Written By: Sidda Bruno
Jay Song is a Junior Urban Studies Major and Business Minor at the University of Texas at Austin while also pursuing a Certificate in Real Estate. He started as a leasing agent in November 2019 and is already doing wonderfully as a Leasing Agent. Here is a short interview we had with him to let you get to know him better.
Cake or pie?
I really like pie. I really like sweet things, but I really love pecan pie. That’s definitely one of my favorites and whenever I’m at the store I get some. I eat it whenever I can.
Dogs or cats?
I’ve never had either growing up, I’ve had a hamster. Definitely from visiting friends, I like dogs more but recently I’ve met a few cool cats. Still dogs, but I’m getting to like cats more.
Where is home for you?
I’m actually from Little Rock, Arkansas so I came to UT only knowing 2-3 people. I’ve made a lot of new friends here and it’s been great so far. A fun fact, not many people know much about Arkansas – but my high school was the first to integrate African-Americans. It’s Little Rock Central High School and it’s in AP U.S. History books – the Little Rock nine. It’s from the 1950s and we keep everything, it’s a national historic museum. I’d be trying to go to class and there would be waves of tourists, it’s great because it’s so historic but, also, they didn’t change anything so it’s gotten kind of gross. But every day when I went to school I thought, ‘wow, this is history’, so I take a lot of pride in that.
How was your transition from Little Rock to Austin?
Texas is a lot bigger so I’ve had to go out of my comfort zone because back at home I knew everyone just because it was smaller. It’s different because people here are usually from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio so it was hard at first but then I joined a lot of groups and through that, I’ve made a lot of great friendships. It’s been great so far, I love it here and I definitely want to live here in the future – at least out of college.
What are the things that make you miss home?
Obviously, my friends because I hardly ever see them anymore because they’re all doing their own things. Also, its very nature-y in Arkansas – it’s weird to think but the oxygen is really good, the water is really clean – it’s the little things. It’s not bad here, but it’s more of a city. And the vibe, I miss that – I try to visit most breaks.
Would you rather be on an island alone or with someone you dislike?
Probably with someone I don’t like because I hate being alone. I like it after a long day, I live with 3 guys and I love them to death but sometimes I just need alone time. If it’s long-term though, there’ve been people I didn’t like in the past but I’ve figured it out with them. So, I definitely think that it’s possible especially when you’re trying to survive. You gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
What student organizations are you involved with?
I joined this org called Undergraduate Real Estate Society, which is kind of connected to the Real Estate Certificate – it’s linked with McCombs. They help with networking, finding jobs later on, more for commercial real estate which is where I want to go with my future. I’m also in a group called Texas Wranglers which is the UT Men’s Basketball official spirit group and our three pillars are scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability. I knew 1 or 2 guys already in it and they were telling me about the brotherhood and testing myself. We focus on strengthening character and testing mental toughness – through that, I’ve also gotten the brotherhood that people talk about and just meeting great, unique guys. I’ve felt like up until college I got things done but I didn’t really give it my best and so I did it to truly see what I could do. Every day when I wake up, I don’t want to take a nap, I want to work hard and I give a lot of credit to that group. I’m currently the Co-Social Chair so we’re planning events – I just wanted to give back to the board because I’ve gotten so much from it. Whatever I can, I do because I want to help it grow. I also go to a church called the Austin Korean Presbyterian Church and I used to have a few positions in there and I’ve made a lot of great friends. I’d go every Sunday if possible.
What is your major at UT?
I came into college Undecided and honestly, it was tough. I felt, not ‘dumb’, but just like everyone knew what they were doing and so I wanted to quickly find something so initially, I chose Business but I knew that would be hard with an internal transfer, so I ended up choosing Advertising. I loved it and it was great but then I realized that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. So, my dad and I found Urban Studies which is a smaller major that not many people know about – it relates to real estate because it talks about city development and urban planning so I thought it would be a great fit. Then I found the Real Estate Certificate and I was like, ‘that’s perfect!’. That’s what I’m heading towards right now.
What can you tell us about your college experience?
It’s very diverse here. You’ll meet every type of person you can imagine here and I really like that because you’re not limited to certain people, you can go with whoever you want. Your experience is what you make out of it and no one is stopping you. There are so many things going on at night and even in the late afternoon – so much opportunity so you can really make the most of it. I really wish that I started early by joining things because I started towards the end of my sophomore year but… no regrets. Everything’s going great.
Would you rather go skiing or surfing?
I went snowboarding for the first time two years ago and I know people say to start with skiing because it’s easier but I think snowboarding looks cooler so I tried that and it was hard. I went to New Mexico and it was an experience for sure, I had a lot of bruises left. I’ve never tried surfing but I would love to learn how to surf. I’m always down to try new things.
