STEPHEN MULLINAX – REALTOR, APPRAISER
Real Estate is a constantly moving target. Experience in many different facets of the real estate industry is a necessary component in today’s market. An effective real estate agent must have Intimate knowledge of not only what it takes to get from the Contract through to the Closing but also what it takes to TURN A HOUSE INTO SOMEONES HOME!
My career in Real Estate is extensive. It started when I was 12 Years Old. A home was being built across the street from where I grew up in Boiling Springs, SC. I already had an interest in building things so I collected any scrap wood I could find until I had enough to build something. One day while I was sitting on the dirt bank across the street just watching the house being framed, one of the workers asked me if I wanted to help and of course I said “yes.” I kept the job site clean and any scrap wood I found I was allowed to keep. I will never forget the day when one of the guys went to get lunch and he actually brought me something too. I felt like I was “one of the guys”, and I couldn’t have been happier. From that day, I was hooked. At 12 years old, I had caught a glimpse into my future.
Shortly after Graduating from Boiling Springs High School, I started my first business. I had access to only a few tools of any trade. A lawnmower, a weed eater and an old Ford F100 truck. So you guessed it, I started a lawn maintenance business. I got my first taste of the freedom of being my own boss. I went out with business cards and fliers and went to every business in Spartanburg that I could feasibly “maintain” their lawn with what I had and walked many neighborhoods. Surprisingly, I ended up with contracts for all of the Auto-Zone Stores and Advance Auto Stores. Several smaller businesses and dozens of single family residences. It became fall and then winter and I was un-employed until the next spring. I had made enough money during the spring and summer to make it through the cold months but my business plan had a major flaw. I didn’t continue to get more accounts and business trailed off until I was really unemployed. It was a hard lesson learned and one I would never forget.
One night, while I was hanging out with my best friend Kent, he asked me if I wanted to come work for him at his family’s business. The Business was Real Estate Development. That is when my whole life changed. I went to work for Mark III Properties and I worked with my best friend. We did everything from pulling weeds from the entrances of subdivisions to putting up miles of silt-fence. One day we would be spreading seed and shaking straw on the shoulders of brand new paved roads and the next we would be directing millions of dollars of heavy equipment around job-sites during the installation of new sewer lines and taps. I was allowed access to the inner workings of a multi-million dollar Real Estate Company. I learned virtually every aspect of how a raw piece of property is transformed into a subdivision.
From there, I went to work as an assistant, for 2 of the builders that created inventory for many of the subdivisions that Mark III Properties developed. The first was builder was Charles Warner with Warner Homes. With Charles, everything was hands on and we did a lot of the work ourselves. From laying out the foundation and having footings dug and poured to trenching and installing the irrigation system. From laying out and pouring the concrete driveways, sidewalks and garages to fabricating our own fireplace mantels, we saved money and I was blessed with gaining a wealth of real-world knowledge I could not have learned in any classroom.
It was a separate school of thought when I went to work for Mike Henthorn with Beeson-Henthorn Investments. With Mike, I learned how to delegate responsibilities to subcontractors due mostly to the fact that we had no less than 10 projects going simultaneously in usually at least 5 separate subdivisions. This is the time of my life when I learned the most about working with contractors, building inspectors and anyone else associated with the projects including suppliers and new product evaluation. I remain friends with these 2 builders to this day. I will always be thankful for the time I spent at Mark III Properties and for giving me the opportunity to work so closely with two brilliant men both with “Hearts of a Teacher.” Due to my familiarity with all of the projects that were in progress at the time, the level of trust we shared and my relationship with the family who founded Mark III Properties, I would continue to work with them on projects for years after, but by the age of 25, I had the experience, ability and the funding to start my Second Business.
For the next 5 years…I renovated houses. I personally did a large portion of the work to these homes myself. I had to become familiar with “signing the front of the checks instead of the back”, and it was yet another “eye opening experience”. As my team became more efficient at renovating houses, I found myself with a little extra time on my hands and I wanted to further my experience in other aspects of the Real Estate Business. I considered getting my Home Inspectors License but that would be more of a continuation of what I had already been doing. I had always been curious as to how homes with the same amount of materials were worth so much more in some areas than they were in others. I was always aware of the 3 most important aspects of a home’s value, “Location, Location, Location,” but there had to be more to it than that so it was then I decided to get my Real Estate Appraiser’s License. The classes were relatively difficult. More difficult than I had expected because there were so many variables that influence the market value of any individual piece of real estate.
