Friday, December 05, 2008

A New Chapter

By Jennie Bentley

No, not that kind of chapter, although I’ve written a few of those, too, lately. This is a different kind of chapter, though. A life chapter, you might say.

As some of you may know, when I’m not writing books, the real me is a Realtor® and home renovator in Nashville, Tennessee. That was how I came to write the DIY-books: someone at Berkley found out about my background and asked me if I’d be interested in writing a series about a home renovator for them. For the past year and a half, I’ve juggled real estate and writing, occasionally tearing my hair out when it all threatened to be too much.

Well, no more.

As some of you have probably also gathered, the real estate industry has taken a beating lately. Sales are down, foreclosures and short-sales are up, it’s getting increasingly difficult to get a loan... Not impossible—someone with good credit and enough income shouldn’t have any problems—but the guidelines and requirements are a lot more stringent than they were a couple of years ago, when anyone who could sign their name could get a mortgage. Which was how we got in the current predicament in the first place.

But I digress. The Nashville real estate industry hasn’t suffered as much as some. Our sales are down compared to last year, but speaking from a purely personal standpoint, DH has had his best year ever. I, on the other hand, haven’t sold a single house.

Which is why, when our boss informed us, sometime during the early part of November, that he was closing the agency we were working for, we considered whether it made sense for me to just retire my real estate license and become my husband’s assistant.

Galling, I know. But there are lots of fees and things involved with being a Realtor®. There are association fees, to the tune of many hundreds of dollars a year. There’s insurance, which costs a few hundred, at least. There are monthly fees to the agency, for things like office space and technical support. There are fees to the multiple listings service, for being able to share listings with other Realtors®. There are fees to the showing centers, to pay the people who keep track of the appointments. There are fees for the online flier-sites, so we can create our own professional looking brochures. There are continuing education classes to pay for, there’s renewing the license every two years, there are industry conferences and luncheons to attend, there’s dropping money left and right on online and print advertising to try to drum up some business, there’s paying for the website...

Bottom line, we started thinking that if I wasn’t going to use the oh, so costly real estate license to actually make money, maybe it’d be better if I just didn’t have the cost of maintaining it.

So that’s how I came to retire this past week. When DH took his license to a new company, where they adore and worship him, I took mine home and put it in a drawer.

It’s a weird kind of feeling. I’m not a Realtor® anymore. Realtor® is no longer a label I can use to introduce myself. I’m still a real estate professional—heck, I still do exactly the same work I did last week, last month, and last year!—but the title is gone. Now I’m—gulp—an unlicensed assistant to my husband. Sort of like being an unpublished writer. Or a writer between contracts.

On the upside, I have a new title. Since all my income comes from writing now, I can introduce myself as a writer. And that’s pretty cool, too.

Hello, World! I’m Jennie Bentley. Writer.


Tory said...

Congratulations, Jennie!

I own this book on career change (haven't actually gotten to reading it, too busy changing careers) called _Working Identity_. Basically, her point is that we don't just change our job, we change how we see ourselves and our whole social network. And it takes years.

It sounds like you're doing just that.

Bottom line: enjoy the process!

Joyce said...

I agree with Tory. Enjoy yourself.

Although being a police secretary was fun sometimes, I'm much more content being home writing and taking care of things around the house. I'm much more productive, too!

martha reed said...

Hello, Jenny Bentley, writer. It's great to "meet" you.

My sister is a realtor so I understand your pain plus I just started a new career two weeks ago myself so I sympathize with your sense of transition. I left 28 years in financial printing to start fresh although I'm staying in financial services so it's not a complete break. Give it some time. I hope you will find the change as invigorating as I have. My brain is spinning.

I hope it helps to think of it this way: being a writer is where you were meant to be all you life - it's just taken you this long to get there. Try to be thankful for the events that got you there even if they still sting a little. Heck, look at you now. You're a writer!

Jennie Bentley said...

Thanks, guys! Appreciate it!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Well, congrats, Jennie. I've found that being a writer is akin to being unemployed. At least for me.

Come to think of it, I think my next blog will be on this very subject, becoming a full-time writer.

Jennie Bentley said...

Thanks, Freddy!

Annette said...

Hey, Jennie, congratulations.

One of my very best friends tried her hand at being a Realtor (capital letter, trademark symbol included), and found that the fees and such far outweighed the meager income the new career provided. So she turned in her license, too.

So good luck on your new chapter, Jennie Bentley, writer.

Jennie Bentley said...

Hey, Annette. I've been a Realtor for a few years now, and made a decent income for some of it. But since I signed the book contract a year and a half ago, my husband has been taking on more of the people-related aspects - showing houses, meeting clients, writing contracts and offers - while I've been sitting in front of the computer writing, and doing things like online marketing and SEO. This is just an extension of that. I wasn't out there selling anyway, so we figured it'd be cheaper this way. I still work just as hard, unfortunately, but I feel less guilty about paying the fees!