Beginner's Luck

Florida-based practitioner Linda Lindsay closed her first deal before the ink was dry on her business cards.

February 1, 2011

In 1998, Linda Lindsay, 52, was recently divorced and facing an uncertain future when a friend and neighbor suggested a career in real estate sales.

With initial reluctance, Lindsay, a former acquisitions specialist for the Standard Oil Company of Ohio and the Collier County government in Naples, Fla., shifted gears, secured her real estate license, and landed a sales position with Olde Naples Real Estate Inc., a small boutique office.

The ink was barely dry on Lindsay’s real estate license, and her business cards were still at the printer when her first client — a member of the same flight club Lindsay used when traveling with her husband, pre-divorce — called.

“During a recent trip, the flight-club member told one of club agents that he was looking to buy a condominium in the area. That agent knew about my difficult divorce and the ensuing career change and gave him my number. He knew exactly what he wanted to buy and where, and we arranged to meet,” Lindsay, now a sales associate with Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Naples, recalls.

The following day, Lindsay, the buyer, and Edie Dooley, an onsite agent at the Bay Colony sales office, toured a 2,760 square foot property with western exposure and open balconies on the 17th floor, listed for $1,250,000 in the Brighton, one of the Bay Colony’s six luxury condominiums on the Gulf of Mexico.

“It had everything he wanted. It was beautiful. And when we returned to the Bay Colony sales office, the buyer said, ‘Write it up.’ I told Dooley that I never written a sales contract. And when she asked for a business card, I had to further explain that they were still at the printers,” Lindsay notes.

Unflappable, Dooley helped Lindsay complete the contract on the million-dollar cash sale, and the transaction closed in December 1998.

“I’ll always remember the client saying that every transaction probably wouldn’t be this easy. But it was a great start for sure. In my first two months, I closed $2.5 million,” Lindsay recalls.

“Dooley became my friend and mentor and provided me with valuable advice that would have otherwise taken me years to learn,” she adds.

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

LINDSAY: This is going to sound funny, but The Oprah Winfrey Show gave my career a real jump-start. I had been on the show twice. The first segment was called, “What is a corporate wife worth?” The second segment was after my divorce, a follow-up to the changes in my life.

A couple days after my first sale closed, I received a call at home from Oprah’s Harpo Productions, asking how my life was going after the divorce. I was jubilant, of course, and burst out with the whole story about how I had just got my real estate license and closed a sale on a million-dollar plus condo in Naples. The producers asked if I had a copy of the commission check; I faxed it over while I was on the phone. The next day, the producers called to say they were coming to Naples to do a follow-up with me for the inspirational segment, a 15-minute story that usually closes out the Oprah show.

They arrived and filmed me showing a listing in Port Royal, strolling on the beach, reciting a beautiful poem my daughter had written for me, enjoying the company of friends at a local restaurant, and hanging out in my newly purchased condo, where I moved after my divorce.

My inspirational segment aired on March 16, 1999

Many people who saw the Oprah shows and knew my story sent prospective buyers my way. Almost all my clients come to me through referrals. I don’t send mailers. I don't pass out flyers. I don't make cold calls. And I don't solicit listings. So to say that I am blessed is an understatement.

Did you have a specialty or niche when you started?

LINDSAY: I had no specialty or niche when I started in real estate. I was just anxious to make a sale, any sale. At 52, I was beginning a whole new life and embarking on a career completely opposite of anything I’d ever done up until that point in my life. Today, I represent primarily investors, and my focus is properties situated within a mile or so of the Gulf of Mexico.

What was your biggest fear when you started out in real estate?

LINDSAY: My biggest fear with this first transaction was that I would not be able to provide the customer with the same level of knowledge and service as a veteran agent might. Even though I was new to real estate, I wasn’t flying solo; I had Dooley, a seasoned, successful agent mentoring me and sharing her insight and wisdom from the outset of my career. Being given this generous gift of someone else’s experience and knowledge helped me avoid many common mistakes people make early in their real estate careers and kept me on the right track. I have used my beginner's luck and good fortune early on and have given, over the years, three newly licensed agents the opportunity to work with me at the outset of their careers, sharing commissions and my experience with them equally. My goal has always been to provide others with the same opportunity that was given to me in the beginning.

What did this first sale do for your professional career?

LINDSAY: Such an elevated jump-start fueled my self-confidence greatly. Blessings come to us in many disguises, and nothing, I believe, is by accident. So it is important to look for those signs — both positive and negative — and respond accordingly. In this case, someone was definitely looking out for me, and I knew it and felt it immediately.

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