How To Become A [Successful] Real Estate Agent
Before we jump into the nuance of becoming an agent, let me point out that, the information in this is geared specifically to licensure in the state of Georgia (licensing requirements vary from state to state). However, many of the basic principles and strategies for succeeding in this business can be used by new (and veteran) agents/brokers nationwide. If you’ve never sold homes before and need a blueprint for success, you’ve come to the right place! At this point, you probably have many of the same questions I had before I started selling homes.
For example, you might be wondering: Exactly how do I get a real estate license? Which pre-license courses and post-license training is required? Can I take my real estate classes online? What are the pros and cons of being a real estate agent? What are the steps to becoming a successful REALTOR®? Are all real estate agents millionaires? Is there a difference between agents and brokers? Is my license good in multiple states (reciprocity)?
In this comprehensive blog post, I hope to answer all of your questions, and more! To help navigate all the information in this article, I’ve broken it down into eight basic steps/sections:
- Research & Evaluation
- Pre-License Classes, Testing & Activating Your License
- Post-License Training
- Marketing, Tools & Online Presence (The Basics)
- Lead/Client Follow Up Systems
- Become A Local Real Estate Expert
- Generate Lots Of Leads
- Take Your Business To The Next Level
Research & Evaluation
Running Your Own Business
One very important thing you’ve got to understand about being a real estate salesperson is that, you’re basically running your own business. This means you’ll need to treat your venture into selling real estate as a business; from day one. Unless you’re a salaried agent for a large team or a non-traditional brokerage (such as Redfin), you’ll likely be “employed” by a brokerage as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you set your own hours, cover your own expenses, and pay your own taxes, among other things.
There’s a reason so many businesses fail (real estate agents included). Most people don’t know how to properly structure and operate a profitable business from the start. Even if they did, they’re just not cut out for it in the long run. Before jumping into real estate, you should thoroughly research the costs, compensation models, competition, and brokerages in your area. You should also evaluate your current situation, your finances, and whether a career as an agent/broker fits your lifestyle needs.
A career in real estate can be quite lucrative and personally satisfying if everything is done the right way. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2018 was over $50K per year, and the projected growth rate for the profession is faster than average (+7%). With a strong housing market, there’s plenty of opportunity available, so now’s a great time to enter the field and start building a business.
Research State Licensing Requirements
Before doing anything else, you should research all the requirements in your state for becoming a licensed real estate agent. The last thing you want to do is waste a ton of time learning, researching and eagerly preparing for a career that you are unable to embark on. Generally speaking, the barrier to entry is low for this profession; but there are some things that could prevent someone from getting a license. Typically, individuals must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and be able to pass a background check.
Here in Georgia, the Georgia Real Estate Commission (GREC) administers the license law that regulates brokers and agents. They also oversee community association managers and property appraisers. As a regulatory body, the GREC’s role is to protect the public interest with rules & disciplinary powers designed to provide equal opportunity, promote free markets, and to deny incompetent and/or unscrupulous persons the right to practice.
Visit the Georgia Real Estate Commission’s website (or your state Commission's site) to get up-to-date requirements for obtaining, transferring, or renewing a license. Review the application process and download all the forms you’ll need to complete and submit for approval. While you’re there, check out some of the other great resources the GREC offers, including: recent changes to the license law, monthly newsletters, how-to articles, forms & applications, a list of approved real estate schools, and more!
Getting into real estate will cost you money right out of the gate, so go ahead and get prepared for all the startup costs. Not only should you have these costs covered, but you should also have at least three to six months living expenses saved up. Remember, even if you put a buyer under contract on day one, you probably wouldn’t close the deal for another 30-45 days… and that’s realistically the best-case scenario. Can you go 45 days without a paycheck? Longer?
As I mentioned, you’re going to have some immediate expenses when you get started, here are a few you’ll likely encounter before you ever show your first home: pre-license training class, books/study guides, state exam fee, license activation fee, REALTOR® dues, MLS dues, broker fees, purchase lockboxes, headshots, business cards and basic marketing materials. This could easily add up to $1,000 or more, and this is just the bare minimum to get you going.
In addition, you’ll start getting multiple calls every day from every real estate related vendor out there, all pitching you the latest and greatest tools to help you grow your business. From CRM’s to online advertising, you can easily spend a number of hours per week fending off calls from telemarketing companies and deleting promotional emails & texts. In this business, it’s easy to go broke with all the bright shiny tools, so choose wisely which products and services you decide to use.
Transportation & Business Tools
Another thing you’ll need to consider is whether or not you’ve got (or can get) some of the core tools of the trade. These days, pretty much every good agent needs a reliable vehicle; especially here in Atlanta where public transportation is limited. Most successful agents put tons of miles on their vehicles each year driving from appointment to appointment. Some brokerages even require a certain level of insurance if you plan to be driving clients around in your vehicle.
You’ll also need a smart phone and/or access to a computer. More and more, real estate transactions are going digital, so you’ll need access to the internet one way or another. Some brokerages have offices for their agents with everything you’d need to run a successful business (meeting rooms, computers, copiers/fax machines, phones, scanners, etc.), so it just depends on which brokerage you hang your license with and whether or not you plan to work from home, or from your company’s office.
Learn About The Business
Before you jump in, I think it’s a great idea to learn what the business is all about. Get to know the good and the bad, the pros and the cons; the reality of life as a REALTOR®. It’s definitely not your typical 9-5. Working flexible hours can be great, but it can also bring about challenges. Be prepared to work nights and weekends... Because that’s when deals get made!
