On December 31st, I like to look back on the year and try to remember the good things that happened to me. 2020 was a challenging year for sure, unlike any other, but there were some good times, along with the bad times, that made it an extra special year for me.
The year began when my wife and I took a cruise to the Western Caribbean in January. As I look back through the photos on my iPhone, I’m transported back to the warm sandy beaches of Costa Maya, Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel. The smile on my wife’s face in those photos is something I will remember and cherish as a beautiful time together. I was so thankful we planned this in January and not later in the year. Many of my friends were forced to cancel their cruises for 2020.
In February, over President’s Day weekend, Keller Williams hosted their annual Family Reunion event. I packed most of my real estate team into a van and we drove to Dallas to attend this event with 17,000 other REALTORS® from all over the country. It was a great trip and I enjoyed spending that time with my team. Little did we know this would be the last time we would be together with a large crowd of people in 2020.
On March 14th, my stepfather Charley Bengtson got married. My mother had passed away several years ago and Charley seemed a little lost without her, so seeing the huge smile on Charley’s face at the wedding told me he would be OK from now. Katherine is such a perfect fit for Charley and it was a true joy to be at their wedding. I now felt like I could stop worrying about him.
March 21st was a Saturday and in hindsight, probably one of the most stressful days of my life. My wife Elaine had rotator cuff surgery a few weeks earlier and I was having to take care of her, along with everything else around our house. With a lot of post-surgery soul searching, she decided this was the right time to retire from her nail salon business, so on March 21st, we moved everything out of her nail salon. Elaine’s arm was still in a sling so she couldn’t do much and she was directing me on how to pack her things. Truth be known, this wasn’t going well because she didn’t like the way I was doing it, and she was frustrated because she knew she couldn’t do it herself.
During this time in the afternoon, I’d left my phone in the car. When I did get back to the car to check it again, I had 10 voicemails and countless text messages, mostly from the agents on my team. What I didn’t know was Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas had just announced his “stay at home” order and all of our clients were freaking out! One by one, I began calling back my agents and suggesting they call their clients to assure them we would still get them taken care of. At that time, we had 18 homes under contract and I had no idea how we were going to get them all closed over the next 30 days, but I just needed my agents to assure their people we’d make it happen.
Luckily, the Kansas City REALTORS® Association was already having in-person meetings with the mayor. There were approximately 3,500 families under contract to buy or sell a home in Kansas City when Mayor Lucas made his announcement. Ultimately the REALTORS® Association was able to convince the mayor that if he was going to force people to stay at home, they should probably have a home to stay in, so later that week he designated real estate and all real estate related business (REALTORS®, lenders, title companies, home inspectors, appraisers) as essential and exempt from the stay at home order. We had to make some major adjustments in the way we do business, but at least we were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
April and May were just weird. Prior to this, I never would have believed the government could shut down the whole world. Trust me, I understood it, but I was running the entire gamut of emotions during this time from fear to anger, and everything in between. Elaine and I started driving around the city to visit local parks. We would park the car, walk around, and explore many local scenic parks that we’d never been to. This was nice because it got us out of the house and made us feel human again. My business was down 15% during these two months and this is typically two of the busiest months of the year for real estate. I still had to be thankful though because many of my friends were out of work or on furlough, and I worried about how this would affect our economy.
When we got to June, it looked like we were getting closer to the end, or at least being able to get back to work. The virus cases were leveling off and many state governors were lifting their stay-at-home orders. I was looking forward to having our Missouri Gideons State Convention on June 15th and 16th in Jefferson City. This would be a great time to meet with my friends from all over the state of Missouri. As it turned out, Missouri Governor Mike Parson did open the state back up again, just in time to hold our convention. It was a great gathering, though limited attendance, and I was blessed to have been elected Missouri State President for the Gideons during that convention.
In July, my wife and I were able to drive to St.Louis to attend a wedding. We decided to make a mini-vacation of it and stay in St Charles, MO. We walked through the old downtown shops and had a great time. My father and step-mother joined us which made it even better because we hadn’t seen them at all this year. Spending time with them and going to a big wedding made us all feel a little normal again.
The last half of 2020 seems to have been a big blur as the real estate market kept me very busy. It seemed like all the people that wanted to sell in the spring, delayed their new home purchases until July through November so that kept us hopping trying to make up for lost sales earlier in the year.
Another unfortunate setback for 2020 was that several team members chose to leave the team. Real estate is tough enough in a normal year, but going through a pandemic makes it all the more challenging and some of them decided to go out on their own. This caused me to spend some serious time hiring and training five new agents to the team. Last week I sat down and figured up that I’ve probably spent around 140 hours in one-on-one training in the last six months. That’s a lot of time spent in training, but I do feel like I have some really exceptional agents on my team right now and I’m super excited about seeing what we can do in 2021.
I really can’t complain about our sales in 2020. Although we were in the midst of a pandemic and our sales were down 15% for April and May, we ended up selling $30.8 million which is $2 million more than last year. I have to give my team all the credit for that. We also hired a second client care manager in November as we have even big goals for this coming year. I’m looking forward to it and excited about helping so many families buy or sell their home in 2021.