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Home / Features / On the Level / Curt Seifart: He’s a hitcher, he’s a swimmer, he’s a talker, and he’s trimmer. He gets his doughnuts on the run

Curt Seifart: He’s a hitcher, he’s a swimmer, he’s a talker, and he’s trimmer. He gets his doughnuts on the run

CHARLOTTE – If you really want to try to label Curt Seifart, haul out the hyphens.on the level-SeifartWEB

He’s a bred-in-Foxcroft old hippie-adventurer-former sports apparel salesman-runner-swimmer-pre-Columbian scholar-man of faith-affordable housing volunteer-residential real estate agent with Helen Adams Realty.

And, as On the Level found out at a Dunkin Donuts in Colony Place shopping center, near a listing of his on Shadow Pond Lane, he’s also quite the raconteur.

Seifart (pronounced SEE-furt) is 62 and a native of Charlotte, where he remembers hunting quail with a .20-guage on the land that is now SouthPark. He married late, at 38, to Diane. They have a daughter, Lillie, a Davidson College grad who is now in law school in Raleigh; and a son, Alec, 21, a senior at Appalachian State.

We were first introduced to him because he is the seller’s agent for the affordable homes in the Elizabeth Heights neighborhood in Charlotte’s historically black neighborhood of Grier Heights.

We’ll let him tell the rest.

You’re a runner and you eat Dunkin Donuts apple fritters in the midafternoon? There’s a Krispy Kreme 5K race. You stop halfway and eat as many Krispy Kreme doughnuts as you can. Then you run the rest of the way and hope you don’t throw up!

So you’re really into the running thing? Yeah, I am, very. My daughter said, “Let’s do the (Charlotte SouthPark) Turkey Trot,” a Charlotte tradition. She’s 22, and I had to train extra hard. But mainly I’m a swimmer. I swim with the Masters at the (Mecklenburg County) Aquatic Center.

The Masters? Oh, yeah, it’s a national – worldwide, actually – group that has different chapters, open to anyone from 18 to 99 and up. I swim four or five mornings a week at 6 a.m. We swim 4,500 yards in 1½ hours. We’re coached and you can enter competitions in age groups, separated in five-year increments. It’s the only sport in which you want to age-up because when you enter the next group, you’re the young guy. My daughter was a scholarship swimmer at Davidson.

You had an interesting college experience yourself. I went to Tulane in 1970-71 and majored in pre-Columbian civilizations of Central America, and then turned around and got a business degree in at UNC-Charlotte.

Pre-Columbian civilizations? I went to prep school in Virginia and there was a professor there, one of those charismatic teachers, who was fascinated with anthropology, and I became fascinated too. I went to school in Mexico for a short time at the University of the Americas. But when I went down there, I found out it was a party school for rich Americans. There was a required course in Mexican dance, and I had to dance with everybody in the class because I was one of the only guys.

Mexico in 1970. Oh, yeah. When I was at Tulane, I hitchhiked to Mexico City and back with a friend and had all kinds of experiences. Here’s a classic case: We got to the Texas-Mexico border and were buying bus tickets to Mexico City. We met some guy, and he said, “If you want a good place to get a beer, follow me.” When we got there, he said: “Have you ever had a submariner? It’s guaranteed to put you under.” It’s basically a boilermaker made with tequila and beer, you drop the shot glass into the beer and drink it off all at once. We had a couple, and then it was time to get on the bus, and we said goodbye to the guy – by that time, we were best friends. From the border to about 5 miles inland, the local Mexicans on the bus were returning from shopping in the United States, and they had all their stuff – typewriters, all kinds of stuff – concealed until we got to the customs checkpoint. Here we were, two half-drunk guys with backpacks, and they started taking all their stuff and stuffing it in our backpacks and under our seats; our material possessions tripled! They knew that as Americans, we wouldn’t get checked by the customs agent. When we rolled into customs, everybody immediately took their seats and the agent walked down the aisle – it was like a play – he knew what was going on. They all knew what was going on. Well, by then, we had to go to the bathroom because of the submariners. That created a whole new level of chaos among the Mexicans. Then a VW microbus pulled up behind us full of hippie-types, and the driver said, “Come with us!” And that created another whole new level of chaos.

