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The real estate career has lots to offer. It gives you the flexibility to schedule your workday, while the potential in making a good living. However, I have met a lot of real estate agents from networking events or personal connections throughout the years and many of them left the industry after a couple of years.
Despite the fact that every real estate agent wants to be successful in their career, the truth is that the turnover rate is extremely high for those who are just starting out. According to a report conducted by the National Association of Realtors back in 2014, only 13% of new agents made it through the first five years, and the rest left the real estate industry.
There is no fluke in the real estate industry. Your success ultimately depends on your persistence, hard work and creativity you put into the business.
Most people define a real estate sales associate is successful only if he/she is making a lucrative income, but this view is just too narrow-minded. Although the real estate commission you can earn indeed is an important indicator of success, there are other factors such as job satisfaction, work-life balance that you should not neglect.
So how can you excel in being a real estate agent? To become a successful real estate agent, you’ll need to find a balance between how you want to run the business while meeting your client’s expectations.
The goal of this article is to provide you with some thoughts about what it takes to become a good real estate agent for the long haul, and practical strategies that to grow your business.
How to Becoming a Successful Real Estate Agent?
Tip#1: Determine if You are the Right Fit in being a Real Estate Agent
Before we even explore what it takes to be successful in the real estate business, I want to make sure you have some understanding of what you are signing up for. Many people quitted because there did not think it through before they began.
Although being a real estate salesperson could be a lucrative profession, there are inevitably many moving parts in this business. For example, your income could fluctuate throughout different seasons; a client suddenly calls you for immediate assistance; a thought-to-be secured offer unexpectedly fall through.
As much as we all love making a handsome real estate commission, you do need to have strong EQ to handle the challenges in this industry.
Tip#2: Find a Good Mentor
There are too many things that cannot be learned in a textbook. In fact, most of your learning only begins when you are working on the field. After you obtain the real estate license, your next step is to find an experienced mentor.
Your coach should teach you the proper procedures, documentation involved and the system to close a deal. By going to client meetings and house showing with them, you would learn how your mentor interact with clients, handle their objections and resolve their problems.
However, I have heard from an experienced broker that is reluctant in taking on trainees. He said that the new associate that worked with him was too talkative. She was trying to hard to impress the clients and ended up saying things that should be said. As a result, the deal almost fell off.
Therefore, when your mentor is working with a client, the best is to observe quietly. If you have any questions, only ask your coach when the client is gone.
Tip#3: Be a Specialist, Not a Generalist
There’s a saying “If you try to become everything to everyone, you’ll just end up being nobody to anyone.” This concept also applies to the real estate industry.
How many times have you met a real estate agent that says they would do buy, sell, rental, residential, commercial property and would service anywhere you want? How many of them have you given or refer them to any business?
According to the Bureau Labor of Statistic (May 2018), there are 156,760 real estate agents across the U.S. To differentiate yourself in this competitive industry, you need to be perceived as an expert in a certain area, and not viewed as “just another typical agent.”
For example, you could focus your service region to only a few neighborhoods. Know all the inside-out about your servicing area (i.e., school, the trend of housing and rental prices, any upcoming construction development). Alternatively, you could specialize in working with a specific group of clientele. For instance, first time home buyers, retirees looking to downsizing, investors looking for income properties.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) offers several Designation programs so that you could enhance your specialized knowledge and credentials. Here are more info.
Tip#4: Collaborate with Other Real Estate Agents
Even though real estate agents seem to be a solo-entrepreneur, there are times you do backup support from others. When you are going for a vacation, some clients cannot wait for you to resume work. When you collaborate with other real estate agents, they could help in servicing your clients while you are away.
Furthermore, there are times when a prospect just does not fit into your clientele. Rather than giving up the business, you should co-work with another associate who has the required knowledge and skill set to service the client properly.
Although, you would need to share the commission, having a percentage of something is always better than 100% of nothing.
Tip#5: Know Your Client
A real estate salesperson is like being a matchmaker for your clients. You need to match the property with the right buyer and seller. Therefore, it is important to know to find out the needs of your clients.
Suppose you are helping a client in finding a house, you should find out whether they will be living in it or this will be an investment property. Keep in mind, a property that your clients love to live in might not always be a sound investment choice and vice versa.
Some clients do not have a concrete idea of what to look for. Therefore, it is important to go through the thought process with them by asking questions.
For example, you could ask your clients:
- How many people will be living in the property?
- The required number of bedrooms and bathroom
- Do the clients need easy access to subways? Schools? Grocery stores? Fitness center?
- How many parking spots will they need?
Tip#6: Listen with Intent to Understand
Many salespeople over-generalize their client’s situation. They only listen to their clients with the intent to respond and show off their knowledge, but they fail to understand their clients’ needs fully. A successful real estate agent would make their clients feel respected because their needs and concerns are not being taken lightly.
