Second Careers Are Sweeter

Many people find their way into real estate as a second career after realizing how much they love houses, people, and helping people with their home buying dreams and home selling goals. Melissa Chan, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Alpha Paladins Realty in San Jose, California, is exactly that person. 

Melissa received her college degree in Canada, majoring in sociology and administrative studies. After many years working for IBM as a Purchasing Manager, Melissa found her position eliminated and she was downsized out of a job. While casting about for her next move, she was contacted by a friend who was an insurance agent. She began working full-time in the insurance business and procured her license to sell insurance. 

By selling insurance out of a pre-existing Help-U-Sell office, Melissa’s interest in real estate grew organically. Equipped with her own ample home buying and selling experiences, she began to quickly see the benefit of being well-versed in both real estate and insurance, and saw a good opportunity for not just a career, but for a business.

“My husband and I always enjoyed looking at open houses together. We have moved a couple of times, and I had a lot of relevant experience with the questions that came up. I like to talk to people, and I was happy to help with questions about home buying and selling. So I got my license in 2007 and became an Owner of Help-U-Sell Alpha Paladins Realty at that time,” she explained.

In order to have a broader, organic reach, Melissa still maintains her license to sell insurance and runs both businesses together. Melissa explains, “There is a lot of crossover from one business to the other. My insurance clients will usually have real estate questions and vice versa. When they are ready to move with the purchase or sale of a house, they are already thinking about me because I’ve been an ongoing, trusted resource.”

Since the pandemic, Melissa has been exploring other means of marketing to spread awareness of her business and started testing a different internet marketing program. “We already know more people than ever before are looking at their cell phones and computers for their home searches, so my partner and I wanted to try that out. I think it is important to experiment with new tools, partially because we’re in such uncertain times and not as many people are willing to list their home. We have ridden the wave of dramatic market shifts before, it just means we make bigger efforts to compensate for the phone ringing less than normal. However, the calls we are getting are more serious inquiries. I am using this time effectively by spending more time calling all of the leads we do have and checking in on past clients,” she added.

One of the other attractions of being a franchise owner for Melissa is the name recognition, branding,  and reputation Help-U-Sell Real Estate. “I believe the name of Help-U-Sell is important. People don’t always know me, but they have heard about Help-U-Sell before, especially here in California. Home sellers here are not afraid to comparison-shop, so the trusted name helps. I would say 70% of the time I make a listing presentation, I win the client. We get a lot of compliments and people are often impressed with our work.”

While California is a notoriously higher-end market, San Jose is particularly more expensive compared to some other California cities. Melissa elaborated, “We are in an incredibly tough market for first-time home buyers because single-family homes are generally in the $1-2 million-dollar range. It is simply out of the question for many potential buyers. Brand new, 1600 s.f. townhomes are going for $850,000, I am helping a friend buy one right now. Venture into the west San Jose market and you won’t find anything for under $2 million. We still have helped a lot of people, because I do everything I can from staging to taking pictures to hosting individual open houses.”

The Help-U-Sell Alpha Paladins Realty office has four people including her spouse, her business partner, and one agent. Although business has slowed down because of the shut down, Melissa’s office recently ranked in our Top Producers list, so her diligence is paying off. “I have been spending a lot of time with my mother since the quarantine, helping her with daily life. I’ve also recently learned to bake banana pecan (or walnut) bread, which I make while I am calling all my clients.” Sounds like a sweet way to run your business! 

For those interested, we convinced Melissa to share her newly perfected recipe below.

Banana Walnut/Pecan Bread Recipe


1)  1/3 cup sugar (or light brown sugar) – (you may increase the amount of sugar, but I prefer less to be healthier)

2)  1/3 cup unsalted stick butter (at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, best melted and cooled)

3)  1/2 teaspoon salt

4)  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5)  2 large eggs

6)  3/4 to 1 cup whole wheat flour

7)  3/4 to 1 cup all purpose flour

8)  1/2 cup shelled walnuts or pecans coarsely chopped

9)  1 teaspoon baking soda

10)  3 to 4 large overripe bananas (use fork to mash)

11)  1 teaspoon olive oil

12)  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1) Preheat Oven to 350 degree F and lightly grease your loaf pans (I use 2 of the 8’x4′ loaf pans), set aside

2) In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter and olive oil either with stand or hand-held electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk or hand mixed with a rubber spatula

3) Add the 2 eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition, set aside

4) Mash all 3 bananas in a separate bowl by using a fork, then add vanilla extract, hand mix well with the spatula

5) Add above 4) to the number 2) a large bowl, mix well either with the electric mixer or hand mix with the spatula

6) Get a separate large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon, hand mix well with a spatula

7) Combine number 6) to the original large bowl until no flour pockets remain, either mix well with the electric mixer or hand mix with the spatula (no need to overly blend)

8) Fold in the walnuts or pecans with the spatula

9)  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans

10) Bake from 50 to 60 min at 350 degree F (A toothpick inserted into the bread will turn out clean when the bread is done)

11) Cool in the pan for about 10 min before turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing

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