Ask An Ambassador: Lessons Learned In Real Estate

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 SAL.2002007747

 find your peace

Last Saturday I crossed a career threshold:  15 years since I received my Ohio real estate license.  There's a lot that has happened between that day and now, and a lot of lessons learned.  Things that for the most part were NOT taught in real estate school.

Now I came into the business without any delusions of fast, easy money.  I'd been watching Liz (and occasionally helping do some of the grunt work) for a couple of years, and the reality of going through downsizing after rightsizing after restructuring made it clear I'd better have a clear back-up plan for income.  15 years later, I'm still dual career.

Now when I started, the real estate landscape was significantly different.  The Internet was dial up.  There was no ActiveRain.  No Z.  A lot of "the disruptors" of real estate weren't even the faintest speck of an idea.

So how do you keep going year after year?  The path is different for each of us, but there are some general tips to help you avoid burnout and keep paychecks in your pipeline, some that took me a LONG time to learn and implement.  In no particular order:

1.  Protect your time.  This is a business that CAN and WILL suck up every minute that you'll give it.  Reserve the time for your faith and family.  Find some time to recharge.  For me, puttering around in the flower garden and taking pictures offsets the work demands of engineering, real estate and taking care of our furry four legged zoo.

2.  You don't have to work with EVERY buyer and seller that calls, even when you need the money.  Sometimes it's a business decision.  Showing $30k homes takes as much (or more) time as working with a $300,000 buyer.  And some people are just jerks and if you value keeping your blood pressure low, it might be best to hand those folks off.

3.  Learn your strengths, do what makes sense for you and hire out your weaknesses.  I'm an engineer, so I'm analytical.  I understand my market trends.  Writing market reports is a piece of cake.  Ask me to design a logo?  Nope, that's what is for.

4.  Get yourself out there.  People have to be able to find you, or you have to be finding them.  For me, it's pull vs. push.  Blog and create web pages.  People I want to work with find me.

5.  Set yourself apart from your competition.  There are literally 6400 active agents in my primary MLS.  How many do you think have my patio home knowledge?  I put that expertise out there and item 4 kicks in.

6.  Overpromise and underdeliver!  Just kidding!  I'm realistic with my clients on what to expect.  Pricing.  Time on market.  What I can and can't do.  Clear expectations lead to a MUCH better working relationship.

7.  Recognize the red flags.  There is risk in this business.  Listen to your spidey sense and protect yourself.

8.  You don't have to scream, shout, curse and otherwise raise hell to be a good agent or "negotiate".  This does NOT have to be an antagonistic business.  Your client and my client both want the SAME thing:  to exchange a home for an agreed upon amount of money on an agreed upon day.  Let's see if we can find a middle ground where they're both happy or both unhappy, but at least they're agreeing.

9.  Check the ego.  I'd rather have the FSBO seller mad at me and loving my buyers than vice versa.  I'll be out in my car in the parking lot during the closing :)

10.  Pay attention to the industry, but don't get wrapped around the axle.  We could perpetually be running around with our hair on fire over the latest thing Z is doing, or iBuyers, or the latest brokerage model, or.....whatevs.  We need to see what we need to see to know how to adapt, and we need to work on the principle that we are NOT guaranteed employment.  Add value or disappear.

11.  Understand your goals.  Mine?  I have zero desire to be the #1 volume producer in my market, EVER.  Nor do I want to be a megateam leader, nor do I want to be an agent recruiter.  I'm happiest with one on one contact with my clients.

12.  Refer out business.  Too far to be convenient?  Not your price point?  Not your type of housing?  Find an agent that fits and be happy with the referral fee.  Let the other agent do the work :)

13.  Never count on a check until it's in the bank and cleared.  The unexpected happens.  Along the same lines, keep a cash reserve.

14.  Be supercritical of business "partners" that want to reach into your pocket.  Unless you've got the follow up systems in place, having a 100 leads from the Internet is the same as having zero.  And if I had a dollar for every time I heard "just one closing and it pays for itself!", I'd already be retired.

15.  Keep learning.  I pick up plenty of tips from other Rainers, or from Facebook real estate agent friends.  And to borrow a cliche, the best tools are the ones you'll actually USE.

16.  Bonus tip:  protect your reputation.  No shoving that genie back in the bottle if you do something really stupid.  Sometimes the best opinion is the one you keep locked up in your head.

Look, I could keep going, but it's time to wrap this up, because the other thing I know? I've got to be VERY efficient with my time :)

Until next Tuesday, Ask An Ambassador if you need help!

Bill of Bill & Liz aka BLiz

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Serving Warren County Ohio & Adjacent Areas


The Liz Spear Team of RE/MAX Elite
Elizabeth Spear, ABR, CRS, Ohio License SAL.2002007747

William (Bill) Spear, CRS, Ohio License SAL.2004011109  Kentucky 77938
Ask for us by name if you visit the office!

EHO Two locations: Lebanon & Mason, OH
Bill Direct:  513-520-5305
Liz Direct: 513-265-3004     
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Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Joanne Gillet 08/01/2019 08:10 AM
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Anne Edwards Johnson
JP and Associates - Austin, TX
Austin Realtor | HookemhomesATX (512)917-5260

I absolutely love this post. I feel like I have finally met someone who has the same prospective on the Real Estate profession as I do. What an affirmation. Thank you.

Jul 30, 2019 07:43 PM #4
Vickie Teel
Allison James Estates & Homes - Port Charlotte, FL
Sharing Florida sunshine one homeowner at a time!

Love this post, especially #11. I love working with my customers too and have no desire for all the other “stuff”.