In my opinion, chatting with someone who has been in the business for a while and is open to having a conversation with you can be extremely helpful. Keep in mind, some brokerages heavily compensate their agents for recruiting new agents (think multi-level marketing), so always be cognizant of the person’s true intentions if they agree to meet with you.
If you can, find a successful agent (or two) and offer to take them for coffee or lunch. Talk to them about the upside and the downside of the business. What do they like about being an agent? What do they dislike? Ask about their experience thus far and what steps they took to have a successful career. However, don’t expect them to come out and tell you all their secrets. After all, you could be their future competition!
You can also pick up some excellent tips online, for free, on YouTube. There are countless agents, coaches and brokers with blogs and Vlogs; each offering their ideas on what it takes to be successful. You can find information on just about every aspect of the business, if you search hard enough. Again, be mindful of the person’s intentions, and don’t be afraid to be a little skeptical when it sounds too good to be true... Because it probably is.
Determine If You Want To Be An Individual Agent, Or Join A Team
One of the quickest ways to start making money as a real estate salesperson is to join a successful team. A properly structured team with all the right systems in place will put you on the fast track to closing deals and receiving a steady income. Joining a team can also help you learn the business from experienced agents doing lots of deals.
However, not all teams will bring on brand new agents. There’s a considerable learning curve when you’re new, and many teams don’t want to take on the burden of training a new agent and holding their hand throughout the first couple transactions. Also, as a member of a team, your cut of the commission will be a fraction of what an individual agent receives.
As an individual agent, you get a “bigger piece of the pie”, but you’ll have to generate all your own clients and work your own deals from start to finish. This could require substantial time and money to get things going, which could be detrimental if you don’t have the resources. Going the individual route is great if you’re self-motivated, good at sales and have plenty of self-discipline. It will allow you to brand yourself and build your own book of business.
At the end of the day, the real question is, would you rather have more deals right out the gate (with smaller checks), or start from scratch and get paid more per deal (when you’re able to close them)? Agents can be successful with either option, but there’s typically more upside as an individual agent (in the long run).
Timeline, Goals & Plan B
Without a realistic timeline, it’s entirely possible you can run out of savings before your business produces sufficient income to pay all your bills and business expenses. As a new agent in the business, you might know people who want you to help them buy or sell a home, depending on the size of your current network. This is what we call your “sphere of influence”. Your “sphere” will likely produce your first couple deals, but you’ll soon need to expand your reach outside your network to bring in additional business.
To stay on course and track your progress, you’ll need to set goals for yourself. If you’ve done your research, you should be able to come up with a realistic set of goals for at least your first year in the business. Write your goals down and revisit them often. These goals should serve as a means of accountability for you on a daily, weekly, and annual basis. If you don’t hit your goals, who will hold you accountable, and what financial repercussions might there be? How will you reward yourself when you do achieve your goals?
Sadly, most people aren't successful when getting into real estate… In fact, most new agents will be out of the business in less than five years. How can this be? You might have done the math and thought to yourself - surely I can sell a couple homes per month! If you just close two $300,000 deals per month (earning a 6% commission), you’ll be making over $430K per year! With that kind of income, all real estate agents must be millionaires, right? Not even close.
According to the 2018 Member Profile put out by the National Association of REALTORS®, the median gross income of all REALTORS® in 2017 was $39,800. Not bad, even though the median business expense was $4,580. However, REALTORS® with two years or less experience had a median gross income of only $8,330. That’s right, 60% of members with less than three years experience made under $10,000. Therefore, you should strongly consider having a Plan B in place, just in case your career doesn’t take off as planned.
Create A Business Plan
Since you’re essentially starting your own business (as I mentioned earlier), you should go ahead and put together a detailed business plan. This document will outline your approach for success, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and clearly spell out how you will successfully run your business. This document will also define your goals (# of real estate transactions and/or sales volume per year) and create a path to success.
Fortunately, you won’t need to start from scratch when creating your business plan. You can find free examples online to help get you started. A few of my favorites are from: coach Tom Ferry, the National Association of REALTORS®, and Placester. Keep in mind, you may need to modify these documents/guides to reflect your individual strategy, techniques and goals. This unique plan should be based on how you plan to succeed running your business.
Once created, this should be your guide and something you refer back to on a frequent basis. You should stick to the plan you, but don’t be afraid to update it or make changes when you find things that work or don’t work. This document should evolve over time, but should always help you stay focused on your tasks and goals while keeping you accountable throughout the process.
Pre-License Classes, Testing & Activating Your License
Find An Accredited Pre-license Training School
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and become a real estate agent, it’s time for school. To save you some time, I’ve put together a list of the best real estate schools in Metro Atlanta. There are plenty of others out there, as well, including online options. Most people are more successful with the in-class training versus the online, but it really comes down to your learning style.
The cost of the course and materials varies by school, so you should shop around. Some schools even offer scholarships and tuition credit to those who qualify, so make sure to ask. If you’ve already determined which brokerage you want to join once licensed, you may want to enroll in their pre-license training academy (if they offer it).
In your pre-license training, you’ll be learning about the ins and outs of practicing real estate sales in Georgia. As you’re completing the coursework, you’ll notice a pretty hefty focus on real estate law. This is designed to help keep you out of legal trouble… that’s if you follow the rules! You’ll need to complete 75 hours of salesperson training and pass the final exam at the end of the course, then you’re eligible to take your state test.
