Every January I write articles about how to become a real estate agent, and I post the articles to my blog. The article usually gets a lot of traffic and always starts a conversation.
The articles are an alternative to the Department of Commerce site, where it is hard to find anything that resembles useful information, or to the local brokerages and real estate schools that use the information to recruit agents.
Getting a real estate license does not come close to preparing a person for being a full-time, 100 percent commissioned salesperson. I remember the terror I experienced that first year in the business when I went for several months without any sales. It was worse than last year.
When I started in the business, I honestly had no idea that selling real estate would be much easier than finding clients. During the peak years of the real estate bubble there were more clients but there were also far more agents.
It seemed like everyone had a relative or friend with a real estate license. It has never been easy, which is why so many agents give up in their first year.
If I were to recruit agents, here are some of the characteristics I would seek out:
1. Adaptability: The ability to work in any situation. If the car breaks down, find another. If there is an Internet outage at the office, work someplace else.
2. Problem-solving skills: No matter what anyone says, each real estate transaction is unique and there are always problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. A good agent is prepared to handle any problem.
3. Ability and desire to learn new things: Being a real estate agent is extremely competitive and the business world is ever-changing. It is important to stay ahead of the times and to really understand the local market.
4. A basic understanding of everyday technology and tools: I would never consider recruiting anyone who is not familiar with basic business and personal technology, like smartphones and mobile or nonmobile personal computing devices, and the Internet. I would make exceptions for established agents with assistants.
5. Flexibility: The best agents are happy agents, and the happiest agents are those who learn to roll with the punches and to handle the ups and downs of the business and stay on an even keel. They quickly adjust their expectations when things don’t work out, and know when to move on.
6. Tenacity: The ability to hang in there and not to give up and to keep prospecting. Every day is a new day. Most days we hear the word "no" more than the word "yes."
7. Money in the bank: We all know the story of the agent who started out broke and got rich selling real estate. That agent is an exception to the rule that says it is foolish to quit your day job and start a business without enough money in the bank to go a year without pay, if needed.
8. Reading and writing and basic math: We really are in an information age. People with poor reading skills and without basic writing skills are missing out. The math skills come in handy for everything from calculating commissions to explaining mortgage payments.
9. People skills: I have never met a successful agent who did not have people skills, including strong communication skills. So much of what we do involves communication. A good agent has extraordinary listening skills.
10. A strong support system: I watch some agents struggle when business is slow. They work hard to find more business, but they have spouses or partners who do not believe in what they are doing or who do not support it. That makes it so much harder to succeed in real estate.
I resisted the urge to include "self-starter" because I have never really been sure what that means. Agents have to be motivated, but I have noticed that those who are motivated to the point of desperation have a hard time making it work.
For brokerages, having great agents starts with recruiting the right agents. The brokerages that continue to recruit anyone who can fog a mirror will spend all of their time and money recruiting.
Agents need to have some basic business skills, and the ability to use technology is pretty basic. Yet I still run into new agents who cannot handle electronic forms or manage a social media account.
The best brokerages or teams are those with the best agents. Systems and tools are important, but our business is still people-powered.