The World of Selling Real Estate
There are many different players in the residential real estate industry—property managers, publishers, builders, banks, and government agencies, to say nothing of buyers, sellers, and renters. Nevertheless, the real movers and shakers are the intermediaries, the people constantly moving between and communicating with all of these players: agents and brokerages/agencies.
The real estate agent is the workhorse of the industry. He’s a salesman one moment, a buyer’s advocate the next; he’s an analyst, an auctioneer, a consultant, a negotiator, and a marketer; he occasionally performs the services of an appraiser, a clerk, and a loan officer; he accommodates and ferries around his clients on nights and weekends, and often works well beyond forty hours a week.
Basically, a real estate agent does a little bit of everything. For that, a modest real estate commission is paid (provided, of course, that the deal is closed). It’s no wonder, then, that so many agents cycle in and out of the industry. It’s also no wonder that demand for their services remains high even in a slow market.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be: this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the challenges and essentials of being real estate agent, as well as important tips to help you get off to a strong start.
In recent years we’ve seen some new trends when it comes to the consumer’s relationship with the real estate industry. More than ever before, the average person has access to the kinds of statistics, market analyses, technology, and expert opinions that were previously reserved for people who actively made their living as a real estate agent.
Consider, for instance, the guide you’re reading. Before the Internet, much of this information would only exist in the mouths of working agents or in agent licensure textbooks. Consumers had little need for this information because they trusted their real estate professional to know it.
So let's get some basic definitions out of the way first...
The Four Types of Real Estate
As a physical entity, real estate includes four different categories of property: residential, commercial, industrial, and land.
Residential includes new construction and resale homes. You probably know residential real estate as single-family homes. This category also includes high rise flats, condominiums, landed, townhouses, duplexes, and vacation homes.
Commercial real estate primarily includes places of business. This category includes shopping centres, malls, hospitals, colleges, hotels, and offices.
Industrial includes manufacturing buildings and warehouses used for research, production, storage, and product distribution.
Land refers to vacant land, such as undeveloped land and land on which homes or buildings are being assembled.
It’s important to understand the different types of real estate because the sale and purchase of property differ depending on its type. Other processes such as zoning, construction, and appraisal are handled independently, too.
Because these categories and their rules and regulations are so different, real estate agents typically specialize in one specific type. Next, I'll talk more about real estate agencies below.
Who’s Who in Real Estate
The real estate industry is complicated, and a lot goes into each transaction. For this reason, there’s a multitude of people involved in the process. If you’ve ever bought or sold property, you’ve likely worked with some or all of these specialists.
Different Types of Real Estate Agents
There are several different types of real estate agents that are involved in the purchase or sale of residential real estate. I'll break each one down below.
The Real Estate Agent
The real estate agent acts as a liaison between buyers or sellers and the industry itself. They’re responsible for finding potential property, listing property, negotiating prices, and much more. While some agents work with both buyers and sellers, most specialize in one or the other. This is because the responsibilities of each are very distinct.
The Seller’s (Listing) Agent
The seller’s agent works exclusively with people selling real estate, such as a home or office building. They’re also called a “listing” agent because they list property under their name and brokerage/agency for others to find. (I'll talk about the listing process below.)
Listing agents are responsible for a variety of things:
- Helping determine the selling price of the property
- Listing and marketing the property
- Managing open houses and showings
- Answering questions of potential buyers
- Guiding the negotiating of the sale price
- Coordinating the sale and closing process
For residential sales, listing agents typically make 2% of the gross sale price (more outside Singapore), paid by the seller(s) — who pay another percentage to the buyer's agent. For example, listing contracts written are for X% with X% offered to the cooperating agent.
The Buyer’s Agent
On the other hand, the buyer’s agent works with people looking to buy real estate. They’re responsible for finding potential property, organizing showings and walkthroughs, negotiating on behalf of their clients, and assisting during the purchase and closing process.
Buyer clients typically don’t pay for working with a buyer’s agent. If they successfully organize a real estate transaction, buyer’s agents make 1% of the gross sale price, also paid by the seller.
Real Estate License
In order for a member of the public to assist individuals with the lease, purchase, or sale of real estate, they must have a real estate license issued by the state or jurisdiction in which the property exists. Each state has individual requirements for obtaining a real estate license including the number of hours of education, testing prerequisites, and licensing fees.
Outside of Singapore, the real estate broker is considered one step above the agent. (The broker's equivalent in Singapore is the Key Executive Officer.) Although the rules vary across countries, brokers & KEOs typically have more education and licensing than agents. Because of this, brokers can form their own real estate brokerage and hire agents as salespeople.
The Mortgage Lender
The mortgage lender is a financial institution that gives you money to fund your mortgage loan. Usually it's a bank, but not always. When purchasing real estate, it’s encouraged to get pre-approved for a loan before touring and bidding on real estate. Real estate buyers will likely work closely with a mortgage lender before looking at homes or property.