To help you pass the state exam, many academies offer an optional exam prep course (usually for an additional fee). This “cram course” is highly recommended if you intend to ace the exam on the first go-round. Sharpen your test-taking skills and brush up on the key ideas covered throughout pre-license training. Avoid over-studying the materials that may not be relevant, and double down on the concepts you’ll most likely need to know.
Interview & Test-Drive Brokerages
In my opinion, finding the right brokerage can greatly impact one’s odds of success in this business. Without the right training, tools and support, it’s very easy to exit the real estate business without ever selling a single property. Starting out with the wrong company could also lead to an expensive and time consuming re-brand down the road. So spend the time and pick the right company on the first go-round.
You’ll want to dig deeper than just monthly costs and splits (although very important). Here are a few important questions you should consider: What is the company’s culture like? What training is offered and is there an additional cost? Do new agents get support from the broker? Is there a physical office, or is everything done virtually? What tools are provided by the brokerage? Does the company provide leads, or is the agent responsible for generating new clients?
Keep in mind, when shopping brokerages, you’re usually the one interviewing them, not the other way around. Unless it’s a very small or boutique firm, the brokerage is typically looking to hire as many licensed agents as they can. So do your research and choose wisely.
When I got into real estate back in 2011, I was fortunate enough to have a trusted friend recommend I join the local Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brokerage. I’ve been with them my entire career and don’t have any plans to leave. If you’re interested in learning more about the company, I’m happy to share my opinion (both positive and negative) of being a BHGRE Metro Brokers agent.
Contact A Career Manager To Learn More:
Pass The State Test & Activate Your License
Hopefully all the studying pays off and you’re prepared to take your state licensing examination. You can find information on pricing, testing locations and requirements by reviewing the AMP Real Estate Candidate Handbook. AMP has multiple testing centers throughout Georgia where you can take the real estate licensing exam (open Monday through Friday).
Once you’ve passed the state examination, you’ll have 90 days to pay your state license fee and apply for an active or inactive license. After 90 days, the license fee doubles. After 12 months, you’ll be required to retake the state test, so get it done ASAP.
After you submit your criminal history report and activate your license, contact the broker you plan to affiliate with to hang your license. You’ll just need to provide them with your wall certificate and pocket card to make it official. Then you can call yourself a licensed real estate agent!
Join Your Local REALTORS® Association
Becoming a real estate agent doesn’t mean you have to be a REALTOR®, so this step could be considered optional. However, some brokerages (such as BHGRE Metro Brokers) require you join a local board. Membership with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) will run you about $400-$500 a year, so it’s a sizable investment for a new agent who’s yet to make a dime in the business.
While being able to market yourself as a REALTOR® is a plus, these days, most buyers and sellers don’t seem to care whether or not their agent is a member. Personally, I’ve never had a potential client ask me if I was REALTOR® when interviewing me for my services, but I still think membership is important. NAR holds its members to a strict code of ethics and is a major advocate for property ownership. This benefits members, the industry as a whole, and the general public.
One of the most valuable and noticeable benefits is access to forms and contracts produced by the Georgia Association of REALTORS®, known as GAR forms. This comprehensive set of forms is updated annually by GAR and provides members with legal documents designed to clearly spell out the terms of real estate transactions. Access to these forms is crucial for anyone who is serious about their real estate career. Note: Nonmembers can pay a yearly access fee to utilize GAR forms.
Join A Local MLS & Get Lockbox Access
If you’re going to work as a full-time real estate agent, you’ll need access to all the listings. The multiple listing service (MLS) is an agent’s go to resource for property listings and real estate information. Here in Metro Atlanta, we have two MLS’s that agents primarily use. The first is Georgia Multiple Listing Service (GAMLS), and the second is First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS). Not all agents are members of both listing services, so you may find a property on one MLS and not the other. If you’re outside the Atlanta area, you’ll need to find the MLS provider that serves your area.
There are some similarities and differences between GAMLS and FMLS, but for many agents, which one they primarily use often boils down to individual preference and cost. Both listing services offer agents streamlined access to essential property tax information, market trends and real estate tools. Whether you plan to work with buyers and/or sellers, you’ll want to have access to MLS data.
In addition to viewing property listings online, you’ll need access to the lockboxes that hold the house keys. In Greater Atlanta, we use SUPRA boxes. These are the blue boxes you often see hanging from doorknobs of active listings. These lockboxes only allow access to registered users (can be agents, appraisers, home inspectors, etc.), providing the listing agent with a visitor’s log and the ability to restrict access to the home. Some areas of the country use other electronic lockbox providers, while others may still use the old fashioned combination locks.
Start Prospecting & Working With Clients
As soon as you’re legally able to take on clients, get started! Many new agents make the mistake of waiting until they’ve got all their marketing in place and have completed all their post-license training to begin finding clients to work with. Don’t waste valuable time! Besides, most of what you need to know about selling real estate is learned as you go… so jump right in!
As a brand new agent, you should spend most of your time finding clients… unless you’ve already got a handful ready to go. The first place you should look is your sphere of influence (people you already know). This can be friends, relatives, past colleagues, or anyone else who knows you and trusts you (hopefully). Focus on these contacts first, as they are the most likely to do business with you. Go through your phone, email and social media accounts to create a contact list, then call, email and text each one of them to let them know you’re selling real estate!