Some clients are not so expressive about their needs. You would need to be more observant. Sometimes, even their facial expression or body language could reveal what they like/dislike.
Tip#7: Be Overly Prepared
Opportunity is only given to those who prepare for it. Before you even meet a prospect, you need to think of all the possible questions, concerns and objections they may have.
Suppose you will be listing a property for your client, you need to know:
- All the details about the subject property. (i.e., square footage, number of bedrooms, bathroom, materials to flooring, countertop, the age of roof, furnace, driveway, recent upgrades)
- What is the unique selling points?
- What are the things that need to be fixed?
- The trend of the housing prices in the neighborhood (Actually, you should complete a Comparative Market Analysis for your client)
If you are going to have an open house, you need to make sure:
- The interior and exterior of the property is presentable
- You’ll have access to the property (i.e., keys, digital passcode)
- Multiple invitations to the house showing are sent in advance
- The open house signs are displayed
Account for all the potential problems that could ruin the deal, and have a backup plan accordingly.
Tip#8: Be Transparent, Don’t Hide Potential Problem
Keep in mind that you have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest for your clients. If there is anything wrong with a property, you should let them know asap, so that they can make an informed decision. Some salespeople would try to hide the problem and hope the deal could go through without the clients noticing the issues.
However, this is such a shortsighted way of doing business. Not only the problems would be discovered by the home inspector or appraiser anyway, but you’ll also lose the hard-earned trust and credibility from your client.
Just remember there is no right way to do the wrong thing. Your long-term success is built on putting your client’s interest first.
Tip#9: Become the “Go-to-Person” for all Real Estate Related issues
When your client is going through a real estate transaction, in addition to your work, they would need help from other professionals. For instance, a mortgage broker, home inspector, stager, appraiser, real estate lawyer, property manager, moving company, accountant, property insurance agent, house renovation contractor.
You should connect with these professionals so that when your client needs their help, you could simply introduce to them. But of course, don’t just refer your clients to anyone that you randomly met. Get to know these professionals in person. Learn about their standard and procedures when working with clients.
You need to make sure your referral partners would take good care of your clients so that you can maintain the long-term trusted relationship.
Tip#10: Network with Like-minded Professionals from other Industries
When you connect with other professionals, not only they could be potential referral partners, but you could also benefit from the exchange of ideas in running a business.
The famous Chinese billionaire, Li Ka Shing has the habit of treating two new people for lunch every month. These people are the ones that Mr. Li considers to be smarter and have bigger than he does. Throughout the years, he built a massive network of friends and business partners. He also learned a great deal from them.
Tip#11: Unique Greeting on Important Dates
It takes time and continuous effort to build up a long-term trusted relationship. Some businesses will only send out a greeting on public holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or Happy Year.
The problem is if everyone is doing the same thing, then the chance your clients will remember you is slim. Instead, your client will appreciate even more if you can remember the dates that are important to them. (i.e., their wedding anniversary, birthday, the date they move-in to the property, kid’s graduation)
Don’t just text or leave a message on their Facebook wall, because hundreds of their friends would be doing the same thing. If calling to chit-chat takes too much time, then you can Whatsapp a 15 seconds video clip filming yourself greeting the client.
Alternatively, you could consider sending them a physical greeting card — services such as SendOutCard would handle for you conveniently. You just fill in your greeting message, the date to be sent, the client’s address and then they would take care of it for you.
Tip#12: Use CRM
If you can’t even remember what you had for breakfast yesterday, then chances are you won’t remember every single detail of your real estate business.
Every real estate agent should have a CRM system. This is where you could keep track of your client’s info, takes notes of what was discussed, and the current stage of the process, the steps still need to be completed. You’ll need one that could send you automatic reminders.
There are many CRM apps and software available. But as most businesspeople would say, the best CRM is just the one you would actually use. Keep in mind that if you are entering client sensitive info, make sure to choose one with an enhanced security level.
Tip#13: Be a Problem Solver
Although you should disclose any issues to your client, you can’t just throw out the problems and expect the clients to solve them on their own. Your clients hire you to solve their problem. Therefore, you must prepare possible solutions and go through the pros and cons of each with your client.
If the issue is beyond your expertise, you should at least refer your client to someone who has the professional knowledge to handle it.
Tip#14: Account for Variable Income
Unlike a typical salaried employee, when you become a real estate agent, you won’t get paid a fixed salary. As a commission-based associate, your income solely depends on the sales volume you can generate.
In the early phase of the career, you could be earning very little income. Some agents would work part-time until their client base is established. There are peak and slow seasons in this industry too. Therefore, you should have at least 6 months of emergency savings to take care of your daily expenses.
Tip#15: Distinguish Fundamental Problem and Minor Issues
Everyone indeed wants to get the best out of a real estate deal. But the truth is regardless of how good a property is, there are things your client that might not like.
