Be a real estate agent, they said. It will be fun, they said. Haha. The life of a real estate agent; being your own boss. Doing what you want, when you want, and then getting the big, ol’ fat paycheck at the end of a closing. Sounds great, right? That’s exactly what I thought when I got out of the retail world and decided to be a real estate agent. I mean, I didn’t have to keep the 9 to 5 hours, I could work from home, being a new mom, I could spend more time with my son. It all sounded great, until I actually did it.
No one tells you that as soon as you become a real estate agent you don’t automatically have business. I don’t know why I assumed that as soon as I got my license, business would just come flooding in. And, this was back in 2004 when the market was great and homes were flying off the market. There were millions of home buyers, thousands of sellers, full asking price offers, and yet, I went five months without a sale. Have you gone five months without a paycheck? That’s a little tricky to do.
But, I digress. First comes the enormous cost of being a real estate agent. My husband worked in IT for a major real estate firm in the Seattle area and as he put it, anyone could be a real estate agent. But, I found out fairly quickly that wasn’t the case. Yes, just about anyone could take the test and with enough studying, pass it, but be a good real estate agent definitely is a gift.
You can’t just go out and sign up at any real estate firm in your city. There are classes you need to take, tests to pass, and then all the marketing stuff you need. Taking the test and studying for the education was at least several hundred dollars. Then, if you don’t pass the test you have to pay to take it again. Luckily, I passed right away but there’s always continuing education. But, this is a good thing; you want your real estate agent to continually stay updated with legal terms, the latest tax laws, and changes in the real estate market. It’s like keeping your driver’s license active by taking a short test every 5 to 7 years, however, real estate agents need to keep up continuing education at least every two years, which again, costs money.
Then, like I said, comes the marketing materials. Once you have passed the test you have to put your license with a brokerage. You can’t just be your own independent agent out there unless you take more tests to become your own brokerage. But then you must carry your own insurance, etc. So, most agents just hang their license with an existing brokerage. But, that costs too. There’s usually a desk the or at the very least a split fee for transactions. This means that if you get $1000 for selling a property there may be a 70/30 split where the brokerage gets 30% and you get 70% plus transaction fees and any other fees that go to the brokerage. In the end, you’re not making much on the sale of a property, if you even sell a property.
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But again, I haven’t even talked about the marketing tools which I mentioned several paragraphs back. Business cards, listing signs, brochures, website, and your membership to the National Association of Realtors and/or the local MLS. All of these fees can add up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars a month just to be an agent before you even sold anything.
Like I said, I assumed that as soon as I became a real estate agent the business would just come to me, but that’s not the case. Nobody’s just going to hand you a listing and if they do, it’s either too good to be true, or there something wrong with the listing or the buyer. After five months of marketing myself online, I finally got my first sale! Of course, it was for my sister-in-law, so, I’m not exactly sure that counted. But it was a commission nonetheless. Finally, I can put a little bit back from what I was constantly taking out and putting on credit for the last few months.
After that, a few more calls came in and I started to help a few more buyers. But, I don’t know if it was just me or is every real estate agent has crazy stories, but it seems that every single deal I did, ended in some sort of disaster or crazy story. The only listing I ever had was for a 600 square-foot house that had been lived in for 40 years by the same, old smoker. I have never scrubbed and cleaned the house more thoroughly in my life. After two weeks on the market, the owner started complaining and telling me what a horrible job I was doing. The next day we got a full price offer.
It seems like every deal ended with me in tears over something. Buyers and sellers screaming obscenities at each other, unreasonable real estate agents on the other side, me forking over hundreds of dollars at closing just to keep the deal alive.
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I don’t have a thick skin. I don’t let a lot of things bother me, but I also am very sensitive to the reactions and behaviors of others. Typically, I walk away or step out of the situation, but when you are in the middle of the situation between buyer, seller, agents, lenders, escrow, and title companies, you can’t just step out. You have to see the deal through to the end whether you like it or not.
This is why I have a whole new appreciation for real estate agents. The really good ones, the sensitive ones, the ones that got into it because they love the business, are really the true gems in the industry. Those that got into it for part-time work, to buy and sell their own houses, or to think that their time is their own, are not in it for the people. I have to admit that I was not in it for the people but for my own employment. And while that’s not always bad, if you’re not finding joy in your work, find a new line of work.
Which is exactly what I’ve done. I don’t regret my time as a real estate agent, in fact, I appreciate it all the more. I’ve learned about the industry, made connections and networks with hundreds of agents over the years, and developed my own industry for blogging, marketing, and helping real estate agents in their own business. I may not have gotten a deal in my first five months, but today, because of the additional marketing information, knowledge, and education I’ve received, I helped dozens of real estate agents and brokerages push their business forward, get more leads and convert more traffic and this is the position I love. All the knowledge and education I’ve collected over the last 20 years has brought me to where I am today and I couldn’t be more satisfied or happy with what I’m doing.
Is this a story about me? Maybe. But, this was inspired because I recently had to tell all of this to my nephew who was considering getting in the real estate business. After my long dissertation, he had to really think about whether he was getting in it for the job or for the love of the job. I’m sure there are hundreds of stories like mine out there, and while I’ve seen real estate agents come and go, the ones that love it excel at it and are extremely successful and I wish them all the best.