Starting A Successful Real Estate Career

As many of you know, I’m passionate about sales and marketing. And I love real estate. So I decided to combine my interests into a short series on effective marketing for Real Estate Agents. This is the first article in the series. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran real estate agent, or just starting out, you’ll find this information valuable.

Being a real estate agent is an amazing career which offers the ability to have a flexible schedule while making a lot of money.  But the “dirty little secret” they don’t tell you is that not everyone is successful.

In 2014 the National Association of Realtors noted that 87% of all real estate agents fail in the first five years.  That’s quite a daunting statistic for anyone aspiring to be a real estate agent.

Let’s face it – anyone reading that only 13% of real estate agents are successful might rethink becoming a real estate agent.   

But thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help insure that you’ll like being a real estate agent and, more importantly, that you’ll be successful … before you take even your first real estate course or exam.

Identify Your Focus

This is a critical decision that you must make early in your real estate career.  You must decide on the type of real estate you want to focus on and where. There are many categories and subcategories from which to choose: Single family residential, high-rise, multi-family, commercial, luxury, etc.   You may decide to combine them into one: for example: Luxury High-Rise. You’ll just need to choose one.

This decision can be harder than it seems.  But don’t worry, you can pivot and choose a different focus later in your career.  It’s just important to make a single decision and focus on it for the first year or more.   By initially focusing on a single specialty, you’ll make it easier to build a network, as well as systems and processes that will save you time and money.

How do you make this decision?  I’d suggest that you start with location.  Where would you like to work? Where is convenient for you?  Where is the greatest opportunity? Then identify the types of real estate that are growing in that area (hint:  it’s usually what developers are building). Eliminate anything that doesn’t interests you. If you’re not passionate about it, then don’t do it.  Then validate your assumptions by asking current agents in that field. If they’re all too busy servicing clients to take your call, it may be a sign that business is booming!

Remember , your revenue is a function of commissions and volume !  If you don’t choose an area and a specialty that has client demand, you’ll be setting yourself up for a difficult road ahead.

Research Your Future Competition

There are a lot of real estate agents out there.  Do your research and find out who the most successful agents are in your area.  You can do this by simply asking some agents and brokers in the area. Or use Google to look for recent press releases promoting agency successes.  

When you’ve figured out who the top agents are, you’ll need to find out how they are marketing themselves and their businesses.  Do you see them at industry events? Do they advertise in locally? Are they active on social media (Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)?  If so, follow them. Dig deep – their tactics will be a future playbook for your marketing efforts.

Once you’ve done all of your research (and NOT BEFORE!), you may even consider calling them.  Tell them that you’re thinking of becoming an agent (and why), let them know that you’ve studied their career, and ask them a few questions like : “what makes the difference between agents who succeed and those who fail?” or “why did you decide to focus on [insert their speciality here]?”.  

Now here’s the most important part.  If you really believe in the agent, and their market focus, offer to work for them for free.  Yes, you read that right. Before you spend time and money working to just pass the real estate exam, you’d be wise to make sure that you like the job.  You don’t have to donate 40 hours a week. But you should spend at least one day a week over the course of few months living the life of a real estate agent.  You’ll likely learn more during this time than you will in your first year of being an agent. Worried about giving up your weekends? Newsflash – if you become an agent, you’ll most likely be working weekends anyway.  

Build Systems and Processes

Once you get your license, you’re going to want to hit the ground running.  So now is the time to set up the foundation for your new business. And as you identify the actions that you’ll need to take to be successful, think about how you can automate them.  

You may need to do some soul searching.  Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses.  I like to evaluate each task and ask myself “is this easy or hard for me?”.  Notice that I don’t ask if I can do the task. I’m a driven person capable of most anything that I put my mind to.  I ask if it comes easily to me. If it doesn’t, I find a way to streamline it, then either automate it or outsource it.  

This is a skill that does come easily.  For inspiration, you may want to read the books (or listen to them, if that is easier for you!)  Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. These two are experts at building a mindset which focuses on systems and processes.

Start Networking

A big part of real estate is networking.  It’s central to building your client list, and the list of vendors who will help you quickly get your clients through escrow.  

Identify the key networking events in your focus area and start attending them.  They can be both events for real estate professionals and for non-professionals (like community events, charities, church gatherings, professional networking events like YPO, etc.).  

Use your networking to start building a permission based target list.  Friendly reminder: It is so important to get the person’s permission for marketing to them directly before sending them a marketing email.  Not only is it polite, but in some places it is the law.

Don’t Stop

Most importantly, don’t stop.  You’re about to embark on a challenging career.  I know firsthand from my own research that the top agents put in the work.  Top agents never quit. They do the work, and sweat the details. And they reap the rewards from that hard work.

Once you have these steps completed, and assuming you still want (hopefully more than ever) to be a real estate agent, you’ll want to establish your marketing.  This is a topic we’ll cover in a future article.