In my real life I work as a real estate broker for St. Augustine Team Realty in St. Augustine, Florida, I write columns, produce videos, and create award-winning social media content. In fact I actually wrote the book on real estate, How To Buy a House and Not Lose Sex: Find The Best House, Make the Best Offer, and Keep Your Love Life!
I worked as a full-time journalist prior to becoming a broker. For the past 20 years, I've worked as a part-time sportswriter (mostly during football season) for various publications. I hold a degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University and studied creative writing and math(!) there as well.
About me personally? There’s not much to tell. I grew up in Haskins, Ohio, attended Ohio State, and moved to St. Augustine in 1994. I met my wife here and we have two awesome kids. I even raced bikes once upon a time. Life isn’t perfect, but you can see it from here.
My Occupational Hazard Is...My Occupation Is Just Not Around
I wanted to be a reporter like my famous aunt, Bobbie Hess, who worked as an editor on the Chicago Sun-Times and later as the National-Foreign Editor, Style Editor, and mystery book critic for the San Francisco Examiner.
Like Bobbie, I graduated from The Ohio State University with a BA in Journalism. In my stint on Ohio State's student newspaper, the Lantern, I served as its Photo Editor, was the men's basketball beat writer, and worked in the graphics department doing paste up and the final prep work before it went to the printer.
I was a pretty well rounded journalist.
The trouble was, as Jimmy Buffett once famously sang, "my occupational hazard is my occupation's just not around." They weren't making new newspapers anymore (in fact, they were consolidating the existing newspapers), and news staffs were shrinking.
After graduation I worked as sportswriter for the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. While I was considered a "stringer" (i.e. a part-timer), I worked full time during the sports seasons. It was a great staff to work on, but as the news staff wasn't expanding, someone pretty much had to die before you could move up the ladder.
One night, after returning home from covering a high school basketball game, my hands nearly froze driving over to a friend's house. It was 27 degrees below zero outside, and the wind chill was negative 72.
I remembered I had an uncle in Orange Park, Florida.
I moved in with him three months later.
In December of 1994 I moved to St. Augustine, and its been home pretty much ever since. As my uncle said, "The only way you're going to get me to leave is with a hand grenade."
Real Estate Broker in St. Augustine
I met my wife in Jacksonville. When she went to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, we moved to Durham, NC, for three years. I grew to love North Carolina, but that's how I know I'll never leave St. Augustine again ... as soon as we arrived there I started plotting my passage back to Florida.
When we did get back to Florida it was time to buy our first house. I didn't know anything about real estate so I took a class for real estate licensees. It looked like fun so in 2001 I became a Realtor. In 2005 I got my real estate broker's license, and in 2009 I and my two partners opened up our very own company, St. Augustine Team Realty (my partners were known as the "St. Augustine Team" before I joined them).
In the fall of 2008 there was a financial collapse that led to the Great Recession. What you may not know (if you weren't living in Florida at the time) is that Florida's economy started to tank in 2006 when the real estate bubble burst (because so many jobs were tied to real estate, construction and development). When the rest of the US economy went into recession in 2008 we'd already been living rough for two years.
So were we crazy for starting a real estate firm in 2009? No, not really. By that time we already survived the collapse. It was like a neutron bomb hit the real estate business, "it wiped the people out and left the buildings standing," and we were some of the last folks standing. There weren't a lot of sales to be had, but there wasn't a lot of competition either.
There was no capital so I had to learn how to build websites and all that goes with it. And when social media started coming to the fore around 2010, I had to become an expert on that.
All those photo, graphic and writing skills I learned so intimately back at Ohio State as a student journalist suddenly became very, very valuable. It gave me the background I needed to create the web sites, blogs, and engaging social media.
And this is what put St. Augustine Team on the map and helped it blossom in a down market.
It turns out my occupation wasn't gone at all, it was just incubating and mutating into a wonderful new form!
Mountain Bike Racing and Strackacobra
Strackacobra is a graphic design company I created in 2008 to produce mountain bike and cycling themed t-shirts.
As a mountian bike racer I've had many crashes.
After one particularly painful wreck it occured to me that the experience would make a memorable t-shirt.
A few weeks later I completed my first design, with the mantra "Its not the speed, but the sudden stops."
Since then Strackacobra has been an incredible opportunity for me on the business side. It's not only increased the brand awareness of St. Augustine Team Realty (its sponsor), but through my membership with the National Bicycle Dealers Association, and its seminars and publications, I've gotten much more insight and a broader view for running a small business.
On the personal side, Strackacobra has taken myself (and occasionally my family) to places I would have never otherwise had a reason to travel to. And it is these "roads less taken" that have made all the difference.
For example, my daugher saw Quebec and my son saw Idaho before either of them ever saw Orlando. If that isn't a reason to celebrate, I don't know what is.
Author Sean Hess
Around 1994 I started, and in 2006 I finished (for the first time), a book that would be called Extinction.
I sent out the usual query letters to publishers and agents. I sent out sample chapters. I even sent out one or two full manuscripts on beautiful linen paper (by the way, I am now using that beautiful linen paper as backup paper for my printer ... my how do the times change).
No dice. All rejected.
In publishing, you're supposed to expect rejection over and over again. All the great authors (and all the lousy ones, too) had their first works rejected time after time.
J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected nine times. Harry Potter...nine times! The first Chicken Soup for the Soul book was rejected 140 times. It seemed to me that an industry that continuously and consistently rejected obvious winners was clearly broken.
In real estate if I rejected a saleable home even twice I would be out of business ... the competition is just too fierce. Heck, in real estate we often take on projects that aren't saleable, and we really have to work to get them saleable!
So I said to heck with it, and tabled the book.
In 2012 the fact that it was still there sitting on a shelf was nagging at me. So I pulled it down and when I had time (between real estate, mountain bike racing, and most importantly, being a dad) I would re-read and edit it.
In 2014 I published Extinction as an ebook on Amazon's Kindle platform. Then right after I started on How To Buy a House. I published it in 2015. In late 2015 I submitted a book to the Kindle Scout program entitled The Witch of the Woods.
I hope you find my work worth reading!