Every step along my path in life has led me to my destiny of serving my clients in real estate.
Growing up, my family didn’t have much money. I was raised by a single mother in Southeast Michigan and my mom had to stretch a $28,000 salary to provide a life for me and my 3 siblings. But money isn’t everything, and for me, I had something even greater than financial security as a child. I had a mom, Issy O’Neill, who cared enough to instill lifelong values in me and my siblings that would serve us well for the rest of our lives.
(Matt & Mom 1981)
The first thing my mom taught me was honesty. She made me promise that no matter how much trouble I caused, I would always tell her the truth. And I was ALWAYS in trouble, which gave me lots of practice with honesty. I never lied about it. Because if I did, something far worse than a punishment awaited me… my mom’s disappointment in my character. This focus on teaching me honesty as a child is most likely the reason why the first core value of our company is Integrity.
(Matt, center, with siblings Heather, Frank, & Pat 1984)
The second core value of our company is “Kindness” and people usually ask me what this means. To me it means Love. My mom taught me unconditional love for all people when I was growing up. She would donate money to charity even when we didn’t have any. She was always kind to strangers. And she went above and beyond to help people who needed it. I’ve taken this lesson and applied it to the way we work with our clients.
But the most important lesson my mom taught me was hard work. She led by example and she instilled value in me. At 11 years old I got a job cutting lawns, and at 15 I was flipping burgers, and from that point on, I always had a job after my school and sports practices. This work ethic has been one of the most important aspects of my life. There is something satisfying about working your hardest.
(Matt & Mom, H.S. Graduation 1999)
My mom also made me promise that I would graduate from college. The only catch was that we didn’t have the money to pay for a college education. She told me that I would have to get good grades in school to earn scholarships to pay for college. And so I did. I earned straight A’s from 4th Grade through high-school graduation and graduated as Valedictorian of my High School class. I then went on to graduate with a 3.96 GPA from Western Michigan University.
Of course, school grades make no difference in my career in real estate. What does matter is the work ethic I gained to earn those grades. I learned to give my all, every day. I was never the smartest kid in my class. But I was certainly the hardest worker. Thanks, Mom!
(Western Michigan Graduation 2002)
What led me to a career in real estate began in college. My initial college major was engineering. I earned engineering internships with General Motors during the summers. What I learned from General Motors was that I hated engineering. I was not meant to sit in a cubicle and crunch numbers and work on specs all day. What I really loved was working with people.
I switched my major from engineering to marketing, and in the process, I took a few classes on sales. I found that I LOVED sales. I was able to meet with and help people all day long for my career. It fit me perfectly.
I moved to Colorado after college graduation and I got my first sales job selling copy machines. Actually, it was worse than that. I started out selling recycled ink cartridges that went inside the copy machines. What I loved about the job was the people aspect. I loved meeting with my clients and building relationships. But I wasn’t really helping anyone with anything significant. No one cares about a copy machine, and they really could care less about the ink inside the copy machine.
(Blue Sky Basin – Vail Colorado 2004)
I found myself lost in Colorado. For the first time in my life, I was without a true purpose or direction. I began to do all the wrong things. I became selfish and self-absorbed. I wasn’t giving my all to my career. I would wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats having night-terrors and not knowing where I was. I knew I was not where I was supposed to be, and I was not doing what I was meant to be doing in my life.
After 3 years of floundering through my life in Colorado, I took a hike in the Rocky mountains and sat on the edge of a massive cliff to try to find some clarity and direction. What occurred to me on that cliff was that I was missing my true calling… helping others. It was on that cliff that I came to the conclusion that I could help people in a significant way by using my talents in real estate. Next to health, few things in life mean more to a family than the place they call home. It’s where they raise their family, and it is one of the largest financial decisions of their lives.
I came back from that backpacking trip knowing I would begin my career in real estate. The next piece of the puzzle was figuring out what town I would call home. I needed to move away from Colorado and I wanted to move somewhere close to the ocean. I took a vacation to Charleston, SC and I instantly knew it was the place I would call home for the rest of my life.
