Many people I speak with are curious about what it’s like to be a real estate agent. There are a lot of misconceptions about working in this business and right now it seems like everyone wants to get their real estate license. In an effort to give some of these people a realistic picture, I thought it was worth clearing up some of the confusion.
1) You get paid differently. The hardest part of being in real estate for new agents is the financial aspect. It’s challenging because most people are used to salaried or hourly positions. They are accustomed to getting a paycheck every two weeks after putting in a certain amount of work. In real estate, you only get paid when a home sale closes. This is a 100% commission-based career and it will likely be three to six months before you get your first commission check. When you do get that check, you’ll also have to set aside 30% for taxes because you are an “independent contractor” and will have to pay your own quarterly taxes and social security fees.
2) The broker pays for everything. This is false. The broker rarely pays for anything. The agent pays for office space, signs, lockboxes, computer, cell phone, office dues, Kansas City REALTOR® Association and MLS dues, photography costs, insurance, and advertising, just to name a few things. On top of this, you’ll end up splitting your commission with the brokerage at the closing. Too many people think we make big money, but the simple truth is that we also have many costs associated with running our business. Trust me, you have to sell a lot of homes to make money in this business. That’s why most agents go broke and quit the business within a few months.
3) There is so much to learn it can drive you mad. For the first time in your life, you’ll have to think about things like marketing budgets, accounting, branding, and generating sales leads, all while trying to pay the bills and learn the business. Most real estate agents get training regarding how to do the specific work and the laws around it, but they don’t get training on how to run their own business. Aspects such as generating leads, how to follow up with leads, systems of organization are all foreign concepts you have to learn and learn quickly to survive. Most people get into real estate because they think it would be fun to show homes, but that’s actually the easiest part of the business and you’ll spend the least amount of time doing this.
4) Feeling like you need to work all the time. Time off work, what’s that? This is not a nine-to-five job. The most challenging aspect of the real estate industry is the work hours. Working hours for real estate professionals run counter to friends and family working the traditional 9-to-5 workday. People buying and selling their homes have regular day jobs and may only be available during the evening or weekend. This means working while your friends and family are off. It can be depressing needing to show a property while others are enjoying a weekend barbecue. You’ll also be up late at night writing an offer for your buyers or handling other paperwork while your family goes to bed. Get used to it because that’s your life now. There’s no “off switch” when you go home or take a family vacation.
5) You deal with many kinds of personalities. Even if you like being around people, the feeling of constantly having to be “on,” especially when you deal with personalities much different from yours, can be draining. A few years ago I attended a real estate seminar and the keynote speaker began with something I thought was funny. He said, “My daddy told me there are three things people don’t like you messing with. Their money, their family, and their home. In real estate, we get to mess with all three at the same time!” Because of that, most people are on edge when going through a real estate transaction. People get anxious, scared, even mad. As a real estate agent, you’re sometimes dealing with people at their worst, and you have to stay calm. It’s not all roses and rainbows, and there are hundreds of things that can go wrong in a home purchase.
Being a real estate agent is a challenging career for sure, but I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. Seeing the joy on a new homeowner’s face more then makes up for the negative things in this business. I love helping families every single day. I now also get the opportunity to help the other agents on my team experience this as well. My team has the systems in place to help our clients get where they want to be and it’s a joy to be a part of helping them through that process.