The appraiser works independently of the buying and selling party to determine the value of property. The appraiser is typically chosen by the mortgage lender as it’s in their best interest to get the fair and accurate value of a home or building. The property must appraise for the agreed-upon contracted sales price in order for the lender to grant the loan.
From conducting a room-by-room walk-through to reviewing exterior and interior conditions, the appraiser does most of their job on-site and reports back to the lender.
Whereas appraisers are hired by lenders to determine the monetary value of a property, inspectors are hired by potential buyers to determine the structure, safety, and possible defects or damage in a home. It’s a lengthy process; inspectors are responsible for reviewing hundreds of items when looking over a building.
The Conveyancing Lawyer
The closing, or transactional, real estate lawyer is simply an attorney that specializes in real estate law or conveyancing. He or she is sometimes referred to as a “closing” lawyer because that’s when most buyers or sellers encounter them — at closing. (We cover the closing process in the next section below.)
Real estate lawyers help buyers or sellers understand the legal documents with which they’re presented throughout the real estate process.
Each of these individuals is a vital part of the real estate process. Next, we'll see that process in action step-by-step.
The Real Estate Process
Depending on the type of property and people involved, the specific steps within each real estate transaction might fluctuate a bit. But for the most part, the majority of transactions look the same.
For the sake of continuity and simplicity, we’re going to use a residential transaction to outline the real estate process. Commercial and industrial transactions follow a comparable process, but the residential process is likely the most relatable among consumers.
I’ll cover both the seller’s and buyer’s perspectives below.
1. Hire an agent
When someone decides to sell their home, the first thing he or she might do is hire a listing agent (unless they decide to sell it themselves as a For Sale By Owner — which I'll explain later).
Historically, clients have found their listing agents through personal recommendations or a local advertisement in a newspaper or flyer. Nowadays, some sellers find their agents through online means, like social media, online advertisements, or property portals like Zillow or PropertyGuru. We talk more about some of these methods in the next section.
Listing agents typically give a listing presentation. This pitch will also highlight how they’d price and market your home, what their commission structure is, and other competitive advantages. This helps clients decide which agent is the best fit.
When someone decides to buy a home, he or she might do one of two things: secure a buyer’s agent who can help them discover and shop for property, or start shopping for property themselves, choosing to hire an agent after they’ve found a property they like.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about hiring a buyer’s agent, although an agent might introduce you to potential properties you might’ve not otherwise found on your own. Interviewing and securing a buyer's agent at the beginning of the real estate process can be much more rewarding than simply letting the listing agent take care of both sides. Buyers can benefit from representation, too.
2. List/View the property
As a seller, the next step would be listing your property so potential buyers can find it. Here are the steps for listing and viewing property.
- Determine the price of your home. Your real estate agent can help you calculate this using your home’s location, condition, amenities and upgrades, and the price of similar properties. Agents will compile a comparative market analysis (CMA) to help you understand how and why your home is priced the way it is.
- If outside Singapore, enter your home into the Internet Data Exchange (IDX). The IDX is a platform that your real estate agent has access to. It brings together real estate listings from all over North America. It enables members of the multiple listing service (MLS) to share and market their properties to other agents and potential buyers.
- In Singapore, enter your home into Agency's database and online property portals like PropertyGuru, 99co, SRX, thereby making listings publicly accessible.
- Market your home. Whether they invest in traditional methods or list your home on other real estate websites, these marketing tactics will increase the exposure of your property to other agents and buyers.
Hosting open houses and showings with buyers. Open houses and showings give potential buyers a first-hand look at your home. These in-person experiences also allow buyers to ask questions and express concerns — saving both parties time and energy in the long run. Some agents may opt to create real estate videos and virtual staging opportunities for your home, too.
Some sellers opt to sell their homes themselves, which is referred to as For Sale By Owner (FSBO). FSBOs theoretically save sellers commission money (since seller clients pay both the listing and buyer’s agents), but in turn, they don’t get access to CMAs, the IDX, or any agent knowledge or marketing. In some cases, FSBO sellers may pay a cooperating commission to the buyer’s agent working with whoever buys their home.
As a buyer, this step would involve researching and viewing properties. Some people use sites like Zillow or PropertyGuru to find potential homes within their price range while others rely on their agent to discover property and schedule showings.
Typically, buyers will attend open houses to get a feel for a property and its location, condition, and amenities. Then, they’ll schedule dedicated showings with their agent (or the listing agent) at which they’ll walk through the property and ask more specific questions.
Recall how we mentioned that buyers should be pre-approved for a loan before searching for homes. Why? Because if a buyer views a home they want to buy, they should be prepared to place an offer on the spot, especially in a highly competitive housing market.