Jul 30, 2019 07:55 PM #5
Carolyn Roland-Historic Homes For Sale In Delaware and S. Chester County PA
Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate - Wilmington, DE
Carolyn Roland, GRI, CRS

Lots of sensible advice here. But after 30+ years in the business, I'm not always up on the latest (including what Z stands for, other than my middle initial).


Jul 30, 2019 08:31 PM #6
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

Reasonable and Sensible Advise for every Realtor ... Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

Jul 30, 2019 10:29 PM #7
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty 914-419-0270 (NY),, (MT) 406-270-3667, more information to be provided shortly - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Excellent list of lessons. I agree with all 16.. and congratulations on 15 years in the business as a dual career agent. That's quite an accomplishment.

Jul 31, 2019 02:21 AM #8
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Liz and Bill Spear - Congratulations on your 15th anniversary, Bill. You were lucky to have Liz and vice versa! I have been in the business 16+ years and I can relate! There are many pearls of wisdom in this post:

  • "business that CAN and WILL suck up every minute if you let it"
  • "don't have to work with EVERY buyer and seller"
  • "recognize the red flags"
  • "don't get wrapped around the axle"
  • "protect your reputation"

I really appreciate the two of you for serving as Ambassadors on AR. Juggling two careers and making time for us here on AR is commendable. Each time I reached out to you, you got back to me with an answer. Because you never let me down, I am thankful. I never once detected an ego problem, otherwise, I would have dropped you like a hot potato. You're always helpful, never condescending or rude. Once again, you proved:

  • It pays to "keep learning"
  • Your reputation is golden
  • When it comes to building relationships, you are serious (you do great)!
  • You "Set yourself apart from the competition" as Ambassadors on AR 
Jul 31, 2019 04:01 AM #9
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

I love 14 - I bought zillow and leads and others and didn't have the systems in place to capitalize on leads that were a year out - money wasted

Jul 31, 2019 04:04 AM #10
Mark Artesani
Keller Williams Realty - Fountain Valley, CA
Huntington & Newport Beach, Fountain Valley Homes

Congratsulations Good Luck on the next 15

Jul 31, 2019 04:26 AM #11
Mark Davis-Cote
The HomesFinder Realty Group - Beaufort, SC
Broker-in-Charge, The HomesFinder Realty Group

This is a fantastic and inpirational, yet well-grounded list of learnings.  Thanks, Bill!

Jul 31, 2019 05:38 AM #12
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
Helping you find your way home.

Fifteen years of experience in Sixteen points.  Plenty of wisdom in this post.... enough for a master class.  Sign me up.

Jul 31, 2019 05:53 AM #13

So much knowledge in one post. Thanks for sharing

Jul 31, 2019 06:22 AM #14
Greg Mona
Faira Homes Corp - Scottsdale, AZ
Real Estate in the 21st Century!

What a wonderful compilation, Bill! I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read each one. And as a former Civil Engineer who entered this business in 2008, I can relate to the analytical side of my brain wanting to be involved in my real estate dealings as well.

Having recently made the switch to one of the "disruptors" as their DB here in AZ, while it is becoming the way of the future, nothing is going to change the desire of the majority of people to have the personal touch and attention. It's simply human nature. 

Jul 31, 2019 07:07 AM #15
Brenda J. Andrew
Professional Realtor in Corpus Christi, TX

BLiz - you two are such a great team, and now I see why.  Every new agent should read this - it has so much great advice.  Most of this advice takes years to learn, if you don't have a strong mentor to let you know.  Have a great day and thanks for taking the time to write this one!

Jul 31, 2019 07:22 AM #16
Greg Kilroy
Keller Williams Sonoran Living - The Velocity Group - Paradise Valley, AZ
the Velocity Group

Your point #2 really sticks out for me. A  tough lesson to apply, but so very true. We are in relationship with our clients, and if the relationship isn't a good one, we should end it. When I've fired a bad client, it always feels like I've just taken off a heavy backpack. I'm confident I can be better for all my other clients when I discard the bad ones.

Jul 31, 2019 09:14 AM #17
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Bill, that was a WOW: Words of Wisdom!  Great post gleaned from practical experience that makes a lot of sense.  One of the overwhelming benefits of AR is hearing about what it REALLY takes to make a business work properly and profitably.  Congrats on your 15 years!  Thanks very much.

Jul 31, 2019 09:35 AM #18
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

 Fifteen years...Congratulations! You make so many good points.  Enjoyed all 16 and relate to:  " I'm happiest with one on one contact with my clients."


Jul 31, 2019 10:19 AM #19
Krista Jenkins, REALTOR®
klm Real Estate - Lubbock, TX
Residential sales and retail & office leasing

I love you, Liz and Bill Spear . Is that inappropriate? Well, I don't care. This business has taught me far more about myself than about real estate, and I could not agree more with ALL of the points made. 

Jul 31, 2019 10:22 AM #20
Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana!

Bill this is one of 'those' posts every new agent ( and experienced agents if they're going through a rough patch)  should print out and stick by their desk - and read over and over. Folow these tips and you will create a good life and business. Look at you - our AR rock star!

Jul 31, 2019 01:39 PM #21
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good evening Liz and Bill Spear ,

Bill congratulations on 15 years and your post is so full of much needed advice! There will always be disruptor's and you have no control over that. What you do have control over is how you do business and what you have to offer. What a fantastic post so full of wise advice whether you are a new agent or a veteran! A great read!

Jul 31, 2019 05:00 PM #22
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

I especially related to #11 in your post. I am the same way. I don't want to do 75 or 100 transactions a year. I don't want a team of people or an assistant.  I want to deliver personal , professional service to everyone and although the financial rewards are welcome, it is not making more more more money that motivates me.

Aug 01, 2019 01:42 PM #23
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