Are You Sold on Real Estate?

Before you can sell homes to others, you have to be sold on the idea of a real estate career.

February 1, 2004

The sharp contrast of a booming real estate market and a sluggish economy has brought literally thousands of new associates to residential sales over the last few years. The business certainly looks enticing: the freedom to create your own schedule, to be in control of how much you earn, and to operate your own business. But if you believe that this rosy picture is the whole story, you or some well-meaning friend has sold you a bill of goods.

Industry estimates say that anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of new real estate practitioners leave the business in their first three years. Many more struggle along making just enough to survive but never enough to reach the income level they want. If you fall into either of these categories, it might be time to make an honest assessment of whether you have the skills needed to have a successful career in real estate sales.

  • Do you have excellent people skills? People skills are the No. 1 factor in real estate sales success. If you dread picking up the phone for fear it’s a client, you may be in the wrong business. To be successful in sales—and to really enjoy it—you need to like and respect all personalities, ethnic groups and lifestyles. (Failing to do so also may put you in violation of fair housing laws.) You must be able to quickly build rapport with clients and to enjoy helping them solve problems and reach their goals. Your people skills also are essential for building and maintaining good working relationships with other sales associates, mortgage and title professionals, and property appraisers and inspectors.
  • Do you have a confident personality? Especially when you’re getting started, you need the emotional resilience to handle rejection. When you’ve just given what you know was the best listing presentation of your career and the prospects says they’ll have to think about it, it takes a strong sense of self-worth to go on to the next presentation and do it all over again. It’s also critical that you can put your own personal issues aside when you work and focus on the needs of the client.
  • Are you comfortable with technology? Technology is increasingly driving the real estate business. You will need to have or learn to use, at a minimum, a personal computer, digital camera, e-mail, and software programs to create effective marketing pieces and communicate with clients. You don’t need to be a geek, but you can’t shy away from technology and hope to succeed.
  • Do you read, write, and speak well? Even though real estate sales involves a lot of personal contact, you need to be able to read, comprehend, and often explain contract forms, policy and procedures manuals, and disclosure statements. You’ll also need good basic grammar and spelling skills for marketing materials and routine correspondence.
  • Are you self-motivated and well organized? Because real estate salespeople work as independent contractors with little supervision, the discipline to work on a regular schedule is vital. Good time-management skills also are important in ensuring that you devote the majority of your time to income-producing activities. In general, you should spend 25 percent of your time to marketing yourself and your listings and 15 percent in showing current listings to buyers. Organizational skills also are necessary for keeping track of the many details that make up a real estate transaction.
  • Are you flexible? The trade off for being able to set your own schedule and take two hours off in the middle of the day is the need to work weekends, evenings, and other times when your clients are available. You—and your family—need to understand these demands on your time and how they will impact your lifestyle.
  • Are you healthy? Although there is a lot of phone work in real estate, you also have to have the physical stamina to spend long periods in your car, lift heavy for-sales signs, and stand for several hours at an open house.

As you can see, or already know, real estate is a very demanding career that requires a lot from you. But if this list seems intimidating, don’t sell yourself short. You can learn to adopt many of these skills even if you don’t currently possess them. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you succeed or fail in this business. But when you do truly buy into the hard work it takes to excel at real estate sales, you’ll find that the rewards are without limits.

Mark Nash is the author of Reaching Out: The Financial Power of Niche Marketing and The Original New Agent’s Guide to Starting & Succeeding in Real Estate. He is a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential, Central Street Office, in Evanston, Ill. He can be reached by e-mail at

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