If someone were to view a property they liked then seek out a loan pre-approval, the process could take weeks. No seller would wait that long if they have other offers.
3. Close on the property
Let’s say you’re selling your home, and someone wants to buy it. What happens then?
Well, first, the potential buyer would place an offer on your home. This offer could be exactly at asking price, below or above, depending on how competitive the market is and how quickly you and/or the seller want to close. Then, you’d consider the offer, consult with your agent (if you have one), and accept or deny. There could be a little back-and-forth, or both parties could immediately agree and immediately sign a sales contract.
(If you, the seller, had entered into an agreement in North America with a right-of-first-refusal clause, you’d have to let that potentially interested party view and make an offer on your property before any other parties. Right-of-first-refusal clauses are typically written into contracts between family members, tenants, landlords, and in the case of a homeowners association.)
As the seller, the next few steps don’t directly involve you. At this point, the buyer would submit his or her earnest money, order an inspection of your home, and work with their mortgage lender to secure an appraisal and set up their mortgage. You might have to address any concerns or questions during this period, but for the most part, you sit back and wait.
The next time you see the buyers will be at closing. A home closing is basically a fancy term for when the property title is transferred, the down payment is made, and the seller and buyer’s names are signed a bunch of times. After closing, you’d hand over the keys and be on your merry way … albeit thousands of dollars richer.
Let’s flip the script and say you’re buying a home. (Congratulations!)
We already know you’ve made an offer that’s been accepted, and you’ve signed a sales contract. What happens now? Well, the bulk of this process involves you making sure the house is exactly what you want to purchase — and you have to do all of this within the timeline spelled out in your contract.
First, you’d submit your earnest money (or Option Fee in the Singapore context, which is payable for an Option to Purchase). This tells the seller, “Hey, we’re serious about this purchase.” FYI, earnest money or Option Fee is not your down payment — that goes to your mortgage lender. It’s held until closing and is credited to the buyer. Next, you’d order an inspection to see if there are any repairs that should be done before closing. (The party responsible for the repairs is to be negotiated between the sellers and buyers.) At the same time, you’d alert your lender that you’re under contract and begin the paperwork to secure your loan.
After the inspection is complete, you and your lender will order an appraisal to ensure the value of the home matches your offer and mortgage. You’d research and order home insurance (often required by lenders), and schedule your utilities and closing. At closing, you’d bring proof of your mortgage, home insurance, and any required documentation to assume the home title and sign all required documents.
Voila! The home is yours!
Real Estate Marketing Strategies
So, we’ve covered the real estate process from the perspective of both buyer and seller. What about the real estate agent? Agents and agents-to-be, I haven’t forgotten you. This section is dedicated to one of the most important parts of your job — marketing your homes and yourself (and your real estate business).
Pause. What do you mean by “myself”?
Well, being a real estate agent is sort of like being your own entity. You may represent a brokerage or an agency, but for the most part, you have to sell yourself as an agent, knowledge base, negotiator, marketer, financing guru, and industry know-it-all. Your clients will rely on you for one of the biggest transactions (both financially and emotionally) of their lifetime. You have to be, in their eyes, the best.
Better yet, the more you market yourself, the more you inherently market the homes and properties you represent. It’s a win-win!
Real estate is a unique industry when it comes to building a marketing strategy. Some industries and businesses focus solely on digital marketing methods, while others invest in traditional tactics like postcards and billboards.
In real estate, you’ll likely do all the above. For the most part, the majority of agents don’t define a target audience for their marketing strategy — they simply want clients and buyers. The wider the net, the more people they’ll attract, and the more revenue they’ll bring in and homes they’ll sell.
(Note: This target audience strategy is not typical of most businesses. In most cases, defining a targeted buyer persona for marketing is the way to go.)
So, let’s talk about the different ways you can market as a real estate agent. I'll break it up by type of marketing and discuss both inbound and outbound methods.
1. Digital Marketing
The world of digital marketing is seemingly endless. Does this mean you should invest in each and every marketing opportunity? Not quite, especially if you’re a new agent. Start out with a few of these strategies and then expand as your commission allows.
A website builds awareness around your personal brand as an agent and markets the homes you have for sale. More buyers and sellers are online than ever before, so if you’re not online, you’re missing out on revenue and clients.
Having an online presence as a real estate agent also speaks volumes about your legitimacy and how seriously you take your job. At the minimum, it should have information about yourself (including a stellar bio), how to contact you, and any homes you’re currently selling.
Running a blog is another way to attract clients, build trust with visitors, and prove your real estate expertise. Also, the mystery and complexity of the industry can play to your advantage. Your visitors and clients will inevitably have questions and your real estate blog can hold the answers.