What are 3 words to describe yourself?
Personable, determined and genuine. I don’t want anybody to think I’m fake. I think it’s an important trait to be genuine.
Can you tell us about your family?
I have a mom and dad, they’re in Arkansas. I love them to death, they’re the most hard-working people I know and I miss them a lot. I try to convince them to move to Texas so that I can visit them more often because the drive to there is 8-9 hours – I do it when I can but obviously it’s not easy. I have a sister who is 18 and I’m very close to her, people say we look alike but she hates when people say that. I’m very close with my family. A lot of my extended relatives don’t live in the United States or I’m not that close with them. That’s something I wish I had more of growing up is meeting up with them but at the same time, it gives me the determination to give my kids that experience when I’m older.
What do you like to do for fun?
I play the drums and guitar so I like to play those for fun. I was self-taught for drums but for the guitar I got lessons a while ago and I just love playing in a band. I’ve never been in an official band but I played at church a little bit and I love the feeling of being in sync with the other players. I’d been playing with some of those guys for 10 years and we have a ‘language’ – they know what I mean just from a look (musicians will understand). I also play soccer so I’ll go to Clark Field and kick the ball around. Those are my mains.
What are the things that make you laugh?
I love dumb humor. Whenever it’s super intellectual humor where you have to think — I just want to not have to think about anything when I’m laughing. I feel like I have dumb humor and a lot of my close friends do too. Whenever we say stupid things, I love that so much. That’s my humor.
What’s your favorite candy?
I love Skittles. I don’t know why but ever since I was young whenever going to the movies, I’d get sour skittles and it would leave this part on your tongue where it kind of hurts but for some reason, I like that. If offered, I’ll always take some.
What’s the best gift you’ve received?
This one is kind of sentimental. This past summer when I was coming back for my junior year, my dad gave me 8-9 of his Polos. And he said, ‘Son, I didn’t really get you anything special but I know you’re gonna start working in real estate and you need to look better so I think you need these more than me.’ I started balling, it meant so much to me. I know he doesn’t have that many in the first place so now I try to wear them on all my tours as a thank you to him. I can’t describe how special that was and how happy it made me feel.
What’s something you’ve done recently that you’re proud of?
I started with Housing Scout in November so I’m pretty new. I think I’ve had a good start and it’s funny because I was recruited by Bobby in April so I started studying for my license in May. I am the worst standardized test taker, I took the ACT twelve times. I don’t know anyone who has ever done that, I think it’s the max. Ever since then I’ve hated every test… When I was taking my licensing exam, I failed the first time and so I kept getting flashbacks from high school because I was so disappointed. I worked really hard and I had to take the exams 4 times, and after the 3rd time I had to do additional education – it was devastating. Bobby encouraged me through it and then when I finally passed, I was so happy. I feel so blessed to be here and I work even harder at leasing now because I worked so hard to get here.
What would be your superpower of choice?
Maybe transportation. I really enjoy traveling but I think it would be awesome if you didn’t have to spend the time getting there because time is so valuable nowadays.
How did you become interested in real estate?
I read a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad, and that’s part of how I got interested in real estate. The author explains how he had a poor dad (his real dad) and a rich dad (his best friend’s dad) and throughout the book, he explains what these two dads did differently and the rich dad did real estate.
What’s your dream vacation?
I feel like I’ve been to most places that someone my age would go to and I’m fine with that. I want to take my mom who hasn’t traveled much on her dream vacation. Her screensaver is a snowy mountain with an outdoor hot tub or hot springs in Japan or Europe – my dream vacation is to take her there. She’s always working and she wants to go there so bad – when I see her phone screensaver it hurts but I want to work hard so I can take her.
What’s your favorite Austin restaurant?
I love all the Austin taco places but there’s this really good Vietnamese called Tan My – it’s not really known, it’s smaller but it smacks. I always get pho, that’s one of my favorite foods and every time I go there I am happy.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I don’t need to snooze. I wake up right away because I get scared of not waking up on time, so I usually wake up early. One thing I’ve learned in college, especially being at UT, is that there are so many great and smart people out here – I’m not super competitive but I want to make sure that I’m working as hard as I can. I know what I can do, so doing any less makes me feel disappointed. I want to make my parents proud and I want them paying for my tuition to be worth it. I know it’s very expensive – especially coming from out-of-state at first, I used to calculate that it cost them $70 per hour of class. Each minute costs over a dollar so I focus in class! I love being productive now and the Texas Wrangler program really helped me with the mentality of getting things done.
How have you changed since high school?