Prospecting your sphere can be done with minimal cost and will likely result in your first couple clients. As a new agent, you may not have the budget to start advertising or buying leads, so effectively targeting your sphere is an essential step to getting your real estate career off the ground. This will also allow you to get your feet wet selling homes while working with someone you know.
Finish Your Training Requirements
Once you get your license, the training isn’t over. In fact, you’ll be required to take plenty of continuing education (CE) courses over the span of your real estate career.
Within your first year, you’ll need to complete an additional 25 hours of instruction to satisfy the Georgia Real Estate Commission’s requirements for new licensees. These courses typically focus more on the fundamentals and basic practices of selling/managing real estate. If your focus is residential sales, there will also be a mortgage component included in the training to help you identify and report potential cases of fraud during the real estate transaction.
It’s a good idea to get your post-license training done as soon as you can. However, don’t let it get in the way of working with clients, if at all possible. The first 12 months of your career will fly by, especially once you start getting busy working with clients. You don’t want to reach the end of your first year and not have your education requirements completed.
There are some things in real estate you may not want to learn on the fly. Fortunately, many brokerages, training institutes and local REALTORS® Associations offer training courses that cover real-world topics and situations. This is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with all aspects of selling real estate and/or property management. Learning from others’ mistakes can help you avoid sticky situations and keep you from losing deals due to your lack of knowledge.
At Better Homes And Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers, we have tons of free training opportunities (for BHGRE agents) that cover a wide array of residential and commercial real estate topics. Specifically for new agents, we offer full courses that touch on all aspects of home selling, from writing offers to scheduling closing. Popular classes and workshop topics include: effectively using the MLS, commercial leasing, marketing & business planning, building a CMA, open house best practices, building a team, understanding mortgages, and much more!
Certifications & Designations
Once you’ve gotten all the basics out of the way, you may want to distinguish yourself with a certification or designation. When comparing agents, consumers may lean toward the individual who has specialized training… if it applies to that person’s needs. This can be especially helpful if you plan to market your services to a specific niche group of buyers and/or sellers.
Depending on how you plan to market yourself, and which niche you decide to focus on (if any), you may want to consider one of the following certifications/designations: Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR®), Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI), and Seller Representative Specialist (SRS).
For the full list, visit: https://www.nar.realtor/education/designations-and-certifications
Office Meetings, Trade Shows & Conferences
Sometimes you need to get out of the classroom to learn the ins and outs of the industry. You can gain a lot of knowledge from conversations with like minded people who work in the industry. Office meetings (if your company holds them) are a great way to expand your knowledge base and benefit from the experience of others. Many agents enjoy the camaraderie and social aspect regular meeting provide, and you’ll surely gain some motivation & insight from listening to the successes and failures of other agents.
Trade shows and conferences are especially beneficial because you can often connect with other agents outside of your local market. These agents are more likely to share their strategies for success with you since you’re not their competition. This will also help you build up your referral network for when you have buyers or sellers relocating in or out of your area. In addition, you can establish connections with industry vendors and service providers that will come in handy one day. Sooner or later, a client will ask you for a recommendation… and you’ll know someone who can help!
Marketing, Tools & Online Presence (The Basics)
A smart phone is probably the most important tool you’ll need to run your business. If you don’t have one already, now is the time to upgrade. These days, selling real estate requires working on the go, and the latest smart phones (Android or iOS) can help you do just that. Every day you’ll be checking emails, sending texts, searching homes, e-signing documents, navigating to showings, posting to social media, accessing lockboxes and more… all from your phone.
I prefer apple, but Android devices are very popular, as well. Most of the real estate apps and tools you’ll need are available on both platforms, so it really comes down to personal preference. One thing to keep in mind is your data usage. You may need to increase your data limits if your current data cap is low. Constantly working on the go can chew through data, especially if you tether your laptop like I do (use your phone’s data to access the internet on your laptop).
An online presence is essential for anyone looking to get into real estate these days. At a minimum, your website will be your “online business card”, providing visitors with basic information about your services and ways to contact you. Depending on your budget, you can build a website that offers IDX property search, home valuations, blog pages, video content, and even generates buyer/seller leads.
You can spend as little as $15 per year on a website (custom domain name with free website), or more than $1,000 per month (high end website). It really depends on what you’re looking for and how much time/money you want to invest into your online presence. If you just want the basics, go with one of the cheaper options, or use a company provided website. Some MLS’s even provide member agents with a free or low cost website offering home search and limited customization options.
If you’re looking for a full-featured website that can generate leads, you’ll probably need to invest in a more advanced system. There are countless vendors out there, but some of the top real estate website providers include: Real Estate Webmasters, Commissions Inc, Real Geeks, Placester, BoomTown, Kunversion, Firepoint, Point2Agent and EasyAgentPro. We’ve used Real Estate Webmasters in the past, but currently use Sierra Interactive. Before choosing a website provider, you’ll want to research which option fits your needs before making the investment.
Complete Your Online Profiles
Once you become an agent, you’ll want to create/claim your profile on all the major real estate portals (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, etc.). This will enable you to be found on those sites and will also match you to your listings (once you start listing properties). Complete all the fields in your profile with your current contact information, headshot, links to your website, full agent bio and anything else they allow you to enter.
Buyers and sellers will certainly research you before deciding to work with you, and your online profiles will surely be one of the places they go. One of the most important things you can do is get reviews. As soon as you start closing deals, make sure to have all your clients give you a review so you can build up your credibility.
