Mindset! Many people assume that if you know everything, things will fall into place. This is absolutely not the case. One’s mindset, their beliefs about their own abilities, and their desire and willingness to succeed is more important than knowing everything.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Hartmann. Melanie is the owner of Creo Home Buyers, a house flipping company that buys houses in Baltimore, MD and surrounding areas.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Melanie! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Iwas born and raised by a single mother in Baltimore, MD. We moved around a lot, from apartment to apartment. Growing up, I never really had a place to call “home.” It wasn’t until I was 22 years old that my mother was able to purchase her first house. During that time, I recall reviewing a chart that outlined the amount of money she had paid in rent over her lifetime “with nothing to show for it.” It was mind-boggling! I believe it was around that time that I knew I wanted to own rental properties myself.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Yes! I buy houses that often require a lot of work to fix. We walk these properties to assess the overall condition and determine our repair costs and then make our offer to sellers. One particular house visit involved walking a one-story house that had been abandoned for an untold number of years. The floor to the bathroom had fallen into the crawlspace such that you could no longer see the tub but the toilet was still in its original place, being supported by the drain pipe. The floors of both bedrooms on either side of bathroom were sinking as well and severely slanted. After walking the property while taking pictures, I felt I had a good idea of where it was and was not safe to walk. I back traced my steps to take a walk-through video, not being as careful or cautious as I had been when taking pictures. Well, when I got to the living room, which was just in front of the bathroom, I must have hit a soft spot because a hole the size of my leg opened up and my entire left leg went through the floor. I even have my scream recorded on video! I injured the back of my arm on a piece of furniture as I went down, but surprisingly suffered no injuries anywhere else. The lesson I learned from this is to always wear jeans during walk-throughs such as this and to always be cautious when walking properties, even if I have already walked them. I went back to the property after we bought it and had planned to go back inside to take better pictures but after opening the back door, I just couldn’t bring myself to go back in. That property was ultimately torn down and will be rebuilt since it was deemed unsalvageable.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am continuing to work on establishing the credibility of our company and the visibility of our website so that we can reach more people that might need to or benefit from selling their property in a non-traditional way. The more value we provide to others and the more our business grows means the more our mission and vision of helping others outside of the real estate industry becomes a reality.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Honesty. For my business to prosper, earning a profit is a necessity. We do not sugar-coat this or hide that fact from owners who are looking to sell their houses. Most people can easily tell when they are being “sold” on an idea or a concept and that is not how we operate. We buy houses quickly, but we also offer other ways for sellers to sell their home. If a potential seller decides that selling quickly at a discount may not be the best fit for them or even needed, we offer to connect them with other real estate professionals who can assist them in selling their property that may be a better fit for their situation.
Additionally, our underlying mission also separates us from the crowd. As our company grows, so will the positive impact that we will be able to make in the lives of others who might have had the odds stacked against them as I had in my youth. I want to be able to provide that support to those who need and want it. I know that without receiving help and support, I may not have had the hope that a better life was truly possible.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have often referenced Jerryll Noorden as a strong influencer for me at the beginning of my venture into investing in real estate. In fact, he continues to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to this day. That being said, my husband, Ian Armitage, has been the biggest supporter of me in pursuing this dream of mine in starting a house-buying company in Baltimore. No matter how many times I have doubted myself or encountered struggles, he has always been there. Believing in me. Encouraging me. Supporting me. We haven’t been married for very long, but we’ve known each other since high school and I can honestly say he is my best friend. Our story has been anything but a fairytale but he’s seen me at the worst of times and the best of times and supports me all the same.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
This is an interesting perspective, because I am primarily focused on the investing side of the real estate industry and women do not dominate that sector at all. In general though, I think this has more to do with one’s perspective and self-limiting beliefs. I know before I started my business, I was worried how I would be perceived being a relatively young female starting a company that buys houses.
To be honest, there have been a handful of times where I have been approached in inappropriate ways by male investors. Other times, I have been viewed as being best suited for the role of a secretary or someone to answer “the phones” and have even been offered jobs to do so. Other times, I’ve been more or less told that it was “impossible for a woman to start her own real estate company.” I’ve pushed past these beliefs and less-than-desirable encounters by recognizing when it was happening and dissociating myself with those individuals. There are more than enough people in this business who treat women as equals and with respect. The great part about starting your own real estate company is having the choice of who you work with.
