When where to work and how to get that first deal seem like all that matters, it’s easy to overlook details that will form your business foundation. New agents should know (and avoid) these mistakes from the start.

Is there anything more exciting and more terrifying than the start of a new real estate career? After completing the real estate course and passing the qualifying exam, new agents must decide where to position themselves for success. Here is where the career takes off — or it doesn’t. 

Before continuing, it’s wise to remind new agents that, as independent agents, they are their own business and their own brand, and thus the size of their success is in their control. 

In the heat of the moment, concepts like time management, prioritizing, budgets, systems and procedures, and most importantly, personal self-care seem trivial. Where to work and how to get that first deal are all that matter.

1. Mistake: Choosing the wrong real estate firm  

This potential error is a big one. As a new agent, it’s wise to interview at different offices unless you entered the field with prior contacts or family members who were willing to guide you on your first steps. Being strategic about where you begin your career will impact your future success in a big way. 

While completing the coursework and studying for the qualifying exam, it’s best to research local firms in your market and observe their corporate culture online, through their advertising and press coverage, or by talking to agents at the firm. 

I would also suggest that, if possible, you speak with buyers and sellers who have worked with any firm you are considering. Doing this falls under “market research,” and it will be invaluable. Don’t neglect this step or take shortcuts.

The difference between a “mom-and-pop” real estate firm and a national franchise can be overwhelming. It’s better to know as much as possible about who will be holding your license before you sign on. The more informed you are before proceeding, the more chance you have of success. I encourage new agents to locate a firm and a market where they can work and grow for the first two to five years of their careers. 

It’s essential to ask the right questions when you are comparing brokerages. Be sure to ask: Does the firm offer ongoing education, or will the brokerage provide you with a mentor?

Some firms will ask you to join a team, which can be very helpful in the first year to help new agents become familiar with putting together a deal, the paperwork and the legalities. 

Remember, your firm will be responsible for your business actions, and it will help you avoid any missteps. As an agent, you will most likely have errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance, an expense your firm might include as part of a package of “desk fees.”  

Here are a few more stories to check out before choosing a brokerage:

2. Mistake: Choosing the wrong mentor  

It’s also vital to work with someone who is seasoned in understanding the nuances of dealing with sellers in their homes and becoming sensitive to those sellers’ needs and personalities

Real estate is a service industry, and as a listing agent, you will be helping them market and sell their most valuable asset. Emotions can run high, particularly when life issues, such as job loss, birth, death, marriage, and expanding or contracting family, come into play. 

Take notes, and observe how your mentor or broker approaches each transaction. Ask questions when appropriate, which might not be while the seller or buyer is present.

3. Mistake: Not mastering the fundamentals of a real estate transaction

Not mastering the fundamentals is another error that new agents might commit in their excitement and haste to sign a contract. Although each deal is different, there are routines and methods, including paperwork and checklists, required for every transaction. 

Maintain accurate files, whether electronic or hard copies, and keep a notebook or diary. Checklists outlining the steps involved in a deal are helpful to even seasoned agents. As a new agent, follow through on simple record-keeping and note-taking because that skill will be the backbone of keeping your business moving. 

4. Mistake: Losing touch with buyers and sellers  

I strongly suggest keeping in touch with buyers and sellers. You should strive to make each individual with whom you have contact feel valuable and important. It might not get a deal done today, but it’s planting seeds for future relationships. 

Whether by text, email, phone or handwritten note, do not overlook client communication. Many agents dismiss this as tedious or busywork, and though it can be, it’s essential to schedule time to follow through with calls and notes. 

5. Mistake: Not asking to get involved  

Learning early to prospect and generate leads will keep your pipeline full of options. The new agent who can bring in business, whether on their own or by working with a team member, another agent or their mentor, will become a valuable member of their team. 

Don’t be timid about asking successful agents to help them with open houses or assist them with paperwork. Don’t be intimidated or discouraged if they decline your offer of help; this is one of the best ways to learn.

6. Mistake: Neglecting networking  

New agents might feel like they don’t have time for community activities, to join local groups, or to volunteer at events. We call these activities “networking,” and they are indispensable in getting exposure for your new real estate career. 

Time management is crucial to all aspects of any occupation, but never more than in real estate. Be aware of systems and time-management programs that are available through your new firm or individually. 

7. Mistake: Not viewing inventory 

Growing from learning is a good motto to adopt when starting in real estate and as your career matures. New agents benefit from attending as many open houses as possible, seeing as much housing stock as your time will permit, and reading and researching housing, zoning, and new development in the business area you wish to target. With COVID-19, there’s been an uptick in virtual tours and events, so you can do a lot of this research from a computer if you can’t get out.  

8. Mistake: Forgetting to take downtime 

Finally, taking time for oneself and one’s family, scheduling relaxation and downtime is vital for real estate success. It’s easy to become caught up in a pending deal or the prospect of a new client or new listing. Remember to slow down, breathe, and even stop and evaluate if you are proceeding most efficiently. 

Better to ask your broker or sales manager for advice than to act impulsively. Although you are an independent broker, you also represent your firm, and it’s best to exercise caution and act professionally.

Gerard Splendore is a licensed associate real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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