It is important to distinguish whether those are fundamental issues or things that can be easily fixed. For instance, if there is a structural problem with the house, the location is inconvenient, or many foreseen repairment, then these could be valid reasons to look for another home.
However, not all things that your client dislike is necessarily a deal breaker problem. I remember one time I was selling one of my properties, but the buyer’s agent was so picky on minor issues – for example, the removable bathtub filter is too small, the shower head wasn’t to their style. There were other similar “so-called” problems, and most of them could be fixed with less than $25.
Although the offering price was right, my agent and I could foresee it would be difficult to deal with these potential buyers before the closing, so we respectfully declined their offer. But of course, during the time, we had other backup offers as well.
I’m not saying to take the concerns of your clients lightly. But as a professional real estate agent, you need to explain to them what are fundamental issues which cannot be neglected, and what are the minors ones which could be fixed easily.
Tip#16: Manage Client’s Expectation
Most sellers would want to sell their property at a high value, whereas buyers would want to purchase at a price as low as possible. Without any reference, it would be difficult to manage their expectation.
Therefore, you should generate a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which clearly outlines comparable in the same neighborhood. For example, how much were those houses being sold? How long did it take them? With this detail, it would help to manage your client’s expectation.
Tip#17: Communicate Clearly Upfront
This is one area many real estate salespeople fail to address. In the first meeting, you should let your client knows what would be the steps involved, what is your role during the progress, and what they could expect from you.
If you won’t be taking calls after 8:00 pm or not working during Sunday morning, be sure to let them know beforehand. You might think this could scare the clients away. But the truth is most clients would be even more appreciated because it removes the guessing work up front.
You should also find out what are their expectations when working with a real estate agent. There could be times you really don’t feel the client is a good fit into your practice. Then you could consider co-working on this deal with another agent who is more suitable.
A client-agent relationship is mutual. Therefore, you could also state your expectation toward working with a client. For example, clients should not cancel appointments at the last minutes, and they would not change their mind all the time.
Tip#18: Streamline your Process
There are many tools you could use to streamline your business. This does not only saves time for you and your clients, but it would also make your job a lot easier.
For instance, rather than playing phone tag all day long in trying to schedule an appointment. There are online calendars where you could pre-enter your schedule so that your clients could book a meeting with you accordingly.
Furthermore, some clients might not prefer to meet in person all the time. When going through the purchase and sale agreement, you could use screen sharing software such as Skype to go over the terms and conditions.
Below are several useful apps you could take a look:
- DocuSign: Allows your clients to sign with their phone
- GeniusScan: You could scan the documents with your smartphone and turn it into PDF format
- GeniusFax: This allows you to fax with your phone
Keep in mind every state has its own compliance rules when it comes to handling client’s documents. You should check with your real estate broker to see if those apps/software are appropriate to use.
Tip#18: Demonstrate Your Value to Thousands of Potential Customers
I understand you have a limited number of work hours; therefore, I wouldn’t ask you to contact each of your prospects one by one. However, you could start sending regular e-newsletters to your subscribers. In the emails, you could share real estate updates, the things that homeowner should be aware, and other info where would be relevant to your readers.
This helps the readers to know more about your services and what it is like when working with you.
There are many ways to build up your subscribers base, you could do so through online marketing (i.e., Youtube, Facebook, Google ads, Blogging) or you could include the people in your network. But make sure you obtain their consent to do so.
Tip#19: Your Marketing Campaign Must Be Focus
Unless you are a multi-national large corporation who just wants to build brand awareness, the ROI of your advertising must be justified.
First, you need to think about who would be your targeted audiences. What would be their age range? Where are they located? What magazines will they read? Etc.
Numerous online advertising tools allow you to reach your targeted audience in a much more effective way. Facebook can display your ads to viewers with a precise criteria (i.e., age, location, interest), while your Google ads would only show up when someone enters a particular search term.
The traditional advertisement (i.e., flyers, bus stop ads) could still be useful, but you need to do so in a much more strategic way. For example, you should only spend money on placing an advertisement in the neighborhoods that you are servicing.
Alternatively, you could guest post or advertise in the local magazines that your potential clients would frequently read.
Tip#21: Filter Leads
When you first started the real estate career, you would be excited whenever there is someone contacts you to inquire about real estate. But as time goes by, you would know many of them are not qualified clients.
Rather than finding out after you already wasted your time and effort, you should have a procedure to pre-filter the prospects. For example, suppose you are working with potential home buyers. If they need to obtain a mortgage to finance the deal, then they should have a mortgage pre-approval before you work with them.
If a client wants you to sell a property, then you need to find out whether there is anyone else involved in this decision. You don’t want to work on a house for weeks and later on, the client says that his spouse does not want to move.