What 3 things can be done by a) individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
Surrounding myself with positive role models, both male and female, has truly been helpful. Yes, there will be roadblocks and setbacks, but to be honest most of those ideas and beliefs start from within. If we, as females, believe we are inadequate to perform well in higher-level positions, or we do not ask or require our partners and/or husbands to help out at home, it is nearly impossible to realize our full potential.
In “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis, she speaks to all of the excuses that females make for themselves as to why they can’t do something, and she refutes every single one. I too have felt guilty for not being a “proper wife” or a “proper mother” because my passion for my work takes me away from those duties of being a “proper woman.” Hollis’ book really helped changed my perspective on the entire thing. I am much happier because of it and this has had many positive ripple effects on my family and my relationship with my husband.
So to that end, I would say, as a female, if you are wanting to obtain a higher level position in the company you currently work for, but there is a glass ceiling holding you back, it may be time to consider whether it is your own self-limiting beliefs holding you back. If not, it may be time to consider going into business for yourself. That is the only real way to create a business that reflects your goals, hopes, dreams, and desires in life.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Men have more pressure to perform outside of the home than women do, whereas women have more pressure to perform at home than men do. While there has been a major shift towards males being more present and active in domestic duties, the vast majority of women still take on the primary care-giver role to children and housekeeping duties. Women also are not encouraged or expected to prioritize themselves or their work over that of their family or domestic duties. Women are also much more likely to be labeled or perceived as “moody” or “bossy” when making suggestions or giving directions when compared to men. Our society still seems to find it entertaining to use qualifiers for terms such as “girl-boss,” “boss-lady,” and “mompreneur” which, in my opinion, lessen the importance and value of women who are in these roles or wish to pursue them. Women who decide to have children will also be more likely than their partners to take extended leave off from work to care for their children, which can hinder a woman’s progress in their careers.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
The opportunities are endless! Really. There are so many aspects of real estate that it’s nearly impossible to become bored. There are always goals to work towards and new things to learn.
I love numbers and working for myself. It is not easy, especially in the beginning stages of growing a company, but I love being in charge of how I spend my time and that I am compensated for the value I bring to the marketplace rather than simply exchanging my time for money. When working a salaried or hourly position, you have to outperform everyone else to maybe be noticed by your employer, who may or may not choose to give you a raise or even notice your efforts. The potential for growth is often much more predictable, regimented and ultimately limited.
The other aspect I love about working in real estate is helping people. Yes, it’s cliché, but helping sellers rid themselves of properties that are causing them headaches is very rewarding. I also love taking something “ugly,” such as a house that needs a lot of work, and turning it into something beautiful that a new family will enjoy for years to come. Having grown up in Baltimore, it’s particularly rewarding being able to transform vacant and neglected properties into viable housing once again. Real estate will also afford me the opportunities to invest time into fulfilling our mission of helping others in ways I wouldn’t have been able to in my previous profession as a school psychologist.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- The number of bad apples in this industry. There are many individuals and companies in this industry, particularly on the investing side, who only care about themselves and not how their actions impact others.
- Thus, it can be difficult to determine who is trustworthy and who isn’t worth a minute of your time.
- Also, many people get into the real estate industry in an attempt to turn a “quick buck” not realizing the amount of time, energy, and effort that is truly required to make a business or career within the real estate industry.
- Idealistically, once an individual or company earns a certain level, they should be giving back to the communities that have served them. Either by offering or supporting low-income housing or other ways to support the communities in and around the areas they work or invest in.
- An easier way to keep track of who is trustworthy and who is not.
