for matt curtis, the mission is bigger than selling houses.
It was 2006 when Matt Curtis told his wife he was considering leaving his successful career as a sales engineer to get into real estate. He had just made the largest sale in his company’s history to NASA, and would have to give up the commission if he left. Still, his wife was supportive, as long as the new job came with a salary, health insurance and did not require nights and weekends. It came with none of those.
“This is one of the two or three times in my life where I just knew ‘this is what I’m supposed to do,’” Curtis said.
The couple prayed on it and took the leap shortly after. Although he does not speak about it directly in these terms, it was that inspired career move that helped Curtis develop his empathy and care for the experience of others. In his own terms, he says it’s simply about providing 5-star service, about treating every buyer and seller as if it is a million-dollar deal. With this approach, Curtis became the top-selling agent in the firm for three consecutive years.
That leap of faith and subsequent early success set Curtis up to start his own firm, MRCE, in 2009 despite the financial crisis bottoming out in those years. Out of the crucible of the Great Recession, his mission was refined and expanded to include not only his customers but his growing team.
Curtis knew that at most real estate firms, agents have to do everything themselves. He saw this as a disadvantage to clients.
“Doing it all gets tiring and lonely,” Curtis said. “It wears on your health and places limitations on your success and the level of service a client receives.”
He made adjustments by creating teams, with each member taking a part of the process in which they succeed. It allowed his teams to provide better service to their customers.
There are plenty of awards and accolades to back up the success of Curtis’ business model, but the team’s improved health, increased team support and a sense of well-being and time off when needed, speaks more to the approach.
In the mid-2010s, the mission of helping others expanded when Curtis read an article on Habitat for Humanity and felt the connection between his calling in the real estate industry and Habitat’s mission to build homes. For only $5000, a home could be built in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in North America. Inspired by this and Luke 12:48, he began talking about this ministry with his family.
“It’s crazy how God can talk through little kids,” Curtis said. “My first idea was for 100 homes, but my son, who was eight at the time, had a bigger vision. He said ‘it’s not 100 homes, Dad, it is 1,000 homes.”
Thus, in another inspired moment of clarity, the Nicaragua Home Building Project was born.
MCRE has pledged to build a new house in Nicaragua for every 100 home they sell. So far, they have built 140, and the stories of hope, connection and new life are tearfully wonderful. Curtis does not talk about the numbers involved. Instead, he talks about the people and the changed lives.
“This one lady that we helped build a home for, she’s probably in her 60s or so and she had a key around her neck. She was so proud of this key because she had never had a home like that to be able to lock up,” Curtis said. “Can you imagine that, having a home without a lock, and with so many people living so close to each other, it’s a very vulnerable situation for ladies and so that key just changed her life.”
Because Curtis sees then non-profit as “changing the family tree and changing the legacy,” the Nicaragua Home Building Project typically tries to build homes for widows or single-mother-led homes. One hopeful young boy described how much easier it was to do school work in his new home. Before that, rain would often leak through the old roof onto his homework, onto the dirt floors, turning them to mud.
Despite some setbacks due to COVID travel restrictions and political turmoil in Nicaragua, the project continues apace. Curtis looks forward to returning to Nicaragua as soon as he can to build homes and relationships, and buy a round of ice cream for the neighborhood kids after a hard day of building and an impromptu street soccer game here or there.