Consider making your blog part of your website. This will keep visitors on-site and further market yourself as an agent. When you start your blog, post as often as you want, but however often you choose, be sure you can keep a consistent cadence. Need ideas? Pay attention to the questions your clients are asking or perhaps blog about a home that you’re selling.
Did you know that over 74% of agents use Facebook and LinkedIn to market their businesses? Social media is pretty much a non-negotiable in the real estate world, and there are plenty of ways to leverage social media for your marketing. A dedicated page on Facebook can help you connect with potential clients, market your homes, and share your blog content, and an Instagram account gives you a place to share those high-quality real estate photos.
Social media is also a great way to connect with clients personally. As an individual marketing him- or herself, it’s important to create personal, emotional connections in an effort to get business. When it comes to buying or selling a home, clients don’t just need to know that you can do your job, they need to know that they can trust you, too.
Email is another great way to market to clients, regardless of their demographic or stage in the buyer’s (or seller’s) journey. Whether they’re actively looking for a new home or you simply have their email address from an online form, email can help you stay connected and top-of-mind.
One great way to do this is through an email real estate newsletter. Newsletters are easy, templated tactics that also allow you to get creative with your content. In your newsletter, you can include current homes for sale, client testimonials, fun personal facts, and local events.
There are pros and cons to paying for advertisements, whether about your real estate business or your current properties. If you do choose to pay for advertisements, such as social media ads, banner ads, or even native ads, be sure you’re targeting the correct geographical locations (since you’d likely not work with clients hundreds of miles away). Consider paying for ads on local interior design sites or family-oriented blogs, or even on your own personal real estate blog. That way, you can know your advertisements are being seen by valuable audiences.
2. Traditional Marketing
In the real estate world, traditional marketing methods are hardly outdated. This is for a few reasons.
Firstly, real estate is a heavily location-based industry. While it might not make sense for an e-commerce business to market in local magazines or on bus benches, it would for local real estate agents looking to work with people in the area. Secondly, traditional marketing methods can be more cost-effective and produce a greater ROI, especially when marketing locally.
Test out a few of these strategies and see what works best for you.
Business Cards and Postcards
Business cards are another non-negotiable for real estate agents. Between open houses, local events, and simply running into people on the street, you’ll likely always be in need of a business card that has your phone number and email address. Real estate business cards also give you a chance to show your personality and stay top-of-mind with potential clients.
Postcards, on the other hand, are super effective for marketing homes for sale. Not only is there ample space for photos and text, but real estate postcards are also easy to pass out, cheap to mail, and quick to read.
Direct mailers may seem old-school, but they’re actually quite effective in the real estate industry. In fact, direct mail open rates were up to 90% in 2021 last year.
Whether you mail postcards, personal flyers, newsletters, or other content, direct mailers are a great way to target a specific neighborhood or area in your city. It’s a tried-and-true method that can work alone or in tandem with other strategies.
You can advertise locally in a few different ways. For one, you can pay for local advertisements in magazines, newsletters, bus benches, and billboards. Secondly, you can leave your postcards and business cards throughout your target area, or partner with businesses that will advertise for you for free.
On the other (more creative) hand, consider contributing to local magazines or running a column of your own. This follows the same inbound methodology that blogging and guest posting does, except it targets your neighbors and local clients. It also gives you a chance to build trust with readers and potential clients.
3. Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-Mouth (WOM) marketing is the most effective tactic for real estate agents. That’s why I’ve made this its own section. Collecting testimonials from past clients is crucial to your business and marketing strategy.
Reviews and Recommendations
Whether you’ve worked with one client or 100 clients, always ask for referrals and recommendations. As you finish with each client, ask for a few sentences about your service and performance as an agent, and request that they submit their testimonials to sites like Yelp, Zillow, and Realtor.com. You can publish these testimonials on your website, too.
How can you ensure solid reviews? Be a great real estate agent. It’s as simple as that. Provide amazing service, do your best work, and make a great impression on clients. Consider going above and beyond with a gift at closing, so your clients will remember you.
Real estate is a prime example of how current and past customers are your very best marketers. By treating each client with exceptional service, you can ensure referrals for years to come.
See also: 200 Ways to Get Real Estate Leads
Get Real with Real Estate
Real estate is a tricky, complex industry, but it’s nonetheless vital to our economy and lifestyle. Whether you’re someone interested in buying their first house or you’re curious about real estate as a career, it’s important to understand the real estate process and the roles both consumers and agents play in each transaction.
Real estate is an industry that plays by its own rules. As technology, incomes, buying habits, and lifestyles change, real estate will only become more complex and exciting. It’s your job to stay on top of it.
See this: Yasser Khan’s Shocking Untold Story
It’s a Business, Not a Hobby
Today, Realtors are active all over the blogosphere, even making a buck by telling consumers how to do their jobs. “How to Make Money in Real Estate: Five Easy Steps.” Consequently, some seem to think of becoming a real estate agent like taking up a hobby, something to occupy your down time and earn you quick cash at the same time.
