Five Steps to Acing Your First Year in the Real Estate Business


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The old chestnut is that most real estate agents don’t make it through their first year in the business. To be sure, it’s tough to start a new career, and being a real estate agent is no exception. 

But with some hustle and some good advice, you can succeed in year one and beyond. We asked some superstar agents for their best advice for newbies. Here’s what they told us.

5 Steps to Acing Your First Year in Real Estate

1. Save Enough Money to Survive the First Few Months

Broker Gill Chowdury advises starting off with enough savings to cover your living expenses, at least for the first few months. It can take time to get your new career rolling, and you don’t want to have to give up low-earning learning experiences early on because you need the cash.

Bill Kowalczuk, a broker in New York, agrees. “Not having to worry about paying the bills helps free your mind to absorb as much information as possible.” You want to spend your first year in real estate learning from mentors, taking risks, and finding opportunities in unexpected places.

If you have to focus on paying your rent, it’s going to be harder to learn the lessons that will pay off down the road.

2. Reach Out to Your Network to Get Those Leads

“The first thing to do after getting your real estate license is to tell EVERYBODY that you got your real estate license,” advises Warburg agent Gannon Forrester. “You never know where your first or most recent client will come from. People want to work with someone they trust.”

The quickest way to start making money is to start bringing in leads. And leads come from people you know, at least at first. Everybody has a network, and now is the time to tap into yours. 

Reach out to family, friends, neighbors, former colleagues, third cousins who followed you on Facebook, people you went to high school with, LinkedIn connections — anybody who might have something for you to sell. 

And “reaching out” doesn’t mean doing some kind of high-pressure sales technique. In fact, that will probably backfire and make people less likely to want to connect with you.

Instead, the idea is just to get the word out that you’re taking clients to people who would want to hire you anyway. If you feel uncomfortable, think of it as spreading the good word about your new job. 

3. Find a Good Mentor

“Some real estate agents think they can learn the business in a classroom and then simply use data and apply classroom knowledge to their network and somehow be successful. The opposite is true,” says real estate agent Steven Gotlieb. While a great education is part of the puzzle, “This is a job you learn in the field, and data does not equal experiential knowledge.”

Finding an experienced mentor is key to learning the field quickly. It’s also a great way to meet experienced agents and expand your network. “Try to team up with an experienced broker,” advises Kowalczuk. “Take less commission in exchange for learning everything you can about the business.”

This is part of why it’s important to start with a financial cushion. That way, you can find a mentor who will help you fill in your skill gaps and pass on the kind of knowledge and market-specific information that only comes with experience.

“Don't go it alone,” agrees Matt Hernandez, Aceable’s Real Estate Subject Matter Expert. “Lean on your broker, and learn everything you can. Try to absorb all the knowledge and skills you can from those around you”

After all, your broker is already taking a cut of all of your sales. May as well ensure you’re getting a fair deal! 

4. Learn Everything You Can; Say Yes to Everything

Make your first year as an agent your year of yes. The more you see, the more you do, the more people you talk to, the more you will learn and eventually succeed. “Go to every open house possible,” says Kowalczuk. “Seeing is knowing.”

The thing is, you have a lot to learn. You need to learn the particulars of your market. You need to learn as much as you can about the housing stock and neighborhoods of your area. You need to learn how the pros do marketing, how they do contracts, how they do open houses, how they do paperwork, how they do lead generation.

“Always volunteer to help with open houses and other projects. This will enable you to learn the ins and outs of the business and get all your questions answered,” advises broker Judy Kloner. 

Saying yes every time someone is looking for an assistant, even if the actual project doesn’t sound very juicy, gives you a chance to observe and learn. You never know where the unexpected gem of knowledge or unforeseen opportunity will find you. The knowledgebase you build in your first year will pay dividends for years to come.

5. Treat People Right

It’s crucial that you cultivate a reputation as someone trustworthy and competent among your colleagues, among clients, and among the people you see day-to-day in your job.

“I was taught early that I would cross paths with the same agents year after year, property after property, deal after deal,” says Gotlieb. “The agent on the other side of the deal and I have to work together to find a meeting of the minds – we need to be a team and not adversaries.”

Getting a reputation among agents as someone who is hard to work with can really hurt your career and limit your opportunities going forward. 

Similarly, it’s critical to treat every client the same, whether they’re looking for an affordable apartment rental or buying a mansion, explains agent Tania Isacoff Friedland. Not only is it your duty as an agent and the morally correct way to treat people, you never know who someone knows or what they’ll be looking for in a few years. In a business where word of mouth is an essential part of lead generation, you need your word of mouth to be excellent.

Finally, it’s a smart idea to be extra nice to property managers, supers, doorpeople, and the other people working in the spaces you are. Forrester suggests bringing their preferred coffee drink or treat when you’re doing an open house in their building. Not only will those connections help you if you need a favor on the property, they can be the inside track to referrals when they know someone is looking to sell.

Want to learn more about life as a real estate agent? Check out our career center.