Operating your own real estate brokerage is a lifelong dream for some, while others only start deciding that this path is the key to their future after they’ve already been working as an agent for some time. However you’ve arrived at this point, you know that you want to solidify your career in real estate: You’re in it for the long haul.
That’s an amazing (and, let’s be real, terrifying) place. The road to success is littered with the evidence of agents and, further along the way, brokers who gave up their dream. To avoid becoming one of the many casualties, it pays to plan ahead, which means working on the habits today that are going to get you into the broker hall of fame tomorrow.
Can you manage independent contractors? Do you know how to differentiate yourself from the standard offerings in your area? How can you improve yourself in the ways that will make the biggest difference once you start building your own brokerage? These are the habits you’ll want to start establishing immediately.
1. Learn everything (that means everything) about your market
This is standard advice for any agent, but to establish a successful brokerage one day, you’ll have to dig deeper than you may have imagined possible.
A real estate market comprises a spectrum of home types and availability, from brand-new condos to high-end homes to entry-level single-family dwellings to rental units. Good agents might specialize in one or two of those areas; good brokers will have a clear understanding of the entire spectrum.
And it doesn’t stop there, of course. The best brokers also know which developers built which homes (and their reputations), what’s happening in the urban planning department, which companies are merging or hiring or going out of business—all of it has a direct or indirect impact on local housing and a broker’s ability to make money in the market.
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2. Find your highest-value tasks and make them central
For most agents, prospecting for new leads is one of the most critical things they can do. Others might excel at working their existing sphere of influence and cultivating those relationships as their primary source of income.
Even though you don’t want to be an agent forever—and even though you might plan on eschewing sales altogether once you reach the level of broker-owner—if you can get your sales system as dialed-in as possible, as early as possible, it’s going to free up more time for you to work on everything else.
What are the things you have to do daily or weekly to bring more leads into your pipeline, or to nurture the ones already there? Are you making them a priority and getting them done early, or waiting until the very last minute of the day or day of the month to finish those tasks? Starting on them sooner might just provide that time for learning and development that you always thought was out of reach!
3. Give your day some structure
Carving out time for a morning and evening routine, setting strict working hours, time-blocking—all of those things might seem counterintuitive, or even detrimental, when you’re deep in the real estate hustle and trying to close as many transactions as humanly possible. However, time management skills are some of the most critical ones you’ll need as a broker, and they’re also among the most difficult to learn … especially in a world and an industry that contain so many distractions.
You’ve already considered your highest-value tasks, so you know what things you need to do every day to keep your business ticking over as an agent. Think about the other tasks you need to complete daily or weekly in order to maintain or improve your financial, mental, physical, and emotional health, then start considering the best way to fold them into your day.
Some agents swear by checklists or blocking off certain hours or days for specific tasks; others have a daily routine that they follow like clockwork. The specifics of your structure are less important than the existence of the structure itself. As long as you’re building something that you can integrate long-term into your life, you’re on the right track.
4. Invest in your brain
Continuing education is part and parcel of most real estate agents’ working days, of course—but as a broker-owner, it’s not just something to tick off a list so that you can renew your association membership. Everything you learn about real estate today could end up with some relevance tomorrow, even if it’s simply “here’s how things have changed since I started working in this industry.”
If you don’t have a library card yet, obtain one, and start reading everything you can about real estate, of course … but also about business success, training and managing people, marketing, differentiating yourself from the competition, the history of public housing, whatever you can get your hands on.
When you’re attending continuing education classes, ask the instructor for additional resources to learn more, or for suggestions for other classes or deeper dives that you could take. Ask your own broker for recommendations for how you can improve what you already know about real estate and become as knowledgeable as they are. If you’re working with a good one, they should be delighted to share what they’ve learned with you
5. Invest in your business
You’ve no doubt seen (or heard of) agents whose first priority is taking a vacation to the next big hot spot, or to buy the latest version of their favorite car, or whatever the case might be. And although you don’t want to deprive yourself of everything wonderful and enjoyable in life … ask yourself if spending the money on that designer garment or cool toy today will bring more fulfillment to your life than reaching your goal of becoming a broker-owner one day.
