He’s someone you’ve likely seen around town, from coaching youth baseball games to Chamber of Commerce events. Over the last two years, however, while most people have been seeing less of each other, John Hazelet decided to take a leap into what has turned out to be one of the wildest business rides he could have found.
Hazelet, the longtime broker at Cara Realtors in Brick, decided during the pandemic – as many did – that he wanted to begin his own business. Being in real estate, the go-to choice was to begin his own agency, and the stage was set for Hazelet to jump into his dream business at the same time the market was beginning to explode.
“This was something I didn’t really plan for a long time – something that was in the back of my head – but I wanted to give it a shot,” he said. “The hardest part was actually finding an office. The commercial world is just as crazy as the residential one, if not more.”
Hazelet ended up, unintentionally, finding office space across Brick Boulevard from his former employer.
“Leaving there wasn’t an easy decision,” he said, of Cara. “I was there for a long time and the broker there for four years before I left. That’s why it took so long in the first place –it’s totally the old-fashioned story of wanting to go out on your own.”
Once his new office at 503 Brick Boulevard was secured, Hazelet began months of work just to get things together. Buying furniture, computers and all of the “office stuff” we’ve come to take for granted isn’t as easy as it used to be. Neither is finding a staff, but strong local ties and a desire to teach the next generation of real estate professionals in Brick became central to his strategy of attracting talent. He’s brought with him some longtime colleagues to start the business over the past year, but has been excited to bring new agents on board.
“Really, what my goal is here, is to hire brand new agents,” Hazelet said. “I like working with both, but I especially like working with new agents. Some of the experienced folks can work with the new people, and I very much enjoy teaching people the business.”
It also helps that Hazelet is a lifelong Brick resident and has held leadership positions in organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, which is a great source for making connections.
“My roots have been here in Brick forever, even though I may have flirted with Point Pleasant and Toms River at a couple points,” he joked. “I was born and raised here. I coached baseball for about 25 years, so I know people have heard my name. Having a ‘big book’ of people to call helped me get over a lot of the pandemic challenges that were thrown at someone starting a new business.”
With the hot market still sizzling, there are some misconceptions abound. Real estate is no get-rich-quick plan.
“People get the impression that realtors are kicking back and making a fortune, but for that brand new agent who doesn’t have a system to fall back on, they could be starving,” Hazelet explained. “If you’re working with buyers and can’t put them together with a seller, you don’t get paid. I had to prepare people for that, let them know it’s okay to struggle for a little bit, but then introduce them to the tools and systems we have. Usually after the first month they can finally take a breath.”
Homes continue to pop up on the market and, usually, sell quickly in Brick, Hazelet said. According to real estate data periodically reviewed by Shorebeat, there are 164 properties for sale in town at the moment.
“Typically, three or four years ago, that number was in the mid 400s,” Hazelet said. “And that’s before you break it down – 15 are senior communities, 15 are condos, 15 are waterfront – so the selection may even be smaller than it first appears.”
Fewer than 30 of those homes are under $400,000, making the path to home ownership a bit narrower for some buyers.
“There are a fair number of first-time home buyers. A good portion of the business last year were first-timers,” said Hazelet. “This area is always going to attract people from the north because of the waterfront. It’s teetered off a little bit from the first days when people were working from home, but that will always be a factor here.”
In the end, there was no better place for Hazelet to start a business than in his hometown, where he not only could launch his own venture, but continue as a luminary in the township’s business community and help introduce the business to a new generation.
“I think Brick is a good place to start a business, no matter what business you’re in,” he said. “People talk about what you know versus who you know, but it’s actually both. Through the Chamber I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve always been a believer in networking with people you know. I just wish I knew someone in the furniture business!”