The police report called it a 'near-fatal accident,' and it certainly shook my world. It was the gateway to my mid-life career change and journey down the real estate path. It took this accident, along with 14 medical providers, EMDR and PTSD therapy, surgery, braces, and lengthy recovery from a traumatic brain injury diagnosis to move me from my comfort zone. I held a salaried position serving in the capacity of executive director for a nonprofit organization that provided vital services to five northwest Colorado counties. I loved my job because I love how nonprofit organizations contribute to strengthening communities. Still, complications from my car accident, intense emotional healing, and a recent move to the Uncompahgre Valley were enormous challenges that made me consider a career change. It was 2006, and the real estate market was explosive. Needing flex time for healing, and traveling for my kid's sporting events, becoming a real estate professional appealed to me. I was slightly concerned about finding the right office and securing a client base since I was new to the community. But, I was confident in my skillset, and I have a serving heart, so how hard could it be, right?
What I did not prepare for was entering an industry that was getting ready to collapse into one of the great recessions in U.S. history. The bursting of the housing bubble created a crisis nationwide, causing over 3 million families to lose their homes in 2009 alone! Locally, brokerage firms dissolved, merged, and shrunk in size. Several of my colleagues filed for bankruptcy and lost their homes. Foreclosures monopolized the market, skewing the data for non-distressed properties. The real estate industry was NOT the best career choice, but I was already in the belly of the beast leaving two options, quit or persevere. Watching seasoned colleagues struggling to get by, and several of them failing, was frightening as a new agent entering the business in a new community that I had not had the opportunity to get established yet. Do you know I paid a monthly fee to have a job? The brokerage firm I worked for charged outrageous desk fees and these fees were due whether you sold something or not. Many of my colleagues worked second jobs or left the industry altogether---it was grim times and financially devastating to many. Ironically, I was involved in 'nonprofit' work again, but this time it was literally nonprofit. I knew it would take the grace of God to bring me through this, so I nestled in for my 'teachable moment' this valley of darkness was about to provide.
This was my mantra for five years of that peak to trough, and miraculously as seasoned agents quit, I persevered. Although my timing was poor, I didn't start my real estate career to quit. I was confident that God had a plan for my life, even when I did not see or understand what that plan was. I used this time to study cyclical real estate trends and economic forecasts in hopes of finding success in this broken industry. By this time, we had entered a new decade with exciting predictions about how technology was going to affect the real estate industry, and those predictions caught my attention. It required stretching myself once more beyond a comfort level and taking risks. Knowing that comfort zones are the enemy to progress, and one never reaches their true potential without taking risks, I went for it
I left the brand name brokerage firm and opened 20 Sleeps West Real Estate. The company name originated from a family story of our deep roots in the Uncompahgre Valley. You can learn more about that story on my company website. I intended to strategically design 20 Sleeps West Real Estate to operate as a hybrid model, offering all the same services as 'big box' competitors and more. This model was unfolding in large urban areas but had not been successfully implemented in our rural community. I embraced the challenge! I knew that as technology continued to be a catalyst in all areas of business, the real estate industry is no exception. For this model to succeed, I must be mobile, connected, efficient, and very advanced in technology skills. I also needed to be innovative, educated, disciplined, and adaptable to change. This foundation has contributed to my success in the marketplace, increasing my production by 714% in the first 18 months of business. Getting ahead of the tectonic shift in the way real estate professionals conduct business has contributed to my success in spending this past decade as one of the local real estate top producers. In addition to serving my client's real estate needs, I became an employing Broker who offers comprehensive personal training and navigation in an industry that appears to be changing at an unprecedented pace.
Here we are, a new year in a new decade, and real estate continues to change at lightning speed. Over 12.9 billion dollars have been invested in real estate tech companies. The way we do business today, compared to how it was ten years ago is night and day. Wet signatures using blue ink is replaced by electronic signatures, using a Garmin or TomTom for directions is replaced by smartphone GPS's, spending floor time in a brick-and-mortar office waiting for a client to walk through the door is not how the top volume producers are staying at the top. Cold call prospecting has dissipated with caller I.D., video tours have replaced MLS tours, and consumers text us instead of call. Sales and marketing have changed tremendously and, let's look at consumer/agent working relationships. In the past, a new client would walk through the door of a brokerage firm and be placed with whoever was on duty at that time. Now, consumers are researching agents online, looking for every bit of personal information they can find, before initializing that first call. Never has a 10-year stretch seen such change, until now. According to industry experts, another shift is emerging, and real estate professionals must bring their 'A' game in competencies to sustain.
Now that you know more about me, I want you to know that I embrace this new decade and the fresh mountain top experience ahead. Through my blog, 2020 Vision.......From Higher Ground, I will keep you informed on the changing face in real estate, challenges that affect property rights, homeownership, and valuable consumer tips from an experienced and candid perspective. If you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell real estate, I welcome the opportunity to serve you as a Buying Agent or Selling Agent, delivered with the highest professional standard and Commitment to Excellence!
Debi Harmon is the Owner/Broker of 20 Sleeps West Real Estate. She has earned multiple designations with her most recent accomplishment of endorsement from the National Association of REALTORS® Commitment to Excellence. Debi's volunteerism and community service work awarded her special recognition in 2017 as a 'Woman of Distinction' Honoree and REALTOR® of the Year. Debi is the past-Chairwoman of her local Association of REALTORS® and currently hold two committee positions at the state level with the Colorado Association of REALTORS®. Debi has a low tolerance for sloppy work and strongly advocates for a high professional standard. In addition to being a voice for property rights and homeownership, Debi continues to serve her community by volunteering her time in the nonprofit sector and other worthy causes.