When you’re a brand-new agent, you may feel like you’ve been thrown to the wolves. No one tells you whether you’re making the right decisions for your business; it’s up to you to chart your own path. Believe me, I’ve been there. Now that I’ve been in real estate for the better part of a decade, I’ve learned some important lessons in the formative years of my business that I hope will help you steady the ship that is your young career.
Negotiate the Terms of Your Brokerage Contract
Most real estate companies will be happy to hire you right out of the gate. But some brokers may offer less favorable commission splits and other terms. You don’t have to automatically join the first brokerage willing to hire you. There are a few things you want to find out first: How much of your commission will the broker keep? Does the company provide training? Will you receive lead generation support? What are the company’s growth goals? Is there a well-thought-out plan to reach those goals? Don’t be afraid to haggle with brokers. You can say, “Company A is offering me this. Will you?” Being upfront about what you’re looking for in a brokerage will help you avoid regret later.
Look for ‘Brushed’ Leads
Real estate teams often use their CRMs to filter leads according to their readiness to buy or sell. Keep an eye out for prospective buyers who already have preapproval letters from the bank and sellers who have recently invested in home repairs. These are signs that they have prepared for a transaction and are ready to take action today. Unbrushed leads—those who may be at any stage of the real estate process—are more of a gamble. They may be noncommittal about buying or selling and could lead you down a rabbit hole and waste your time. You need more qualified leads at the beginning of your career so you can secure a few quick closings and start making money and earning referrals.
Vet Teams Before Joining One
Ask team leaders and team members how many deals they’ve closed in the past year. The answer will provide insight into whether you’ll be busy and productive as a new team member. A team with low sales volume may indicate that it isn’t generating enough business to justify the head count. Also, find out if a team employs support staff to handle incoming leads, schedule appointments with clients, and perform other routine tasks. This can help you get a running start cultivating business.
Focus on Activities That Make You Money
You’ll hear coaches say, “Work smarter.” That’s shorthand for “Don’t misuse your time on stuff that won’t make you money.” Different tactics work in different markets, so you’ll have to take that into account when deciphering which activities lead to actual deals in your business. For example, launching a door-knocking campaign to generate leads may not be as productive as checking property data to see which homeowners have received default notices. Those homeowners would probably have a more imminent need for your services. Likewise, calling on expired listings may be a better technique to dig up sellers than blanketing an entire neighborhood with direct mail marketing. Sellers of “expireds” are probably still motivated to sell. Shoot at your target, not all around it.
Pinpoint—and Avoid—Time-Wasting Clients
Vet prospects to learn whether they’re just using you to get a sneak peek of expensive homes or test the market. Ask sellers where they plan to relocate after the sale and whether they have a specific price in mind for their property. If they can’t answer the first part of the question and they give you an unrealistic figure for the second, they lack the motivation to sell. For buyers, ask why they want to purchase a home now and how soon they’d like to move in. Then ask if they would be willing to speak with a lender first about getting preapproved. If they can’t give you a timeline and refuse to consult with a lender, don’t waste your time taking them on showings. I tell clients, “If you’re motivated, I’m motivated.”
Don’t Expect Friendship With Every Customer
Don’t take offense if your clients aren’t inviting you to their backyard barbecues after you’ve closed on a transaction together. While it’s your goal to develop a strong connection with customers, keep in mind that these are professional relationships with much more at stake than friendship. It’s your responsibility as an agent to stay in touch with your clients, so don’t take it personally if they don’t keep up with you and your life. Through social media or the occasional email or phone call, you can maintain this relationship in an unobtrusive, professional way. Undoubtedly, some agents do become great friends with their clients. But some clients disappear, never to be seen or heard from again—even though you had good times while working together. It happens. Remember, you’re in this field to make sales first, friends second.
Charge Ahead in the Face of Failure
Nothing feels better than closing on a fabulous two-acre ranch-style property—and nothing feels worse than having a client lose financing on a sweet high-rise condo. Counting your blessings and bouncing back from failure is the secret to your survival in this industry. I once helped a couple whose offer on the home of their dreams—a short sale, no less!—was beaten by another buyer. They made another offer on a different property that they liked but didn’t love, and it was accepted. But then, the husband lost his job and financing at the last minute before closing. We all felt defeated, but we knew we had to keep going. Shortly thereafter, he was rehired at the same company, and the original home they wanted came back on the market. This time, their offer was accepted, and we ended up closing after this yearlong ordeal. You will fail, and you will succeed. Just because you have a fantastic month doesn’t mean the next month will be just as good. And just because this month was horrible doesn’t mean the next won’t be better.
Be Honest, Even If It Could Hurt a Deal
I had a young couple who were buying their first home. Their inspector said he found some old moisture stains in the attic. It hadn’t rained in a while, so the stains could’ve been old, and the roof could have been repaired since then. But there was no sure way to tell. I had to be honest and disclose this to the buyers, even though they had no budget for a new roof and the seller declined to make further repairs. It could’ve ruined the whole deal. But in the end, my clients got the house, along with a repair credit from the seller. Imagine if I hadn’t said anything, and my clients’ attic flooded during the next big rainstorm. They could have come after my broker and me. Hiding facts and failing to disclose to clients what you know is one of the worst things you can do as an agent. Be professional and honest. Isn’t that what you’d expect from someone else?