Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Agents Wish They’d Known
New agents can’t depend on prelicensing classes or their brokers to teach them everything about real estate. Here, experienced agents offer advice on what rookies should know at the beginning of their careers.
January 5, 2018
If you enrolled in prelicensing courses expecting to learn everything you needed to know about the business, chances are you were sorely disappointed when reality hit. In addition, you probably learned soon enough that not every real estate brokerage is equipped with all the tools and follow-up training agents need to become and stay successful.
Seasoned agents have gleaned important lessons through mistakes and accomplishments accumulated over time. REALTOR® Magazine asked real estate pros across the country about the skills and knowledge they wish they’d gained earlier in their careers. Here are some of the answers that may help new agents develop a sound footing more quickly.
You’re responsible for your own training. I wish I had known that it’s not a brokerage’s duty to teach agents how to create a business plan, save for taxes, or understand service agreements. I figured I would get this training automatically once I got my license, but I found out that as a business owner, I had to seek out the training myself. I signed up for different real estate courses and programs, where I learned how to save for tax time. Coaches taught me how to treat every meeting with a buyer or seller as a job interview, how service agreements are like employment contracts, and to show homes only to preapproved buyers. I now teach prelicense and GRI classes, and I think these things should be part of the curriculum. —Stephanie Jones, GRI, e-PRO, Select Realty, Marquette, Mich.
There are people who will pose as fake buyers or sellers, and they could be dangerous. I recently had an internet lead who posed as the wife of a somewhat famous person. She was just credible enough that I kept talking to her for months, even though she cancelled a couple of appointments. The turning point was when she pretended to be her own lawyer, calling from her own number and using a voice-changer that poorly disguised her voice. That’s when I realized I could be part of a scam—or worse—and after that, I just blocked her. —Lisa Holmquist, SRS, Urban Nest Realty, Las Vegas
Political issues related to real estate will pop up in your transactions. Knowing about hot-button building projects near a neighborhood your buyer is interested in helps them make a more informed purchase decision. Understanding local tax rates and ballot propositions enables you to educate buyers who are relocating from a different state. By being involved in conversations online, I’ve made a lot of great friends who know I’m up to date on issues, and that has generated referrals for me. One time, I was giving a listing presentation when I was interrupted by a call-to-action alert on my phone about flood insurance. I explained what it was to my prospective sellers, which sparked a conversation that eventually helped them when buying in another area that was prone to flooding issues. Every agent should join professional Facebook groups, subscribe to their local and state association newsletters, and talk to agents who serve on committees. Educate yourself beyond your required CE classes. It’ll make a world of difference in your business. —Emmy Simpson, MRP, Realty ONE Group Mountain Desert, Flagstaff, Ariz.
You may need the listings you don’t initially want. There is no listing too small. Many times, I have gone out to a listing that I might not want. But in that listing, I find something special that makes me proud to represent it. I’m a commercial practitioner and currently representing a small store in a small town for a very low price. But the interior has a metal ceiling, and the owner has upgraded the building and left it in beautiful shape. Will I make a lot of money on the deal? No. Will I have a lot of fun and feel very comfortable representing it? Yes. Many times, people hear of what you do and how you do it, and they tell their friends. And guess what? Those friends may have something they need your help with. And then you get a very nice listing. —Cliff Bellar, RE/MAX Crossroads, Medina, Ohio
Have a financial plan to weather downturns. If an agent gets in the habit of budgeting when they get started and continues it as their business grows, then they will always have a good cushion to fall back on. I have seen some people go out and purchase a new car with a big commission check and then find themselves struggling when there’s a sudden downturn. In my market, there has been a slight slowdown in both sales and rentals. The agent who has not planned for this will be in serious trouble if it goes on very long. —James Parsons, Century 21 Judge Fite Company, Fort Worth, Texas
Take yourself out of the transaction. The deal is between the buyer and the seller, so stop referring to the client as “my buyer” or “my seller.” The point is to stop putting the focus on you. I learned this during a transaction with a very difficult and combative agent. I was discussing the situation with my broker, and he asked me, “Who is it in a transaction that kills the deal?” I wasn’t quite sure, and he made me think about it. I went back later and answered, “The agents?” He concurred and told me to take my emotions out of it and focus solely on my client. Once I learned that, it made all the difference. —Louise McLean, GRI, SFR, RE/MAX Solutions, Merritt Island, Fla.
Advertising doesn’t work as well as building relationships. I started in the business in March 2008 during the housing crisis. I was determined to make my business work. I spent about $50,000 on advertising over three years with very little return. So I started asking long-term, successful agents how they got clients. They taught me that, above all, real estate is a relationship business. Make friends any way you can: through church, neighborhood HOAs, and civic clubs. Volunteer every chance you get. You don’t necessarily want to push real estate; just make people feel comfortable around you. Those are the agents who thrive. —Dale Falkowski, Atlanta Communities Real Estate, Woodstock, Ga.
You may never get a real vacation. You’ll almost always end up working on your vacations, regardless of whether you’ve told your clients you’ll be unavailable or you have other agents helping you out in your absence. Deadlines will need to be changed, closings will need to be bumped, contracts will terminate—anything you can think of will happen on your vacation. I used to take half a day off a few times a year to go to the mountains, where there’s no cell service. When I’d get back, there was always something urgent that needed attention. Nowadays, my husband and I plan road trips, where there are many places we can stop that have cell service. He drives while I work in the car or at hotels. I do try to limit the number of clients I work with at any given time so I can give great service and have work-life balance. —Linda Hepperle, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Greeley, Colo.
No matter how hard you try, some deals just won’t close. I’ve had sellers who refuse to drop the price of their home, even after nine months of feedback saying it’s too high. Others won’t modify their schedules to set up showings for buyers. I’ve had buyers look at homes for months only to inform me that they plan to build and were just “looking for ideas.” Even though you’ve spent money on advertising, printing out flyers, and hosting open houses, some transactions will inevitably go downhill. You have to develop thick skin and move on. But keep in contact with these clients because one day, they may come back. —Traci Ethington, ABR, Century 21 Olympian, Lake Jackson, Texas