You’ve selected a highly rewarding, super lucrative, and totally fun career in the oh-so-cool field of… real estate.
If you’re brand new to this world, you probably have a ton of ideas about how things are gonna go for you. I mean, in no time at all, you’ll be driving your brand new Aston Martin to go pick up your big ol’ crystal Agent Of The Year award, right?
Then you’ll cruise back to your own palatial estate and roll around on a bed of money while laughing at all the folks who have to work a full 40 hour week. 9 to 5? Ha. Real estate agents only work on their OWN schedule AND they practically make bank around the clock.
Er, sorry. Not so much.
There’s a lot for you to learn, young grasshopper. That’s ok, even seasoned pros fall prey to these misconceptions sometimes. That’s why we made this post to tell you the honest truth about…
What No One Tells You About Working In Real Estate
Here we go…
1. Yes, the highs are amazingly high!
OK, this part is obvious AND true. There are so many benefits to this career it’s not even funny. You DO get to make your own schedule, and you CAN make loads of moolah. Also, you get to meet all sorts of great people, and you can wind up being the most popular person on the block — everyone knows your name because you banketed the neighborhood with those fridge magnets, right? Well, kinda. Staying top-of-mind isn’t always that easy, but more on that in a minute.
For now, just know that being a real estate agent can truly be incredible.
(Here comes the drop.)
2. The lows can be incredibly low.
When you’re just getting your feet wet and no one wants to even take your call…
Or when you’ve run out of listings and there’s no new business on the horizon…
Or when the fear sets in and you start thinking maybe this isn’t for you, and that that maybe you should just go be a barista at Starbucks…
It truly feels crummy.
Even worse, some agents add to their misery by not getting hip to one of the most undeniable truths about this biz, which is:
Your job is NOT just selling houses, it’s also selling yourself. Over and over again. If you miss that crucial element, you’ll be down in the doldrums faster than you can say Cinnamon Dolce Latte.
3. It can get lonely.
When you’re sitting all alone at an open house for hours, schlepping cups of joe at Starbucks sounds like a lot of fun! Not to mention, you’d also get to josh around with chummy co-workers.
Yep, quiet open houses can make you feel like you’re the last person on Earth. There’s also the hours alone driving around town, the silent hours up late scouring new listings, and the time spent twiddling your thumbs and just sitting there waiting for your appointment to show up.
In a nutshell, you’ll be alone a LOT, and there’s not a lot you can do about it, because no matter how friendly you are…
4. This business is cutthroat.
There’s no business out there more dog-eat-dog than sales, and real estate might just be at the top of the list. Many agents think this is a zero sum game and that any help they give you is an edge they lose.
Is that true? Well, to a certain degree, sure. There are only so many homes to go around, right? So on some level it makes sense that no one wants to tell you about their favorite resource for signage, or the name of the best inspector in town, or their secret for getting endless referrals.
On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are helpful people out there; you just have to find them. Sure, they might not be in your office, but they’re out there, I promise. If you give a little (like telling a fellow agent about your brilliant new idea for closing gifts), chances are good that you’ll get a little, too.
(Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a warm, supportive community of people who would answer your questions and cheer on your growth? Like some sort of tightly-knit inner circle of supportive peers? Hmmm… if only such a thing existed… 😉 More on that later, though…)
5. No long lunches… more like long hours.
One thing I hear from a lot of people who dip in and then back OUT of real estate is, “I got my license because I wanted to have more free time…”
Yeah, you make your own schedule, but if you don’t get real serious about 1) Time Management and 2) Boundaries, you’re more likely to find yourself chowing down a Lean Cuisine than sitting down to lunch with your BFFs.
Over time, you will get better at working your schedule, but there’ll still be some days that your only break is jamming a granola bar into your mouth while blasting Ed Sheeran on the radio while speeding to your next appointment. It’s just the way it goes.
6. You’ll have to get used to juggling
Multitasking is your new way of life, and if you thought you were good at it before jumping into the wide, wide world of real estate, get ready to become a Master Of Multitasking now.
Not only will you have multiple transactions to take care of (hopefully!), you’ll also have to remember the small nuances of each family and their wishes so you can find the perfect home for them.
Instead of your day planner saying, “2:00 meeting at title co.”, it’ll be more like…
OH, and that’s just Tuesday morning. (Aaaaaannnnd that’s not even counting your personal life. Oh my gosh, did you forget to send money with little Billy for the book fair today?!)
Yeah, multitasking is your new way of life, and anyone or anything that can help lighten the load even a bit is suddenly worth its weight in gold. If you ever find a great new time-saving resource, hold onto it for dear life!
