Community Service Drives Sales

More than 35 years after his first sale, CAR President Steve Goddard recalls the most important lessons he learned.

July 1, 2010

Ask Steve Goddard, ABR, CIPS, president of the California Association of REALTORS®, about his real estate career, and he’ll tell you it’s all about relationships.

From political leadership and philanthropic bonds to hometown friends and college buddies, Goddard built his real estate career by serving the community.

“When my daughter was growing up, my wife and I were always in charge of the cheering squad. We drove those kids to football games and basketball games. And I was always there talking to people, meeting people, raising funds for uniforms for the squad, and reaching out to the community,” says Goddard, broker-manager of RE/MAX Beach Cities Realty in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “I never had to knock on a door. I have always had personal references."

That holds true even from the beginning of Goddard’s real estate career. His first sale came from a college friend he met while earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, and finance from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. As luck would have it, the former classmates both ended up in Southern California in the 1970s after graduating. So when the college pal and his wife started looking for their first home in 1976, they turned to Goddard for help.

Tell me about your first sale.

GODDARD: The clients and I were looking at properties in Hermosa Beach, Calif. In those days, when you made an offer, you would meet with the seller and the other agent and present the offer in person. I was very nervous about that, but my broker told me I would be fine. I overheard the first sales pitch while I was waiting for my turn, and I can tell you that my pitch was better.

But we didn’t get that first house. The offer was a few thousand dollars too low, and we lost that property. So we went back out, found another one, and were able to purchase it. It was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on Loma Drive.

The sale took about 30 days to close. We got it for about $64,000. The clients remained good friends, and I have sold many of their properties over the years.

What were some of your biggest fears about that first sale?

GODDARD: I felt confident in my ability, but I had some concerns about not knowing enough. Of course, that's what a broker is for. I'm still in touch with my first broker, although he doesn’t sell real estate anymore.

How did you start building your client list as a new sales associate?

GODDARD: I’ve always used my community contacts. But not just for business; I care about the community. I got involved in my daughter’s school programs, the Chamber of Commerce, the Salvation Army, Children’s Hospital, and numerous real estate groups over the years. I have always been active in the city. These communities create a lot of business.

But it is not just about business. I give to about 50 charities. I care and get vested in these causes that touch me. So the outreach drives me on a deeply personal level, and the business is a bonus that comes from that spirit of service.

How did you get started in real estate?

GODDARD: After graduating from college in 1968, I joined the army. I served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 and was discharged in California. I spent the next few years importing textiles, silver, shirts, and machetes between South and North America.

The properties listed for sale around my El Segundo, Calif., neighborhood piqued my interest during my morning walks. And something clicked. A friend’s wife talked to me about real estate.

Then a door-to-door salesman came to my house and talked about real estate. I liked the idea and the tax shelters and other benefits. So I decided to buy a 10-acre parcel of land in the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, Calif.

During this time, a broker from Haywood Crawford in Manhattan Beach, Calif., approached me and said he would teach me how to sell property if I got my real estate license.

They are no longer in operation. But I worked for them until about 1977, when I started my own firm, Real Estate Associates in Hermosa Beach. I gave that company to my partner and joined RE/MAX in November 1982 because I wanted less management and more sales.

Did you have a specialty or niche when you started?

GODDARD: Not really. I have taken numerous classes throughout my career to elevate myself and my knowledge. In fact, I like to say that I have more real estate designations and certifications than anyone else in California [Goddard holds the following real estate designations: ABR, CDPE, CIPS, CLHMS, CRB, CRP, CRS, E-Pro, GRI, LTG, NCP, PMN, QSC, SFR, SRES, and TRC].

I sell residential, land, commercial, and residential income. I do leases for residential and commercial. I have bought and sold churches.

I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I was 31 and made it. But then I became a builder, developer, and general contractor in the 1980s and lost almost all of it. So I learned a hard lesson early in my career.

These days, I'm going full blast in real estate. As the president of CAR, my goals center around raising awareness about housing-related issues, property rights for owners, and affordability at all levels. I love the job. I now get to serve a truly broad community.

What did your first transaction do for your professional career?

GODDARD: It really launched me. This was my first sale. It made me feel proud and happy to be a real estate practitioner. And the clients started referring me to other clients. That is how I built my business. One person referred me to the next person and the next person referred me to the next and so on. And that is basically how it has been my whole real estate career.