationships above success, who never run out of energy to help others. Is a real estate career built on those principles truly possible? And what does that look like, during the biggest national crisis in a century?
In a business that can sometimes become about contests of style and appearance rather than substance—more about chasing the next dollar than building something you can be proud of—some REALTORS® chose a different path.
The pandemic begins
Kelly Shaw (Sales Associate, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties): I’ve been a nurse for 34 years and in real estate for 20. I worked every weekend from 6:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.; I work 27 hours a week. I’ve worked that way since 2008, so it isn’t anything new. I’ve always done it. Because I make the money I do, I could’ve left, but I stayed during the pandemic, and I’m still a nurse. I can’t ever quit being a nurse because I love it so much. I have known some of these gals I worked with since I was in nursing school. So I kept working during the pandemic, even though I make a shit-ton of money in real estate. I don’t make any money in nursing; I love it, and I kept working.
We relive everyday, I gotta tell you. We worked eight people short, every time I went to work—we had no supplies. I worked postpartum, so we had moms who were COVID-positive and babies who were being isolated and taken away from their moms. We had no pads, we had no mesh underwear, we had nothing. I opened up a COVID floor in a cardiac care lab being a postpartum nurse, with traveling nurses, a children’s hospital nurse, and the only one that could get medications was me. It was an absolute shitshow. The CDC was changing the guidelines every minute—we were just told to wear a mask, not wear a mask, patients gown-up, no gown-up; you can only have one COVID patient—no, you can have four COVID patients and two clean patients. It was just different information every five minutes of the day.
Every single person would call me up and say, ‘Why don’t you quit, you don’t need the money, you don’t need to do this,’ and I’m like ‘Because I love it; I can’t leave everyone in this shitshow.’
Nurses were still afraid to get their vaccinations and they were told they weren’t going to have a job if they didn’t get it. This was most of my friends—also during this time, a lot of my friends had gone through divorces, were getting divorces; their houses were in disarray, they weren’t getting child support, so I’m getting their houses fixed up, selling their houses and getting them new places. During this time I did $20 million—during the pandemic.
What a nurse’s real estate business looks like
KS: So, none of my patients know I do real estate ‘cause I don’t do business from the hospital so none of them knew, they just thought I was a nurse—no one knew different. I mostly do healthcare workers for real estate; I only do people that I know who are referred to me. The staff know. I’ve worked with these gals since we were in nursing school. I was a nursing student with them. We all got married together, we had kids together, divorced and buried our parents.
I can tell you honestly this year, because the market was so crazy—in 2022 I only had $660,000 closed because I wasn’t letting my buyers pay $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 over asking because I know them, and in a year they’re going to end up getting divorced and want to be a traveling nurse, and you can’t buy it $30,000 over then pay commission—you can’t do that.
So I will sacrifice money and ratings to make sure my people are taken care of, and because of that, every client I have gives me five or six or seven or eight people .
Real estate is the same as nursing—you have to care for people, you want their general wellbeing, you want their money to be protected, you want a great outcome. It’s exactly the same. The only difference is it’s a house—all your limbs are attached, you’re not hemorrhaging, you don’t have cancer. It’s a house—either you want it or you don’t. That’s the difference.
What gives someone this drive
KS: I had a brother that lived a week; he had a brain tumor. I was born 11 months later. I had a sister who lived a year and a half. She had a congenital heart defect, so I had to help my mother—I’m of a generation where your mom didn’t work. And when my mom went downstairs to do laundry, I stood over my sister with an oxygen mask when I was four years old, in case she stopped breathing, with a syringe of digitalis in case she turned white. I was not raised like normal kids.
I’m a tough person. I’m seriously as tough as they come.
What the real estate industry is missing
KS: Most agents are not used to being on a time schedule. They’re not disciplined, they haven’t punched a time clock for 30 years. I have. If my appointment is at 1:00, I’m there at 12:45. So some agents don’t have the due diligence, they don’t have the work ethic. I’m not trying to be hateful or rude, but I don’t see a lot of caring or actual interest in the client. I see it as they’re chasing the dollar. And it’s sad. And it breaks my heart
Like if you look at any of my social media or any of my marketing, my picture’s not on anything, because it does not matter what I look like. It only matters if I can help you buy or sell your house. As a nurse, I can stick my hand out the door and say, ‘I need help,’ and eight people will run. Real estate is a very self-centered, egotistical career, and that’s one of the things that frustrates me most about it. Sometimes I want to quit. I don’t know if I can say it, but that’s how I feel.
I think I just really love people—and this always makes me cry—I love helping people, I really do love people. I care for people, and I didn’t go into real estate for the money, because I don’t give a shit about the money. If you love what you do, the money will come. I absolutely love every person I work with, and I love the patients I take care of. I love it all.