But most hobbies are cheap, and even the expensive ones are about the sheer enjoyment of the activity. With a hobby, you’re allowed to be careless because you don’t have anything to lose. Neglect your herb garden for a few days? No big deal. Don’t play your guitar for a month? It’ll still be there when your fingers get the itch.
Real estate, on the other hand, is a business. It’s about money, and as the market has shown in the last few years, when you get careless in real estate, you stand to lose a lot of it. As an agent, you’re an independent contractor, which means it’s up to you to manage your own business. Any agent who picks up your slack isn’t handing it back to you.
Finally, hobbies are personal, while real estate is professional. Typically, only the people with whom you choose to share your hobbies know about them, which means they don’t have a huge impact on your public image. (Unless, of course, you’re still collecting watches).
But since your conduct as a real estate agent takes place in the professional world, it has much a longer paper trail. Pretty much anyone can find out about it. Fail to satisfy a client, and you’re telling her and everyone she knows that you’re unreliable—which can have serious consequences for other areas of your life.
None of this means you shouldn’t enjoy working as a Realtor. On the contrary, you’re not likely to be successful if you don’t. But the best agents are those who marry the pleasure they get from their work to an understanding that it’s work.
No matter what business you’re in, selling is hard. As a real estate agent, however, the challenge is even greater because repeat customers are few and far in between.
Homes, after all, are not electronics or fashion items. They’re not designed to be replaced after a year, nor do they become obsolete. People buy homes with the intention of staying put. In a perfect world, your clients won’t need you again for a long time.
The Sales Machine: Leads & Listings
True, unforeseen circumstances require people to move, and according to the latest North America census, around 61 percent of all movers stayed within the same county, which means more than two-thirds of movers could be returning to the same Realtor. Nevertheless, altogether only 9 percent of the U.S. population changed residences between 2019-2020. That’s a slight decrease since 2018.
Furthermore, these statistics vary widely depending on where you live. So how do you grow your business when demand for your services is limited? By working both sides of the real estate equation. In the old days, agents worked exclusively with sellers, listing their properties for sale and rent. Back then, your job was to get the word out about a seller’s property and attract buyers. The more listings you had, the better off you were.
Today, however, it’s also common to work with the buyer. In this scenario, success is all about leads, people who are interested in buying a home. Once you’ve found a lead, your job is to turn him from a prospect to a customer by helping him secure the home he’d like to rent or purchase.
This usually means you’re a matchmaker, connecting buyers with listings your agency already has. You could also be an advocate, helping them browse someone else’s listings. In either case, the arrangement is basically the same: agents use their experience to ensure that buyers don’t get screwed. Instead of selling a property, you’re selling your expertise.
So which is more important, leads or listings? That depends on your location. But regardless of the figures, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on both. In a difficult market and a changing industry, the best path to success for an agent is to be adaptable and willing to work with sellers and buyers. Concentrate solely on one, and you’ll find yourself struggling to keep your business afloat.
Every agent is glued to his iPhone or laptop screen these days. However, it’s important to remember on the other side of all those zeroes and ones are real people, and they’re the ones who keep your business going.
Relationships are Everything
Relationships are your bread and butter—and when I say that, I'm not talking the little appetizers you eat before your main meal arrives.
To understand how to maximize your relationships as a real estate agent, start by asking the basic questions: who do you know, and who knows you? The answers will go far in revealing the extent of your sphere of influence, the collection of people for whom you and your business have weight. The greater your sphere of influence, the more of a magnet you become for prospects—and the better your chances of turning them into customers.
The cliché goes that real estate is all about location, location, location. This isn’t just about inventory: it’s about involvement. To maximize your business, you need to participate in your community. Join your local Realtor’s association. Coach a little league team. Attend town government meetings. Get exposure in the flesh, and make sure people know what you do.
By showing you’re interested in the life of your community, you demonstrate that you have a personal stake in all the business you do as a real estate agent. You should also treat everyone you meet with the same courtesy and attention, no matter who they are or what they can do for you—after all, you never know who may become a customer. But that doesn't mean you should shove your services down anybody who even looks like a human!
Knowing and being known by as many people as possible is crucial, especially when there aren’t a lot of prospects to go around. But while quantity is good, quality is even better. Visibility is great, but if your only goal is to get everyone and anyone on the hook, knowing everybody in town will actually work against you. Your reputation in your community greatly influences your trade. People obviously want to work with agents they trust.
The most sustainable business model is one in which your transactions with others are always mutually beneficial. Real estate is about making money; but focus too much on your profit margins, and you’ll find you have fewer and fewer customers looking to hand theirs over. Nobody wants to work with overly greedy people.
