Conversations: Bob Wolff’s Dilemma—To Be a Priest or To Be a REALTOR®

By Aaron Rosen

The 2015 REALTOR® of the Year talks about his forty-four years in real estate, suggests that there may not be much difference between being a priest and being a REALTOR®, and reiterates the importance of having a why.

Why did you decide to become a REALTOR®?

When I was in my early twenties, the Airforce gave me an aptitude test which showed that I was perfectly suited either to sell real estate or to become a priest. After I was discharged from the service, I got a job with a title insurance company. For a year, I sold title insurance to real estate agents. I saw what the good real estate agents were making, and I saw what the not-so-good agents were making. I thought to myself, “I can do that.” I got my real estate license. There’s really not a lot of difference between being a priest and being a REALTOR®—except for the money.

How long have you been a REALTOR®?

About eleven months into my title insurance job, I worked very, very hard to break into one account. I finally got a title order from this real estate company. Then, my boss told me she was too busy to process it in a timely manner so I quit. I had my real estate license, and I went to work for Moore and Company in Colorado. I was twenty-two years old. This is my forty-fourth year in the real estate business, but that’s how it started.

What is the best advice you ever received?

The best advice I ever received was to have a dream that would drive me to do the things that were necessary to be a success. There is no free lunch, and there are no shortcuts. If you are not successful right away, don’t give up on the dream. And don’t give up on what it is you’re supposed to do.

What is the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from it?

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in forty-four years of being a real estate agent was not following my gut. I got involved in a transaction that just felt wrong. I closed the deal. I earned the commission. But it just didn’t feel right, and it came back later to bite me in the butt. Follow your heart and do what’s right. I took a shortcut, and I should not have done so. It was a great life lesson.

What are your biggest successes?

I have a thirty-seven-year-old son who can still tell me that he loves me, and I can still tell him that I love him. I had prostate cancer when I was fifty years old and survived. Orange County REALTORS® recognized me as its REALTOR® of the Year for 2015. I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world to speak and make presentations. I was privileged to be a Senior Certified Residential Specialist instructor for the National Association of REALTORS®. I’ve had a good life and am in good health. I play tennis three days a week, I laugh hard, I work a lot. Money makes the ride a little easier; however, in the end, it’s not about the money.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself as a brand new agent?

Have a mentor and a plan. Know what your why is. Write down your goals and regularly measure yourself against them. Hold yourself accountable. Are you on the right path? I’ve been writing down my goals for forty years. I still have my first goals from 1977, and there were only five of them. Today, my goals fill one and one-half pages of a legal tablet. I’ve had goals from learning to fly an airplane to learning to play tennis to learning to dance. I can tell you if I’m going to buy a car this year, how many suits I’m going to purchase, how much money I’m going to put in savings. I have it all written down. It’s like my GPS.

What is the most unusual property you ever sold, and how did you sell it?

In the mid-1970s, When I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, I sold a house for $550,000. At that time, the average sales price in the area was around $70,000 to $75,000. The house belonged to a friend of mine and was gorgeous—ten acres, a pool, and horses. How did I sell it? I think I prayed a lot. A commodities dealer came along. I believe he was eventually indicted by the federal government, but he was in business long enough to be able to buy that house. In California, I’ve had fun selling houses for congressmen, actors, and athletes. I’ve sold a lot of houses for hockey players. I go to a lot of hockey games, but I don’t know anything about hockey. And I don’t ask for tickets, sticks, or pucks. I’ve developed some great relationships with professional athletes, and I don’t know a thing about sports. Not a thing!

Do you ever wish you had taken a different career path?

I’ve often thought about what my career might have been like if I had been a lawyer and a litigator. I think I would’ve been a very persuasive litigator; but to be blunt, I love what I do. I have a very, very good income. I’m sixty-six years old, and I still get up every morning at 4:15. Every day is different. I can’t think of anything I would rather do.

What do you do for fun?

I think a lot of people still believe I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week because I did for a long time. I own a motorcycle. I go for a motorcycle ride almost every Sunday. I own an airplane. I keep it at the Orange County airport. I try to fly at least once a week. I have a home in the desert. I have a few cars that I enjoy. I play tennis three days a week. Last year, I went to Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Most of the business I do is within five miles of my office. Ninety-nine percent of my business is repeat customers. I don’t do open houses personally any more. I don’t mail to anybody I don’t know. I do have a little bit of time off, but I don’t tell many people that.

The other part of the answer is when I do travel, I take and return phone calls. Ninety-eight percent of the people that I am working with while I’m gone never know that I’m gone. I’ve always made it a practice to return my calls, and it has served me well. I might end up spending $1,000 in phone calls on a trip, but I also might make up to $100,000 in commissions while I’m gone. As you know, real estate can be extremely stressful. If you keep it light, put some humor in the deal, you’re going to have a lot more fun. You’re going to live longer. People want to be with professional men and women who look the part, act the part, think the part, and have some humor in their life. Clients want competence, they want knowledge, they want to be told the truth, they want us to help them; but you can have some fun along the way.

Make it fun and never take yourself too seriously!

Aaron Rosen serves on the Board of Directors for Orange County REALTORS® and was named 2016 South Affiliate of the Year. He is a member of the Education Committee and of the OCAR Cares Committee and is very involved with both the OCAR Cares Golf Tournament and the Costume Bowl. Aaron is a multiline insurance advisor with Arc 23 Insurance Services. His email address is