Tip#22: Segment Clients
I agree that regardless of how much commission you could generate from a particular deal, once you decide to take on someone as a client, you should do your very best in working with them.
However, you should still segment your clients accordingly. According to the Pareto principle, 80% of your business revenue would be coming from 20% of top-tier clients. Obviously, you should focus more time and energy in nurturing the relationship with your top-tier clients.
You could categorize them based on the size of the business they are bringing in, the frequency of referral, or even your fulfillment in working with them. Depending on these top clients’ preference, you could treat them more often for lunch and invite them to client events.
Keep in mind that even when someone is not in your top-tier group of clients, you should still try to nurture the relationship every once in a while. This could be done through e-newsletters or phone calls.
Tip#23: Have a Strong Online Presence
Nowadays, you could rest assured that all your clients will look you up online before they even contact you. On your website, you should include:
- Description of your expertise
- Your Biography
- Blog section where you share insights and updates about real estate
- Current client listing
- Clients testimonials
- Contact form
Rather than just including photos of the property, some creative agents would upload a walk-through house video which gives a more interactive experience to the potential buyers.
Some real estate brokerages already have this made for their agents. If your office does not have this available for you, you could also DIY in creating one.
We are using Bluehost for our hosting and domain, and the Socrates WordPress theme. It took us less than 30 minutes to have everything set up.
Tip#24: Discipline Work Time
Unlike a salaried employee, you won’t have a supervisor standing behind your back all the time. You have the flexibility to decide when to work and how much effort to put into the business.
Some real estate agents would slack off and end up being unproductive for most of the days. On the other hand, some salespeople would work endlessly because there isn’t an official office hour. Both extremes would be harmful to your business. If you want to great longevity in the real estate business, then you must find the right balance.
Tip#25: Upgrade Your Knowledge
Just because you already obtained the real estate license, doesn’t mean your learning should stop here. You need to constantly keep up with the current real estate market and compliance rules in order to properly conduct business. On every license renewal, you are required to obtain certain hours of continuing education credits.
Fulfilling the CE requirement is just the bare minimum, to further enhance your expertise, you should consider pursuing a designation in an area that you would like to specialize in.
You could find out more about the real estate online school and designation on our resource page.
Tip#26: Find a Suitable Real Estate Brokerage to Work With
Everyone has a different definition of what is the best brokerage. It really comes down to your needs.
For example, how much administrative and marketing support will you need? Do you need your brokerage to take care of all the online marketing for you? (i.e., website, blogging, social media content). Will you use their office space in meeting clients?
Or you prefer them to provide you with a higher commission split, and then you’ll outsource all of those works.
If your goal is to become a high-producing sales agent, then you should join a brokerage with high sales volume and learn from their top salespeople. When you go to our real estate licensing page and choose the state you are located in, we included some real estate brokerages with the highest sales volume.
Tip#28: Be Rocky Balboa
“…It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…”
This is one of my all-time favorite quotes from the movie Rocky Balboa.
As a real estate agent, you would inevitably encounter many challenges and disappointment. Although you could minimize the chance with proper preparation, you cannot completely eliminate it.
Therefore, you need to feed your mind regularly with positive energy to keep up your game. There are several respectable influencers which I have been following. They are Tony Robbin, Marie Forleo, Simon Sinek, and Terri Savelle Foy. Their Youtube Channels could provide you with great insights on how to stay motivated in running your business.
Tip#29: Provide Helpful Advice, not Just another Random Agent
The only way you could distinguish yourself from other competitors is by providing helpful insights to your clients. If you don’t do that, you’ll be viewed as “just another agent” who is processing the transaction.
For example, what is the proper way to stage a property? How can your clients prepare their house for an appraisal? When buying a home, what big tickets items should they pay close attention?
The more you could become helpful to your clients, the greater respect you’ll earn from them.
Tip#30: Plan for the Long-Term
How do you see yourself in five years from now? Will you want to continue being in the frontline servicing clients? Do you want to become a real estate broker and build up a team?
The answer varies among different people. Some people like to grow their business big and make it scalable. While some find running a real estate office is too complicated and prefer just handling their clients.
A plane cannot reach its designation unless it has a pre-planned one. No matter which path you choose, try to have an end goal in mind.
This is a relatively lengthy article, but there are still many strategies that could help you in becoming a successful real estate agent. For instance, dress for success, listening to business podcasts while driving, etc.
Although tactics could change over time, the fundamental principle to success will always require your dedication, integrity and hard work. Keep in mind that the best tip is not given by others. Only you could find out the best way to run the real estate business from your day to day experience.
One final piece of advice I have for you is don’t blindly follow other people’s definition of success. Everyone’s source of fulfillment from the business could be different. Keep growing, keep learning, and always put your client’s interest as the main priority, then you’ll be fine.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. For full and exact details, please contact your real estate broker/ the regulatory commission in your state/ or the associated company and organization.
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