Few industries have exploded the way real estate has in the past year and a half. Brokerages are booming and hiring new real estate agents left and right, offering the ultimate workplace flexibility and promising big commissions with minimal effort. Realtor Facebook pages shouting “UNDER CONTRACT!” and agent Instagram feeds screaming “SOLD!” make the business look glamorous, fun and easy.
But the reality for new agents doesn’t often match those pretty pictures. Real estate is, after all, a craft. It’s a business that’s full of complexities — including legal ones — that takes years, if not decades, to truly master.
Passing a licensing exam is just the first step in your real estate education. If that’s all you have in this crazy-competitive market, you’ll likely end up being the dreaded clueless agent on the other side of the deal, causing the more experienced agents to roll their eyes because they know they’re going to have to redo all your paperwork. And you won’t even know you’re doing anything wrong!
So, how can you start a real estate career on the right foot? Here are our top five survival tips for brand-new agents:
1. Work under an experienced broker
Where you choose to work as a brand-new agent matters. Many flashy teams will be looking to get you into their organizations. Before signing on, find out how many deals the lead broker has closed, the number of years (and ups and downs) they’ve weathered, and how much mentoring and continued on-the-job training the team will be able to provide.
Every real estate deal presents different challenges. You need someone you can go to when the inevitable odd situation arises, as it always does. You need someone to read your offers so you can make them as clear, concise, and successful as possible, not to mention legally correct.
Be cautious about joining groups that have doubled or tripled in size too quickly. They might not have enough people to handle the mentoring that new agents need. Team growth should happen gradually, not exponentially.
Do your research. It’s so important to align yourself with a broker who will support you and help you learn how to do things the right way from the start. Some brokers have sold only a few homes and then gone on to start their own shops after just a couple of years in the business.
Know who is teaching you, and make sure they have experience and real successes of their own.
2. Follow the recipe
Many agents think they can be self-taught, so they make things up as they go. They try what feels right when they get to the gray areas of buying and selling. But when we see those agents on the other side of deals, we know they’re running wild, and we just hope the deals and commissions won’t fall through the cracks due to inexperience. Later, when their names come up on other offers down the line, our agents will be less likely to choose those offers due to the hassle of working with them.
At our brokerage, I’ve taken a step back from doing listings so my time can be spent mentoring agents and sharing our recipe for success. The agents who follow the recipe do very, very well.
If you’re cooking something complicated and don’t follow the recipe, it usually doesn’t come out right. After you get some experience, you can jazz it up.
Start with basic vanilla cake. Later you can make strawberry cake. It’s the same with real estate: After a few years, sure, you can go off-recipe, but you have to get the basics down first.
3. Study your market
Every day you spend as a new agent should include some serious time studying your market and the neighborhoods in your area. You need to know exactly what’s selling in your market, including price points for various areas.
Study the MLS every day. Even if you’ve lived in a market for 30 years, you’ll need to learn it from a whole new perspective — a business perspective — a real estate perspective, which is a very different thing. We recommend spending an hour or two a day studying the MLS. Rather than scrolling Instagram every evening, dig into your market.
Your brokerage pays for the MLS: Use its training tools and how-to videos. It’s all in there. But you have to put in the time. There’s not a class for that. You just have to do it. Nothing in life that’s worth it is ever going to be easy.
4. Keep your opinions to yourself
Your role as an agent, especially when working with buyers, is to advise and guide based on facts, not your personal preferences, sense of style or even gut reactions. We encourage our agents to bring an unbiased view into real estate transactions. You must know your market, the property in question, the comps and much more to evaluate a home.
Your favorite home style might be a classic Florida ranch, but that’s no reason to steer clients toward that type of home. Your client might fall in love with something you hate, say a two-story Mediterranean style or a home with bright yellow carpeting, but you should never discourage your client from those features based on your preferences. You won’t be living there, after all, or making the mortgage payment. Your clients will.
5. Do the right thing
Real estate agents, particularly those who end up working without mentorship or support, can fall into the trap of bending the rules of right and wrong when no one seems to be looking. We’ve seen all sorts of situations in which agents who feel entitled to commissions make bad decisions or take legal liberties to either move a deal along or to make more money.
Don’t do it. Don’t lie. Don’t scheme. Don’t cheat. Be honest. Don’t initial or sign for buyer or seller and think it will not be a big deal. (That’s always a big deal — and it never works out well.) Sometimes agents might ask sellers to write checks out to them instead of the brokerage, or they’ll collect rent money that goes to the brokerage or take out a percentage they feel entitled to in the deal.
We ask our agents to do what you say you’re going to do. Follow policies and your agreement. Even if you have to leave a brokerage, you can do it on the up and up. If you’re going to leave, talk with your broker about the plan. There’s always a solution and an exit strategy.
If you ever wonder if you should be doing something, don’t do it. There are going to be others who might not like it, but that’s not your problem. When you always do the right thing as an agent, you’ll never have to worry.