Surviving Your First Year in Real Estate

Do you believe your choices are limited only to hanging in or dropping out? In talking with Realtors® across the state, I found many who enjoyed solid production in their "rookie" year. While the approach varied widely among successful agents, common threads of commitment, consistency, credibility and courage are obvious.

As a newcomer to real estate, you have many advantages over your more experienced counterparts. Never apologize for being new to your profession. You have ideas, energy and enthusiasm which are assets to your fellow agents, your clients and the customers you serve. You will handle demanding sellers, difficult properties and reluctant purchasers with creativity and tenacity. You will do what the "oldtimers" say "can't be done". You have not become narrowed by your experience.

You have more time for the people you serve than you will have at any other time in your career. By going the extra mile, you are building a strong base for future business.

Your professional skills are current, your knowledge is up-to-date, and you have no conflict between "how we used to do it" and "how we do it now". Remember, the public will only know the advantages of working with you if you tell them what the advantages are!

You will find that most people you meet want to help you. They enjoy taking credit for being a part of your success. Let them know how important their support is to you. Ask for leads, ask for advice, and ask for information. Don't forget to express your appreciation through personal notes, phone calls and gifts.

Whether you begin your career as a real estate professional in an urban area or a rural community, in a small office or a mega office, there is help nearby. Take advantage of educational opportunities whenever possible. Listen to tapes, attend seminars and read your association publications. Try new ideas regularly. Get acquainted with successful agents by observing their techniques and style. Many superstars will be flattered by your interest and will share ideas with you. Some will permit you to accompany them as they attend a closing, prepare a market analysis or present an offer to purchase.

Your attitude will significantly affect the success or failure of your real estate career. Stay positive and keep your sense of humor. Avoid negative people and negative conversations. If there are family members who think you can't make it, don't talk about your new career with them. Stay with safe topics such as the weather, sports and news events.

Beware of the experienced agent who discourages your creative ideas. As you commit to implement your ideas, discuss them only with people who support you. Usually other newcomers and your managing broker will encourage you.

"When in doubt, check it out" with your managing broker. If your manager's schedule makes it difficult for you to get together, make a specific appointment on a regular (perhaps weekly) basis. In between these appointments keep a notebook handy to jot down your questions as they arise.

Call on your family and friends to lend support, obtain leads, help you with mailings and take careful messages. Ask them to resist the impulse to ask "what did you sell today?" Share your daily activities and plans with the people you are close to, and plan to include them in the celebration of your successes.

Pay attention to your instincts, and you will be more right than wrong. Your intellect will talk you out of great ideas if you permit it to. Grit and determination will propel you to succeed when your logical self tells you success is not possible.

Many of your activities will require new skills and unfamiliar behavior. You will be operating outside your "comfort zone". At times you may feel awkward, but with practice you will develop more confidence. Most successful, experienced agents report they still feel anxious in certain situations.

I consider "spinning your wheels" a valuable way to practice your skills. You will not sell a property to every potential purchaser, nor will you get a listing signed at every presentation. Learn from your mistakes and consider every "no" a step to "yes". If you aren't experiencing rejection you aren't asking for business regularly. It's been my observation that agents who fail quit long before they leave the industry.

How you prospect for business will depend on your personality. Plan to find contacts around activities you enjoy. Successful agents find business through organizations, get-togethers, and even children's activities. The possibilities are endless! If you join organizations for contacts, be certain that you are active and visible. If you lack commitment, members will be reluctant to call you for their real estate needs, or to recommend you to others.

A resume is an excellent tool when working with buyers and sellers. As a newcomer you may be tempted to say "What in the world could I put on my resume? I have no experience." Your life experience is the best preparation for your real estate career. The purpose of a resume is to find common ground with customers and clients. Include your background, where you have lived, your education, hobbies and interests. Of course, you will include your real estate classes and association membership.

Getting through your first year as a Realtor® will involve careful budgeting and adequate financial reserves. Initial costs will include pre-license classes, state examination, license fee, association dues, Multiple Listing Service fees and various other costs. In addition to start up funds, I recommend that you have additional reserves equal to a minimum of six month's income. As you plan your budget, be certain to include such items as insurance, automobile expenses, business entertainment and personal marketing funds.

Consider the cost of personal marketing as a regular business expense. People do business with people, not with companies. The most important element of your success will be you, the person.

Set activity goals and implement them on a daily basis. Goals must be in writing, specific and attainable. Production will follow. Plan to reward yourself for small successes; 50 cold calls in one week, calling every expired listing for one week, converting a floor call into an appointment, getting face to face with a For Sale By Owner, and so on!

Long hours are common in our profession. Some 60 or 70-hour work weeks are to be expected. Take the time necessary to meet your physical and emotional needs. Your survival will depend on your ability to include play and enjoyment as a part of the work day. Viewing new listings can be fun; brainstorming can include humor. Customers and clients are often fascinating. If you love what you do, you will maximize success and minimize stress. Real estate sales is serious business, but it doesn't have to be deadly. Keep an open mind as you encounter day-to-day challenges. Remember:

  • Listening skills are important.
  • Make yourself available to prospects.
  • Learn to use the line "I don't know, but I will find out."
  • Resolve to do what you promise to do.

You will be rewarded not only by the commissions you earn, but by the satisfaction of making a positive difference in the lives of others.

About the author: Patricia Midgley is Manager/Broker for Starck & Company in St. Charles. She was 1992 President of the Fox Valley Association of Realtors® and has been in real estate since 1973. Midgley is also a Prelicense Training Instructor.

Illinois REALTOR, Jan. 1993 issue