The Life of an Unemployed Maui Realtor

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By  – I’d like to share a tidbit about my unemployment as a Maui Realtor for the last 34 years.

In 1979 I received my real estate license and then a broker license in 1984 in Hawaii. Each day of those 34 years, I awake looking for a job. I am terminally unemployed. Does this bother me? Not in the least. My future and income, together with the future of my children and wife, depend on whether I want to go out and find a job that day. Since I work in real estate, that means only one thing; go find a new buyer or seller, or you don’t feed your family.


Maui is a very tough place to find a job that pays enough to own a home, buy and insure a car, and pay tuition for private schools and college. Very few jobs pay enough to do these things. I see doctors, lawyers, engineers, dentists, all struggling to do these things on their earnings. Often their spouses have to work as well to ensure that they are able to provide for their families.

How Could a Realtor Possibly Do It?

During the peaks in our market on Maui (1977-81, 1987-91, and 1999-2006), you could make a lot of money just having a real estate license and being busy sitting open houses, sitting in real estate offices, and waiting for buyers and sellers to walk in the door, and by running glossy ads in magazines touting either your pretty face or your Million Dollar Club credentials. The question is, did you save any of that money, pay your taxes, pay off your car, and save money for the next real estate drought?

Agents now face competition we have never seen before. Print advertising makes up a very small percentage of our budgets because buyers want current, up to date information that is hard to get in print. Open houses still work well, but almost every buyer now has an agent they have met on the internet representing them.

Buyers that choose an agent, now call the agent and give them the Multiple Listing (MLS) numbers they want to see. On top of all of this, national sites such as Trulia, Zillow, and many other 3rd party sites are taking real estate MLS data, repackaging it and re-selling it to the public in order generate income from their services.

Stice Collage

My son Jeremy and I have been working and playing together since the day he could walk. I have some great pictures of him at 2 years old shoveling wood chips at my sawmill on the Big Island. My family is everything to me.

How has all of this changed the real estate business?

We used to draft a two page offer on carbon paper in a mechanical typewriter , give a copy to our client, and put the other in the US Mail, put  a dime in the pay phone and call the client and tell them to check their mail.  We now use a 13 page contract, sometimes more, prepare it and sign it electronically and send it via e-mail.  Faxes are now technically obsolete and when did you last use a pay phone?

Interestingly enough though, the business is still the same, it is just how you deliver it.  Real estate is and has always been a people business.  If you can’t communicate in a style that your client understands, you won’t make a dime.  The real estate part is usually easy; you take a listing, check permits and title, get a survey, check covenants and zoning and you usually know what you have to sell or represent your buyer to purchase.  People are the tough part.   Some just want numbers and data.  Others want to know about all the neighbors and fun things to do.  Some want all of the information, right now.  You have to be able to understand what their needs are; after all, they are writing your pay check today if you can get them what they want and need.

Stice Team Screen Shot

Speaking of delivery, be sure to check our initial launch of our new website.

How Have I Been Able to Succeed for 34 years in the Maui Real Estate Business?

It has been very tough some years, I have to admit. In 1982 and 83, I painted over 300 condos and houses and sold time shares 3 days a week. In 1983, I had a sawmill on the Big Island for a year, then sold it and started a video store in 1984, then finally came to the realization that I really liked real estate more than anything else.

After a mentor stopped me one day while I was painting and asked me why I was still painting condos when all I could do was talk about real estate all day, I realized I should listen to him. He sent me off to work selling time shares and I had my broker’s license within 1 year and soon had my own company.

Why is All of This Important?

It illustrates how a lack of full time commitment in the tough times in real estate sets you back when the market starts to take off. I had no base to start with in 1984 and only a handful of prior clients to work with. The best agents bear down the hardest, work the hardest, when the market is tough. This is what I started too.

They keep getting listings, because there is always a buyer at the right price. They continue to work with buyers, coach them, help them plan and save. One buyer took me 8 years to find a home for. I just closed a listing that I worked on for 14 years. Sometimes you only end up making 4 cents an hour or actually losing money. Sometimes you hit it out of the park!

Now, the market is no different. Perhaps we are rounding the bend at the bottom of the market, perhaps not. Should you be considering a career in real estate? I answer that with a series of questions:

  1. How long can you survive until you get paid?
  2. Are you prepared to train every day to compete against the very best of the 1,350 agents on Maui?
  3. What are your greatest strengths? How can you use them to your advantage to compete?
  4. Can you live with the heartbreak of showing a buyer 30 houses over two weeks and then getting a phone call telling you they just bought a house at an open house from the listing agent, or they were going to lose?
  5. How are you going to handle the “internet” void you are starting the business with? Either you are going to pay for it, your company will provide it, or you will do it yourself. Remember, writing code is not meeting people.
  6. What are your goals? If you don’t have a five year plan coming in to the business, plan to fail in one year.

What is This All About?

It is the title of this post “unemployed for the past 34 years.” Proudly, I still am unemployed. I wake up every day with a smile, prioritize my day based on my clients (employers) needs, and schedule my fun around them. My children were all born on Maui; all three graduated from Seabury Hall. My son, Jeremy, is my business partner. Brianna is a Maui Police Office, Chloe is a junior at Central Washington, and my dear wife, Laura, is still the rock she has always been, always solid!

I am at peace with myself, my business, and especially the company I work for, Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers. This company is the future of real estate in Hawaii because they have totally taken the technology off the table for me and provided the best tools available in the world, not just Hawaii, to compete.  Jeremy and I have had back to back, record years in 2011 and now 2012 with Hawaii Life and next year will be even better.





  1. I see doctors, lawyers, engineers, dentists, all struggling to do these things on their earnings. Often their spouses have to work as well to ensure that they are able to provide for their families.

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