5 Questions Your New Broker/Manager Might Ask You

Self-assessment is crucial to preparing for a job interview with a broker.

February 1, 2002

If you are getting your real estate salesperson license or considering reactivating an inactive license, you should make some honest self-assessments before interviewing with a broker. Knowing what your skills, limitations and goals are will help you be better prepared for a career in real estate. And, you will come across with more confidence when it comes time to interview with your new broker.

Start with questions that you think a broker would ask before hiring you. What would she or he want to know about you? The answers could surprise you. They will tell you what you have to bring to the table and whether you have what it takes to be successful.

Why real estate?

Do you know why you want a career in real estate? You may love to sell, love to help people, or feel you would be a natural. The perception that real estate sales as a career with flexible hours, unlimited income, and glamor might motivate some.

Many people come to the real estate industry as mature adults, rather than young people fresh out of school. The primary reason for this is that selling homes is expensive and income is irregular. It takes confidence to make it as an independent business person, which is what a real estate salesperson is. Even though you will be supervised by a broker, you are essentially building your own business and will be responsible for your own productivity and expenses.

Although it's true you can set your own hours, income needs demand that you frequently schedule yourself to please your clients. Income can be unlimited, but so are the very real costs to develop your name (personal brand awareness) and expertise and to market listings.

As for glamour, you may be working long irregular hours, spending much of it doing tasks you don't find so exciting. Real estate sales means a lot of interaction with people, but it is also doing a lot of research and reports and sitting in meetings and classrooms learning how to keep you and your broker out of liability hearings.

To make sure real estate is really for you, pay a visit to an excellent resource, The Occupational Outlook Handbook. This is a service of the U.S. Department of Labor, and it offers a realistic description of the nature of the work, working conditions, employment possibilities, and other significant points you need to know to become a salesperson. Also, you can talk to real estate salespeople that you know and ask them what their daily lives are like.

When your broker asks you why you chose real estate, you will be able to respond with confidence and enthusiasm, and a more realistic idea of what the real estate industry will be like and how you will fare in it.

What skills do you have?

Even if you have never held a job before, you have skills that could be of use in the real estate industry. Are you good at organization? You will need planning and execution (organization) skills for your appointments and paperwork. Are you skilled at computers and other hardware? That can be a tremendous asset in real estate, as you can rely much information to clients and the office via portable and wireless modems.

What about your business background? Do you have sales, teaching, service or management experience? Any of those are helpful to the real estate business, as you will be teaching your clients about buying and selling, serving their needs, and managing their transaction for them.

What about your personal experience as a homeowner or renter? Can you empathize with people who are first-time homebuyers because of your experiences? What would you do differently? These are important lessons of experience that your future customers will benefit from.

Be willing to brush up on the skills you know you will need, such as keyboarding, word processing, and e-mail management.

What are your limitations?

For most people entering the profession, the biggest limitation to address is money. Most practitioners will tell you that it could be months before you make a sale. So you should have at least six months' seed money to pay the bills until you sell a home. If you are married and reliant on another's income, your partner and you should be prepared to do without your income for at least that long or longer. In addition, you should be prepared to shoulder the expenses of doing business. If you get a listing, for example, certain advertising may not be covered by your broker and may come out of your pocket, including the sign you stick in the yard. Are you ready for that?

Are you responsible for children or an elder? You will need to provide day and/or after school care just as if you were at an office job. While you can work at home on your own computer, you may find it difficult to be responsible for a family while concentrating on work details. That means that you may only be able to work part-time, and if so, you should plan your income needs accordingly.

Are you poor with math or grammar? These aren't skills that can be improved overnight, but they can be worked on little by little. Your real estate math courses will show you which types of calculations you will need to learn. Practice them over and over in hypothetical situations until you are comfortable. Grammar skills can also be improved, but in the meanwhile, be prepared to use spell-checkers in your e-mail and word processing software, and ask someone to look over your contracts until you feel more confident.

Try to think of as many hurdles and roadblocks and their solutions as you can before your broker interviews you.

What kind of real estate do you want to practice?
Although your state’s laws and regulations may limited your choices, most states allow different forms of representation by real estate brokers. As the saleperson, you will only be able to represent clients according to the brokerage's rules. But there are many kinds of brokerage business models today, where you may be able to serve as a buyer's representative or seller's representative. You can also enter the industry as something other than a salesperson. You can enter as an assistant to an salesperson, as a transaction coordinator, receptionist, or girl-or-boy Friday for the brokerage. You can even be a virtual assistant and never come to the office at all.

Explore how you want to start out. If you have less working experience, you may be better off in a salaried position until you gain some experience. If you have more experience, you may feel more confident about a position as an independent contractor - a salesperson. Your broker may be large and flexible enough to offer you a variety of opportunities.

How do you plan to make money?

A good broker will expect you to be able to come up with a business plan and stick to it. He or she will want to know how you plan on acquiring clients and what you plan to do to serve them. Some brokers are putting their new hires on production quotas.

Your business plan should include your costs of doing business as well as your income expectations. This should be based on your schedule for farming (building your personal contacts) and advertising.

Have your sphere of influence ready--friends, relatives, and neighbors. Don't forget tradespeople that you see everyday, such as your drive-through banker, pharmacist, and grocer. These are the people who will begin your farm of contacts, the first people with whom you are likely to sell a home. You should have a plan that outlines how you will contact and stay in touch with these people and encourage them to use your services.

You can't make money without the proper tool set, and the broker will ask you what you have in your bag of tricks. To compete on any level, you should have your own computer, cell phone, productivity and client management software, e-mail program, and a few other basics. Remember that you will be serving clients and communicating with other brokers and salespeople who may have more sophisticated gear than you, so you have to have at least these technologies to compete. Some brokers provide salespeople with some of these things, but the more the broker provides, the less he or she will expect to pay in commission splits.

Be ready to show the broker other steps you are taking to assure your success, like books you are reading, courses you are taking, and people with whom you are networking. Do you know which are the best resources for information online and offline?

Last, be ready to outline what you think makes you special, and why people would want to hire you to be their salesperson.

(c) Copyright 2002 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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