It's almost the anniversary of Hurricane Charley and our baptism by fire into real estate.
My daughter, Shannon, and I went into real estate about two years ago. When we took the test, Shannon was due to deliver her third child July 29, only a couple of weeks away. I was taking care of my husband, Mack, who was midway through a battle with liver cancer. We passed it on the first try, much to our amazement.
A couple of weeks later Hurricane Charley came, and everything became a matter of day-to-day survival. Shannon, her husband and her three girls, including the newborn baby, huddled in a closet with the two dogs while the hurricane stormed through. North Port was barely scratched, but finding formula and diapers after the storm became a crusade. Fortunately, relief agencies came to the rescue. Still, it was pretty scary to have to take the baby to the emergency room with the National Guard standing armed with attack rifles at the door. It seemed like we were in the wrong country.
Meanwhile, I was in the next town of Port Charlotte with my son and Mack. I wheeled him into the utility room since that was the only room with no windows and peeked out to see the pool cage roll up like a party favor. I watched the neighbor's roof take off down the street. Having lived in Florida over 50 years and been through many hurricanes, I guess I was not scared enough. The town was in utter darkness for over a week. Not a single traffic light was working. Most were on the ground.
When Mack had to return to the hospital in Sarasota, I had to pass to a checkpoint to get back home at night. "Do you have something to prove you live here?" the National Guard asked. "Like what, my driver's license?" "No, I need a utility bill or tax information." Right, I thought, I always carry my utility bill with me. Well, they believed me and let me throught.
After a bout in the hospital, we returned home to have no electricity for 11 days in sweltering August. My son and I tried to keep things going with a generator, but that meant waiting in long lines and traveling out of town to find gas. All we could plug in was the refrigerator, a lamp and maybe a very small TV. I was almost ashamed to ask for help with the relief agencies because so many were in far worse shape. However, many hands turned out to help all of us, and we were lucky enough to get a volunteer group of contractors who cut down the big limbs and help get gigantic steel girders out of the pool.
Hundreds of homes in Port Charlotte had blue tarps on the roof. Insurance company names were spray painted on most houses. While the city looked like it had been bombed, Shannon and I began our training in real estate even with a newborn and a dying man.
Somehow, we survived that dreadful time two years ago. Mack died in November that year. The baby will be two years old this Saturday.
Our first sale was a 1/1 hurricane damaged house that was black inside from a fire as well. It sold for $50,000.
Then came the carpetbaggers and investors buying homes for half price from the scared citizens. 2005 started out slowly by helping a friend find a house and houses for both of us. I needed a smaller home for myself. Shannon needed more room with the three girls. We now live less than a mile away in North Port.
We knocked on doors, did the farming, went to expired listings, passed out cards at garage sales and did everything we could think of to drum up business. Some of it began to pay off. A listing here, a sale there.
The building boom was in full swing in 2005. Builders couldn't find enough lots. Buyers had to put an offer in before someone else snatched up the property. We sold nearly $10 million worth of property and had almost 100 deals, mostly from June through September.
Labor Day, 2005 the market seemed like the stock market crash of 1929. All of a sudden, no one was buying. It was like all the buyers fell down a rabbit hole.
This year we thought we were way behind but the broker says we had about $5 million worth of business so far, thanks primarily to the North Port lot auction sale. We sold over 60 lots. Of course, having 2000 lots auctioned flooded the market with lots for sale and deflated prices. It may take more than a year to recover.
This little tale is only meant to show that if you work hard and hang in there despite obstacles, success will come. We look back now and can't even imagine how we got here from the place we were two years ago. Of course, we had to make real estate our business, our only business.