"Be your own boss. Make your own schedule. You don't have to sit behind a desk all day. You can make as much money as you want. It's easy!" These are some of the things you may hear about being a real estate agent & to some extent they are true; but I bet that any agent will tell you: it is not that simple & it is not easy, especially if you are doing it on your own.
I started out with no experience (unless you count all the hours watching HGTV & Million Dollar Listing) I took the tests & got my license so technically I was a real estate agent, but I did not know how to do my job. It was actually pretty terrifying.
I don't think I really did anything in my first 3-6 months other than go to meetings and host open houses for other agents. Everyone I talked to told me that was normal, but being the forever over-achiever that I was it felt like I was failing...miserably.
I chased every single lead (probably chased people away) & every time it didn't work out I would get discouraged. I think that the real estate business is a great metaphor for life in general: you chase leads, people, goals, & dreams - then when it doesn't work out you have decide if you want to try again & start back at square one. Definitely try again - if it's worth it & meant to be, it will work out.
I caught my first break around month 5 through a stroke of sheer luck & fantastic parents (MY BEST ADVERTISING COMES FROM THEM!) A couple they were having dinner with happened to have a friend looking for a house. My dad whips out my fancy L&F business cards, hands it to her, & Friday night at 10pm I get a call. It was out of the blue, incredible, & nerve-wracking. We looked at houses that weekend & closed on the home of her dreams at the end of March. It all happened so fast & came from nowhere but she is still one of my favorite clients. Everything seemed to snowball from there: I got another buyer referred to me by another friend, then another, & then long time friends of mine decided they were ready to buy. Then I got a listing! Once I got that momentum I thought I would never slow down.
Then came the hard lessons...the closing was delayed again & again until 3 months had passed (we finally did close & the buyer couldn't be happier!) I lost a buyer due to financial hardships. The sellers are rethinking the sale. The market has slowed down. There are so many things that can go wrong between contract & closing that it is almost overwhelming...But if it's hard for me as an agent, can you imagine how hard it is for my client? Buying or selling a house is a HUGE financial & emotional investment. I love being able to put my clients stress in a box, set it on my desk, work it out for them, & being able to hand them back the box gift wrapped with a set of keys inside. Even though things can get tough, it's worth it if you love what you do & who you do it for.
A year into this business I can confidently say that I still do not know everything (I mean, who really does?) but I can say that I am an expert in what I have experienced & I am still eager to do more. I took all of the lessons I learned (most of them the hard way) & I used them to improve & grow - not only in real estate but also as a person. Here are the top 5 things that I learned over this past year that I hope you can apply to your business as well as your life:
Have a good support system: I want to go ahead & say that I could not have made it through this year without my friends, family, & office. My circle is my best marketing tool; like I said, my best advertising comes from my parents. They both carry around stacks of my business cards in case they get the chance to hand one out. Keep your friends close & make sure they know that you love them. It takes a lot of patience to be friends with a real estate agent; I've had to leave parties to go to the office, I've had to re-schedule plans because a client wants to go look at a house, & it can put a strain on any relationship when you are attached to your phone waiting on that email to come through. Also make sure that the office you settle into has people that you like to be around. I LOVE my broker & office staff, I probably could not do my job without them. The other agents in my office are fantastic & put up with my millions of questions & "hey how do you..."s. You always hear that sales is such a cutthroat business but the people I work with have taken me under their wings & helped me through the start of my career.
Education is key: so after I got my license & felt like I had no idea how to do my job, I took a week long class through Long & Foster that basically told you what the next steps are. Not only did I learn how to do my job but I also learned how to be a good agent - not like "oh she's so good at her job" but "oh I would really like to work with her because I've heard shes nice." It is so important to be nice; we are all stressed out, no need to be rude. Take as many classes as you can because as soon as you think you've got it all figured out something you've never seen before comes along & knocks you down. Don't be afraid to ask for help either; you're new, you're not supposed to know everything.
Balance is also key: DO NOT MAKE YOUR JOB YOUR LIFE. Hang out with your family, go see your friends, plan a date night. Real estate is a 24/7 job but you have to know when to take a break & say "I'll do it tomorrow" (obviously don't do that with the contract that expires at midnight, but you get what I'm saying)
Be good to yourself: "you are your worst critic." I have been hearing that all my life & it never gets old - because it's true. That marketing piece that you thought was such a great idea at the time completely flopped - that doesn't mean you suck at marketing, it just means that didn't work for that particular market. No one came to your open house? It is not your fault (so don't eat those 2 dozen cookies your baked from scratch!) it probably just means the market is slowing down. You have to forgive yourself for things that do not go the way you want them to. Mistakes are proof that you're trying (if you live in my area, you'll see that on the ACAC billboard. Loves that quote!)
Think Positive: (this goes hand in hand with being good to yourself) If you put good out there, you will get good back. Maybe not in the way you expected, but it will happen. Try to put a positive spin on the things that seem to be going wrong. Long term relationship crashed & burned? It made way for a much healthier relationship. Contract fell through on your listing? I bet there's a better deal right around the corner. If you believe in yourself & you believe in your business, then others will start to believe to & good things will come your way.
Please remember that these are my experiences. Other agents my have different stories to tell. Nothing I say in this post is meant to detract from anyone else.
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