Successful artists and athletes will tell you that they had to make sacrifices to make their dreams come true, like saying “no” to nights out with friends so they can buckle down and practice or create instead. A similar concept applies to your goal to become a broker, in terms of both your time and your money.
If you’ve never taken the time to track your time and financial expenses, try it for a month and then ask yourself if your biggest deposits are going where you need them to go for long-term success. Fewer evenings out having drinks with friends and more evenings practicing your listing presentation skills with a like-minded colleague might be a worthwhile tradeoff in the long run.
6. Practice public speaking
Speaking of listing presentations: How comfortable do you feel making one? They’re a form of public speaking, and if you’re especially good at standing up in front of strangers and selling them on an idea—whether that’s a marketing plan for their house, or you as their new supervising broker—then you’ll do very well indeed as a broker. But if the thought of any kind of public speaking makes you break out in hives (and you know your listing presentation can also use some work), then do what leagues of salespeople have done before you and spend some time practicing your skills.
You might join a group such as Toastmasters to try to formalize your public speaking training, but that’s not always necessary; you can get equally good results with role-playing. Ask some of your colleagues if they’d mind practicing some listing presentation or open house scenarios, with scripts that you know you’re likely to encounter based on your previous experience. To level up, ask them to help you role-play presenting and answering questions at educational opportunities, such as that first-time homebuyer seminar that you put together and plan to present at the library.
7. Track and work your sphere of influence
A sphere of influence is a beautiful thing! Even agents who lean heavily into portals and other methods of generating brand-new leads have to acknowledge the power of repeat and referral business, and as an aspiring future broker, your sphere of influence will be something you return to again and again, not just for clients but also for problem-solving purposes.
Can you recommend a fellow parent at the elementary school who can give some real insight into how much individual attention is given to kids with learning disabilities? Do you know any lawyers who deal with estate planning? You don’t want to be the person who kind-of-sort-of remembers that they should know someone; you want to be the person who has that information ready at the drop of a hat (or at least the push of a button).
If spending a little bit of time polishing and updating your CRM (or whatever you’re using to track your sphere) isn’t already part of your high-value activities, add it in. Familiarize yourself with the features that help you track when you last spoke with someone, and start making a point to reach out regularly to those you’ve heard from least recently, whether it’s a text message, a Facebook comment, or whatever works best for you.
8. Excel at explaining yourself
Sellers and buyers want to know what’s going on during the transaction, and real estate agents have to learn how to educate them. These are humans who might not know very much about real estate and are nonetheless preparing to stake thousands of dollars (at least!) on the outcomes. Giving them all the information they need to make the best decision, and explaining what that information means (or should mean), is a core skill that agents should already have.
A broker’s responsibility is even bigger. They’re teaching the teachers, coaching the coaches, guiding the guides—helping ensure that agents understand everything they need to know about real estate so that they can be a confident and essential resource for the community. Agents might think they already know everything there is to know about the topic, or they might be in a hurry and not interested in a long-winded explanation. As a broker, you’ll need to have the ability to educate them above and beyond what they do for their clients.
9. Be curious about new tools
Technology is revolutionizing the world on a daily basis, and real estate is no exception. There might be some brokers running a business today who don’t like or use new technology … and they’re probably pretty close to retirement age, and they’re not being replaced by any kind of Luddite new guard.
Not every new thing is going to last forever or even amount to more than a flash in the pan, but ignoring what’s new just because it’s new is not a good attitude for any business-owner. In real estate, where the finance and marketing intersection mean that you have to pay attention to the landscape, it can be downright devastating.
You don’t need to jump on every new thing immediately, but keep your mind open to the possibility—indeed, the likelihood—that something you never heard of yesterday will be the only thing your agents are talking about today, and a vital part of your business tomorrow.
