Getting Started in Real Estate – The Thirteen Dirty Little Secrets No One Will Tell You

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People have a habit of making huge, life-changing decisions at the end of December because they reflect back on the year that was and realize, “I don’t want to do this anymore” or, “This job isn’t getting me where I want to be” or, “All the kids are gone, so it’s time for me to do something.”  Sound familiar.

This is usually the point where they investigate how to get a real estate license.  All you have to do is take a couple of classes, pass a test, and PRESTO!  You’re in the business.  How difficult could it be?  And just think of all the MONEY!

Over thirty years ago, I entered the real estate business with no idea that the path I had chosen would lead me to where I am today.  I have survived multiple recessions, high interest rates (16½%) and the introduction of the internet into the real estate business.  Through it all, there have been some guiding principles that have kept me focused on not only surviving in this business but thriving while others have faded away.

As you are contemplating whether to take that first step and enroll in classes or you already passed your licensing exam and are deciding which company to affiliate with, consider the following key points that most real estate recruiters will not cover in an interview: 

1.  If you want a hobby, take up knitting.  You may like architecture, a beautiful home, landscape design, and all the other trappings of real estate.  But as you can imagine, working in the industry is an entirely different animal.  Ask any successful broker or agent and they will tell you that they put in an amazing amount of hours just to compete.  Agents must wear many hats: advisor, analyst, coach, marketer, salesperson, designer, team leader, advertising exec, shrink.  The list is long, and being knowledgeable about each aspect of your job requires time and energy.  If you’re thinking about entering this business because you “like houses” or enjoy every episode of HDTV, you may want to rethink your employment options.

2.  Part-time agents don’t make money.  While you can make some extra change being a part-time agent, if you were to divide your hours worked into an hourly wage, you might as well work at the local coffee shop – at least they offer health insurance.  The fact is, if you want to be successful, you can’t dabble; you have to commit.  If you’re looking to transition from your present job into full-time real estate sales, it can be done over a period of time, but you have to work a plan to make it happen.  If you’re expecting to work a total of forty combined hours per week in both jobs and eventually someday make the transition, the coffee shop is a better choice.

3.  You’re in business, now act like it.  Rule number one in sales: you don’t sell, you don’t eat.  Most agents and brokers are independent contractors, which means that although they may work in someone else’s office, they’re not employees.  Translation: no salary, no benefits.  You’ll need to think like an entrepreneur and bootstrap your business until you’re profitable.  When entering the real estate business you should have four to six months worth of living expenses set aside for yourself or have a spouse/significant other that can carry you financially during this period.  While this might seem a bit scary, consider the alternative.  Most start-up businesses require an initial investment in the thousands – with real estate, it’s a couple hundred.

4.  Find a good partner to work with.  The office you choose to work in will impact your success more than you can imagine.  You want to make sure there is a good culture fit.  Agencies recruit because they make money off the sales you make, and some make money from desk and advertising fees.  There is nothing wrong with any of that.  What’s important is finding an environment where you can learn, thrive and be successful.  Researching a good broker relationship will require more than just looking at a couple of fancy websites and glossy brochures.  Meet the manager or broker and ask probing questions.  At the end of your interview ask yourself, “Will this company and manager commit to helping me be successful?”

5.  The good news is, you can rock this!  With consistency, focus, and some marketing smarts, you can create a very good living as a real estate professional.  There are very few industries where you can broker the sale of thousand dollar items without years of experience or massive amounts of education.  The old adage, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me” applies more than any other cute little saying that anyone will throw at you as you navigate your way through this business.

6.  Did that last point make you nervous?  Good.  Handling a multi-thousand dollar sale is a huge responsibility.  Lives and fortunes hang in the balance of your actions.  It’s your job to know what you’re doing and provide counsel worthy of a commission.  You don’t punch a time clock in real estate business.  When you show up for work, you have to be at your very best every day.  No coasting.  Every second, minute and hour of the day needs to be spent figuring out how you can add the most value to the transactions you’re involved with and how to make your clients’ experiences memorable so that they (and all their friends and family members) will do business with you in the future.  Dare to be different; figure out where you can add the most value.

7.  Face it; you’re an entrepreneur.  Chief, cook, and bottle washer all rolled into one.  You’re a Swiss Army Knife.  The truth is, while there are tried and true methods to help you get started in this business, every successful agent succeeds because they are resourceful.  Agents who excel don’t look to place blame but look at problems and figure out a way to overcome them.  Every decision you help your clients make will determine if you will be standing five years from now in this business.  That said, start networking, make a business plan, get a coach, set some goals, and measure your results.  You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

8.  Who needs to make friends with technology?  If you can’t embrace technology as a friend, it will certainly become an enemy.  Gone are the days where you could be a successful agent or broker with a phone and desk.  Business happens online and in the field.  Your customers will demand that you provide them with information in a form they are ready to consume.  If you can’t do that, they’ll go elsewhere.  Basic tools of the trade are a laptop and/or tablet, smartphone and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  If you don’t know how to use them, start learning now.  They will make your job easier and will exhibit to your clients that you are a professional.

9.  Don’t be a “secret agent.”  Let everyone you have ever met know what you are doing and treat everyone you meet as though they are future clients.  You’ll be surprised to find that many of them turn out to be just that.  The sooner you come out of the closet in your new career, the faster you will start to create leads from your sphere of influence.  While a company’s program and service package can help you generate some leads, the vast majority will come from the people you already know.  By the way, those business cards that you will receive your first week in the business, your goal should be to hand all of them out.  They don’t do any good gathering dust in the bottom drawer of your desk at the office.

10.  Marketing, branding, and prospecting are at the core of being a successful agent and broker.  The advent of the Internet has changed the way we accomplish this feat, but the foundation remains the same.  You need a good value proposition and a unique market focus to earn consumers’ attention.  Engage customers where they spend their time online.  Use the tools of the interactive age, from social media and user-friendly niche websites to mobile devices and data analytics.  Be fast, agile, and creative.  Wimpy marketers aren’t remarkable.

11.  Involve yourself in the community.  Join your local REALTORS® association.  Get to know public officials.  Volunteer for causes you believe in.  Join a mastermind group.  Participate at your child’s school.  You get the idea.  You have to participate in the world to create relationships.  The more you get to know people, the more people will know you.  Those agents who sit on the sidelines expecting people to find them will soon learn that it doesn’t work that way.

12.  Invest in your education.  Don’t miss your company’s initial training course for new agents and take advantage of every FREE educational program offered.  If your manager holds sales meetings, attend them and participate.  Take the time to learn.  Find a good mentor.  Invest in a real estate business coach.  Attend the appropriate conferences to increase your market knowledge and sales skills.  Advanced educational opportunities and training aren’t cheap, but if you don’t make the investment, no one else will.  Keep in mind that you are your most valuable asset.

13.  Be yourself.  We’re talking about real estate, so for God’s sake, be real.  You don’t need to become one of the slick agents you see on TV.  Authenticity and integrity rule in this industry.  Be the kind of person that you would like to do business with.

Real estate sales is a great career filled with many advantages and lucrative rewards for those that take it seriously.  Agents that enter the business with no purpose and no direction will inevitably achieve what they set out to do and wander around for a couple of months before fading into the abyss.   Take a few moments now and commit to achieving more.  Commit to excellence.

All the best!



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