It’s no secret that recruiting agents to work for a real estate brokerage is a tough gig. Recruiters make a lot of calls. Once they get a person on the line, they not only have to be able to resonate with the potential recruit personally, but they must also tap into the prospect’s motivations to see if they can entice them to sign on the dotted line.
Whether a wannabe agent “loves houses,” “wants a career helping people fulfill their dreams,” or is honest enough to state they “want to make some serious bank,” recruiters are usually eager to accentuate the positive — and omit the other side of the coin.
Here is our list of top 14 things recruiters will never tell you about a career in real estate:
1. You are a statistic
Recruiters understand that your chances of surviving your first year in the business are right up there with the odds of a snowball successfully orbiting the sun (OK, maybe a little better). Consequently, they will say almost anything to get you onboard and then turn and find many more just like you.
It takes countless calls to get someone to sign and find the diamond in the rough who will eventually turn into a top-producing agent. Most recruiters utilize the “spaghetti theory” — if you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, eventually, something will stick.
2. This work will be extremely hard
This job could easily be the most challenging you have ever had. Although many employers expect long hours from their hires, in real estate, you are a self-employed person working for your clients, and there is no “off button.”
We live in an instant-response world, and clients who cannot get the support they want when they want it will typically go find what they need elsewhere.
Agents who succeed in the long term spend a massive amount of time on the front end of their businesses, and there are no shortcuts. Even once a practice is up and running successfully, a serious amount of work goes into keeping it running smoothly.
Additionally, you will need to master a wide range of skills, including prospecting, managing clients’ expectations, and becoming a marketing expert, a crisis management counselor, housing expert, and so much more.
3. Clients will not view you as their savior
This business has morphed dramatically over the years. One of the most devastating changes has been the shift from a service-based industry to a commodity-based reality. Regardless of whether they like you as a person, today’s clients love themselves even more and will do what they can to get the best deal possible — even at your expense.
Real estate is also one of the few careers where your clients will frequently believe they know more about the process than you. You might develop a permanent red mark on your forehead from knocking your head against a wall or smacking yourself upside the head.
4. Once we have you signed, you are basically on your own
My first broker frequently told the story of his first day on the job as a new agent: He showed up in the office in his suit, was shown to a desk, handed a copy of a phone book and instructed, “Start calling.”
In-house training has improved. Although many recruiters tout their training programs, the truth is that for many companies, it’s mostly contract-centric.
When I joined a sizeable well-known area brokerage, I sat through a week of classes with a hundred or so other new recruits. And then, I was on my own after that — there were no ongoing training classes. I quickly learned that the nuts-and-bolts education required to build a successful business was more available from outside organizations such as Brian Buffini or Tom Ferry.
5. We want our money upfront whether you sell anything or not
Some offices will help cover training costs, but in many cases, you will need to pay out of pocket upfront for your training, licensing, MLS dues, association fees, desk fees and more.
If you do not manage to get a transaction immediately, there is a very good chance your reserve funds will run out before your first commission check arrives. This is one of the fundamental reasons the attrition rate for agent newbies is so high: They quickly discover they need another income source to stay afloat.
Recruiters also have been known to use “fuzzy” math to explain what your startup costs might be. I have heard many new agents complaining that the costs of staying in business are significantly higher than their recruiting brokers led them to believe.
6. Not all Realtors make a lot of money
In fact, many do not make enough to earn a decent living. According to the National Association of Realtors, Realtors’ median gross income was $49,700 in 2019, an increase from $41,800 in 2018. In our region, approximately 86 percent of agents sell six or fewer homes a year (data from TrendGraphix.com).
Although many agents might look successful from the outside, many are mortgaged to the hilt, drive fancy leased cars and live paycheck to paycheck.
7. This job is not about selling houses. It’s about building a business
If you sell homes, you have income for as long as you manage to close transactions. If you quit, so does your income. Those agents who truly succeed build businesses that continue to support them if they go on vacation, take time off for family or even retire.
Ironically, I was in the business for 12 years before I finally encountered a company that helped me understand the difference.
8. An addiction to HGTV is not a guarantee you will be a good Realtor
Just because you love houses does not mean you will be good at selling them, and countless hours watching HGTV is not a job qualification. You might love houses now, but after you’ve seen the same floor plan 6,000 times, it might get a bit old.
9. Real estate is a hyper-competitive arena
Translated, other agents will take your clients and think nothing of it. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and just because you have a great set of ethics does not mean everyone else out there shares your values.
10. Your schedule will not be as flexible as you think
Many get into real estate because they believe it gives them freedom and flexibility they never had in their 9-to-5 job. Yes, you might be able to attend preschool graduations and other things that happen in the middle of the day. And yes, you will be on call 24/7, work weekends, meet with clients in the evenings when they are off work, occasionally need to bolt from your home to deal with an emergency and more.
11. You will not automatically get access to free leads
You may never get free leads. Back in the day, when potential clients called real estate offices for help, leads were assigned to whoever was on floor duty.
Today, most leads come in through Zillow or other lead gen sources and go directly to the agents who are paying the subscription fees. Unless your office has a dedicated lead generation team that hands out leads to agents, you will be on the hook for generating your own leads.
12. Be prepared to spend hours on the phone and practicing scripts
Hours and hours and hours. Literally. It is dull, laborious work punctuated by hang-ups, insults and the occasional friendly person on the other end of the line. Underscore “occasional.”
13. Get a box a Kleenex, and keep it handy
This business can be brutal, and it’s not for the timid or easily offended. Your best friend or family member might end up using another agent. You might spend hours and thousands of dollars trying to sell a home that ends up being withdrawn, effectively flushing your efforts down the proverbial loo.
You might spend countless hours showing homes to clients, only to have them sign a deal with someone holding an open house or a new home developer, effectively shutting you out of any compensation for your efforts.
You might also discover that friendly people can get very strange when large sums of money are involved.
14. The moment you get everything learned, the state or board will change the rules
When I sold my first home, the contract was one legal-sized page. Today, the standard California residential purchase agreement, including mandatory disclosures, is close to 80 pages. Because we should know and understand every clause on every page, keeping up with the changes can be an endless task. And just when you get it dialed in, someone changes the forms. Again.
Having been a Realtor for almost 20 years, I have seen bizarre markets, experienced many ups and downs, and beaten the odds. In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing my recruiter never explained everything to me. I might never have become a Realtor and experienced what has become the career of a lifetime.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.