10. Be diligent with proven tools
That said, one proven path to failure is to start ignoring the things that you know are currently working in favor of something new and shiny that’s not yet an established success. Just because a highly successful agent tells you that some QR-code-driven app download thing is the wave of the future, this does not mean you should get rid of your website tomorrow in favor of the new thing! In fact, just the opposite.
You should become familiar with more than one lead generation and marketing strategy, ideally by using several, which should supplement each other. One of your biggest assets that you can provide new agents is your knowledge and understanding of what really works, and the best way to cultivate that is to spend time getting to know your tried-and-true tools.
We don’t know yet what’s going to happen with Tik-Tok and real estate, but we do know that creating a landing page for your listing on your website can be leveraged in multiple places to capture a buyer’s email address. See what Placester can offer brokers and their agents!
11. Take advantage of free tech training
Some brokers might not know the first thing about the different tools they provide their agents or how those tools actually work, especially if those brokers have been outside of a sales role for years. You don’t necessarily have to become the resident in-house expert on all of the different tech offerings that a brokerage can provide; however, it also doesn’t hurt to browse through the webinar and how-to article catalog to see what you might be able to learn in your own time.
Why is this important? You’ll learn shortcuts and efficiencies that can help you do your job better today, which will free up more time for planning your future. The less time you spend working on transactions, and the more transactions you do, the closer you’ll be to establishing your foundation as a broker-owner. Even if you don’t learn anything about a tool or vendor that will prove useful later on, you’ll likely find at least one or two tips that will make you more efficient today.\
Technology is making tedious tasks easier every day, to the point where you don’t need to think about paying bills as long as there’s money in your bank account and you took the time to set up autopay once. When you know everything there is to know (or as much as you can) about the tools you’re using, then you can also figure out ways to automate your workflows and ensure a consistent, streamlined experience from your buyers’ and sellers’ perspective.
This skill also translates to humans! The best leaders realize that their time is not, in fact, best spent doing everything themselves; instead of micromanaging, they determine which tasks could be done more effectively and to a higher degree of quality by someone else, and then outsource those tasks accordingly. Maybe it’s creating a page on your website; maybe it’s taking listing photos; maybe it’s creating an email campaign for a new segment of buyers you just realized you could be serving. Make a habit of regularly reviewing your own tasks and asking yourself whether an automated or delegated solution might serve you better—at least twice a year, if not every quarter.
13. Expand your understanding of the transaction
As a real estate agent, of course it’s your job to know what happens during a home sale transaction—the inspection, the appraisal, and so on. But what exactly is mortgage underwriting, why does it take so long, and is it different for different loan types? What is the title company actually doing when it’s conducting the title review?
Beyond the appraisal and inspection, there’s a huge world of parts and pieces that have to all come together in order for someone to buy a house that another person is selling. Credit scores, bridge loans, down payment matching, homeowners insurance, land surveying, and more are all part of the deal. Your clients are going to have questions about all of it; later on, your agents might have their own questions!
It might not technically be your job as an agent to understand the nuanced differences between FHA and USDA loans, or even as a broker. That said, the more you know about the entire transaction, the more solutions you can bring to the table when a problem arises, even if you’re simply pointing people in the best direction instead of guiding them yourself.
14. Debrief to analyze what you could have done better after tough deals
Self-criticism isn’t always fun, but it’s essential for growth; you’ve probably heard stories about elite athletes watching videotapes of themselves so they can analyze their errors and learn how to do better next time. By taking a page from their book and arranging debriefs for your deals, you can also cultivate that elite mentality—and, ideally, stop bad sales habits before they really get a chance to form.
Newer agents might want to do this for every deal they work on, at least at first; as you learn and grow, it should only become necessary to debrief for the gnarliest engagements where you really weren’t sure you did the best you could, or the deals that completely fall apart.
