Necessity has driven some real estate agents to take up a second job or even a third job to make ends meet during these challenging economic times.
And some agents have relegated their role in assisting buyers and sellers to part-time status while awaiting a market recovery or weighing an exit from the real estate business.
Margaret Woda, an agent and associate broker at Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton, Md., had this advice for part-time agents: "Use this down market to build the infrastructure for your business and obtain advanced training. When the market turns around, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running as a full-time agent."
She added, "Some part-time agents can easily balance a part-time real estate career with another job because they are skilled at multitasking or they have a flexible schedule at their other job which allows them to be available for serving their real estate clients."
Ruthmarie Hicks, of Keller Williams Realty in Westchester County, N.Y., is also an adjunct professor of biology. She has held teaching appointments at Pace University in Pleasantville and lower Manhattan, as well as Purchase College, part of the State University of New York. She teaches one course, and most of her time at the university is spent prepping for lectures and exams. She has handled both jobs for the past two years, and she became a Realtor three years ago.
As a professor she works about 20 hours a week, six to eight of which are spent in the classroom. Hicks said she plans to make real estate a full-time career, though even then she plans to continue teaching one course in biology.
"You have to be organized," Hicks said, adding, "You’re not going to know your market inventory" as well when you’re working part-time. "So far I have worked around that … I think with the market so slow I can preview anything that comes on so I’m not running into a hundred things coming into the market every week.
"I think the other downside is you do feel fragmented," she said. "In real estate there is a fragmentation because you’re running around at odd hours, and adding another job on top of that doesn’t make for regular family time."
Hicks said part-time real estate work is doable, but there is a distinction between having an extra job for financial reasons and being a dabbler in real estate. Sometimes, having two or more jobs is simply being realistic.
"I don’t believe there is enough business to go around," Hicks said.
While some people may question how a real estate agent working less than 40 hours a week in the field can meet clients’ and colleagues’ needs comprehensively, Hicks said she is rarely unavailable to clients because of her brief lecture schedule.
Some agents work with partners or mentors to handle client calls when they are not able to handle the calls themselves.
A solution to not being available to clients at all hours is to have a partner or mentor who is available when the part-time agent is not. Part-timers can improve their effectiveness by concentrating their efforts to a smaller market area and fewer listings, too.
Dennis Pease, broker at RE/MAX Integrity in Eugene, Ore., said he has participated in many transactions with part-time agents, and an unfortunate consequence is that he has devoted more of his own time to carry through those transactions.
"It’s actually more than a full-time job and I just don’t see how anyone can do it effectively by being a part-time agent," Pease said. "You’re not getting much exposure out there. I’m a very Internet-active person. I do a huge amount of Internet marketing — that’s almost a full-time job in itself. If you are part-time, I just don’t think you are doing your job up to par."
Steven Beam, broker at RE/MAX Alliance in Colorado, also said he ends up driving both sides of a transaction when working on deals that involve part-time agents.
"They are just not processing as many transactions in a year so they don’t know the ins and outs of the protocol and the procedures," Beam said.
Beam said part-time agents generally lack depth of knowledge of the industry, current events and transaction details.
"For us, the contracts are constantly changing — twice a year," Beam said. "If you’re writing none to four deals a year, it’s going to be hard to understand and keep up with changes. Most part-time brokers I know only do three to four deals a year. An average Realtor does four to six."
"I don’t think there is any possible way that a part-time broker can survive in this market," he said. "Maybe years ago when the market was booming and you could basically stand in the street corner and write deals. The full-time (broker) is scrambling for every deal possible."
Those companies that do hire part-time agents can develop a reputation — not always favorable — among real estate professionals working at other companies.
Speaking about a large company in Las Vegas known to hire part-time agents, Pease said many of his friends did not want to do business with that company because they already had a negative connotation.
Pease’s office and Beam’s office require new agents to work full-time, though not all offices share these requirements.
Hicks and Woda agree that in the real estate business, part-time does not ensure professional service, just like full-time status does not always equate to professional service.
Pooja Kumar is a freelance writer.
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