7. There’s a lot to manage, and you’ll feel responsible for ALL of it.
Along with all the day to day steps of buying and selling, you’ll also be in charge of the general project management. Depending upon the size of your office or team, you might have an office manager, an assistant, or a transaction coordinator helping things run smoothly. But at the end of the day, if Mrs. O’Toole’s house full of 14 cats, 2 chinchillas, and a family of ferrets doesn’t sell, who’s she going to be upset with? (HINT – not your office manager!)
Yes, sometimes this will feel BAD — like when a transaction falls through — but when it all goes right? You’re the one who gets the glory. Bask in these moments every time you get the chance. You earned ‘em!
8. People will ask you the same questions again and again.
By now, people get the basic gist of what being a real estate agent is about. They might have bought or sold a home or two before. They’ve watched agents on reality shows like House Hunters and Property Virgins. They’ve tuned in and laughed at their trials and tribulations on shows like Modern Family and The Santa Clarita Diet (ok, that one’s less about real estate and more about an ancient curse of the undead, but whatever.)
And even though they KNOW how this works, and they GET that they could Google the answer to their question, and they’re pretty CLUED IN that it’s rude to call and ask a professional a basic question at 9:30pm… When it comes to buying or selling their own home? They’re gonna do it anyway.
- They will ask you to see a house, even if they’re pre-approved for $250,000 and this one is $329,000.
- They will ask why you’re not listing their house at whatever the Zestimate says it “should” be.
- They will ask if your listing is a “rent to own.”
- They will ask these questions — sometimes if they already know the answer! — again.
- And again.
- And again.
Want to make your life easier? Go ahead and mentally prepare a few scripts so you can answer these FAQs off the cuff.
9. We’re not all driving Maseratis…
According to salary.com, the average real estate agent in the US earns a little more than $40K. That’s not chicken scratch, but it’s not going to get you that fancy sports car just yet. (Just for perspective, you could get a job as a manager at McDonald’s and make more than that…)
SO MANY PEOPLE think real estate agents earn a ton of commission for just shuffling a few papers, but the truth is there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes and that your commission check doesn’t all go straight to you. Sure, you can work your way to being top dog (hellooooo, six figures!) but that’s gonna take time and effort.
So when someone says, “Oh, you’re a real estate agent? You must be rolling in the dough…”, you can let them know you don’t do it for the money. You do it for the LOVE.
10. Sometimes you feel like you have to do it ALL…
You’re the one who’s name and face is on this business. Even if you’re working for one of the bigs, no hot air balloon logo is going to come along and take the heat for you if something goes sideways, and prospects aren’t just going to pop up out of the woodwork just because you got some new business cards printed.
You have to build a business for yourSELF.
Of course, the flip side of that is you GET to build a business for yourself, and you get to do things YOUR way (within the confines of federal, state, and local law, obviously). This goes for every facet of your business — from the way you deal with clients to the kind of posts you put out on social media… it’s ALL YOU, baby! And that’s a good thing.
11. (S)he with the most bus stop billboards doesn’t always win.
People think that putting their face and logo out there — anywhere and everywhere! — is the best way to stay top-of-mind. That might have been true back in 1988, but nowadays, everyone knows a dozen agents. So why would they remember Rick from the bus stop when they can hire that cool, knowledgeable friend from college who posts on Facebook every day?
The point is: The battle you’re fighting is not the one you think.
Instead of using the ol’ “I’ve got a new headshot, time for shotgun-blast marketing!” approach, you’ve got to be smart and intentional with how you spend your marketing time and dollars.
Ask yourself: Where do your prospects hang out online? And what can you do to get their attention (in a non-slimy, non-boring-and-mundane way)? When you’ve got the answers to those questions, you can build a brand and business of your own that people will flock to — no bus stop billboard necessary.
And just so you know…
12. It’s TOTALLY worth it.
Finally, the biggest thing you need to know about a career in real estate is it’s totally WORTH IT. When you hit your stride and you’ve got your marketing and systems in place, work will seem like a well-oiled machine — and a lucrative one at that.
Beyond the money and flexibility, though, you also get to play a huge part in your clients’ lives. Think about it, they’re entrusting you to be their guide on one of the biggest decisions they will ever make! It’s one of the best feelings imaginable.
You’re more than just an agent, you’re your clients’ trusted advisor. You help them find one of the most important elements of their entire lives — their home. And the home you help them select today, is where 20 years from now they could potentially host their grandchildren for Thanksgiving dinner. You’re helping them find a place to visit with future generations.
How cool is that?!