Create An ActiveRain Account
While it’s not a place where buyers actively search homes for sale, ActiveRain is an excellent resource for real estate brokers. With more than 300,000 users, the site is one of the largest and most active social networks designed for industry professionals. Explore the Q&A forums and read through industry blogs to network and learn from other agents. One of the best features is the blogging platform, which is built specifically for agents.
If your agent website doesn’t offer a blog, take advantage of the blogging feature on ActiveRain to publish your thoughts and show off your real estate knowledge. Blogging is a great way to build your online presence and get found. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it, your blog can start generating major traffic. More traffic means more exposure, and more exposure can result in more calls from potential buyers and sellers who need your expertise.
Social Media Profiles
You’re probably already using social media, but you may want to consider creating additional accounts specifically for your real estate business. Keep in mind, some platforms require a business page in order to run social media ads (we’ll touch on that later), but you may want to separate your business and personal accounts anyway. The big five you’ll want to focus on are: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Create your pages and include all your relevant business information, then try sharing a few local/industry related articles, photos or videos to get started.
Pro Tip: You can use platforms such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or SproutSocial to schedule and deploy all your social media posts to multiple platforms… automatically. These tools will help you free up tons of time by automating your publishing efforts while providing you with valuable insights on follower engagement and analytics. Automatic posting will ensure you publish updates on a regular basis to maintain your audience’s attention. You’ll be top of mind with your followers, and visitors to your social media accounts will see that you’re keeping up with the latest real estate happenings.
If done right, email marketing can be an extremely powerful tool for cultivating and maintaining relationships with your client database. Regular updates with relevant content (think market updates, buyer/seller info, etc.), will keep you top of mind. The more creative you get with your emails, the better. The best part… It’s scalable. Whether you have 10 emails in your database, or 10,000; email allows you to instantly reach their inbox with your message.
There is no shortage of email marketing systems out there, so you’ll want to do some research before committing to one. If you’re just starting out in the business, you may be able to get by using your business email platform, depending on the number of contacts you have. Once your database reaches a couple hundred contacts, you’ll probably need to find an email marketing system designed for sending mass messages.
Although much of today’s marketing and advertising efforts have gone digital, don’t count out the traditional business card. Fortunately, you can get quality business cards printed for a minimal cost. There are dozens of online print companies with pre-made templates designed specifically for the real estate industry. You can easily customize a template to include your headshot, company logo, tagline, branding and color scheme. Keep your business cards on you at all times, as you never know when you’ll run into a potential client.
Name Tag & Yard Signs
You may think it’s cheesy, but you’d be surprised how often wearing a name tag creates a conversation about real estate. When they noticed you’re an agent, people may ask you, how’s the market? This is a great opportunity to share your insights with them and see if they or anybody they know needs the assistance of an amazing agent (YOU). The more you wear your name badge, the more opportunities you’ll get to connect with potential clients.
While you may not need to invest in a bunch of yard signs right away, but you’ll want to make sure they’re available when the time comes. If you join a larger brokerage, you’ll probably be able to order standard yard signs (customizable with your info) from the company’s marketing department. If you’re with a smaller brokerage, you may need to design your own signs and have them created. This could take some time (design, proofing, printing, shipping, etc.). Something you should consider in advance, as you don’t want to get a listing and have no sign to put in the yard.
Buyer & Seller Collateral
When you meet face to face with a potential buyer or seller, it’s a good idea to leave them with some information about you and your company. We use branded folders with a copy of our business card and professionally designed marketing collateral. Specifically for our buyers, the folders include: relocation resources, trusted lender contacts, home warranty options, in-house closing attorney and insurance providers, home search tools, and our buyer letter. Our seller’s folder includes examples of our property marketing tools and our seller letter.
You may also want to purchase some branded marketing items you can give to friends, family and past clients (include with closing gifts). Some of our more successful giveaway items have included: Koozies, pens, keychains, bottle openers and coffee mugs. There are now thousands of products you can customize, so get creative with your branding… You never know where your next client will find you!
Lead/Client Follow Up Systems
Customer Relationship Management System
Creating a contact database, known as a customer relationship management (CRM) system, is one of the most important things you can do as a new agent. This can be as simple as inputting all your contacts into Google Sheets (free online cloud-based spreadsheets) where you can easily see who you’ve contacted and when. For most successful agents, their database is the lifeblood of their business, especially when used effectively. Once your database grows to a couple hundred contacts, you’ll probably want to use a more advanced follow-up system.
Fortunately, there are tons of options when it comes to real estate CRMs that can help you manage your contact outreach and track your success. Some brokerages provide a CRM to their agents, and many MLSs have them built into their system, as well. Even today’s low cost CRMs can be very effective, so you don’t need to spend a fortune for all the latest bells & whistles. Therefore, you should research and evaluate different options before going all in on one. You may not need or use all the tools available with more expensive systems, so it’s a good idea to balance cost with need, especially when starting out as a new agent.
Action Plans / Drip Emails
These days, home buyer/seller leads are a dime a dozen; the true fortune is in the follow up! If you’re not effectively connecting with potential clients from your database, your business is going to suffer. Creating a follow up system will help keep your leads from falling through the cracks. Many CRMs have standard plans built in, but you may want to customize your own. Your system may include a series of phone calls, text messages, letters, emails, voicemails and any other forms of contact you can make. Whatever it takes to connect with your leads!
Most action plans will also utilize automated drip emails. These are especially helpful when you’ve got potential buyers and/or sellers who are 6+ months out from making a move. These people may not need daily or weekly contact from you, but the occasional email to let them know you’re still thinking about them works great! You can even use drip emails to keep in contact with past clients, preferred vendors and other agents in your network.
