What to Know Before Pursuing a Career in Real Estate

20 years ago this month, I chose to pursue a career in Real Estate after the birth of my second child. My husband and I had just bought our first home which was a process I completely fell in love with. The idea of being able to make a solid income, own my work schedule and care for my family the way I wanted while working at a job I loved was my perfect scenario.

Today’s real estate landscape is starkly different than when I was establishing my business and comes with fresh challenges for new agents to navigate. For starters, the cable networks had not latched onto real estate as being this glamorous career path full of luxury homes, glitzy parties and easy money. Facebook was for college students; Zillow hadn’t launched its platform and cell phones didn’t have touchscreens or cameras. Needless to say, having a social media strategy, understanding key words, SEO and AI weren’t in the job description.

While the challenges and opportunities may be very different from when I started 20 years ago, the opportunity to build your own thriving business that is profitable and rewarding remains very true of our industry today. If you are considering a career in real estate, here are a few things I believe every new agent should know before they begin their journey.

1.) Establish a financial plan.

Expect a minimum of 3-6 months before you see any income.  Some will tell you to budget for a full year before your income is relatively consistent. It takes time to establish a client base and work though the sales process from initial contact to closing. You will also need to budget for upfront fixed costs to conduct your business. These include licensing fees, association dues, MLS membership, signs, lock boxes, business cards, general marketing and continuing education costs. I’d recommend planning for a minimum of $3,000 – $5,000 in expenditures.

2.) Expect a learning curve.

The real estate license courses primarily focus on the basics of real property law and the rules and principles that govern a licensed agent’s activities. The courses don’t teach you how to be an agent, how to attract clientele, how to present properties or even how to learn pricing strategies. These are all skills you will learn along the way from your team and time spent in the industry.

3.) Find a company that fits your needs.

When considering firms to affiliate with, the commission split structure should be on the lower end of your priorities. You will need a lot of training, mentoring and guidance to truly serve your clients. I recommend looking for firms that have a passion for developing new agent talent and invest in tools to help them succeed. Your brokerage support team and mentor will play a huge role in defining success in your initial years.

4.) Get ready to connect.

Relationships are at the heart of the real estate business. Your database can be the best and most inexpensive way to jump start your career as a real estate agent.  From the start, you should establish a system for organizing your contacts and a plan for staying in touch with them; especially after they have bought or sold a home with you. You will also need to develop strong relationships with fellow agents, lenders, inspectors, title companies, contractors, etc.… Add attending industry events into your weekly agenda.

5.) Become and Expert.

Real estate is a market-driven industry and success relies on understanding market trends, demand-supply dynamics and local demographics. You will need to proactively conduct thorough market research to identify potential opportunities and assess the viability of your chosen area of specialization.  Always have an answer for the question: “How’s the market?” because you will get it a lot!

6.) Learn to write a business plan (and write a new one every year).

Understand that by embarking on a career in real estate you are starting your own small business and it needs structure. Your business plan should include your income goals, where you plan to attract your business, a budget for expenses, your value proposition, education goals and an investment plan for retirement. You should regularly track what marketing/sales activities are working so that you can adjust in real time and incorporate the successes into future plans.

7.) Be ready to work hard.

You will have to be proactive in putting yourself out there and hold yourself accountable for your time. Even though real estate professionals have flexible schedules, successful agents start each day with a plan they stick to. While flexibility allows you to create your own “office hours,” it also at times requires working beyond traditional hours, including weekends and evenings, to accommodate clients’ needs.

Creating daily/weekly habits that include education, market research, industry trends, marketing tips, database call time, client care and follow up, community engagement, business accounting and industry networking are the secret sauce to longevity in this business.  While this may sound daunting, real estate is a dynamic industry that has will never be boring with all kinds of opportunities to generate income if you are willing to do the work.

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