How this Island Life all Began

I’m 36 with two beautiful boys, a husband of 14 years, four crazy awesome grandparents at my disposal, and a gorgeous new dream home on the Outer Banks. Life.Is.Good.

When I was 24 and supposed to be in the honeymoon stage of my new, 1 yr old marriage, we were just getting ourselves into 4 mortgages right before the market crash, and I was about to quit my job as a mortgage loan officer to run my small handmade jewelry business full-time while living on a teacher’s salary. Life.Was.About.To.Get.Real.

Just to preface, if you are in boat loads of debt just remember YOU PUT YOURSELF THERE. Taking ownership and responsibility of my financial decisions as a young adult led me to where I am today. Here is the story behind how I came into the field of real estate and am now living debt free so my family can travel…and I can pursue my love of fashion while doing it.

My husband and I met working at the Sanderling Inn in Duck circa ’96 when I was 15, and started dating when I was 17. We Graduated college together at the College of Charleston in South Carolina in 2004, rushed to the alter to get married right after graduation, nabbed a couple of 9-5 jobs, and quickly jumped into buying our first house…at the top of the OBX market, of course. We had arrived as adults…and then we fell, hard.

I was a 23-year-old loan officer at a successful local Obx mortgage company and my husband had landed a coveted job teaching 5th grade at KH Elementary school just 1 year out of college. We were living the dream…at the beach, no less. My husband was a new believer who had just invited Jesus into his life ( which I had been praying for years at that point) and our relationship was stronger than ever. My husband’s sister and her soon to be ex husband were leasing to own what I knew was my dream home in Nags Head. We did what any successful young couple without a real dose of reality would do…we bought a 2nd house on the OBX…again at the top of the market. We rented our first home out to long-term tenants, and then I decided to quit my job because I knew pushing paper as a lender was not what I wanted to do long term. I had been running a small handmade jewelry business on the side since high school known as ‘Lady Maye’. My sweet husband was as supportive as ever and told me to go for my dreams of being a jewelry designer, and so I gave up my $60,000/year paycheck and started working on my jewelry business full-time. That was at the end of 2005…

Just a year and a half later I had exhausted all our resources traveling to trade shows in Atlanta and New York with my jewelry business (which had success…just not enough to cover our massive debts at that point), we were paying 4 mortgages between our two homes, and the market was officially in shambles. I was 26 years old and cried just about every day.

We had been trying to sell our first home since 2005 in between taking our tenants to court for non-payment of rent, and we literally had roughly $5.00 to our names. I can’t tell you how tired we were of eating beans and rice and peanut butter sandwiches. I’m talking no salsa, no avocado and no jelly…we were struggling, and hungry! The arguments caused by financial stress also were not fun.

During this personal financial collapse of ours, I realized jewelry was not going to cut it, and we would be hard pressed to survive on the Outer Banks on a teacher salary alone. I did some serious soul-searching and praying, and knowing I didn’t want to go back to waiting tables, I decided to get my real estate license.  I got my real estate license in 2006, and after yet another challenging start as a site sales agent for a community that starved us for yet another year and a half and ultimately ended up in foreclosure (seriously), I finally joined Coldwell Banker Seaside in 2008.

By that point I had duck tape holding up the driver side window of my Ford Contour, which I bought from my parents way back in high school, and was in desperate need of a paycheck. I shamelessly asked the owner of CB Seaside for a paying job of any sorts (along with a computer if they had one to spare, and a phone…and anything else they would provide for free), and worked 7 am -7 pm answering the ‘duty’ phone and making ‘cold calls’ before and after my paid work hours as the owners assistant.

I remember the day I looked at my husband and said ‘this is it, we are going down’…and then we got an offer on one of our houses. Our prayers had been answered…but we also had to come up with $50,000 to pay off our loan since we were upside down on our mortgage. Without hesitation we quickly and joyfully (truly joyfully…tears of joy) accepted the offer and then started praying some more. Over the next 3 weeks, God blessed us in every way…we sold my husbands truck in one day, qualified for another loan (the banks were STILL lending us money, haha!), and had a family member who could lend us the remaining money needed.  We miraculously came up with $50,000 in just three weeks.  We could have traveled the world 3 times over with the money we lost on our first house.

So many prayers were answered the day we closed on that first house sale, and Adam and I knew we would never take the same approach to life or our finances. We had become extremely frugal and used to living on next to nothing. It was a running joke with my friends that I went into a local bank daily just to sneak a cup of coffee because even coffee was not in our budget, along with every other minuscule luxury that we had taken for granted.

Shortly after selling our disastrous first house, I had closed my first real estate sale (duty call conversion!), and was on my way to making real estate sales my full time job. The next step was to get us out of debt…every debt…our family loan, student loans, credit card, car payment and our remaining two mortgages. That took another 7 years, but we did it. We were DEBT FREE, completely, by Christmas 2015!  My husband still dubs me the ‘psycho saver’.

Those next 7 years are for another post, but I will say this…it is never too late to take back control of your finances.  No one handed me my real estate career on a silver platter.  Did people help me when I asked, yes. Did I get 50-100 no’s for every yes, yes. Did I have to work hard every day for a long time to see the results I was after, yes. Stay the course and believe in yourself…you can do it!

It has taken nothing short of hard, hard, hard work, and lots of prayers and patience to get to where I am in my career. Selling real estate on the Outer Banks is a dream come true, and I try to remind myself daily not to take it for granted.  With that said, I can now, FINALLY, circle back to the thing I love most…adventuring with my family.


7 thoughts on “How this Island Life all Began

  1. Remarkable back story and your zeal to break free of debt! Thanks for sharing and continued blessings – you have a beautiful family and great parents as well! Dave Lundahl

  2. So happy our paths crossed. Keep living the dream, girl. And thank God every day for those grandparents who are around to love those boys.

  3. Heather you will be an inspiration to many, many people — in your diligence and hard work and in your beautiful personal style. I look forward to more blog posts!

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