3 Tips to Survive Your First Year in Real Estate

Like many people, I didn’t study real estate in college or have aspirations to become an agent right out of high school. I actually became involved in real estate through my previous boyfriend. We moved to Austin, Texas in 2004 so that he could begin work in the booming tech field. I came to work in the growing production industry while pursuing a writing career.

My ex quickly landed a job working at the Keller Williams Realty headquarters. The job put him in close proximity to the industry and many agents. Since production work ebbs and flows, my ex suggested I look into getting a real estate license and do that part time. The idea made a lot of sense, and we had recently bought a home together so I figured if nothing else I could learn a lot about buying and selling strategies for myself.

I really wish AceableAgent's pre-licensing real estate courses had been around at that time. I was able to do some courses online, but for the most part I had to attend classes at the Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR) headquarters. Fortunately, after a lot of studying, I passed my real estate license exam on the first try.

I was ready to be a real estate agent! Or so I thought.

The Call That Started It All

Once I got my license I chose Keller Williams as my broker for obvious reasons. One thing I really liked about the agency was that it put heavy emphasis on education. Each market center offered different courses every week and encouraged new agents to take part. I took them up on that offer, focusing first on marketing and writing contracts.

I also signed up to work the market center phone lines. At our KW office, agents could man the market center line in hopes that a buyer or seller would call the office directly looking for a realtor or more information on a property. You could sign up for hour-long blocks, which is great resource for new agents that are starting out.

The KW management team was very realistic with us, though. It was understood that calls rarely came through, and when they did it rarely led to an in-person meeting. So, a few weeks into having my shiny new real estate license I settled into my first phone shift with a few things to help me pass the time. My pragmatic mind had already decided that the chances of my actually putting my real estate skills to the test that day were relatively low.

Imagine my surprise when about half way into the shift I got a call. It was a woman wanting information on a townhome. She had a college-aged daughter, and instead of renting, the woman wanted to purchase a home her daughter could live in and then convert into a rental property. I quickly pulled up the MLS listing and provided her with the information she requested. Then, out of pure conditioning from months of training, I asked her if she’d like to take a look at the home. No kidding, I had a moment where everything went blank after she answered: “Yes, do you have time today?”

Long story short, I met the caller at the property about an hour later. As we toured the property she was almost dead silent and gave little impression of what she was thinking. After a quick look, she matter of factly stated she wanted to put in an offer. I was a bit flabbergasted because my newfound client had such an amazing poker face. Hopefully, she didn’t notice the expression of shock on mine.

Now the real panic set in.

Negotiation Intimidation

No one ever tells you how nerve wracking the first sale is going to be. To be honest, I was not expecting to have a client fall in my lap that day. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the first time I worked the phones I would get a call from a buyer that was ready to pull the trigger.

There I sat with a standard contract in front of me on the desk. Whoever thought a piece of paper could be so terrifying? I had practiced filling out the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) resale residential contract countless times before, but now it was for real. This wasn’t practice, it was a potentially binding legal agreement for a $100,000+ property. It didn’t help that my client was antsy to get something submitted ASAP.

Luckily, I knew I could turn to others at my market center for guidance. My new client agreed to meet me at the market center to get the paperwork drawn up and submitted. I high tailed it there so I’d have time to bounce a few things off my team lead (manager of the market center). I can’t tell you how appreciative I was to have a seasoned veteran walking me through that first contract and explaining how to negotiate a win-win contract that made both parties happy.

To my amazement, the seller accepted the offer that afternoon. I went from a complete newb with no clients to an accepted contract within a day. It’s far from the norm, but a perfect example of why real estate agents have to be prepared for anything.

3 Pieces of Advice for New Real Estate Agents

My experiences from the first month of real estate alone revealed a number of things that are hard to learn before you get a real estate license. The top three pieces of advice that I share with new agents are:

Find a Niche

Finding your niche is very important, which is a whole topic on its own. Having a niche helps you market yourself and build a reputation that sets you apart. For example, I knew an agent at my market center who built a niche around helping veterans and military families. He even gave them a slight discount on his commission. He himself had served in the military so it gave him an immediate connection with clients in his niche.

Find a Mentor or Mentors

I was lucky to be at a great KW market center that offered a lot of classes and promoted the idea of agents helping each other out. That meant most seasoned agents were very generous in helping us newbs along. Anytime I had a question, I knew there were several people I could go to for a quick answer. Find yourself a mentor(s) that can provide guidance, encouragement and accountability.

Know Your Area

When I got into real estate 12 years ago, people were beginning to realize they could market and find homes on their own online. It really cramped the style of realtors since it diminished part of the value of our services. But the need for real estate professionals was, and still is, there.

These days, buyers and sellers come to real estate agents for their area expertise. Sure, buyers and sellers can do some of the legwork on their own. But they still don’t have the time, experience and access to data that makes a person an area expert that understands fair market value, trends and how to negotiate a win-win contract.

The more you know, the easier it is to get through your first year as a real estate agent.

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