Finally, once you’ve established your relationships, it’s vital to keep them up, whether or not they’re making you money right now. Follow up with recent customers to see how they’re settling in. Distribute an email newsletter to all your clients. Send personalized notes and birthday cards. Use social media and maintain a presence online. If you feel like you haven’t spoken to an old customer in a while, send them an email to ask how they’re doing. The gesture only takes a minute or two, and it can pay huge dividends in the long run.
Each contact you make has a value, and each customer has a lifetime value. Lose contact with your prospects, leads and customers, and you’ll be squandering your greatest asset.
You are a Brand
It’s often said that as a salesman, you’re not just selling your product: you’re selling yourself. That’s why as a real estate agent, it’s important to develop a personality.
I'm not saying you don’t have one: I'm just suggesting that you lean into it. Whether you’re a pet lover, a motorcycle enthusiast, a foodie or an online gamer, don’t hide your personality: embrace it. You’re in real estate—so, for God’s sake, be real. Your personality fosters relationships, which builds your reputation, which generates leads. You get the picture.
Getting involved in the life of a community helps build your relationships, but it’s important that your involvement be consistent with who you are as a person. Enthusiasm is difficult to fake, so if something you say or do doesn’t ring true to you, people will pick up on it.
If you’re an avid meat lover, for instance, looking for leads at a vegan meeting probably isn’t a good idea—and in fact, it may cause both the people you meet and the people you already know to think of you as a hypocrite.
Instead, you’re better off finding opportunities to broadcast yourself to people with whom you have common ground. As far as those opportunities go, some say it’s better to keep politics and religion out of business, and in many cases those people are right. But politics and religion build strong communities, and depending on where you are, getting involved can have huge benefits. At the same time, it’s important for you to decide what you’re comfortable wearing on your sleeve.
Finally, I'm talking about work here, so it’s important to see personality in a professional context. In general, moderation and a sense of boundaries are keys to success. Come on too strong or get too personal in your dealings with clients, and you may end up alienating more people than you connect with.
Instead, let customers be the ones to open up to you, and they’ll often be happier for it—after all, many people enjoy talking about themselves more than anything else.
Work it Like You Want it
The fact of the matter is, things have changed nowadays, and as a new agent, you’ll have to accept that more than anyone else. The days of plenty are over, and that means the only way to be a successful agent is to have 'hustle'.
Talk to any top producing agent about their work habits, and you’ll find he or she is an incredibly hard worker. Successful businesses don’t create themselves, and being a Realtor is no exception. There’s a direct correlation between how hard you work and how successful you will be.
Still, having hustle doesn’t simply mean working twelve-hour days from Mondays to Fridays. After all, working in real estate isn’t just about putting in a lot of time—it’s about putting in the right time and doing what’s necessary to close the deal.
Because of this, hustle is also about being prepared to work at a moment’s notice. It’s about getting a phone call from a potential buyer at eight o’clock on a Friday night, when you’re sprawled out on the couch watching a movie, and not thinking twice about contacting your client to set up a meeting.
Are we saying you should neglect your responsibility to your family or your spouse for the sake of work? Of course not. But if the benefits of working outweigh the benefits of whatever you happen to be doing when an opportunity presents itself, you need to be prepared to suck it up.
If this all sounds incredibly difficult, here’s a bit of encouragement: most people, and in particular most agents, don’t work hard enough. If they did, they’d all be top producers. So don’t worry about competing with every agent on the planet. If you work hard enough, you’ll be in a class of your own.
Measure, Analyze, and Evaluate
We’ve discussed the importance of hustle in becoming a successful agent. But no matter how hard you work, if you don’t measure your performance, you won’t know whether that labour is yielding results. This is not just a fact of real estate: it’s a fact of life.
The most significant gains come from consciously reflecting on the way we do things and actively questioning whether that’s what works best. The top footballers spend hours watching film, examining their kicks and looking for missed opportunities. The best teachers don’t wait for their annual evaluation to determine if they’re doing all they can for their students. Instead, they ask themselves that question after every lesson.
Similarly, as a real estate agent, you should constantly be examining and measuring your performance. You can do this in a number of ways. First and foremost, consider keeping a daily journal to record your impressions of that day’s work. Keep count of how many prospects you talked to and how those conversations went.
At the end of the day, determine what you accomplished. Did you get enough done? If not, why might that be? No need to get incredibly detailed: just get into the habit of jotting down a few ideas. You’ll have time to organize them into something more coherent later.
You can also learn a lot about your performance by taking a long term view of your prospects. Track them from beginning to end and figure out what your pipeline looks like. Are some parts of your sales strategy working better than others? Do you tend to lose prospects at a particular stage? If so, you might need to change your approach.
