Don’t Let It Intimidate You: Tips For Starting (or Strengthening) Your Real Estate Career

When I started in real estate in 1993, I swore it would be part-time.

I had four children under age nine, but I needed to put my skills to use other than deciding what to make for dinner that didn’t include SPAM or hot dogs. I had worked as a news writer for CNN and then in advertising before kids — so why real estate part-time? The short answer is the numerous underwhelming experiences with real estate “professionals” I had while relocating my family during the late ‘80’s. I learned what not to do from those people. The long answer is those people — plus my mother and sister. Both were in residential real estate, and while I often told them I found their jobs boring, I knew they made good money working full-time.

I also knew they had made real estate all-consuming. They even had a battle over a property during Thanksgiving one year, which pretty much ruined turkey and stuffing for the family forever.

I was assured that most real estate professionals worked part-time, so I decided that was the route for me. Two weeks into my new career, I sold my first house. I was hooked like a feline with catnip. Six weeks after starting, I went to the broker-in-charge and told him this part-time thing was not working out. He said he was not surprised. While the vast majority of real estate professionals work part-time, he knew my personality would make me go full-time quickly. He said, “That’s a you thing, not a real estate thing.”

Where am I going with this?

There are three million Realtors, agents, associates, professionals (and unprofessionals) packed into tight housing markets in every corner of the 50 states. That can seem intimidating to someone just entering the industry. It shouldn’t be. The vast majority of those people aren’t selling anything. They are part-time or less. They have a license for reasons only they understand.

I recently read Abraham Verghese’s The Covenant of Water. While you may be wondering what a book about South India’s Malabar Coast in the Twentieth Century has to do with real estate, there is an amazing lesson to be learned: Sometimes contrary courses of action can lead to the same results. The thing to remember is that the journey and the destination are not the same thing.

There is no single, right way to enter this industry and find success. But after 30 years, thousands and thousands of transactions, and quite a few headaches, there are several intrinsic truths in an industry where 60% of the people quit during their first year.

  • Be a self-starter. This may sound like a cliché, but to succeed in real estate, you must be driven. This is not a job if you want to stay at home all day in your sweatpants or shorts, and punch numbers into a computer. This is a job that requires you to learn on the fly, figure things out on your own, and learn from mistakes. If you think of this as starting your own business, that is the first step to success.
  • Be an expert at knowing experts. There’s a reason you are a licensed Realtor, and not an electrician. Your skills took you this way, but people will ask you about electrical stuff. Or roofs. Or building cabinets. Or how often a plane flies overhead. Your biggest asset is having a core group of experts and professionals you can turn to in order to answer those questions. So, how do you find these experts if you are just starting? Ask other real estate professionals. Ask mentors. Don’t just go off Google reviews. Get to know these people. It will take time, but the investment is worth it.
  • Honesty is your job. Too many real estate professionals just repeat what their clients want to hear. I call them parrots. You can guess how valuable they are to buyers and sellers. To be a successful real estate professional, you have to be candid with your client. You need to point out facts about a house that they may not want to hear. You must be the “bad guy” when needed.

A lot has changed in the real estate world in thirty years, but it remains a brutally challenging field. Reality TV has created the illusion that selling real estate is easy work and fast money. That’s not true. Hard work matters the most. Don’t be intimidated by it.

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