Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 10, 2023

Living in the moment

Connors’ leap from corporate to real estate has paid off

Connors’ parents, he recalls, said he could do anything he wanted. He ultimately chose real estate. - Photograph provided

Like many young professionals, Jon Connors took the “typical” route from college to corporate career simply because he thought it was the only way to earn a real living. But, he says, “I hated my job [as an insurance customer service representative]. I really hated it and I always felt like I was destined to be an entrepreneur. Even in college, I had my own clothing brand and I had an online business.”

Faced with two options – “I was either going to stay at a job I was miserable at or see what’s on the other side of what could possibly be a great fit for me” – he took a course in real estate. And, he says, “It turned out to be an amazing decision.”

In 2019, the 28-year-old Chattanooga native joined Keller Williams, where he uses his business marketing degree, a passion for beautiful buildings and a knack for relating to others to assist primarily first-time homeowners. “My clients are very comfortable with me,” he says. “I allow my clients to understand I’m a safe place, that I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you.”

As far back as Connors can remember, his parents insisted he could achieve anything he wanted – as long as he was willing to work hard for it. It wasn’t all talk, either; his mom set an example by returning to school to get her master’s degree, both for the benefit of her family and to satisfy a desire to better herself. “They taught me that by embracing everything that comes my way – the challenges, the ups, the good, the bad, but pretty much just being consistent – I receive reward from it.”

His fascination with real estate came early too, as he accompanied his mom to open houses on weekends to see what was on the market. Years later, he still admires the beauty of real estate.

“I love driving around, looking at the beautiful architecture,” he says. “I live on the North Shore, so I always drive through the Riverview area, and the design of the houses is beautiful. I just love how you’re able to change, modify, as people renovate their old homes to make a modern, new home.”

Unhappy with his job at BlueCross BlueShield, Connors listened to motivational podcasts and read books touting real estate as a viable career option.

Sabrina Hagood, an agent with Keller Williams Realty at the time, had helped his parents find their new house, so in 2019 he nervously contacted her for advice. He’d already bought one property, at age 23, so he asked her: Should he stick with investing? Or become a real estate agent? What were the pros and cons of each?

After their conversation, Connors opted to stay with the investment side. But it wasn’t long before he called Hagood back, ready to enter the real estate world and asking, “How can I fully get involved?”

“I just loved it so much, I wanted to completely submerge myself in it and just really take that risk,” he says.

While still working at BlueCross, he earned his real estate license, then left his job in the spring of 2020 soon after the pandemic hit.

He might not have made such a bold move had he not been a firm believer in manifestation, he says. “I write everything down. I remember telling myself that in order for me to pursue real estate full-time, I have to quit my job. So I remember writing it down on a Post-it note and sticking it on my wall. Every time I walked out of my room in the morning, I would see my Post-it note wall. I told myself I would quit my job May 27, 2020, and I ended up quitting May 17.

“Everything I’ve been able to accomplish, I literally – no joke – had written it out on a Post-it note and put it out there.”

Using the forced slowdown

Early 2020 was a “weird” time to head down a new career path, he admits, especially one that requires face-to-face contact with clients. But instead of panicking, he took advantage of the COVID-19 slowdown to study and learn. He also put his social media skills to work, using his Facebook and Instagram presence to post reels and remind potential clients that people were, in fact, still buying houses.

Rather than focus on specific price points, Connors believes in helping anyone who comes to him with their homebuying goals and a willingness to pursue them. “I love being able to help people accomplish their dreams, build up their portfolios, own an asset. Real estate has been, for me, a life-changing experience. And I know for others that I’ve been able to help, it’s been the same experience.”

Connors is currently expanding into the Atlanta market and still buys homes for resale. “My goal is to make these properties as nice as possible, renovate them to the best of my ability, throwing in granite, throwing in stainless steel, throwing in basically higher-end finishes. Just because you’re in a $250,000 and below price point doesn’t mean that you don’t want the stainless-steel appliances, the nice tiled shower, the nice fully updated modern bath and a nice updated kitchen. There’s not a lot of opportunity for those buyers and particularly first-time homebuyers.”

On the Realtor side, he relies on his connections, resources and network to help home-seeking clients. For one couple who didn’t have a lot of money to work with, during the pandemic Connors found a local lender and encouraged the buyers to be transparent about their situation and needs. Following his advice, they were able to buy an attractive, early-2000s home with four bedrooms and a 1.5-acre lot in Brainerd – with a zero down payment.

“I purchased my first rental property using an FHA loan,” Connors says. “Once somebody laid it out for me, I’m like, ‘I can do the same for my client.’”

The best part about working in real estate, he says, is making an impact. “I love being able to have a purpose, being able to wake up excited every day about what I do, knowing that I’m able to help people accomplish their goals and being able to be a resource for people that want to get into this industry, whether they’re looking to buy, sell, be a Realtor-agent, be an investor. And I love the freedom that real estate has allowed me to have.”

Learning from travel

When he’s not buying, selling or thinking about real estate, traveling is “my thing,” Connors says. In May, he journeyed to Sweden for a Beyoncé concert after visiting a friend from high school in Denmark.

During last year’s Thanksgiving break, he and his family traveled to Egypt. “I love, love, love history. When I go to these places, I’m always so thrilled to see the things that I’ve seen in history books because, let me tell you, looking at the pyramids in person is nothing compared to looking at them in a book. Being able to crawl inside of a pyramid is an experience I think I will always remember.

“I love to experience new things, new culture, new places,” he adds. “And I’m a big food person, so before I even get to these places, I’m Yelping the restaurants. I’m on TikTok.”

In his three years as a Realtor, Connors has learned a great deal, including one very important personal skill. “I had to get comfortable with people telling me ‘no’ and understand that ‘no’ is ‘no.’ It’s not the end of the world. What it means is that I keep it going, I keep it consistent, and I keep looking for the next opportunity.”

When he does face disappointment, he turns to a phrase he borrowed from a client-turned-friend who seemed to be successful in everything he did. One day, his buddy confided, “Being an entrepreneur, some days will be hard. But there ain’t no crying on the yacht.

“You can’t always get upset about the minor inconveniences,” Connors says. “Any negative emotions can be set aside in favor of enjoying that moment and living in that moment and just being appreciative and grateful.”