The Secrets of Successful New Real Estate Agents

How to become a successful real estate agent in your early career

Image shows a portrait of a woman, and underneath is a plaque that reads

Image by Maddy Price © The Balance 2019

A great many new real estate agents never make it through their first two years. Some underestimate expenses and overestimate income, a deadly combination. Others rely too much on old industry truisms that aren't as valid in the real estate world that has developed in the internet-driven years since the Great Recession.

Knowing when to follow conventional wisdom and when to pursue new tactics will help you create a successful real estate from the beginning of your career. 

Don't Always Focus on Selling

While knowing good sales tactics is beneficial to real estate agents, you don't always need to make the hard sell. In fact, there are many times when separating yourself from the stereotype of a pushy real estate salesperson can help your career.

Early in your career, excellent photography skills and the ability to write compelling descriptions about listings will go much farther than selling skills. Even if you're starving for a deal, think of yourself as a consultant, rather than a salesperson, for better results.

You'll also want to focus on your soft skills, including people skills, self-motivation, and problem-solving, which are some of the top abilities that real estate agents need.

Think Like a Small Business

The majority of real estate agents are independent contractors. Succeeding as an independent contractor, and being in control of your growth, means thinking like a small business, rather than as an employee.

Invest in relationships, work towards long-term goals, and learn what you can about marketing. From the beginning of your career, create a business that is portable, flexible and able to move and grow with you. You'll be much more able to weather changes in the market than someone who isn't thinking like a business owner.

Develop a Business Plan

When you're thinking like a business owner, your long-term success depends on many things. A good beginning business plan is one of the most important.

Don't let your enthusiasm for getting a client right away keep you from important business organizing and planning tasks. Take time to understand your market and customers. Identify what sets you apart from other real estate agents. Develop the right tools and skills to ensure your business grows, and educate yourself on any important skills that you currently lack.

While you are growing your prospect base, think beyond just getting your first client and have a concrete plan for how you will grow your business.

Have a Budget

Many early-career real estate agents focus on immediate successes, like getting the first client or making the first sale. But while you're making those early milestones happen, keep your spending in check. It can be tempting to spend whatever it takes to jumpstart your real estate business, but you'll be in business for longer if you keep an eye on cash flow.

While you're working for yourself, it's also critical that you cover not just your business expenses but your personal ones as well. Early in your career — or even before you launch your business — create a spreadsheet of your personal living expenses, both mandatory ones like rent and discretionary ones like coffee on the way to work. Your income goals should cover these expenses in addition to your business costs, with a cushion leftover for growth and emergencies.

You Don't Have to "List to Last"

A common real estate saying is, "If you don't list, you won't last." But it isn't necessarily true. You can be successful as a new real estate agent, or even through an entire career, in working only with buyers and not listing properties as a seller's representative.

You can also do both at different points in your career. Building both skillsets diversifies your business income and allows you to pursue multiple strategies for earning money, depending on what your market and career need in any given year.

Avoid Assumptions to Be a Successful Real Estate Agent

Making assumptions about how your business will grow or where success will come from is a pitfall that every new business owner needs to avoid, including real estate agents.

Key Takeaways

  1. Don't always focus on selling.
  2. Think like a small business.
  3. Develop a business plan.
  4. Have a budget.
  5. You don't have to "list to last."

Don't assume, for example, that telling your family and friends about your new career means you'll start receiving plenty of referral business. Nor should you rely too much on a new relationship with a single broker; just because you're now listed on the website or brochure doesn't mean leads will start pouring in.

On the other hand, plenty of floor time in the brokerage office will give you the opportunity to meet more prospects. Consider taking shifts from others. Every walk-in is a potential commission. You'll also want to focus on your online presence, as 50 percent of buyers find the home they purchase on the internet.

It's a big step to pass the real estate exam, get the license, and start a new business. Many new real estate agents fail in their first year or two. The ones who succeed aren't just prepared to work hard. They also avoid making assumptions about how their career will progress or where opportunities will come from.