Finally, crunch the numbers to see the results your work is really getting you in black and white. Check your prospects against the numbers you have and the numbers you need. Getting a lot of leads, but not making a lot of sales? You may be better off devoting more time to fewer clients. How many closings do you need to make a living? Compare your statistics to that number and set goals accordingly.
Start making a weekly list of skills you plan to work on or solutions you plan to try out. At the end of the week, evaluate your progress. Did you practice what you set out to practice? Did the corrections you made lead to more prospects, more sales, more success? If not, why do you think that is, and what else could you try next week?
Make no mistake, self-evaluation is usually not fun, and it can add a lot of work to an already hectic schedule. But if you’re really committed to being a successful real estate agent, you’ll find the time—and pretty soon, you’ll see the results.
Use Technology, or Be Owned by it
Let us tell you what you already know: the Internet has transformed the entire real estate industry. Twenty years ago, potential real estate buyers were largely in the dark about their choices; all they had were a string of abbreviations and a grainy photograph of a property’s exterior.
Real estate professionals, on the other hand, were wizards. They had a secret, mysterious knowledge of their trade, and clients could benefit from that knowledge for a price.
Welcome to the twenty-first century. Today, there are no secrets. Buyers can view live video feeds of the area, read reviews of your agency, get perspectives on the neighbourhood from current residents, access government statistics on traffic and environmental hazards, check the seller’s asking price against trends for the surrounding area, take virtual tours of every single room, even sign contracts digitally.
Nevertheless, if clients now have increased access to information, agents also have increased access to potential clients. Social media and marketing technology are changing the way agents interact with their clients. Ten years ago, Facebook didn’t exist; today, more than 80 percent of real estate professionals are using the service in their jobs.
This has led not just to changes in communication, but more importantly, to changes in advertising and marketing. The Internet has come to dominate real estate marketing. That means there are increased opportunities to reach potential clients more quickly, more efficiently, and more cheaply.
On the other hand, this also means there’s more pressure on agents to adopt the new tools. But agents who complain by responding that they “just don’t understand technology” are ignoring their business sense. Fads and trends become norms on the Internet for a reason: because they make life easier, they make life better, and they make people money. True, there’s a learning curve, particularly for agents who didn’t come of age with the Internet; but that’s no excuse for ignoring it.
An effective real estate agent keeps current and continues to educate himself on the ways technology is being adopted and adapted to the industry. That means humbling yourself and asking people in the know, who are very often younger. There are also more formal ways to educate yourself. Read books. Take classes. Go to conferences. Put in the time.
Finally, it’s important to remember that when it comes to technology, just because you have to understand it doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. You always have the option of recruiting someone else to handle your technology for you. Nevertheless, you’ll have to know enough to be sure that you’re not throwing your money away. Hiring someone to build your website will be a waste of time if what they produce is based on the demands of last decade's customers.
This brings to mind a final point about technology: perhaps the biggest challenge of using it is the fact that it’s always changing. But that’s all the more reason to be active about adopting it. Don’t wait for some grand epiphany: search for knowledge. It’s part of your job.
Know Your Market
Though more real estate professionals are beginning to work internationally thanks to globalization and the ease of communication, most agents continue to work close to home. This brings us to an important and often-overlooked fact about the real estate industry—namely, that it isn’t a single industry at all, but rather a collection of local and regional markets.
Though in many ways we’re no longer limited by geography and boundaries, the real estate profession is still regulated at the state level, and country level. True, some of the differences in laws practices between countries may seem arbitrary; others, however, exist for a good reason. But regardless of how you feel about this reality, you must accept it and plan accordingly
The dynamics of your market can have a profound effect on how you conduct your business, and with whom—and the lower to the ground you are, the more evident this becomes.
Your location as an agent has an enormous effect on how you do your job. The technologies and software that work for agents in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore may not be right for agents in New York or Los Angeles. It’s up to you to learn what aspects of your business you need to focus on and what solutions to employ in order to be responsive to your clients’ needs.
Check also: DIY Home Buyers: Curse or Cure?
Seek Out Great Teachers
In Part 6, we talked about learning and improving from reflecting on and measuring your own performance. One of your greatest assets as a real estate agent is self-reliance. But you should still look elsewhere for guidance and support, especially if you’re new to the game. Let’s get philosophical for a second here. We live in a subjective world. Everything you experience is coloured by the unique flavour of your consciousness. This means that we all see the world differently, but it also means we all see ourselves differently. That goes for your reflection in the mirror as well as your sense of your abilities. This has major implications for your work as a real estate agent. Confidence is an important quality in a salesman; but too much confidence can alienate your prospects—and if there’s a truth about confidence, it’s that the person who has too much doesn’t know it.
