Thanks to Million Dollar Listing, the life of a real estate agent looks quite cushy — riding in cars with chauffeurs from listing to listing, and boasting sales volumes in the hundreds of millions to billions appears to be the status quo. But those of us on the inside know this is far from reality.
The truth is, breaking into a career in real estate is not for the faint of heart. It takes tremendous drive and perseverance, as well as a firm understanding that everything is riding on you — and you alone. Your work ethic is ultimately your skeleton key to success.
After running my family business in brick-and-mortar retail for almost 10 years, I decided to make a much-needed career shift and break into the wondrous world of real estate. I heeded all of the warnings about a commission-based profession, the importance of patience, and the need to be hungrier than all of the other agents I would be competing with.
While I thought I knew what I was in for, I quickly learned that I didn’t have a clue. After working at a rental firm in Brooklyn for about seven weeks, with 15 signed deals, I felt like I was ready for sales. So, I started at Warburg Realty — a Manhattan-based legacy real estate brokerage best known for its bespoke luxury service and cutting-edge technology.
While Warburg was without question a perfect fit, I knew little about the challenges I had signed up for. The struggle is as real as they say. You will come across many obstacles and many months without a paycheck. The important thing is to stay focused and driven because, with some hard work and dedication, things do fall into place.
Fast-forward to less-than 18 months later and many lessons learned along the way, I am proud to say I have closed on eight sales and have three in contract. Though originally staying afloat was far from easy, I managed to cultivate some methods and tools that I regularly implement to keep the momentum going.
1. Align yourself with a top broker
No matter how large or deep-pocketed your sphere of influence may be, generating your own business from the get-go can be incredibly difficult. Real estate is usually a person’s most valuable asset, and convincing your family, friends, peers, or even strangers to entrust you with such a significant transaction is tricky and complicated.
Aligning yourself with a top broker at your firm to get the ball rolling can prove immensely beneficial. Send out a company-wide email introducing yourself and offer assistance to any brokers in need of help with open houses and showing appointments. Reach out to an executive team member and ask if any of the firm’s heavy-hitters are having trouble managing their business.
Once you have a number of closed deals under your belt, you will find a new sense of confidence and breadth of knowledge to bring to your pitches. Experience builds trust!
2. Be creative with marketing
Creativity is paramount. Find new and innovative ways to market yourself and your listings; everything is in the details. Social media is the obvious pathway towards marketing these days, but don’t stop there.
If you are pursuing business in your own neighborhood, build relationships with the businesses you frequent, and find ways to promote each other through open house events or mailers. Trunk shows, wine tastings, and raffles are all fun ways to bring awareness to a new listing, or fresh attention to a stale one. Focus on showcasing cuisine and merchandise from restaurants and stores that are specifically unique to your listing’s community. The more personal connections you make, the better your chances are of finding your next customer or new exclusive.
3. Organize yourself
The surest way to stay organized is to create a schedule, establish a routine, and stick to them! I like to start my day with a hot cup of coffee and an intense workout. Morning rituals can directly influence the way a day progresses and ultimately ends. I find that hitting the gym first thing after I wake up facilitates the necessary mindset required to manage my responsibilities head-on and with full force. For others, this could be meditation or prayer. Either way, be sure that your regimen is uplifting and energizing.
Tackle whatever you find to be most burdensome first. If it’s follow-ups, for example, dedicate a daily morning power-hour to blasting out emails and following up with customers, clients, and other brokers. It’s important to block out certain windows of your day in advance so you have your schedule readily accessible at a moment’s notice. Should you have to deviate from that schedule, you will always have some sort of foundation to keep you fresh and on your toes.
4. Do not work from home
Many agents, myself included, find real estate after leaving another career. At first, I found myself working out of my office regularly. However, after the novelty associated with starting a new job wore off, I subconsciously decided to work from home more and more.
If you are anything like me, working from home can be extremely distracting and a bit too comfortable. A short break can easily turn into a Game of Thrones marathon before you notice that you’ve lost four hours of your time. The fact of the matter is: the workplace is the place to get work done.
The environment and energy that we surround ourselves with have a direct impact on our performance and productivity levels. Consider a Soul Cycle class. The lights are dimmed, the heat is turned up, and then the music starts. Every rider feeds off one another’s energy until the room is filled with rows of cyclists pushing themselves and challenging each to finish strong.
The office is no different, and real estate is a competitive profession. Learn from observing other hardworking agents and allow their methods and hustle to inspire your own.
5. Become an expert in your field
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the inventory on the market in the neighborhoods you would like to target. A great way to start is to hit as many open houses as possible. Take notice of what makes certain properties unique, and what features tend to appear redundant and commonplace. The ability to distinguish the distinct and defining characteristics of the homes you visit will become extremely useful when working with buyers. It’ll prepare you for the sorts of tastes and aesthetics specific to certain neighborhoods.
If you are coming from another industry, with work experience in sales, you know that product knowledge is as important as salesmanship. When talking real estate, you will notice that people will ask you about the property with the assumption that you know it all. While you might think you can “fake it till you make it,” you may just find yourself faking it for a very long time.
Stay up to date on real estate news; predominantly, the news that’s directly related to your territory and business. That being said, so much of our business is intertwined with the economy, as well as politics and other factors. Always be informed so that you are prepared to contribute to the conversation at all times. There is absolutely no substitute for becoming an expert in your field, and real estate is no exception to the rule.
6. Do not pigeonhole yourself
While there may be particular neighborhoods of interest that you hope to specialize in, refrain from making internal exclamatory statements. For example, in a city like New York, it’s so easy for an agent to say, “I want to be a downtown broker,” or “I’m an Upper-East-Side-kind-of guy or girl.” The truth is there is no possible way to know where you will find your niche.
Open-mindedness and flexibility are two key qualities for any new agents hoping to find their first, second, or even third paychecks. Become comfortable going wherever the potential for your next commission might take you (within reason of course), even if that means exploring work in uncharted waters. In time, and with tremendous effort, you will eventually be in a position to choose the business that best fits your brand. Just make sure to start humbly and hungry!
The fact of the matter is that above all else, your work ethic will be the foundation for your potential success. Be sure to harness and grow it so that it fuels a daily get-up-and-go mindset. Remember that while the road can be rocky and most certainly windy, it’s entirely what you make of it. Work ethic is no different from the intrinsic value of real estate itself — for most of us, it is our most valuable asset and prized possession.
Jeremy Kamm is a licensed real estate salesperson with Warburg Realty in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.