This week, I closed on my fifth deal as a solo agent. As of this closing, I have now officially sold over one million dollars of real estate. Although I pride myself on being an agent who cares most about my client's experience rather than total volume, achieving over one million sold in just over six months of being a solo agent feels like an accomplishment worth celebrating. As I’ve reached this milestone, I have been reflecting on the lessons I have learned in the past six months. There are many things I wish I could go back and tell myself a year ago about the roller coaster that is a career in real estate. Although I can’t time travel to talk to my past self, I figured the next best thing would be to write about lessons I have learned and advice I would give to anyone who is thinking about taking the leap of faith into the world of real estate.

1. Who you work with matters

When I first got my license, I worked as an assistant to another agent. This meant that I was with the brokerage they had been with. When I decided I wanted to leave that position and become an independent agent, I knew finding the right brokerage was of the utmost importance. The barrier to entry to get your real estate license is extremely low. You are required to take a 40-hour pre-licensing course, and then take a 115-question exam. To pass, you only need to answer 80 of these questions correctly. Needless to say, you don’t learn much about the actual practice of being an agent. Because things are this way, finding a brokerage that you feel will offer mentorship and support is important.

The best advice I got from another agent while interviewing new brokerages was to “find a broker you would feel comfortable asking stupid questions to”. I am lucky that I found my people, and that I work in an office that values collaboration over competition. All of my colleagues are willing to answer my questions without ever making me feel incompetent. It is also important to remember that as an independent contractor, you should be interviewing your potential broker just as much as they are interviewing you. After all, you will often have to pay a portion of your commission to your brokerage, so you want to make sure you hang your license somewhere you feel is providing you value.

It is also so important to find a good handful of lenders to work with and refer your clients to. As a new agent, you will get a ton of lenders reaching out to you to try to swoon you with free lunch and coffee into sending them business. Similar to becoming a realtor, the barrier to entry to becoming a lender is very low, meaning not all lenders are created equal. The best lenders for me have been ones that fellow realtors have worked with and had good experiences with. Make sure you are vetting your lenders before sending clients their way. As a newer agent, you will likely have a million questions about the financing side of things, and you want to work with a lender you feel comfortable asking “stupid” questions to. Lenders should never make you feel bad for not knowing something, or needing a bit more clarification.

2. Get comfortable with uncertainty

Being a realtor comes with a lot of uncertainty, especially when you are first starting out. I remember when I first started in January, I had no idea where my clients would come from. I was dealing with imposter syndrome and didn’t think anyone would want to work with me, considering how young I was compared to many of the other agents in my area. I have now closed five deals, and all of them I would have never expected.

Working as a realtor means getting comfortable with uncertainty and also delayed gratification. A lot of times, finding clients is a result of persistence and patience. You can’t just sit around and wait for business to come to you, you have to do activities that could potentially generate leads. It can feel overwhelming and defeating when it seems like you are working hard and there is seemingly nothing to show, but an adage that has brought me comfort during the start of my career is “You don’t harvest the fruit the day you plant the seeds”. The beginning of your time as a realtor is a lot of seed planting and tending to those seeds. Just when it seems like all hope is lost and all of your work has been for nothing, an opportunity will come to you and everything will all make sense.

3. Trust the process

Working in the world of real estate is a roller coaster in more ways than one. The highs are high, but the lows can feel so very low. When you are first starting and haven’t really experienced the way that things ebb and flow, it can be easy to become cynical when things are low. Working with buyers in a competitive market is very challenging. It is very common that the first offer you write is not the house they end up getting. Sometimes you will lose out on multiple homes with the same client, and it can start to feel like you will never find them something. However, now that I have five deals under my belt, I can wholeheartedly say that I believe that everything happens for a reason. Every client I have worked with has written more than one offer, and every time the house they end up with is better than the one or few they lost out on. It is important to know and believe this as an agent. Your buyers will start to become very fatigued, and will often need to lean on you for emotional support and advice. The more optimistic you can be, the more comfortable your clients will feel, and the experience will be much better for all parties involved.

4. Be smart with money

Because real estate is 100% commission based, it is so important to be smart with your money, especially when you are first starting out and don’t have a large book of business yet. When I started in January, I had 6 months’ worth of expenses saved. This meant that I could technically make no money for 6 months and still be able to pay for my basic necessities such as rent, gas, groceries, car insurance, etc. However, the thought of potentially using up all of my savings really freaked me out, so I decided to get a part-time serving job. I am so thankful that I made this decision. Serving as a realtor is a great side gig for many reasons. My serving shifts typically don’t interfere with my responsibilities and time commitments as a realtor, and I can work 10-15 hours a week and make enough to cover my basic necessities. This has allowed me to not really have to touch my savings.

It is also important to come up with a plan for how you will handle your commission checks. Getting paid after closing a deal is always super exciting, but it is important to not let the excitement of receiving a large sum of money cloud your judgment, especially since real estate can be so unpredictable and it is not unlikely that you will go months between receiving commissions. To help negate the temptation of spending all of my commissions at once, I set up a separate business bank account. When I receive a commission check, the whole check goes directly to this account. Because taxes are not taken out, I typically leave over 60-70% of the total amount in this account. This gives me peace of mind knowing that when tax season comes, the money will be there to pay my tax bill. It is also nice to have this money separated so I can invest back in my business solely with the money I make from sales.

Although working as a realtor comes with many challenges and ups and downs, I am so happy that I took the leap of faith. A career that allows me to serve people in this way is extremely rewarding. There is no better feeling than sitting across from happy clients at the closing table, knowing you helped them secure a home and start the process of investing in their future. I am thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me during this exciting new chapter, and I am eager to see what is in store.

Posted by Abby Jester on
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