An open letter to anyone wanting to get their real estate license

The trials and tribulations of starting a career as an agent

This post by Greg Nino, real estate agent at Re/Max Compass in Houston, was originally published on ActiveRain.

Several times a year I am approached by people who want to become a Realtor. Many of them think it’s a great way to supplement their income while they keep their day job. A lot of others are interested in a career change. I decided to type this blog post to save myself time. Each time I’m asked I’ll simply send the inquiring person a link back to this post. So, with that said, grab your favorite beverage and read below, because you’re about to get a heavy dosage of what it’s like to start a real estate career.

Frustrated agent image via Shutterstock.
Frustrated agent image via Shutterstock.

1. Passing the exam is easy. Creating a business with real income is a different story.

2. Now that you have your license, be prepared to lose friends and get your feelings hurt. Most, if not all, of your friends and family will avoid using you the first year or two that you’re licensed. Simply put, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Earn your battle scars. Even after you’ve gained experience, you’ll have friends and family who will not work with you because you’re a friend or because you are family. It happens every day to Realtors across the country.

3. If you don’t spend money, you won’t make money. You need to spend THOUSANDS of dollars to create a business. Most of what you are thinking is a cute and new idea has already been tried a thousand times. You will do what every new agent does: Spend money (A LOT OF IT) on the wrong things. Over and over again. There’s a famous saying in this business: “If you want to get rich in real estate, sell stuff to Realtors.”

4. You and your smartphone will become inseparable. You will have to get up from eating, watching a movie and sleeping to take calls, return emails and respond to text messages. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but you also don’t have to make any real money in this business. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Ignoring a call could be a $20,000 mistake. Or more.

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5. Be prepared to be second-guessed, doubted, questioned, accused and lied to repeatedly. Buyers and sellers have the propensity to lie just like you and the guy next to you at the grocery store. People have perceptions about lawyers, mechanics and police officers. They have them about us, too. Even after years of experience there will be clients who will second-guess your every move. This will never go away.

6. You will show thousands of houses. Showing a house isn’t just about unlocking a door. Sometimes you get rained on while showing. Sometimes the house says active on the market when it’s already under contract with another buyer. Sometimes you are late to the appointment because of traffic. Maybe your buyer will be late. The number of things that can go wrong are practically endless.

7. Almost nobody will respect your time. Almost everyone thinks you are overpaid.

8. Expect people to ask for kickbacks both legally and illegally. Buyers and sellers will often want to haggle with your commission.

9. You will pay taxes. A lot of taxes. Expect to pay for the gizmo you use to unlock doors. You will pay for this yearly along with dues to three different associations. You’ll pay for signs, lockboxes, tools, equipment, cameras, advertising for both you and your listings, leads, websites, and on and on and on.

10. You will pay for your own health and life insurance. There is no 401(k) matching in real estate. You are an independent contractor. In fact, YOU will pay to be at your local real estate office! The broker will take money from you. You will also pay for an office if you want one. Your phone is your cost. Your Internet is also your cost. So are your paper, pens and everything else imaginable. You’re running a small business. It’s ALL your costs. You’ll also pay for errors and omissions insurance. The list is really long. Yay!

11. You will get screwed in this business. It’s not for the naive, lighthearted, ignorant or thin-skinned. You will work your rear end off and sometimes not make a dime.

12. You will deal with a certain number of psychopaths each year.

13. You will meet criminals, convicts and felons, especially if you work in the leasing industry.

14. Strange men and women will ask you to meet them at houses RIGHT NOW.

15. You might get a gun pointed at you while showing a house or two. Sometimes rabid pit bulls will chase you down.

16. Expect to get towed at least once.

17. Eventually you’ll get in a wreck while showing. You better hope your clients aren’t with you. Is your auto insurance updated correctly?

18. There is no disability insurance. So, if you break a leg while playing softball, you’re screwed. It’s going to hurt your business.

19. You might get sued even when you aren’t at fault.

20. When you become successful, your competitors might file complaints on you because they are jealous. You won’t like this.

21. As you show houses you’ll be in questionable neighborhoods from time to time. You need to learn self-defense, and carry a gun or a can of mace. Everyone should be concerned about their safety.

22. Be prepared to leave a social event early to run and show a house or to get yelled at by one of your clients for something you did not do. It doesn’t matter, you are the chew toy sometimes.

23. It’s likely you’ll get audited by the IRS. You have too many write-offs and, once again, you make too much money.

24. Lawyers are annoyed by Realtors.

25. Expect to list homes and never sell them. No agent sells every home they list. You will waste time, money, energy and resources.

26. Your signs will be stolen, spray-painted and eventually played with by the local kids.

27. Your flier box will always be empty because kids, passersby and neighbors will take too many. Sometimes they’ll take all of them in one day. Then you’ll be chastised for not having fliers in the flier box.

28. Did I mention you’ll deal with at least two crazy people each year?

29. EACH real estate transaction you work means you are likely dealing with at least eight different people. You’re responsible for 15-20 things. Right now I am trying to close 11 contracts. I am a little stressed. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about my paperwork, my clients and my business.

30. You will become an unlicensed therapist, divorced lawyer and counselor. You aren’t allowed to give legal advice, and you shouldn’t. You aren’t a doctor, but everyone will unload their personal lives with you. You will sometimes live their life.

31. Your spouse will at times hate what you do for a living.

32. Your wife or husband will despise the fact that you are always on your phone.

33. When you’re sick, you still work. There’s no floating holidays.

34. While on vacation, you still work. You can get an agent to cover your business, but NOBODY will care for your business the way you do.

35. Sometimes when you make mistakes it costs people money. You can’t just apologize.

36. You have to have a nice car. You must wear nice clothes.

37. When you first get started everyone will know you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s a fact. This sucks. But if you stick it out, you’ll be OK. Seventy-five percent of the new agents don’t make it.

38. You get to work with agents! Not all of them are put together correctly. A lot of your problems in this business will be because of the other agent. You will get upset, angry, pissed and offended. Egos are here, too.

39. Wait for it:  Friends, neighbors and family will ask you for real estate advice while they are involved in a real estate transaction YOU aren’t.

40. Other Realtors will give your client advice when they aren’t supposed to. Every buyer and every seller knows an agent somewhere.

41. Each market is different. Very different sometimes, but that won’t stop friends and family from influencing your client. Your client will become confused at times.

42. You have a better chance of meeting E.T. than you do working real estate part time and being successful. It takes time, effort and money to be a part-time Realtor. In fact, being a part-time agent can be even more difficult.

So why do agents do this?

You’ll have the amazing opportunity to reap what you sow. You can work when you want. No matter how bad your boss (client) is, you are working for them for only a certain period of time. You get new bosses all the time. You can make a real difference in a lot of people’s lives. You literally help shape dreams. YOU can be the difference in someone’s life as they look to sell and buy a home. And not all clients, buyers and sellers are bad. Most of them get it. It’s awesome when everything works out.

And sometimes the money is really good.


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