I hitched around Canada in 1973. I have one about Canada, too. In 1972, I met a jet-helicopter pilot, a Vietnam veteran. He was only like 22 or 23; he had lied about his age to enlist because he wanted to learn to fly. We got to talking – he was from Louisville, Ky., and had family in the Thousand Lakes area (of Ontario). One of the guys who came with us is now a prominent Charlotte surgeon, Tom McElwee. We flew to Louisville and then drove to (the pilot’s) family fish camp in Thousand Lakes with two canoes on top of the car. Then we drove to Banff  (National Park) in Alberta. When we got there, we followed the routes of the old French voyageurs – we had done all the historical research into the routes. Our goal was to get all the way to the Atlantic. We crossed two continental divides, which required going both up- and down-river. We made 1,500 to 1,800 miles in 33 days. We caught a spring flood and made 55 miles in a day. If we had kept that up, we would have ended up in Alaska, so we had to change direction and go upstream. We turned up a little river, La Biche, and set out for a village, Lac La Biche. Now we were making like 1½ miles a day. We started making bets among ourselves about how long it would take us to get to town. We figured, if there’s a town, there’s gotta be an ice cream shop; whoever gets it right gets all the ice cream he can eat paid for by the other three. Sure enough, when we got there and asked somebody, there was a soft-serve ice cream place, like a Dairy Queen but not that upscale.

Ha. We chowed down like you couldn’t believe. We all got so sick. We were such big news, strangers who wandered into town with canoes, that they sent out the local journalist from the little newspaper, and between going off to get sick, we talked to him for a story. He sent it to us after he wrote it. I still have it. (For a digital copy of the June 21, 1972 Lac La Biche Post, click here. Seifart and friends are on page 2.)

Have you told your kids these stories? I tell my kids, take adventures, travel. There are two things I try preach to my kids: Serve other people; and do something adventurous.

Why’d you get into real estate? I saw the outdoor apparel industry consolidating and shrinking, and I was traveling a lot, 12-14 states in a Born Free mobile showroom that I drove around from store parking lot to store parking lot, for 19 years. I got married, and the kids came along, and they started to wonder where Dad was. My daughter, who was like 5 or 6 at the time, overheard me on the telephone telling someone that I was going into real estate. Little girls are so sharp and so curious; she said, “Daddy, tell me what you’re doing.” I said, “I’m changing careers.” She thought about that a little while and said, “Does this mean you’ll be here for my birthday?” That cinched it. I haven’t missed one since.

But why real estate? It felt connected to Charlotte. I made the change in 2001. Everybody remembers where they were on 9/11, and I was driving up to Asheville to take the (real estate agent) exam and listening to the news on the radio. I kept thinking to myself, “I have to take that test despite all this.”

What’s your secret? Clients come and go, but you end up dealing with the same real estate agents on cross-sales. That’s where you hear about properties, more so than the (Carolina Multiple Listing Services). That population has changed, though. In 2006, there were 12,000 members of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association; now there are 6,900, and that’s up some from where it was. The other thing I do is, list the menu on the flyer when you do agent luncheons at a property – that always gets a crowd. Everybody does Price’s fried chicken, but we try to do something else, like Bite Your Tongue, the Cajun-soul food place. We put that menu on the flyer, and we always get a mob.

How did you do during the recession? I held on, like everybody else who survived. My wife and I were just talking about that the other day, telling our kids about perseverance. She said, “Your dad never stopped working. Some people, a lot of people, gave up; he just worked harder.” And I started working out more, running. I did four sprint-distance triathlons in 2012, the Thunder Road Half Marathon, Duke Energy’s Race to the Top, even the Lake Norman Warrior Dash.

Is the market coming back? Yes. The pricing of Charlotte real estate bottomed out in 2012, and it’s been slowly steamrolling, gaining momentum, ever since.

Across Charlotte, or in pockets? It’s taking place in Charlotte. The rate of improvement varies by zip code and neighborhood. The better neighborhoods are going up faster, but it cuts across all price points and products. A rising tide has raised all boats.

They say not to ask people about politics or religion. But you’re a deacon at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Tell us about your spiritual life. Like many people, I went to Sunday school and learned all of Jesus’ parables. Then I went to Mexico and imbibed of all kinds of things. After we got married and settled down, I starting paying more attention to things spiritual. I decided that if I was going to learn about faith I needed to read the Bible, so I got into a Bible study group. I still go – it’s the only morning I don’t swim. I’m interested in Biblical history. The Bible was not written by God; it was written by human beings who were trying to understand God. They’re stories. I got involved in Habitat (for Humanity) in Bible class, went to El Salvador twice with Habitat. I had never thought of Jesus as someone who espoused social justice, but that’s what he did. And I came to the realization that heaven is not “up there.” It’s here. You better start acting like it now. Our just rewards are serving other people in the here and now.



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