In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
With a background in real estate law, New York City broker Lindsay Barton Barrett has built her career on the belief that hard work, professionalism, a sense of humor, a low-pressure approach and — most importantly — strong relationships are the backbone of a successful real estate career.
Find out how she became one of the top brokers in the country by having the right outlook, building extraordinary relationships and upholding core values and qualities like honesty and integrity.
How long have you been in the business, and how did you get started?
I have been in the real estate business since 2002. I was working as a lawyer at a big midtown law firm, but I didn’t see a long-term future there; it wasn’t rewarding.
Our clients were incredibly smart and, as a lawyer, I was often coming up with all the reasons a deal shouldn’t happen, while brokers were actively working to facilitate it.
Big law life wasn’t for me. I liked the idea of controlling my schedule more (which turned out to be a fallacy, given broker hours and how much I usually work, but it was a nice idea).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The real estate business is interesting. As much as I try to plan, I have always found that the business leads me. When new and exciting things present themselves, I do my best to welcome those opportunities and see where they take me, while remaining grounded in my principles. So, in a lot of ways, I don’t know where I see myself in five years, and I’m (mostly) OK with that.
Even with a solid business, the inability to predict or control things can be difficult to handle (and anxiety-producing at times), so maybe I’ll just be on a beach … but probably not.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
It’s not just about real estate — it’s about life and relationships. Be honest, be kind, and don’t answer questions you don’t know the answers to (but try to know the answers to things you should). This is the best way to live and work when you’re representing others for a living — any other way would be a disservice to your clients.
This is a stressful business, and it has the potential to bring out the worst in everyone (myself included). Sometimes you have to be firm, but nothing good comes of being nasty — it’s only going to bite you later, so don’t let yourself get too worked up over what you can’t control.
The only thing you can control is your own behavior, and you must be sure that you prioritize and nurture relationships — even when it seems the stress might get the better of you.
How did you learn it?
Relationships are absolutely critical in this business. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a number of very high-end, off-market sales in recent years because of the solid relationships I’ve cultivated with my sphere over the years.
Many brokers contact me when they have a client considering Brooklyn because they aren’t specialists in the area. These leads are founded on productive working relationships and have resulted in incredible, record-breaking transactions.
The collaboration element of being a successful agent cannot be overstated and needs to remain a constant priority for all of us.
What advice would you give to new agents?
If you feel that you really want to be in this business, go for it wholeheartedly. It may look all glamorous from the outside, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of disappointment. There weren’t many teams when I entered real estate — I started on my own, and it was sink or swim.
Now there are tons of teams, and you might have the ability to get into the business, learn directly from experienced agents and be part of deals day one, instead of pounding the pavement, trying to convince people to work with you in spite of your lack of experience.
Do you want to be featured on an upcoming “Lesson Learned” column? Reach out to us here!
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.