I went to work as an apprentice for James Anderson of Anderson Real Estate in Spartanburg. For 3 straight months, I called every mortgage company that I could find. I followed calls with resumes, business cards and more calls. I got nothing. I was discouraged because as all people in the real estate business know, it is expensive to just be in this business. Jim called me in his office one day wondering what was going on with me and why I haven’t been able to generate one single appraisal order. By now I was already questioning myself and I did not have an answer. I did not let myself get discouraged and I put my head down and kept calling and sending out information. Finally, I got an order from a mortgage company for a property in Cherokee County where I didn’t even have access to the MLS system. I accepted it anyway and off I went. I had to use the MLS at a real estate office near the property in downtown Gaffney. My MLS was called Paragon and this was a different system called Navica. I had to get help from some very nice and helpful ladies who were there working at the time. I felt like such an amateur but hey, fake it till you make it, right? It took me a few days to get it done and the house didn’t come close to what the value had to be for the loan to go through so I never even got paid. Later on I realized I was probably the only appraiser in South Carolina that would have accepted that order and it was most likely rejected by several other appraisers before making it to me. I’m glad that I didn’t let that get me down because all of the work that I had been doing marketing myself and my company was about to pay off. The flood gates opened and I started receiving orders for appraisals at the rate of close to 10 a week. Needless to say, I couldn’t take on that many and I had to be selective. Things changed fast for me over the next 18 months. I accumulated enough experience points to become fully licensed and certified on my own.
After gaining the experience I needed, I became fully licensed in 2003. Along the way, I valued more than just single family residences. I appraised multimillion dollar commercial buildings, large tracts of land, residential subdivision lots, horse farms, multiple properties for estates and probably every other type of real estate that exists. No class or webinar can teach you about the real estate industry like being submerged in the business from day to day. For years I learned about the business of real estate and made dozens of professional relationships with agents, buyers, sellers, attorneys, etc.
In early 2007, I was becoming concerned about what I was seeing on a daily basis. Appraisal orders weren’t coming in as steady as they once were and appraisals that had already gone out weren’t getting out of underwriting. A significant portion of my business were orders that were paid at closing but deals were falling apart and never making it to closing. So I made a tough decision that in retrospect was one of the best decisions that I ever made…to put appraising on hold and get back into building and construction. Then one night I was watching the 6pm news with my parents and what I heard was shocking, but not very surprising to me, the housing market was in crisis and so was the appraisal business.
I had already started the transition back to renovation full time and appraisals part time. I was painting, laying tile, installing hardwood floors, etc. I had always loved the hands on part of renovation. Not too many other things can deliver the instant gratification I felt when a project was done. I was working with a friend of mine doing some painting when I met a real estate investor named Mary. It was a match made in real estate heaven. I was given blank canvases for the most part and expense accounts for materials and I was “the labor” part of the equation. I couldn’t have been happier with our arrangement. This lasted throughout the market downturn and during that time I began to think about what was next for me. I had always been interested in selling real estate. Although I had no formal sales experience, I had experience in many other aspects of the real estate industry and with the support of Mary I decided to go for it. I knew that it would be different from anything else I had done in my real estate career up to this point and I couldn’t wait to get started.
I went to work for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, the same company that Mary was with, August 20, 2012. Being in the real estate business as an appraiser, I had already built relationships with many of the agents who worked there as well as many other real estate companies in town. When I met my new boss and South Carolina Real Estate Hall of Fame owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Mrs. Evelyn Young, I knew instantly I had made the right choice. Obviously, I knew who Mrs. Young was but this was the first time I had ever had the opportunity to sit and talk with her at length. We talked about my experience and who I had worked for in the past and she knew them all very well. Mrs. Young instantly made me feel right at home at BHG.
Now, as a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Spartanburg, I can continue working with home buyers and sellers and continue doing what I love…helping people.
Over the past 20+ years of my real estate career I have been fortunate enough to work for, learn from and maintain close relationships with some of the top real estate professionals in Upstate South Carolina. I have learned from the best and I intend on carrying the tradition of excellence throughout the rest of my real estate career.
STEPHEN MULLINAX – REALTOR, APPRAISER