Real estate agents always remember their first sale, whether it was three or 32 years ago, and whether the price was $40,000 or $2.1 million. We asked a handful of them to recall the highs and lows of their initial forays into the business.

Mary Cella, Coldwell Banker Gundaker

    In 1979, Mary Cella had just moved back to St. Louis from the East Coast and began a new career as a realtor. Not knowing many people in the city after her time away, Cella searched out connections by going to open houses and ‘for sale by owners,’ where she met a young couple trying to sell their home in Brentwood.

    “When they didn’t sell their house on their own, they called me because they liked me—I had just talked to them and gave them suggestions instead of telling them they couldn’t do it,” Cella says. 

    She jumped at the chance to sell the home, making last-minute trips over to the three-bed, one-bath property on Rosalie Avenue to prep it for showings. “When the homeowners would forget to make their bed, I’d load my two young kids into the car and run over there to tidy up the house,” Cella remembers.

    Sold quickly for around $40,000, the first sale got Cella hooked on real estate. “It was my first real venture into the business and sales world, and I was delighted that it did what it was supposed to do. It’s a tried-and-true process and it just worked.”

Kathleen Lovett, Janet McAfee

    Kathleen Lovett’s first client is now her business partner, but in 1998, Laura Donovan was just her best friend, looking for a house in Richmond Heights. “Having your first sale to your best friend makes it even more special. We still talk about it today—it’s another piece to our story,” Lovett says.

    Donovan was moving back to St. Louis from Dallas and enlisted new agent Lovett to find her a home. After visiting 15 properties in one day, the pair “had seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” Lovett recalls. “As we were driving down the street looking for the address of the next possibility, Laura said, Oh, I hope it’s the cute one with the green awning.”    

    The two-bed, one-bath bungalow on Claytonia Terrace turned out to be the perfect fit for Donovan, and the sale was a good learning experience for Lovett. “Things like the building inspection were a little nerve-racking,” she says. “I knew it was a safe zone, working with Laura, but I was still filled with anxiety on some front because I had never done it before. For Laura to trust me enough to handle this for her was a huge compliment.”

Wayne Norwood, Gladys Manion

    When Wayne Norwood decided to change careers in 2006, real estate was not at the top of his list of interests, but he couldn’t ignore the signs. “I asked 28 random people what I should do as a new career, and 25 out of the 28 people said real estate,” Norwood says.

    While he entered the business reluctantly, his first sale proved those 25 people right. “I had been emailing a potential client different property options, and her husband calls me up and says, You’ve been sending my wife things on the Internet,” Norwood says. Luckily the potential miscommunication was quickly cleared up and Norwood was floored when the husband clarified his interest in seeing a 7,300-square-foot, multi-million dollar home on Overhills Drive in Ladue.

    “I was so scared about entering the business that my threshold was so small. I thought if I could just sell $1 million in my first year, I’d stick with it,” he says. “The Ladue home alone sold for around $2.1 million. I never expected to have that big of a sale!”

    The lucrative success of his first deal encouraged Norwood that his new career was the correct choice. “I was over 50 when I came into this business, if I can do it, then anyone can. It was one of those larger-than-life victories.”

Karen Hoemeke, Coldwell Banker Premier Group

    The downward slide of the real estate market in 2008 proved to be a test for one of Karen Hoemeke’s first sales in Brentwood, but her previous experience in advertising and marketing helped to weather those challenges.

    “It’s a rough market and it takes a lot more today to sell a home, but people appreciate the systems we have in place to take them through the process in steps,” Hoemeke says.

    The newly rehabbed home on St. Clair Avenue featured an open floor plan and a look unique to the houses in the area, so it “needed the right people to fit their specific needs,” Hoemeke notes.

    The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath property sold for $390,000 and the sale provided a stepping stone into the area where Hoemeke and her husband, Dan, focus their business. “It was great being able to sell the home and get your foot in the door where you want to work,” she says. “Things have grown substantially since then. You build upon those first sales.”  LN

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