Avoiding common mistakes separates the best from the rest. Jimmy Burgess shares how to avoid the biggest blunders agents make that hold them back.

This January marks Inman’s fifth annual Agent Appreciation Month, which culminates at Inman Connect New York in a celebration of agents at the end of January. Plus, we’re rolling out the coveted Inman Power Player Awards, as well as the New York Power Brokers and MLS Innovators awards.

This post was updated Jan. 11, 2024.

There are fewer transactions than in previous years, and a record number of agents aren’t making many sales; it’s unavoidable that some agents don’t survive this changing market. But don’t lose hope; this scenario creates opportunities for the astute agent willing to do the things others won’t do.

The following are the reasons agents are failing and how you can thrive while others are struggling to survive.

1. They are afraid of the phone

The number one reason agents fail is due to a lack of real estate-related conversations. Much of their fear is due to a lack of confidence in what to say.

If that is you, educate yourself on the trends in your local market. Find scripts for calling expired listings or FSBOs. Call the neighbors of a home that just sold, give them the information about the sale and ask if they are considering selling in the future. Or simply check in on your past clients and sphere of influence asking them if they still love their house.

If the average is that 50 real estate-related conversations lead to one transaction, then how long has it been since you’ve had 50 of these conversations? The success you desire is waiting right on the other side of your phone. Overcome your fear. Increase your conversations. Add value to others, and watch how your business grows.

2. They thought it was going to be easy

We should have all known the market was peaking when droves of people began leaving “stable jobs” for the “easy money” and “flexible schedule” a career in real estate offers. The perception of being a real estate agent is far from reality. When the reality that this business is hard sets in, many quickly return to their previous careers.

But that doesn’t have to be you. Is this business hard? Yes, but it’s worth it. Can it be heartbreaking when deals fall apart or “friends” list their home with another agent? Absolutely, but it’s worth it.

Why did you originally decide to get into this business? Why is your success in this business important to you? When you get back to your why, it becomes easier to push through the tough times. It becomes easier to persevere when others quit. Anything worth having always takes effort and usually involves struggle.

Stay persistent and focused on your why, and good things will come.

3. They lack discipline with their schedule

The world we live in is full of distractions, and the agents that are failing now lack the discipline to set a schedule that they follow for success. Have you had days when you’ve come into the office without a plan for the activities you will do that day to move your business forward? Were those productive days?

I’ve always said if an agent will show me their schedule, I can tell them the level of success or failure they will have in the future. So, what does the schedule look like for successful agents? I believe a successful agent’s schedule includes three distinct activities:

  • Prospecting: If you’re looking to grow your business, there must be a time set aside specifically for prospecting. This could be calls to past clients, your sphere of influence, leads in your database or circle prospecting.
  • Appointments: Appointments are the time you are nose-to-nose and toe-to-toe with someone. This means listing appointments or property showings. Or these could be coffee or lunch with a past client or someone in your sphere of influence. Without appointments, there is no business to be done.
  • Skill sharpening: This is a time you block to prepare yourself to be the professional your clients deserve. This could be time spent studying your local market or consuming content on how to better market your listings. This could be a time when you practice scripts or watch a video on how to negotiate on your client’s behalf in a more effective way.

The bottom line is that if you don’t time block for improvement of your skills, your slide to mediocrity is inevitable.

4. They feel entitled

The sense of entitlement in real estate, and society, is at an all-time high. Many agents are shocked when their neighbor or past client lists with another agent due to believing they were somehow entitled to the business versus the professional agent looking for opportunities to earn business.

Just because you have your license and post a few photos of houses on social media, you are not entitled to anyone’s business. Shed any sense of entitlement you may feel and ask yourself why someone should list their home with you instead of another agent. If you struggle to answer this question, humble yourself and increase your professionalism so that your answer to that question is clear.

The agent that adds the most value to the market will ultimately be the most successful agent.

5. They think they can do it part-time

This business is not a hobby. Agents that are failing now treat it as a side gig or part-time job instead of the level of professionalism buyers and sellers deserve. Part-time agents may have been able to scratch out a few transactions in the last few years, but that level of commitment will not work in the current market environment.

Let me clarify that you can break into this business while working another job, but in order to do so, you must have a full-time commitment to becoming a professional agent. I’ve watched several people work 40 hours at a job and then put in another 40 hours on real estate for a period, so they can get to a point where they could become full-time agents. These are not the people who will fail; it is the hobbyists that don’t treat it like a full-time job.

The way to set yourself apart in this market is to work harder than you ever have before. Find more ways to creatively serve your clients. Every top agent was at one point the hardest worker in their company. This is the market for you to separate from average agents by the effort you put into your business.

6. They are too passive

 People who wait for the business to come to them will be washed out of the business quickly in the current market environment. Real estate is a “contact” sport. The more contacts you make and the more value you add, the more business you will do. So rather than sitting in the office and waiting for your phone to ring, what are some activities you can take to overcome passivity?

Get out of the office and your comfort zone by going where the people are. Host open houses. Join a leads group like BNI. Volunteer at your kid’s school. Join a local service organization. Become active in a charity you believe in.

No matter what it is for you, get involved in your community and around people. The more active you are, the more opportunities you will find for business.

7. They keep looking for the easy button

Simply put, there is no easy button in real estate. Success in this business is a byproduct of the work you do and how many people you provide value to. Agents that believe their new logo or a new marketing trick is suddenly going to transform their business are closer than they realize to being out of this business.

Success in real estate takes time. It takes hard work. It takes grit. The agents that thrive in this business find two to four strategies that work for them and they get to work on those cornerstone strategies for their business. Do you have strategies for your business that you know work, as long as you work them?

If so, your success is inevitable.

There will be winners and losers in the changed market we now find ourselves in. Yes, the business is more challenging than it was over the past few years, but this is a professional’s market. If you’re reading this article, odds are you are humble enough, hungry enough, and coachable enough to see explosive growth in your business this year.

Take massive action right now, and reap the rewards for years to come.

Jimmy Burgess is the CEO for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in Northwest Florida. Connect with him on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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