How a simple offer of garden maintenance snowballed into a flourishing career

We’re often made to think that careers should follow a clear, designated route, with specific points of entry. But, in reality, we know that career paths are as unique as the people who follow them. 

Amanda Marcum, Associate Broker at MARCUMsold Team, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Foster, REALTORS®, is an award-winning industry professional with a particularly novel and inspiring story—one in which her life changed after some pro bono gardening work.

But first, let’s take it back to how Amanda started on her path to real estate glory. It was her father who encouraged her to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother and pursue a career in property. 

After completing college, Amanda moved to Kentucky to live with her grandmother, who at the time was a successful broker owner herself. But it wasn’t just a case of jumping straight into the family business—Amanda wasn’t convinced at the time that the real estate world was the right choice for her—and, before anything else, she had to head to the classroom to hone her craft.

“After the very first class, I came home and was like ‘Oh my god, this is it. This is perfect—I’m sold.’ And there was no looking back after that,” Amanda recalled.

Tips for succeeding during an economic downturn

But this was 2007. The start of a painful recession for the industry and the world in general. Amanda needed something extra special up her sleeves if she was going to break into the real estate domain at the least opportune moment.

Luckily, her sleeves were full of ingenious ideas—including wearing glasses to make her 22-years-young self appear more experienced—but there was one idea in particular that really paid off. Amanda approached a local bank that listed its foreclosures on its website but didn’t market them outside of that. She had noticed one of these foreclosed properties in her neighborhood, and contacted the bank’s asset manager to see if she could list the home for them.

Along with her natural charisma, what sealed the deal was her commitment to mow the property’s lawn and keep the place looking presentable. Amanda said, “I knew that these properties would be in a great position with my care and my dedication. 

“At the start of your career in real estate, all you have is time. You don't have a lot of money—you've got time. So, I had time to mow the grass. It made sense to offer something that I had, and then through my skills, drive, and motivation, I knew I was the best fit to get them top dollar and work the hardest for them. Just knowing that, because I had the time and had the education, it was easy to market myself to them, and they were gracious enough to give me the opportunity.”

And then, Amanda added, the rest was history. “They listed everything with me after that. I will forever be grateful for that opportunity because I got a ton of experience.”

Essential attributes for agents

It’s clear from meeting Amanda that she exudes talent and charm, attributes that are vital for succeeding in the real estate world. Of course, she wasn’t born with the ability to promote herself as a real estate professional—Amanda’s skills were nurtured throughout her childhood and early working life.

One of the most beneficial roles she had before moving into real estate was waiting tables. “That gave me the confidence as far as being able to sell myself, which is what you need to do in real estate too,” Amanda explained. 

A competitive spirit is another quality that can really bolster a real estate agent’s chance of success. Fortunately for Amanda, this was lovingly instilled in her at a young age. “My dad is super competitive—I get it from him,” she said. “He was the first person in the world to ever go 100 mph in a V bottom boat. And he pretty much only graduated high school because he was one of the stars of the basketball team. I don't even know where he gets it from, but his super competitive nature was instilled in me. 

“I did nearly every sport growing up and I wouldn't do it unless I was good at it. So, I swam, danced, played tennis, golf…I pretty much did like as many sports as I possibly could.

“It all stemmed from what my dad taught me: if you're going to do something, you're going to do it properly. When playing in a golf tournament, you have to finish even if you are playing horribly. You've ruined your score with one bad hole, but it doesn't matter. You have to finish that round. There's no quitting—my parents taught me that. I mean, I would cry. I'd be throwing up. I'd be wearing no shoes, but I played those 18 holes and finished no matter what.”

Transplanting those qualities into the real estate space was natural for Amanda. She has a thorough approach to preparedness that would serve as a lesson or reminder to all agents. “I have my favorite pep up song in the car, so I know that I've got my mind in the right place,” Amanda said. “I study every fact about the house, I do my homework, and have with me my market analysis and everything I could possibly need. I've got everything prepared and ready so I can go in and kill it. And then if I don't get it, it's OK. I put my best foot forward. They probably made the wrong decision, but that's OK!”

In the competitive world of real estate, it's not just enough to master your trade and reap the rewards. The best agents in the industry are continually learning and seeking to better themselves. Amanda is no different. “Earlier this year, I lost several listing appointments in a row,” she recalled. “I hadn’t updated my listing presentations or any of my other materials in a couple years and they had gotten boring to me. So clearly, they were boring to someone else. 

“I lost three in a row, and I was like, hold the phone. That's not going to work—that's not me. That's not my jam. I was in a funk, so I locked myself in my office for a weekend, printed all my stuff off, analyzed what I had, redid everything, and put it back out there and it reenergized and motivated me. I think I've lost one since then and it wasn’t down to me—I asked for feedback, and they went with someone who said that they'd sell it for a lot more. I can't make things up. And I can't lie to them and tell them I can get more if I know I can't.”

One thing that is clear when speaking with Amanda is her passion for serving—her desire to make people happy. “I don’t know where it came from, but making everyone else happy is certainly my jam,” she mused. “I want everyone to win, and I want them to all make lots of money. That in turn feeds my own happiness.”

For Amanda, happiness feeding happiness has been a staple part of her real estate career from the start, when she realized the importance of online reviews. “I was probably the first person in my area to really buy into Zillow and Zillow reviews. I would have done almost anything for a five-star Zillow review, I didn’t even care if I got a paycheck. All I cared about was getting that top review.

“I think that comes from my competitiveness. That to me is the trophy—you got the blue ribbon if you got that five-star Zillow review; you made that client happy—happy enough that they wrote you a five-star review on the internet for everyone to see.”

Advice for real estate novices

As someone who now has a wealth of experience—and thanks to her starting her career path during a recession—Amanda has lots of great advice for younger agents.

“I would certainly recommend finding a mentor,” she advised. “I've had several in my career. I believe very much in coaching and accountability. Everyone still needs accountability, even the most dedicated, disciplined people. So, I’m a big advocate for either small mastermind groups or just or an accountability partner. 

“For example, I’ll say to one of my agents, ‘you shoot seven videos this week, and I'll shoot seven videos and we'll hold each other accountable.’ Whoever fails has to donate to the other person's charity. It’s important to have someone who will tell you the truth and not sugarcoat things all the time.”

And how does Amanda feel like she fits into the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices global brand? “I think being part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network is a perfect match for my mission because the Global Headquarters provides so much for us to look amazing to our clients,” she said. “I can't tell you how valuable that has been for my career—leveraging what’s provided and using it correctly. 

“The brand is so classy and so sophisticated that it's right up my alley, personally, because I've always thought of myself as more of a Neiman Marcus-type opposed to a Walmart brand. I would argue that most real estate agents would find value in that as opposed to a lot of the other real estate companies that don't have a brand that appeals to the consumer. They have a brand that appeals only to agents. And Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has a brand for consumers, which is who we're here to serve—my clients, the consumer. 

“You know, I'm not here to recruit more agents because, well, there are only so many agents that are needed. It's not a career for everybody. And that's unique with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices; a lot of the other brands don't feel that way. They want everyone to have a real estate license, sell to their friends and family, and then fail and move on.

For more information on Amanda and her team in Richmond, Kentucky, visit