Create a general timeline of what happened during the transaction, and then pay close attention to any conflicts or breakdowns that happened during negotiations or that prevented you from getting to the closing table. Ask yourself what variables contributed to the situation, and be clear about what you were (or were not) responsible for, what other parties did, and what happened as a result. Then ask yourself what you might have done to get a different outcome.
Try to come up with three or four alternative steps that you could have taken, without judging or blaming yourself; next time when you’re in a similar situation, hopefully you’ll see more (and better) options. Doing this with yourself today will help you coach agents to top performance as a broker-owner tomorrow.
15. Increase your comfort with networking
Not everybody was born with the extreme extrovert gene—not even real estate agents. But here’s a secret that most of the best agents have already learned: You can teach yourself to become more comfortable with networking, and the more you practice and make it a habit, the easier it becomes.
Give yourself an easy task of finding one stranger per day to strike up a conversation and see how it goes. It might be a barista at your coffee shop, someone you see semi-regularly on public transportation, a somewhat familiar face at the pickup for your kids at school.
The goal of this conversation should not necessarily be to reveal yourself as a real estate agent and ask if they need any help buying or selling a house; that’s not what networking is, at its heart. Instead, the goal is to get to know this person a bit, learn their name, share yours, and establish enough of a connection so that when you see them again and greet them by name, they’ll at least remember that they should know yours, too.
Some of these connections might end up becoming clients or even agents at your future brokerage, but many will simply be good ways to exercise your soon-to-be-mighty networking muscles, and that’s perfectly wonderful.
16. Familiarize yourself with the nuts and bolts of your trade
We’re talking about houses, of course! The housing stock in your market is more than just a commodity to be bought and sold; it’s where people spend their lives. Learning anything you can about architecture, construction, renovations, appliances, and everything that goes into a house is only going to help you later as a broker, even if it’s not something that most agents concern themselves with (unless they’re carving out a niche for themselves).
A good way to start? See what historical resources exist for your area and pay them a visit. What types of homes were built first, and where? What materials were they made from, and how many (if any) are still standing? What came next? How old are the homes in different developments, what architectural styles do they encompass, and how have those developments aged?
Tracing the historical influences in the homes in your area is going to teach you a ton about not just the housing stock (and everything you might want to know there), but also about the types of people who have moved in and out of the area. It’s all going to be useful eventually when you open the doors to your own brokerage!
17. Coach and guide where you can
Real estate brokers don’t just work with buyers and sellers on transactions, coaching them to get their desired outcome—they also guide agents themselves, transaction coordinators, marketing staff, you name it. And even though you might know everything there is to know about buying and selling homes in your area, you might not know the best way to train and counsel people, period.
If you’ve never worked in a management role before, then it would be wise to start teaching yourself how to manage people before you ever have to. Find non-real-estate-related opportunities to work in groups and supervise other people at either a small or large scale—team sports, volunteer work, community theater, serving on a board of directors, or even getting involved with your own HOA can all be good starts. Challenge yourself to step outside of your management comfort zone and take on new (to you) roles and responsibilities.
If you want to know how to recruit and retain happy agents, watch 11 episodes of Empowering Agent Live. Take the best tips from our guests. Enjoy!
18. Make time for self-care
Real estate is an industry where the “go, go, go” mentality is lauded, long hours are considered normal, work-life balance is often a joke … and agents tend to burn out quickly, especially if they can’t get a handle on their own stress. Just as managing your time is important, ensuring that you are taking care of your body, mind, and spirit will ensure that you’re still here next year, or five to ten years from now.
You’ll never reach the level of a broker-owner if you have to quit your career in real estate entirely because you weren’t able to take care of yourself. Be realistic about your capacity and try to follow general health best practices: Get as much sleep as is humanly possible, try to eat reasonably well, move your body more than occasionally, and take time to cultivate the friendships and non-business relationships in your life.
You don’t want to put all that on the backburner for your career, only to realize that you no longer understand the reasons why you wanted to reach that goal in the first place! Whatever “self-care” means for you, make it a foundational part of your life.
November 10, 2021
(Last updated on
December 6, 2023
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