The only way to solve this problem is to “average” your perspective as an agent with those of the agents around you—and the top performers are the ones who have done this work for themselves. Start by building and maintaining your relationships with your fellow agents and brokers, the people you see every day. You’ll not only strengthen the network of contacts you need to be an effective salesman—you’ll also have access to their hard-earned wisdom. Listen to horror stories as well as their success stories. Find time to ask questions. If an experienced agent doesn’t have time to help you during work hours, offer to buy him or her a cup of coffee afterwards. Worried about your rapport with prospects? Have someone whose opinion you trust listen to one of your sales calls. He or she may be able to point out a tic or mistake that you’re unable to see. Not getting the response you want from your advertising? Get feedback from someone who has it figured out.
Next, you should widen your focus. Step outside your office and find out which agents are the best and/or most visible in your community or region. Do your research. What are they doing that others aren’t? How do they market themselves? What tools do they use? Look at their numbers. How much business are they doing, and where are they doing it? You may say that because agents are independent contractors, they won’t be ready to divulge their sales secrets. True, it’s not in their best interest to tell you everything. But if there’s one thing people in real estate profession—in any profession, really—love, it’s being viewed as an expert. By consulting a peer, you’re telling him that he is worth consulting. You’re validating his years of hard work. Plus, the people you’ll be asking for help are already successful at what they do. That doesn’t mean they’ll give up their edge completely, but it does mean they can afford to help the little guy. In truth, the secret that most people are keeping is that they don’t really know what they’re doing. If they have real wisdom, they’ll have no problem sharing some of it with you.
As a realtor, you have both added freedom and added responsibility. Your business is your business, but it’s your business. Still, working for yourself doesn’t mean working alone. Unless you choose to earn an additional broker’s license and work completely independently, you’ll almost certainly be working under a broker at an agency. That being said, just because you can hang your license anywhere doesn’t mean you should. Before committing to a brokerage/agency, you’ll want to make sure you have the right fit. Start by doing some research on the company’s earnings. Clearly, it’s important that your agency be profitable—but how successful are they in your niche? If you find you work primarily with buyers, an agency made up of seller’s agents probably won’t help you; if you’re most comfortable selling to middle-class families, an agency with primarily high-end listings may not be the right place.
Choose Your Agency/Business Partner Wisely
In choosing a brokerage/agency, as in cultivating your personal relationships, visibility and reputation are also crucial. If you’re going to tie yourself to an agency, you want to make sure they’re going to help you get noticed and gain clients’ trust, particularly when you don’t have many contacts of your own. The most profitable agency in your region may have a reputation for being full of shysters and snake-oil salesmen; a big, international franchise may sound like the ticket, but people your area may be more comfortable and more experienced in dealing with local, family-owned establishments. Furthermore, there’s a reason plenty of real estate agencies don’t opt into a major chain: they’re expensive. Franchises can charge local thousands of dollars as an initiation fee. They can also charge renewal fees and get additional income by marking up “business & promotional items.” Plus, most franchises take an additional percentage of every commission sellers pay. All of these costs will affect your bottom line as an agent. Additionally, depending on where you are, a big name may not amount to much at all. That is, RE/MAX may have offices in 82 countries, but if everyone in a twenty-mile radius knows John Tan at Tan Realty, you’d probably be better off with him.
Finally, it’s important to get a sense of the nuts and bolts of working at an agency. The best way to do this is by talking to other agents. Try to meet with as many as you can from the agencies you’re considering. Ask about commission splits, technology, administrative support, and advertising. Try to get a sense of the culture there. Is the lead broker or KEO an egomaniac with a temper? Is he interested in expanding the business, or apathetic? Is the dynamic among agents competitive or collaborative? How does this match up with your philosophy? Align yourself with the agency that is going to support your success.
You Can Do This!
Hopefully, the tips I’ve given you will help you get off to a strong start. But as any seasoned veteran will tell you, this is by no means an exhaustive account of the potential challenges you’ll face as a real estate agent. It may be a while before you start closing deals regularly, and you can be sure you’ll have your share of failures and awkward or embarrassing moments. But don’t get discouraged. Like many jobs that require a high degree of social interaction, real estate is best learned by doing, by interacting with as many leads, clients, agents, and brokers as possible. So get to work!
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Yasser Khan earned only $1,000 in his first year as a full time property agent. With no money for the $2 train fare to his Broker's office, he was forced to walk 25 kilometers on foot. Worse, he got evicted at midnight with his wife and baby son by the roadside. Desperate, he bought a $16 Sales book and took massive action. That single investment in himself gave him an OBSCENE ROI of $160,000 in just 11 months. Today, Yasser is on a mission to make real estate great again and helps ambitious real estate agents quadruple their commission income within 90 days.
Yasser Khan is a real estate coach, speaker, and trainer at YasserKhan.SG who teaches Realtors how to make more Money, have more Time and enjoy more Freedom without all the B.S.
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