One of the many challenges an agent encounters when trying to make a meaningful connection with their contacts, is all the “noise”. People are constantly bombarded with advertisements, junk emails, Robo calls and spam texts. In a world where everyone is being sold to literally thousands of times per day, cutting through all that and truly standing out is more difficult than ever. This is where video can really help you stand out.
It’s really all about getting face to face with your contacts. BombBomb is an amazingly simple service we use to send one-off videos straight from a smartphone, in a matter of minutes. Whether you need to reach hundreds of contacts at once, or just one, tools like BombBomb make it super easy. Try it for FREE. There are tons of ways to use video, and the more you personalize your message to the recipient, the more effective it tends to be.
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and automation is definitely the future. What used to take a human assistant hours to do, can now be done by computers almost instantly. Lead routing, data input, social media posting, follow up plans and more can all be automated with the right tools. Time is money, so you don’t want to waste it doing repetitive tasks that can be done more accurately and efficiently by a computer program.
One of our favorite web-based tools for automating our everyday business tasks is Zapier. We’ve integrated Zapier to connect the technology tools we already use, creating workflows that pass information between multiple apps. This allows us to leverage our time and focus more on the important tasks at hand, like selling houses! There are thousands of apps that work with Zapier, so the possibilities are nearly endless. Integrating apps is fairly simple once you get the hang of it, and no programming knowledge is required.
Become A Local Real Estate Expert
Host / Visit Open Houses
Most agents will agree, hosting open houses doesn’t really help sell a property… but it’s great for generating leads! Another benefit of hosting open houses as a new agent is learning about the local market. Researching & visiting comparable properties and talking with open house visitors will help grow your knowledge of the housing market in your service area. If you’re not hosting, try visiting other agents’ open houses and pick their brain about the home and location.
So how do you host an open house if you don’t have any listings? Many brokerages encourage agents to host open houses for other agents. If there’s an experienced agent in your office with tons of listings, they obviously can’t be at all of them on the same day. Offer to hold one open… it just means more exposure for the listing. At the end of the day, you can both benefit from your efforts.
Attend Broker Opens / Caravans
Typically held on weekdays, broker opens, or agent caravans, are another great way to expand your knowledge of the local housing inventory. Let’s face it, taking the time to tour tons of homes and neighborhoods is the only real way to build your first-hand knowledge of your local market. As a new agent, you need to see a wide variety of properties with different styles and price points to grow your understanding of past, present and future home styles, design trends, and building practices. This will also give you a chance to experience the ways other agents market properties and present them to visitors.
Asking questions and having conversations with experienced agents at caravans can help boost your real estate vocabulary and understanding of how this business really works. This is a great time to brush up on your industry jargon (real estate speak) and get to know some of your competition/coworkers. It’s also not a bad way to get free lunch; as many broker opens offer food/appetizers and drinks to attendees. Sometimes you’ll even find agents doing giveaways or raffles… an added bonus!
Check Out New Home Communities
Selling new construction properties may not be a target niche for you, but if you plan on working with buyers, new builds are undoubtedly something you’ll come across. Knowing how the new home building & buying process works (often much different than resales) will set you apart from much of your competition. Selling new construction often involves using custom contracts/exhibits, different financing, and lots of interaction with the seller (builder & builder reps).
Start by familiarizing yourself with some of the largest home builders in your area. These days, big builders often have on-site model homes offering tons of information. Some even have interactive community maps, floor plans and feature selections set up in their model homes or on their website. Visit the property during down times (weekdays) to strike up a chat with the on-site agents… they’re often eager to tell you everything you need to know about the community.
Track Local Market Trends
Once you become an agent, get used to being asked, “So, how’s the market?”. You’ll get it A LOT; trust me. It’s a very good idea to have an informed answer ready to go when someone does pop the question. After all, you want people to know you’re a local expert, right? Since every conversation you have with someone could turn into a sale or referral, you better at least sound like you know what’s going on. People typically want to work with an agent who is “in the know”, so be that agent!
Make sure you’re up-to-date with national, local and hyper-local real estate trends. Thanks to the internet and your local MLS, it’s not difficult to do. Just set up news feeds or bookmark real estate news websites, then dedicate some time once a month to reading articles and reviewing your local sales data from the MLS. You should try to include everything from real estate sales/inventory statistics, mortgage rates & loan originations, general economic data (including jobs and financial markets), home builder sentiment and anything else relevant to the housing market.
Community Events & Local News
Part of the value we as real estate brokers bring to both buyers and sellers is our in-depth knowledge of the communities that we serve. Most of the successful agents in each market are deeply involved with local businesses, schools, local events, organizations and civic associations. This provides first hand knowledge of the happenings and issues that affect the community, and ultimately, the housing market in the area. This kind of inside knowledge is invaluable for clients, and is not something you’ll often find on the internet.
Volunteering with organizations can also be a great way for an agent to get their name out there while making a positive impact on the community. It can be anything from mentoring a kid in a local school, serving on the board for a neighborhood group, or just helping out with a festival/event. It typically won’t cost anything but one’s time… And giving back just feels good!