I’ve become more open-minded just because I’ve met far more people since then and I’ve been in different scenarios. Back then I didn’t really care as much about everything – I just did what I needed and coasted with the bare-minimum but now I try harder with everything and take things more seriously by working harder.
When did you know you wanted to go into real estate?
My dad does small business and in the past 7-8 years, while I was still in high school, he started investing in small commercial real estate buildings. I would go with him on property tours and he told me how to analyze it. The scale is so much bigger in real estate compared with other things. This past summer I had an internship with a real estate company called MoveGroove and I was unlicensed at the time so I couldn’t do any work but I was essentially shadowing to learn as much as I could to solidify that I want to be in this business. I would go to meetings and brainstorm with them and my boss, Alex, helped me to see how hard you need to work to compete with fellow realtors. After that summer, I realized that real estate is really what I want to do so then I become involved with Housing Scout. I really like it so far – giving tours, reaching out to people, I much rather this than sitting at a desk all day.
What do you think is a misconception about your job?
There’s more that goes into this business than just the tour. We have to prep, get ready, choose the right properties – we help you with an important decision in your life so I don’t want you to live in a bad property. Also, I’m never really off the clock – I always try to respond to everyone within 30min-1 hour. My friends get upset if we’re hanging out and I get a call from a client, but it’s important to me and if I miss that call/text then the client can easily move on to someone else. Being paid on commission, you think that per hour you’re making a lot but really a lot of effort goes into the business. The other thing is sometimes people don’t realize that we can’t touch leases or we can’t alter anything – so we have to know the boundary of what we can and can’t do and what we can tell the client. I can’t overstep what I can’t do so I try to tell them that in a nice way and I hope they understand that.
Do you have any odd touring stories?
One time this guy was completely trashing on the unit while we were touring and another time, a girl I knew lived in the tour unit and she helped share all the little things about the unit which was helpful.
How does it feel to help your clients secure housing?
It’s an indescribable feeling. All the work you put in is finally paying off. You can say, ‘they’re living there because of me’, and they trusted you with such an important decision. Austin is expensive and there are so many options but the way Housing Scout works really helps us show properties that not everyone knows about. When they’re happy it makes me happy.
How do you manage your time?
Google calendar has become my best friend. School is first but I worked my schedule to where 2/5 days of the week I have a morning class and the other two days are afternoon (with Fridays off). I try to do a lot of work on the weekends because that’s when other students are free. It does kinda suck in a way because I have less free time but, also, we’re getting older and work is becoming a bigger part of our lives. I had to take out naps and coffee is a daily thing now.
What are your favorite properties to show?
I really like showing 26 West, I know all the Community Assistants there and actually my girlfriend works there too. It’s funny when I come to tour and she tours us, we have to act professional and I introduce myself to her and ask questions – it’s funny. I also like the two Regent’s West properties and the new HillTop property.
How do you stay motivated in leasing?
My fellow leasing agents are working hard so I should as well. It’s a daily wake-up call that our company has multiple potentials each day. Also, now I pay bills. I have to keep myself working hard so that I can become more independent financially from my parents – we’re at that age.
What advice do you tell your clients?
A lot of people look for 1 bedrooms and studios, but we have to set realistic expectations. There is always a tradeoff. We can’t always find a 1 bedroom for $1000 right next to campus, so we have to look at distance and price. Before I start a tour, I call or sit down with them and explain the housing situation. Also, I ask them to be patient with me. This isn’t my full-time job, there are certain things I can’t help them with legally and other things will take me more time to complete for them. I ask my clients to be understanding as I try my best and work hard for them.
How do you let people know about what you do?
I reach out to everyone in my orgs and every time I help someone, I politely ask them to refer their friends if they have anyone they know who needs help. Continuously trying to reach out and talking to random people casually – going out of my comfort zone. Networking is hard but worth it.
What do you enjoy about working for Housing Scout?
Making my own schedule, always moving around, talking to people, and negotiating a little bit are the main things. I am a people-person so I really like this job.
How do you see yourself in 10 years?
When I was younger my dad used to tell me that ‘at age 30, I think you should be a millionaire’, so I’ll try. That’s the goal, that’s everyone’s goal I think is to become as rich as you can. Realistically, I’d like to enter into the commercial real estate business – I like residential but I think for me this is just the start – I’d like to become an investor/entrepreneur-type. I would consider becoming a Broker. I know I want to stay in real estate, I’m leaning towards commercial right now.
Anything to add!?
Housing is not easy to do on your own so I encourage people to reach out because there are so many properties that you may not know of and, literally, we’re free for you to use. Use your resources, use our company, use us, because this is an important decision for students. I’m excited to meet you!