I began my real estate career in Charleston in 2005 and I found immediate success. It was as if I were born for this career.
(Charleston, SC with Siblings Pat, Mom, Matt, Heather, and Frank 2008)
My thirst to help my clients caused me to seek out the very best real estate agents in the country and ask them questions. I began traveling all over the United States to meet with the top real estate agents in each city. I met with the #1 Agent in the world, Ken DeLeon, in California. I met with Miami’s top agent, and the top agent in Phoenix, and the top agent in Telluride, the top agent in Dallas, and the top agent in Seattle. Meeting with these top agents became the foundation of my marketing system.
(Matt & Dave Liniger, Founder of RE/MAX, 2008)
I borrowed the best aspects of each agent’s systems and incorporated their techniques into my system. In essence, the Matt O’Neill Marketing System is a collaboration of the best-in-class practices from every city in the U.S.
I started to notice that the homes I was marketing would sell faster, and for more money than the averages in Charleston. I was starting to get hired by home sellers who had failed to sell with one agent, or two agents, or even four agents. And after I would take over and implement my marketing system, the home would sell for a record price.
(Matt & Darren Hardy, Editor of Success Magazine, 2012)
I realized that most people thought all real estate agents were the same. They felt that any agent could just list a home in the MLS and it would sell regardless of which agent they chose. The only problem… this simply was NOT true. In many cases, choosing the wrong agent first would cause a home seller to put their lives on hold for 1 year or 2 years while they waited for their home to sell. And even after all of that time, they may still not have the results they wanted.
I figured out that I had actually developed a marketing system for selling homes that were far superior to what anyone else was doing. Most agents had not studied the world’s best practices as I had. Most agents didn’t know how to position a home before the listing to attract the highest-paying buyer. They didn’t know about the importance of world-class photography. They didn’t put the thought and time into identifying a home’s best aspect and then creating a customized marketing solution that would highlight that best aspect to the highest paying buyers.
(Matt Helping Other Top Agents in 2014)
And most agents didn’t follow up with buyers quick enough if they ever followed up at all. It’s not because the other agents were lazy, it’s because they didn’t have a system. They were overwhelmed with all the moving pieces of real estate and this held them back from selling homes with world-class effectiveness.
I began to see it as my duty to get the word out about our marketing system. It was my duty to help people avoid years of turmoil while they waited in limbo for their homes to sell with the wrong marketing. This is when I started advertising on the radio and TV. I began to hire and train my team to follow the proven marketing system from the world’s best practices.
(Matt & Mom 2015)
Today, Matt O’Neill Real Estate is one of the top-ranked real estate teams in the country. I still travel each year to meet with the top agents in the U.S. I still pick up new ideas and pieces from other these top agents and bring them back to Charleston. But now I am also sharing a lot about the way we are doing things.
Even though we have developed the best systems for getting homes sold, these techniques still fall second to the values my mom taught me growing up. The most important aspects about the way we work are still honesty and integrity and kindness… having true love for our clients. Our mission at Matt O’Neill Real Estate is to help our clients move forward with their life goals. And I know that this mission is one of the biggest differentiating factors in the way we work.
(Matt & Katie 2009)
I also think a lot about my dreams in life. For me, my dream is to love and serve my clients, and it is also to love and serve my family. I’m a simple man. I live a simple life. My over-arching life goal is to celebrate my 60th wedding anniversary with my wife and best friend, Katie O’Neill.
I give my free time to my family, and this is what brings me happiness. I have four wonderful children, three daughters and a son. They bring me crazy amounts of joy. I aspire to raise them with the same values my mom taught me growing up. I want to instill in them the lessons of honesty and integrity, and hard work, and service to others. I know that they too will find happiness in serving and loving others, and giving their all to a cause they are passionate about. I found a cause that I am passionate about. It feels like my destiny has always been to serve and help my clients in real estate to the very best of my abilities.
– Matt O’Neill