New to the industry? Get started with everything you need to know about the early decisions that’ll shape your career, including choosing a brokerage, learning your market, creating an online presence, budgeting, getting leads, marketing listings and more. If you’re a team leader or broker-owner, New Agent Month will be jam-packed with resources to help your new hires navigate.

Rising unemployment rates and post-lockdown housing boom encouraged nearly 80,000 professionals to join the real estate industry in 2020. Although the market is still riding high, new real estate agents are realizing the road to success is more difficult than slapping up a ‘For Sale’ sign and waiting for buyers to pour in.

“It’s definitely a big misconception that you’re just gonna walk on into real estate and just make oodles of cash,” Century 21 Top Sail broker Shelley Andrade told Inman. “It’s definitely an investment in time and in money, and we have to help them plan what their career will look like moving forward.”

Andrade, along with Century 21 Triangle Group Principal Broker Stephen Votino and Countywide Properties broker-owner Justine Jimenez Garcia, shared how they help new agents survive their first year in the industry, navigate learning the mechanics of a transaction, and build connections with colleagues and clients all while taking care of their personal wellbeing.

Here are their seven tips for brokers helping real estate newbies:

1. Set clear expectations during the interview process

Andrade, Votino and Jimenez Garcia said the first step in ensuring new agents’ success is setting clear expectations about what it takes to be a successful agent in terms of continued education, going above and beyond to build relationships, managing finances and reinvesting into their business.

Andrade said she asks new recruits about their “why,” whether it’s making more money to support their family, the need for a more flexible schedule, or building the skills to lead their own team or brokerage one day. If a new agent has a solid “why,” they’re more likely to dedicate the time needed to succeed, she said.

Shelley Andrade

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, [real estate] will be a nice, something extra I can do,'” Andrade explained. “But you will always make exactly what you’re worth — if you want to commit 10 hours a week to real estate, your paycheck is gonna look like you’ve committed 10 hours a week to real estate.”

“For a lot of people that have not been self-employed or independent contractors, that can be a tough adjustment if you don’t have that motivation or level of commitment,” she added.

Votino said he has a similar conversation with new agents and reiterates the point they’re not just agents operating under the banner of a brand — they’re small business owners with a future to build.

“We go into very big detail about what it’s like to run a business, what we’re going to do for them, and we make sure they’re driven and have the ability to be able to weather that initial storm, the first 90 days of getting situated and before they have paychecks,” he said. “So understanding that it’s a true business and you’re a business owner is crucial.”

2. Have a set schedule of one-on-one meetings

Jimenez Garcia said she blocks out time in her schedule for a series of one-on-one meetings with new agents where she helps them get organized with a Trello board and learn the mechanics of a transaction, from how to enter a listing into the multiple listing service (MLS), set up social media profiles for their business, get started with their technology suite, handle the exchange of funds during escrow, and understand the codes and regulations they need to follow.

Some one-on-one meetings include new agents tagging along while Jimenez Garcia does door-knocking or conducts an open house. “I allow them to shadow me and see what I do,” she said. “I invite them to listen in to my conversations with clients and the recommendations I provide. I want them to see that I practice what I preach.”

Justina Jimenez Garcia

Votino said his one-on-one meetings focus on business planning, which focuses on creating clear goals and creating a six to 12-month game plan on how to reach them.

“We actually do a financial business plan with them, as well as a goal and action plan,” he said. “Whether they want to sell six [homes] their first year or sell 20 [homes], we’re going to put a plan together and the actions you’re going to need to do and complete in order to hit those numbers.”

Andrade said her one-on-one meetings have a focus similar to Votino’s, and she asks new agents to bring in checklists outlining the specific tasks they’ve done since the last meeting to meet their goals.

“When we meet week after week, their commitment to me is that they’re going to show up that week with a spreadsheet filled out of every phone call that they made, and did it result in an appointment, did it result in a transaction, or did it result in a closing, so they can monitor their progress,” she said. “I get to see that they’re putting in the time and they’re making the phone calls.”

Andrade said she also takes time to help agents solve pain points and coordinate additional education sessions if an agent is especially struggling in a certain area. “I can also pinpoint where they might need some further extensive training if there’s a weakness somewhere in their path,” she said.

3. Enlist experienced agents to become mentors

Andrade and Votino have mentorship programs where newbies are paired with experienced agents who will help them navigate transactions, generating leads, improving their marketing, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Stephen Votino

“They get assigned a mentor and it’s a contract between the mentor and the mentee,” Votino explained. “There are very specific things the mentor has to cover with the mentee and the mentee pays a small percentage of their commission during that mentorship.”

“The program helps them get real field experience — they’re out there, going to listing presentations, going to walkthroughs, going to home inspections, and learning how to write contracts and all that kind of stuff,” he added. “They’re getting a true feeling of being out in the marketplace.”

After their program is over, Votino said most agents remain close with their mentors and continue to learn from them as they become more experienced. “[The program] helps them build confidence,” he said.

Andrade said her mentorship program has a similar financial incentive for mentors; however, the program has become such a big part of the brokerage’s culture that most agents don’t care about the bonus.

“Our agents who are a part that mentoring program, they don’t help for the financial incentives. They help because they care about the success of the other agents around them,” she said. “But we created an official program to compensate the agents that were definitely doing more than their fair share.”

“So I do recommend that companies look at setting up something similar because it that can be a very successful tool,” she added. “Plus, the new agents coming in like the idea of having a mentorship program in place where they know they have other people to go to besides just their manager or their broker.”

4. Train new agents to use tools at their disposal

With so many options for transaction management, customer management, lead management, digital marketing and much more, new real estate agents (just like their more experienced counterparts) can get caught up in chasing the latest and greatest tool.

