Remember the career aptitude tests given in high school? The ones you and all your friends had a laugh over because so-and-so was destined to be a chicken farmer? For some reason, that handy test decided I should be an engineer. What a joke! Sure, I loved order, systems, and problem solving, but I was struggling with calculus at the time and had just made first chair in jazz band. My 17-year-old self knew better!

So I did what a lot of unguided youngsters do: try to find themselves at a liberal arts university. I was a very efficient college student, graduating early and teaching middle school by the time I was (gulp) 21! Two years later I was burned out and disillusioned with the public education system. I retreated to Yosemite National Park for a few months, met some people who gave me wanderlust, and seized an opportunity to backpack through Europe. I wasn’t ready to give up the romance of the road when the money ran out, and decided to give teaching one more try in South Korea. Not only did I enjoy it this time around, but with my work week being under 30 hours, I had plenty of down-time to discover new hobbies. I found myself, a bit obsessively, looking online at one house after another; determining what tools I’d need to fix it up, assessing if it was a job I could do myself, researching best building practices… all this based on the pictures! Rehab-fantasizing became a very satisfying pastime, which speaks volumes as this was also the time I met my future husband.

Isaiah and Kate Nelson by Korean statue.
Freedom Bridge.

It was 2007 when I returned to the States, knowing I wanted to pursue a vocation in real estate.  With the Great Recession looming, my timing was less-than-perfect: I became a first-time homeowner at the height of the market and embarked on a real estate career right before the housing crisis.  I ended up working as an assistant for three different brokers as well as a manager at a real estate brokerage.  I stayed busy, learned quickly, and found that while I liked the idea of renovating houses, I enjoyed the process of helping people buy and sell homes even more.  My husband and I bought, renovated, and made a good profit on our next two homes (see them here and here).  If I wasn’t busy helping a client buy or sell a house, I was working on my own. I loved everything about houses! And I took pride in the fact that my entire life revolved around them.

Kate Nelson sitting at a desk
Mild-mannered real estate agent by day…
woman with power tool
… tool-wielding rehabber by night!

Life took over. I moved to Idaho and had a couple babies, but in my mind I’m still a rehabber. With having a working knowledge of how houses age, I can’t help but tap into my renovating experience nearly every single sales transaction. I am better equipped to navigate my clients through the sales process by guiding indecisive buyers or making simple repairs for sellers to make their home more marketable. When I hear clients say that I “know houses” or “walk the talk,” it validates the sore muscles, ruined clothes, and all the frustration at doing something three times over to get it right. Turns out I might have the mind of an engineer after all, but I certainly didn’t miss my calling in becoming a real estate agent.

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