Success by ‘Doing the Service’

Sig Buster was broke when he decided to try to break into real estate in 1972. In his first year, he won his company’s salesperson of the year title — but not because he followed the money.

August 16, 2013

Sig Buster entered the real estate world with a lick and a promise — and only $83 to his name.

By the winter of 1972, when he started as a real estate agent in South Carolina, Buster had gone through a tumultuous few years. His wife left him; he had open heart surgery and then contracted hepatitis C in a blood transfusion. Still only in his 20s, he’d been out of work for some time because of health issues, and he felt lucky to land a gig with a construction company.

That’s when a friend made a crazy suggestion.

“An insane friend of mine told me I’d be great at [real estate] and I should give it a try,” Buster recalls. The notion came out of left field. Buster didn’t have a college degree or any real estate education. He didn’t even own a suit. Where would he begin?

On his first shot at the real estate exam, he failed. But the second time, he passed. Still, “what did I know other than what was in that book?” he says.

The first few weeks as an agent were tough. Buster survived on $1.25 lunches at a cafeteria. “I counted every penny and didn’t eat a whole lot,” he says with a laugh. “I had nowhere to go but up.”

It was right at the beginning of his time as an agent that he learned an invaluable lesson, one that he says some agents never learn. “Don’t chase the money. Do the service, and the money will follow.”

He put that advice into practice in his first week on the job. He was closing a deal for a buyer, and the loan officer on the buyer’s mortgage said she couldn’t approve the deal until she received the buyer’s job verification. Buster took the opportunity to go the extra mile, making a trip to the buyer’s work to personally get verification. It turned out that there was a minor holdup in the process of verifying his buyer’s job credentials that he was able to help fix during his visit. He then personally delivered the verification form to the loan officer.

“Always do the service,” Buster said. “I took time to figure out every step of a closing and what I needed to do for it, and I checked it off my list.” After that first sale, Buster began to accrue name recognition in his area and land more sales. He even won his company’s first salesperson of the year title in his first year as an agent.

“I got in the mind-set that I was my own competition,” Buster says. “I didn’t worry about what other [agents] were doing.”

By the end of that year, Buster couldn’t believe his reversal of fortune. “I wasn’t rich, but it was as different as night and day” from the beginning to the end of the year, he says. “I bought a Buick and some more clothes,” he says. “I was doing just fine.” He said that he went on to sell 100 homes in one summer “because I kept track of everything for the customer.”

Buster’s business has since propelled him to great heights. He got into commercial sales and now owns Sig Buster Commercial Real Estate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“I don’t think REALTORS® are as involved in the sale as they used to be,” Buster says. “But this is a service industry. Do the service. The money will follow.”

REALTOR® Magazine does not endorse the views or opinions expressed in this article.

Graham Wood
Senior editor

Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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