- A realistic portrayal of the work involved in this industry. It is not easy money by any means, especially in the beginning. An accurate portrayal of the work that is truly involved may help others avoid entering the field and wasting their time and money thinking they’ll be able to turn a quick buck
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Treat your employees like family. Help them grow by motivating them and teaching them new skill sets. Push them out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. Showing your employees that you care about them and their wellbeing will catapult your business. When the folks around you know you care about them, they will often go out of their way to make sure they do all that they can to ensure your success, because it ensures theirs as well. If an employee leaves your company to start their own or venture on to better and bigger things, take it as a compliment that you helped them reach that point in themselves. This old employee of yours, if they were treated fairly, will be an ally to you in growing your business even more. You really only grow as much as those around you so help them grow with you!
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- Mindset! Many people assume that if you know everything, things will fall into place. This is absolutely not the case. One’s mindset, their beliefs about their own abilities, and their desire and willingness to succeed is more important than knowing everything.
- Networking is crucial. Surrounding yourself with people who are further along in their real estate journey than you will help you to see and believe what is possible and how others are crushing it.
- Taking care of yourself is of utmost importance. The real estate industry is tough and, until you are at a place to hand off your work to someone else while you are away, there are few vacations or breaks. Consistently eating properly, exercising, meditating, and getting enough sleep are things I am currently striving towards so that my mind and body are well equipped to take on the challenges that regularly occur in the real estate industry.
- The work is simple but it’s not easy. The overall concepts are relatively easy to understand. The execution of these tasks, day in and day out, especially during challenging times is not easy. Some days you don’t want to get out of bed because a deal went bad and you may not know when your next check is coming in. Especially in the beginning, it can be very exhausting working so much and seeing very little in return, but you have to continue pushing yourself and trust the process. It’s all a law of averages. If you stop, so does your work, and potential income, so you have to keep going and pushing yourself. I found that focusing on the tasks rather than the results helpful during times that are difficult.
- If you know how to make money, the financial blows you will inevitably face become much easier to stomach over time. If you’ve made money in real estate before, and loose it all, you know exactly how to make it again. When you lose money, you gain valuable lessons and if you learn from those mistakes, you come back even stronger than you were before.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I previously wrote about how wonderful it would be if “Humble Beginnings” were no longer something individuals had to go through. Such that if there were enough resources and things to go around, that no one had to struggle. After thinking on that a while longer, I realized I’m not sure if I truly feel that way. I had very “humble beginnings” and it was from those experiences growing up that I knew I wanted better for myself and future family. I wanted to be in a place where my child didn’t have to save the birthday money they received from friends and family or money from their part-time job to help me pay the bills. I wanted to be in a place where I didn’t have to rely on my children to bear any of the financial burdens of running a household. I wanted to live without the near constant fear of facing eviction. I could go on, but it was these feelings and experiences that are what drove me to work so incredibly hard. Despite life’s challenges, I have preserved and achieved many things that others have told me were impossible. I attribute this tenacity that I’ve built over the years to my past. If there is something in life that I truly want, I don’t give up going after it simply because it’s hard.
It took me six months to close on my first deal after deciding to invest in real estate full-time. Six full months! Some get their first deal in a month, some over a year later. However, most people quit after a month or two. The experiences of having overcome obstacles and achieving things that were difficult in my past, has helped me to persevere during the difficult times in starting my own business and pursing this dream of mine. It is the greatest feeling in the world, even when at times it really can feel absolutely awful when things go wrong.
Going on this real estate journey, I feel that I am realizing and becoming my true self. So, if I could create a movement, I wouldn’t want to remove all obstacles for people. Instead, I’d like to inspire and encourage others to recognize and become their true selves. So that they are able to work towards overcoming their own obstacles. Asking a question like, “How can I?” or “What if?” rather than saying, “I can’t” or “It’s impossible.” Until you begin to experience it yourself, you can’t possibly know what you are missing out on. I would love to bring this feeling of true fulfillment to as many people as possible. You really don’t know what you are truly capable of unless you allow yourself the space and opportunity to fail at something and then grow from it. We have such a fear of failing in our society, when the focus really should be a fear of living a life without succeeding.
How can our readers follow you online?
- Facebook Page URL https://www.facebook.com/CreoHomeBuyers/
- Linkedin Company Page URL https://www.linkedin.com/company/creo-home-buyers/
- Instagram Page URL https://www.instagram.com/creo.home.buyers/
- Pinterest URL https://www.pinterest.com/creohomebuyers/
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!