Nate Douglas, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Santa Maria, is one the rare individuals who has always been in real estate. Since he was 17 and fresh out of high school, he had an early introduction courtesy of his father, who owned a mortgage broker business. “I learned everything about the mortgage industry naturally from being around my father. I started out in loan processing and eventually bought his business. I then worked closely with Ken Kopcho, who owned this Help-U-Sell office before me. In 2017, Ken was ready to retire and I had the opportunity to buy his business, so I got my broker’s license. I have a property management company as well,” Nate shared.
Like many people right out of high school, Nate attended college and sought a degree in Business Administration. He explained, “The real estate market was starting to boom and I was influenced as a product of circumstance. I’ve always been good with math, so mortgages and real estate clicked with me. It made sense to go ‘all in’, so I left college. Everything I was being taught in the classroom, I was learning in real life working side-by-side with my father. He was an excellent instructor, and he invented work-life balance for me. He taught me to work smarter, because working excessively long hours lowers your value. I was making more money than my professors and bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Most people rent when they leave their parents’ house, so I was ahead of the curve. Nothing beats being your own boss.”
Nate is still handling mortgages, and shares the office with another broker and a buyer’s agent who spearhead most of the transactions. “We are on track for at least 30 transactions this year. I’ve owned the office for a little more than a year, and fully expect we will be transitioning to a stronger year for 2019. Santa Maria is one of the least expensive places to live on the central California coast. It’s the biggest city between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, and with the median house price being $360,000, we see a lot of population turnover because we deal with a lot of entry-level homes – which is great for business,” Nate said. “In recent months, inventory has been shrinking, but we’re seeing more properties under contract at a higher price. If our efforts snag three to five of those per month, we’re doing very well.”
Aware of the long Help-U-Sell history, Nate has witnessed the brand grow both locally and nationally over the last several years. He added, “We get many transactions from people who used Help-U-Sell in another area of the state or country, 25% of our volume comes from that alone. This office has been around for a long time, so we garner repeat business from that pre-built great reputation in the community. These folks already understand that a set-fee translates into big savings. Our past clients boost our business with word-of-mouth referrals, which is pure gold. When you’re established and do good work, you make happy clients. People will find you.”
With fly-by-night real estate models popping up and disappearing just as quickly, Nate sees the Help-U-Sell brand gaining traction. “We definitely have a competitive advantage over the sea of local, traditional agents. Many people – and I mean the general public – don’t know that commissions are negotiable. This is partially because big-name real estate establishments require properties to be listed at a certain percent. Since that is a franchise rule, many people are fooled into believing that is what they must accept. The mentality of what you must pay for a real estate transaction is shifting, and points to the growing success of a company like Help-U- Sell.”
To grow a different source of business leads, Nate purchases zip code leads but concedes referrals are always the way to go. “Much of the new business is done the old school way: Flawless presentations, treating clients with respect and guiding them through the process. They have to get in front of you to see who you are,” Nate explained.
When he’s not running a three-in-one real estate business, Nate is taking trips with his girlfriend who loves travel. With a trip to China on the horizon, his father’s advice of working smarter continues to pay off.