How does someone decide they’re meant for more than just the ordinary working world and jump head-first into an entrepreneurial lifestyle? According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 82 percent of agents got into real estate as a second career. Not all of us are made to stick to a 9-5 way of thinking- some of us are determined to do more so we can invest more in our families and the world around us. Read on to find out how Chris Chiaramonte left his corporate job for a career that would both fulfill him and impact the lives of people in his community. He shares his story of defying the odds to take a chance on the exciting, but unpredictable, world of real estate.

Chris Chiaramonte

Before I became a real estate agent, I worked in the post-closing department at Wells Fargo tracking down people who signed mortgage documents wrong. I also used to be a flipper on Craigslist before I got into real estate as a side hustle. One day I realized I couldn’t sit behind a desk anymore or I was going to go crazy. Someone told me I would make a good real estate agent so I decided to give it a shot!

Escaping the Rat Race for a Career in Real Estate

The transition period was a bit rocky. My wife had just gone back to school so we had no income for about three months. It was a slow start, but my business really got going around the 18 month mark. I had previously worked with closing disclosures and loan documents so that part of real estate was familiar and I became good at negotiating when I was flipping homes on Craigslist.

My work-life balance really changed. Having a 9-5 job was never for me, but of course there’s something really nice about being able to shut your brain off to work-related things at 5 p.m. The work-life balance figured itself out before, as I didn’t work at all when I was not physically at work. 

Now, making time to both be present and trying to serve clients is the biggest challenge. It’s often hard to make sure I’m not neglecting family time by being on my phone and not 100% mentally there. 

Using My Business to Re-Invest in My Community

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to get into owning rental properties. I had been told so many times since I was young that you can “build wealth” through rental properties, so it was burned into my brain. However, I didn’t really know how to start.

We had supported a local organization called Beacon of Life for a while and when I heard about their need for lower-income housing, it looked like it could be a good opportunity to combine “wealth building” and helping other people.

They have a great program, but the girls who go through the program have to be kicked out of their housing facility after two years. Most of them don’t have the money for a big deposit or just can’t find places that are affordable. We bought a fiveplex in Des Moines, renovated it and now offer housing to women who come out of that program. The deposit is low and their utilities are included for a lower monthly rate.

We have tried to replicate this model elsewhere and now own a total of 21 units and most of them are affordable housing units.

It took about 4-5 years of being in the real estate business for me to get to the point where I could reinvest in the community. But if I could go back, I wouldn’t have waited that long. I think I wasted a lot of time being scared of the unknown. When you own 21 units that are all older buildings, it isn’t exactly a cash cow, but I wish I hadn’t wasted time being afraid to jump in. 

If you make a million dollars a year, but you’re not happy and pumped about your career when you get up in the morning, what’s the point?

If I wasn’t a REALTOR®, I don’t know how we could have taken the first steps to make this happen. Not just because of the flexibility and income, but a lot of the opportunities that we’ve had to invest in real estate and find homes to buy and flip have been because I’ve been around other REALTORS®. It’s much easier to find houses and rental properties to invest in when you’re thinking and breathing real estate. When you’re around it all the time, opportunities just seem to present themselves. 

I have major respect for people who are able to successfully invest in real estate and have a different full-time profession. 

Life’s Too Short to Waste

I get to be creative and do my own thing now. I really enjoy when I feel like I’m adding value to people’s lives through their real estate experience. This is something I never could have achieved while grinding out a corporate job every day.

Life is too short to hate what you do. If you’re not happy, take small incremental steps to find something else to do. If you make a million dollars a year, but you’re not happy and pumped about your career when you get up in the morning, what’s the point?

Chris Chiaramonte
Chris with his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters, Isabella and Gianna.

Ready to break free of the mundane and build your life the way you want it to be? Find out more about what it means to join the relentless team at C21®. Check out our website to learn how to build a successful real estate business.