Generate Lots Of Leads
Smart agents start prospecting for leads the day they get their license… and they never stop. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, you should have been making contact with your sphere and asking for business as soon as you got into the business. Effectively working your network of friends, family and past business associates should yield a couple deals to get your business off the ground. However, at some point, the well tends to dry up. That’s when you’ll need to start acquiring business from outside your network of contacts. This is what is referred to as, lead generation.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of ways to generate leads. At the end of the day, it’s about doing what works best for you. Some tactics cost money, some cost time, some cost time and money! As a new agent, it’s often about trial and error. Try a bunch of different things and see what sticks. Catering to your strong suits and being creative is often the recipe for the best results. Here are some ideas that should get your wheels turning…
- Advertise in local publications, tv/radio, or billboards
- Advertise online (social media, Google Ads, display ads)
- Attend community events and become a volunteer
- Build a social media following
- Buy a book of business from a retiring agent
- Buy leads from online portals (Zillow, Realtor.com, Homes.com, etc.)
- Cold calling expired listings, for sale by owner and pre-foreclosures
- Create a website and real estate blog
- Door knock neighborhoods (listings)
- Drawings and giveaways
- Farm a neighborhood with postcards and/or newsletters
- Hold open houses (borrow listings from other agents if needed)
- Host first-time buyer seminars
- Host happy hours or events and invite your contacts (have them bring a friend)
- Join a business networking group
- Join an agent referral group or online referral network
- Make videos with real estate / community related content to post on YouTube
- Offer free real estate advice on forums and connect with people
- Partner with a "social media influencer"
- Start a real estate or community themed Podcast
- Use your hobbies to grow your network
- Work with real estate investors
- Wear a name badge wherever you go
Take Your Business To The Next Level
Find A Mentor
Depending on the level of training/guidance you get from your brokerage, you may start your career in real estate flying by the seat of your pants. For most new associates, it’s a trial and error process… learning from your mistakes and gleaning best practices from whoever you can. However, getting mentored by a successful agent can help fast-track the process; speeding up your learning curve by leaps and bounds. The challenge is, finding someone with enough experience, success, spare time and most importantly, the willingness to do it.
Unless you’re related to them, or they have a financial stake in your success, your mentor will probably want something in return for helping you out… And they should. If the relationship is a two-way street, you’ll both benefit from the arrangement; and you’re much more likely to get the help and guidance from them that you truly need at this point in your career. So go ahead and plan to give more than you receive. And don’t worry, even though you’re new, you do have something to offer them.
So you might be wondering, what can you offer a mentor that will be beneficial to them? Well, there are plenty of things a busy agent needs help with that can simultaneously provide you with some valuable experience. Here are a few things you can offer your mentor:
- Show properties to their clients
- Attend appointments with them and take notes
- Host an open house for one of their listings
- Input data and photos for new listings
- Write advertisements and promotional materials
- Review their website for errors and potential improvements
- Compile data for listing appointments (market reports & comparable sales)
- Write offers, exhibits and amendments (for their final review)
- Run errands (install signs, pick up flyers, drop off earnest money, etc.)
Hire A Coach
If you’re able to work it into your budget, hiring a great real estate coach can accelerate your career. Despite being top producers, many of the best agents in the industry employ a coach maintain a high level of success. More than just teaching systems and sales strategies, a coach will keep you accountable and on the right track. As an independent contractor with no real boss, it’s easy to make excuses when goals aren’t met and production falls behind. Not when you have a coach keeping a close eye on your production levels!
Working with the right coach can be the difference between failure and success in this business. Before selecting a coach (or a coaching company), do some research on their coaching style, personality, and the general strategies they employ. Fortunately, most of the top coaches now have YouTube channels, podcasts, and/or websites where they give away valuable information, for free! Obviously, they save all the best concepts for their paid clients, but their online presence can give you a glimpse into their training style, which can help you determine whether or not they’ll be a good fit for you.
Advanced Real Estate & Sales Training Courses/Seminars/Conferences
Whether it’s online, or in-person, there’s no shortage of summits, webinars, seminars and retreats available for agents looking to sharpen their skills. Some of these events focus on specific industry topics, while others offer a wide gambit of real estate information. You can listen to speeches from industry leaders, meet with service providers and vendors, observe Q&A panels, and sit in on small group breakout sessions… there’s countless ways to learn and connect.
These training opportunities can also be excellent for networking, especially when agents from other markets are present (to build your nationwide incoming and outgoing referral network). Also, agents outside your market aren’t your direct competitor, so they’re much more likely to speak freely about the things they’re doing that work. This is the ideal environment to bounce ideas off other agents without worrying that a competitor will “borrow” your strategy.
Join An Agent/Industry Group
There are hundreds of social media groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) that strictly cater to those in the real estate profession. These groups are a treasure trove of information. Seriously. Join one and search just about any topic. Sometimes you’ll find posts with hundreds of responses offering countless suggestions on how to solve an issue or approach a situation.
Since agents in these groups range from young newbies to seasoned veterans, from the east coast to the west coast, rural towns to metropolitan cities, you get multiple points of view. Their discussions can spark ideas and offer encouragement during times of frustration. So, just when you think you're the only one having trouble in this business, you’ll quickly see, you’re not alone. I mean, where else can you connect and learn with literally thousands of other like minded professionals, in real-time, for free?
The downside? It’s easy to get lost in all the conversations going on; and there’s no shortage of bonehead questions, and even more boneheaded responses. As with everything else on the internet, there’s plenty of arguing and bickering back and fourth… it just comes with the territory. However, if you can avoid these distractions and focus on the smart conversations, you’ll undoubtedly pick up on some amazing strategies, tactics and techniques other agents have successfully integrated into their business.
