What do real estate brokers really earn? Every year the National Association of Realtors (NAR) releases data on the median income of its members. For 2017, that number was just under $40,000.
Of course, there are many variables to consider. Qualified brokers almost always earn more than salespeople and agents with broker’s licenses. Brokers who have been in the business for over 15 years tend to earn far more than their colleagues with less experience: the median income for these long-time brokers is over $100,000, which is a living wage (or above) in most of the country.
This study brings to my mind how little most people know about making a career out of a real estate brokerage, and how much harder it is to succeed than most newcomers understand.
The testing rooms for the (pathetically easy) New York State real estate salesperson’s exam are always full. Out of the number that pass, maybe 50 percent maximum will stay in the business more than a couple years — and of that 50 percent, maybe another 40 to 50 percent will actually make a decent living.
Because the bar for entry remains so low, and because the job looks easy from the outside, a great many people want to get in on the “easy money.” After all, I’ve heard many a prospective agent say, “How hard can it be?”
I used to say, only half in jest, that the public looks at real estate brokers in Manhattan and sees a fur coat, a ring of keys and a big check. If only it were so easy.
During my almost 40 years in the business, I have seen some stunning successes and a lot of failures. While I can’t offer a formula to guarantee the former, I’ve made several observations that will move you along that path:
1. Great agents are not ashamed
You can’t succeed in a job you are embarrassed to have. Sure, it’s true that agents don’t have the best reputation, but I always urge that we make it our business to elevate that reputation with every client interaction.
If you cannot say with pride that you are a residential real estate agent, you probably won’t get too far trying to succeed as one.
2. Great agents know how to mine their spheres
Great agents build a powerful network of referrals. But how? The answer: it is different for everyone.
Social media is great if you are a whiz, but useless if it’s not intuitive and fun for you. Do you love hosting big parties or intimate dinners? Are you brimming over with market data and tactical advice to share? Any one of these serves the purpose of keeping you connected to past and future clients.
Whatever you choose, it has to be an intuitive fit for you. If you don’t like doing it, you won’t do it — so it won’t work.
3. Great agents get back up again
In this business, you get slapped to the ground time and time again. My rule? Give yourself 24 hours to feel bad, then bounce back.
You can’t stay down if you want to succeed.
4. Great agents self-start
It’s not your company’s responsibility to give you buyers or hand you exclusives. In my career, I never once had a deal handed to me by either of the companies I worked for as an agent.
I literally worked day and night to build a sphere of contacts to whom I demonstrated my competence and commitment.
If you are not self-reliant or constantly searching for the best way to conduct business, this line of work is probably not for you. It’s a 24/7/365 affair, and the ball is always in your court.
Win or lose, if you are a real estate agent, success is in your hands.