For that reason, Andrade, Votino and Jimenez Garcia said it’s important to get new agents plugged into the brokerage’s tools and systems, rather than leave them to clobber together their own methods. Every new agent, he said, is required to complete Century 21’s new agent training course, learn the ins and outs of the tech suite, and join the company’s lead program.

“Some new agents we actually put them in right away into our company lead program, so they can start getting experience with talking and converting leads,” he said.  “We’ll train them on how to convert leads, scripting and stuff like that.”

“We throw them right into it. It’s like throwing a baby in the pool to learn how to swim,” he added. “The best way you’re gonna learn is by getting real practice, and we’re dedicated to helping them with that.”

5. Have the money talk

Andrade said one of the most common mistakes new agents make is spending their entire commission check without considering taxes, savings and reinvesting into their business.

“We do try to offset the cost for new agents coming in. We’re buying a lot of their like business cards and signs and offsetting a lot of that cost getting started,” she said. “But they have to be prepared to make that financial commitment themselves.”

Andrade said she does financial planning during her initial one-on-one meetings with new agents but revisits the conversation after they receive their first commission check, which often comes a few months after getting started.

“We really try to work on financial planning with our agents so they understand when a commission check comes in, it’s not all their money,” she said. “We talk about reinvesting in their business. reinvesting in savings, putting aside money for taxes and give them our life experience advice.”

“It’s tough when you see that nice big paycheck, and you just want to go spend it,” she added with a laugh.

6. Adjust training to address new market conditions

All three brokers said the past year and a half has been unlike any other, with the pandemic even catching some of the most experienced agents off guard for a moment. Jimenez Garcia said she’s placed more emphasis on training new agents how to deal with bidding wars, which seem to be a dime a dozen.

“So I explain, if you have a client and you know exactly what it is they’re looking for, and that property comes on the market, you and your client need to be ready to make a move immediately,” she said. “Your ducks need to be in a row — if they’re going to pay cash, then you have to have proof of funds. If they’re going to use financing, then need to have the pre-approval ready.”

She also trains new agents on what moves not to make in a rapid-fire market, such as always agreeing to waive appraisal contingencies, making other concessions that can easily backfire, or doing something that’s ethically questionable. “I think it’s important to follow the rules, even if you notice somebody isn’t following the rules,” Jimenez Garcia said. “Yes, [following the rules] can make [a deal] harder, but it’s not worth your reputation.”

“Bidding wars will always be around,” she added. “It’s better to learn how to navigate them the right way.”

Votino said he doesn’t allow new agents to navigate a bidding war alone, especially the kind of bidding wars of the past year where 30 buyers are vying for one listing.

“It’s really almost impossible for new agents to know really how to handle a 30-bid transaction and get the client through that,” he said. “So we’re generally stepping in with that and working with them hand in hand because we feel obligated to make sure the consumer has the best advice and the best counseling.”

Andrade said another issue has been ever-changing social distancing protocols, which has pushed her brokerage to rely on technology more than ever before.

“We live in a military community, there’s a lot of people that are constantly in and out — pandemic or not,” she said. “So, we couldn’t let a pandemic slow us down. If anything, we’ve been even busier.”

Andrade said her team has invested in Zoom and other video conferencing and communication tools and makes sure new agents understand how to use them.

“[Video conferencing] was a really cool opportunity for me and our management team to take advantage of,” she said. “Zoom made some things a little bit easier for us, and even though we’re back in person, it’s still a good tool to have.”

7. Don’t forget about your new agents’ personal lives

Votino said entering a new industry, especially one where a regular paycheck isn’t guaranteed can be hard on new agents’ mental health. ” A lot of times I’ve noticed agents overthink and over worry,” he said. “Their mind gets occupied, they get stressed out, and then they kind of shut down and don’t perform as well as they can.”

Votino said he helps agents understand what’s in their control and what’s out of their control, such as how long it’ll take to get appraisal results. He teaches them to use the time they would’ve used worrying or trying to force a result to do something useful for themselves and their clients.

“It’s important to be able to stop. Recognize that’s important, but then schedule a time to think about [the issue] later,” he said. “I tell them to say, ‘I’m going to schedule time with myself after five o’clock today to deal with that [issue]or with the client. Right now, I’m going to get my time blocking done and other important stuff for my clients done.'”

Votino also encourages agents to find a balance between their real estate career, their families and their other passions. “I have an agent who shows horses, and I’ll have a lot of coaching calls with her while she’s at a horse show or at a barn,” he said. “But we literally sat down and planned out her entire week down to the minute, so she can keep doing what she loves.”

Andrade said she focuses on making sure new agents know they just haven’t joined a brokerage — they’ve joined a family of agents and brokers who care about them as a person.

“So we all take time to make sure we keep checking on each other and we keep taking care of each other,” she said. “We encourage family first, we support each other and our new agents know that before they come in the door.”

“The first time they sit down with me, they’re going to hear the story of how we came to be, and our owners are a husband and wife and their son is in the business,” she added. “They’re gonna hear the story of when I interviewed for my first job 20 years ago while I was six months pregnant, and all we talked about was the baby. It’s always been a very family-based culture.”

Finally, Jimenez Garcia encourages agents to take care of their physical health by eating right and taking time to exercise.

“I am a past president and I am a coach for the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and we have something called the NAHREP 10, which are 10 points every member needs to follow and understand,” she said. “It’s funny because on there, one of the items is about making time to exercise and be physically fit.”

“Taking time to do that is part of having a prosperous life, along with being in the lives of your family and children,” she added.

Email Marian McPherson

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