Looking for more advice? Check out Inman’s New Agent Essentials.

In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.

Born in New York City and a lifelong resident, Coldwell Banker Warburg Associate Broker Ellen Sykes truly knows the city like the back of her hand. In fact, she’s even made her mark on it in a tangible way, as one of the few Certified Citizen Pruners, licensed to prune the trees on the streets of New York in all boroughs.

Over the years, Sykes has learned that the way you treat people can have an impact far beyond the current moment. Find out how she learned that what goes around truly comes around, especially in real estate.

How did you get started in real estate? 

I became a real estate agent in 2003 because I was going to be divorced and needed a job. I had previously worked for an information technology think tank with a bunch of 30-year-olds, and while I enjoyed working with them, all the things they were so eagerly embracing and learning, felt like “been there, done that” for me.

I also needed flexible hours and wanted to be my own boss. So, here I am nearly 20 years later, still my own boss and with flexible hours, but the hours are not short — I routinely work 50-hour weeks, and I am on call 24/7. It’s not really what I expected when I set out on this journey.   

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I hope that five years from now, I will still be in the trenches selling real estate because the older I get, the more I realize I like being productive. I have plenty of retired friends, and I don’t think they have nearly as much fun as I do. Something new happens every day, and there is always the joy of the deal and helping a buyer or seller.    

What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate? 

I have learned plenty of lessons over the years, “but what goes around, comes around” is the one that is most important to me. There have been plenty of disappointments, lost deals, lost customers, lost clients along the way, and not necessarily my fault either. My father-in-law used to say, “When your customer spits in your eye, it’s raining.” A bit harsh perhaps, but accurate!

Taking that to heart, I have found that when I have been overlooked for another broker, or the customer decides to do a direct deal to cut me out of a commission, or another broker purposely “forgets” to let me know something in order to go in another direction, I need to get philosophical and realize that what goes around, comes around because it usually does.

I have often extended myself when there was no payback or need. I go the extra mile because what goes around, comes around. It feels good to take the high road, and in many small ways it has typically paid off, but not so long ago, I hit the mother lode. 

How did you learn it?

Years before, even before I started my real estate career, I had brought groceries to a man on a high floor during a blackout when he was unable to get up and down the stairs, but I kept in touch.

Not too long ago, he left a note with my doorman saying, “Tell Mrs. Sykes I want her to sell my apartment.” And I did, and it sold for $5.6 million. What goes around, comes around.    

What advice would you give to new agents?

My advice to new agents is to take the high road, even in the face of adversity. Never speak badly of or to another agent or client/customer because you never know when you are going to need to work with them again. 

Be ready to do what needs to be done regardless of whether you are paid, and keep in touch with everyone you know on a regular basis. 

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 TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Do you want to be featured in an upcoming “Lesson Learned” column? Reach out to us here!

new agent
Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription