Building A Life & Business in East County31 October 2017 Written by By Jim Graydon
Published in November 2017 Articles
I have lived in East County since 2000, but I grew up in the Fremont area, where I spent most of my life.
When I was 12 years old, I began diligently working on my father’s construction projects. In the 70s my father and his friend built a couple spec homes in Fremont’s wealthy Glenmore Hills area. They ultimately built many industrial storage facilities plus a number of custom homes in Glenmore Hills. We lived in one of them. They also bought raw land next to a General Motors plant and built the first industrial condominiums in Northern California.
I have an aptitude for figuring out how to make things happen and before entering my teen years was comfortably working with a nail belt and hammer. The “boss’s kid” sometimes has an awkward time working with employees but that never happened to me because Dad was harder on me than he was on any of the workers. For example, I was given a particularly onerous task while helping install piers under a house for a second story addition. Being the smallest member of the crew and having no seniority, my assignment was to wiggle into the crawl space under the home, put a 5-gallon bucket on my skateboard, roll it back to where the pier would be installed, fill it with dirt from the hole we were digging for the pier foundation, and then push it to the crawl space access point where a member of the crew would empty the bucket and hand it back to me.
I never had any problem with hard work, but when it was 110° and I was pushing fiberglass insulation into a ceiling while pieces of pink insulation fell down like rain, the job wasn’t much fun. We would hose ourselves off to try to get some relief from the heat, turning the flakes of insulation into pink slime that was still itching me three days later.
I busted up driveways and was the team’s lowly pick-and-shovel man while helping with cement pad pours. On one job they forgot to dig a footing for a garage we were installing. They realized their mistake shortly before the cement truck was due to arrive. “Jim!” they said. “We need that 20 foot hole dug before the cement truck shows up.” It was a tough job but I got it done.
My dad taught me the principle of hard work. His battle cry on difficult jobs was, “We’re not stopping ’till the job is done.” Sometimes the job wouldn’t be done until after the sun had set and stars were coming out.
My father was a visionary. He showed up in a picture on the front page of an issue of Fremont’s Argus Newspaper with the caption, “Land developer says that Livermore will be the next boom town.” Livermore was little more than a village at the time but Dad could see the business and entertainment destination that it was going to become.
I continued in the family construction business until 1982. I was 19 years old, we completed the last of a number of spec homes, and I started looking for work. My first job was with Reader Typesetting out of Fremont. I started as a driver, then was promoted to output, where I learned the essentials of paste-up and design and got on-the-job training as a graphic designer.
My next job was with a company called Bay Area Labels, where I learned about screen-printing graphics and became familiar with the properties of the polycarbonates, plastic, and metals they used in constructing the graphics.
After that I spent a dozen years as owner of my own carpet company. I used my graphic experience to design a logo and illustrate the vans. In 1992 I decided to become a loan officer and for three months, after working with carpets during the day, I studied every night, sometimes lying in bed and holding the manual over my head. It was boring, but I had to learn the answers to 6,000 questions in order to pass the tough license exam. The failure rate was high but I’m an effective learner so I passed the test the first time I took it.
A few days later I was down on my knees cleaning a lady’s carpet. “We’re thinking of selling our house,” she said. I told her I had just gotten my real estate license.
“You look like a nice boy,” she said. “You list my house.”
That was the beginning. I listed the house, quickly landed two refinances, successfully moved two families from San Jose, and the race was on. In one month I had 17 transactions in process. The boss called me in, told me to close the door, and then said that I was clogging up the processing department.
He said I was still on track to make $80,000. I didn’t say anything, but was miffed by the fact that he would keep me stuck at $80,000. So at 3:00 the next morning I got out of bed. I didn’t know how to do a loan but spent the next 22 hours tackling the 17 that I had in the works and, through trial and error, ended up closing every one.
A few years later I got the idea of opening an office in the Antioch area. I ran a test, got a number of leads, and presented my plans and goals to the boss who scoffed at what he considered to be my presumption. However, the owner of another real estate business in the building learned of my ambition. He told me that if I worked for his company for six productive months he would support my opening an office in Antioch. They were a good six months, so for the next two years I ran my own Antioch real estate office off of Delta Fair.
In the meantime, my father had become a mortgage broker. Things changed one day when Dad told me he wished to refinance. I suggested that he become approved as a lender, and we could carry out the refi under the auspices of his own brokerage.
It worked! We got him approved and he did his first loan, which was his own refinance carried out under his own brokerage. The process went so well that Dad and I had lunch at Livermore’s Cosa Orozco restaurant, drew up a plan for working together, and started into business under the All Phase Brokers dba. That was 2002. Dad and I continued working together until 2010 when I got my own broker license and became company president, with Dad working in a consulting and supporting role. The business was booming and at one point I had 35 agents working out of a spacious Garin Ranch office. The housing market has a feast or famine quality and we shut the business down during the collapse that took place a decade ago.
Now I’m working with Mark Evans, who is my operations manager, plus a full-time loan processor. Until the market normalized we were selling real estate owned (REO) properties. I had to do thousands of Broker Price Opinions (BPOs) so learned a lot about how to value properties. Working with asset managers from banks taught me negotiation skills.
We are now focusing on boutique level loans and real estate transactions, in which I’m able to leverage my experience in construction, carpets, graphic design, property evaluation, and negotiation to provide customers with the resources to make the most of any property transaction. I am able to point out pit-falls and issues with properties my clients are purchasing and do listings after addressing problems with the carpet, paint, appliances, and every part of the building.
My style focuses more on substance than sizzle. I’m following the example of my father, who was wealthy but would wear dungarees and a cowboy hat to meetings with out of town investors who came dressed in fancy suits and sometimes wearing watches that were more valuable than the red pickup truck my father drove to the meeting.
Like my father, I don’t try to sell flash or try to impress people with my appearance but let results speak for themselves. I am able to move properties quickly because I know what it takes to sell a customer’s home. I bring expert knowledge, valuable experience, current real estate technology, a well-defined marketing plan, a cohesive network, energy, and enthusiasm, culminating in the excitement of a job well done.
I offer Home Evaluation Reports more detailed than compiled by other agents. I broadcast listings over a vast network to people possibly interested in their property. I use technology to create virtual tours of particular listings. I offer appropriate checklists and reports, plus offer my experience and knowledge for personal consultation, as well as reliable and experience based information about relocating including information about the target neighborhood and step-by-step advice for transferring utilities.
I am passionate about my job, love my neighborhood, and keep up with the latest trends and strategies so that I can pass them on to my clients. I’ve gained a lot of satisfied customers and my business is increasing by word-of-mouth.
Helping people realize their dream of home ownership has always been the big payoff in this business, as far as I’m concerned. Besides being a source of personal satisfaction, leaving customers with the knowledge that they have been well taken care of is simply good business because the best way to take care of the bottom line is to take care of people.
On a personal note, my wife Jacqui and I have been married for 26 years. We have five children. Jessica is 25, James is 23, Julia 21, Jenna 18, and Joe 13. Jacqui home schooled all of them through all 12 grades except for our youngest, Joe, who is in 8th grade.
Jessica is mother of our two grandchildren, five-year-old Holly, and two-year-old Leila. My wife and I are value driven, and have served in a number of churches throughout the community. I recently joined Brentwood Rotary and am in alignment with their Service Above Self ideal.