Books To Read
You might be thinking, aren’t books a thing of the past? Well, yeah, kind of. However, there are countless books out there containing great information about sales, real estate, leadership and communication. Many of the basic principles you’ll learn from these books will stand the test of time. There’s no shortage of free advice on the internet, but ask yourself; how credible is it? Many of these books were written by industry experts with decades of experience selling homes or running brokerages/companies. Here are a few of my notable favorites:
- Exactly What to Say For Real Estate Agents - Chris Smith & Jimmy Mackin
- How to Win Friends & Influence People - Dale Carnegie
- Launch: The 8 Week Course - John Moscillo
- Never Lose a Customer Again - Joey Coleman
- Purple Cow: Transform Your Business - Seth Godin
- Sell With Soul - Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
- The 4-Hour Workweek - Tim Ferris
- The Book of Yes - Kevin Ward
- The Conversion Code - Chris Smith
- The Millionaire Real Estate Agent - Gary Keller
YouTube is an amazing tool for learning just about anything. The amount of video content surrounding nearly any topic is actually quite staggering… And it’s no different with real estate and sales training. You can even find excellent tutorials and user reviews for many of the tools and software used in the business. The fact that it’s mostly free, is hard to beat. Over the years I’ve picked up some extremely effective strategies from YouTube that I was able to immediately implement into my business. The key is, subscribe to the right channels and learn from the right people!
To help you get started, here are a few channels to check out:
- Bryan Casella
- Buffini & Company
- Chris Smith
- Grant Cardone
- Joshua Smith
- Kevin Ward
- Lab Coat Agents
- Loida Velasquez
- Real Estate Uncensored
- Real Geeks
- Super Agents Live
- The Wolf of Wallstreet
- Tom Ferry
- Vyral Marketing
So, is there a downside to using YouTube for information? Absolutely. There are at least two big issues you’ll come across.
Issue #1 - All the fake experts. There are so many “gurus” out there who make great videos; and they appear to be legit. It can be very difficult to discern them from actual experts. What they lack experience and true knowledge, they often make up for with charisma. It’s easy to get led down the wrong path by one of these fake gurus. They often regurgitate information they’ve picked up elsewhere, or simply make up stuff that sounds feasible. Some of them will say just about anything to get you to take action. What action? To open your wallet and buy their program! This brings us to the next problem.
Issue #2 - Almost everything comes with a sales pitch. Even if they are legit and offer valuable training, it wouldn’t make sense for them to give it all away on the internet for free. Almost everything you’ll watch contains tidbits of valuable information packaged with a sales pitch. Some are better disguised than others, but just be aware, you’re almost always being sold something when you’re learning “for free”.
Create Your Unique Brand / Value Proposition
If you want to do amazing things in real estate, you’ll need to stand out from the competition. After all, how many agents are there in every city? Way too many! If you plan to be a top producer, you’ll need to set yourself apart from the thousands of other agents offering the same services you do. To your family you might be special, but to home buyers and sellers in your market, you’re just another agent.
The tricky part is coming up with “your thing”. It should probably match your personality and come natural for you. Try to be unique, offer something innovative, stand out, or provide more value to your clients and the community that you serve. Think about that your clients really want, then serve that need while thinking outside the box. When someone thinks real estate, they should think of you!
Build A Network Of Trusted Partners
Part of the value agents bring their clients is not only what they know about buying and selling homes, but who they know. Throughout the buying and selling process, clients will undoubtedly need a referral for a great service provider. Providing them with a trustworthy company who can reliably address their needs at a competitive price, is key. You’ll definitely want to make connections with: lenders, insurance agents, home inspectors, roofers, closing attorneys, plumbers, electricians, general contractors, house cleaners, painters and more.
Another huge benefit of building your referral network is reciprocal business. Referrals can, and should, be a two-way street. Once you’ve established relationships with your trusted partners and begin sending them business, it’s likely you’ll be at the top of their list when someone in their network needs to buy or sell a real estate. It’s truly a win-win situation for everyone involved!
Leverage Your Time: Hire An Assistant / Build A Team
As your business grows and you reach a level of production where you find yourself stretched thinner and thinner, you should look into hiring an assistant. This will allow you to offload certain tasks that may not be the best use of your time. You’ll first need to determine whether your assistant should be licensed or unlicensed, and whether you need someone who is on-site, or if a virtual worker will do. This decision will be highly dependent on your individual needs, as well as the limitations on what tasks unlicensed assistants may perform (vary state by state).
If your business continues to grow to a point where you have too many clients to properly service them all (even with an assistant), you may be ready to build a team. The blueprint for building a team is pretty straight forward and time-tested (see Gary Keller’s book, The Millionaire Agent)… but properly executing the blueprint for success tends to be the toughest part. However, once all the pieces are in place and the team is running like a well-oiled machine, it’s possible you could sell hundreds, if not thousands of homes per year.
Keep in mind, building a team isn’t for everyone. They require effective hiring, detailed systems, continual training and strong leadership from the team lead. Once you’ve reached this level, you’ve probably got all the pieces in place to dominate your local market and take your business to the next level.
My Final Thoughts & Your Suggestions
While many of these strategies for success are time-tested, some of them will undoubtedly go by the wayside. As tools and technology change, we hope to make additions & improvements to this guide accordingly. At the end of the day, this should give you a good starting point to get your career in real estate off the ground.
If you felt something was missing from this how-to article, don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below with your suggestion. Thank you for reading!