But did you know that Justen took the California real estate sales license exam six times before he finally passed the test? “My older brother was doing well in his real estate job, so I decided as a teenager that my goal would be to get my license before my high school graduation,” said Justen. “I used any free time in high school to study for the real estate test. The proctors at the real estate school said to me, `Hey kid, you back again?’ During our senior trip, soon after my 18th birthday, I got the good news. I believe I was the youngest person in the state at the time to have a real estate sales license.”
After graduating from Grossmont High School (class of 2003), Justen joined his brother Jaysen’s real estate companies, Steele Canyon Realty and Home Capital Funding. “I knocked on doors, passed out flyers and arrived at the office first to answer the early phone calls,” recalled Justen. “I was 18 years old, making tons of money and bought my first house, a condo in the Granite Hills community.”
Justen enrolled in real estate classes at a local community college. His instructor was the legendary Lowell Knapp, an East County attorney, real estate broker and general contractor. Knapp, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 75, taught real estate, economics, business law and other classes for 25 years at Cuyamaca College. “My phone rang several times during his classes and Mr. Knapp would excuse me to go outside to take the call,” said Justen. “One day, he took me aside and said I needed to make a decision to focus on either college or my current real estate career. He recommended that I quit college and focus on real estate, so I did.”
In 2007, Justen was married to the daughter of a Baptist preacher. “When we were dating, my future father-in-law was wary of this kid with a different first-name spelling who went surfing and snowboarding. He checked me out thoroughly before giving his blessing,” said Justen.
The same year, Justen switched to a new company with his brother. “We were doing well for a while until the bottom dropped out of the market in 2008,” said Justen. “It was horrible to watch our clients suffer through price reductions of $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000. We went from scores of listings to a handful. Nothing was moving. So, then, I decided to learn how to do short sales. My work day started at 5 a.m. with phone calls to bankers on the East Coast. It took a lot of hard work but we survived the downturn. I also did a lot of investing during those lean years.” Justen estimates he has personally owned more than 40 properties. “Some of them for less than a week,” he said.
Then, in 2012, Justen did something he calls “dramatic.” He took a job as an assistant at an escrow company. “I started at the bottom in a new job because I wanted to learn the escrow business,” said Justen. “Later, in 2015, Alliance Escrow was born. We’ve grown from four to 20 employees and now have two offices.”
Today, Justen’s brother Jaysen no longer works in real estate; he has been serving as pastor of Victory Baptist Church in El Cajon since its first service in April 2010. Justen and wife Heather live in Fletcher Hills, just around the corner from the house where Justen grew up. They are raising two daughters, ages 2 and 6 months (the girls are two years and three days apart in age). They attend Lighthouse Baptist Church in Lemon Grove, where Justen’s father-in-law, Doug Fisher, serves as pastor.
Justen supports PSAR because, “Our Association offers all the tools and resources necessary to become successful in this business,” he said. “The members are extremely friendly, approachable and reachable. Our events are like family reunions because there is support, acceptance and encouragement so that all of us can be more focused and do our best. The more focused you are, the more effective you will be, just like the sun’s light through a magnifying glass. ”