Just finished high school or college and looking for your first job? Considering a career change in your thirties or forties? Becoming a real estate agent is a common choice that many people make each day — and for good reason. A 2013 study by job listing and review website CareerBliss deemed real estate agents the happiest professionals working in the U.S.
Besides the usual factors that make this career desirable, it’s a favorable market for agents these days. “Right now, it is a seller’s market, so the real estate agent’s cost of advertising and marketing is very low and commissions are high,” CareerBliss Co-founder and CEO Heidi Golledge told Forbes shortly after the report’s release.
But the financial benefits of being a real estate agent don’t come quickly. As a beginner real estate agent, you will need to ensure you’re well-off financially. The median real estate agent salary for those with only three to five years of experience was $30,100 in 2013. That means many real estate professionals require a well laid-out savings plan and maybe even second (or third) jobs to support themselves while they’re launching their careers and paying various fees.
To be a successful real estate agent, get a leg up.
Long-time agents who made it past those first tough years on the job know how hard it is to stay financially solvent while transitioning from part-time to full-time agent. Realtor Susan Lewis of LAER Realty Partners, for instance, noted it’s important for beginner real estate agents to see what resources they can get from their brokerage — free marketing assistance can go a long way toward starting your career on the right foot.
“Find out what your company offers for free: free website, free advertising,” Lewis said. “You need to understand that before you start looking at buying any programs that may seem to be attractive.”
Realtor Bill Gassett, who has been closing real estate deals in Massachusetts for nearly three decades, agreed that an early boost can really make the difference. Since Gassett got a young start as a real estate pro, he was lucky to have some help from his parents at the beginning of his career.
“Fortunately for me, I got into the real estate business at a very early age,” said Gassett. “It actually was my first job during college at 19 years old. At the time, I was still getting some financial assistance from my folks, but that quickly changed, as I was successful in my first year in the business. My dad was a builder, which got me started rolling along. I was able to list his homes for him, and it snowballed from there.”
Not every beginner real estate agent will have financial aid coming in from family or friends, meaning they have to build up their bank accounts before diving into their real estate careers — and sometimes that means being highly resourceful. Philip Becker, founder of Becker Properties, indicated he took on as much work as he could during his early years as an agent, including side jobs.
“I worked any opportunity I could get my hands on for experience,” said Becker. “I did some rentals, BPOs, took tough listings, and even worked a side job doing web coding. Luckily, I got involved with the local state and national boards early and continued my education beyond pre-licensure classes, or I would have likely not stayed afloat.”
Veterans’ advice for beginner agents? Save early and often.
Despite the varying circumstances for each of these agents at the start of their real estate careers, they all have the same words of wisdom for up-and-comers looking to become full-time agents: Start putting money away — and a lot of it — as early as you can.
“Always put the money away from each closing to save for your quarterly taxes,” Lewis advised. “Also, be careful about anything you spend and keep track of it for your tax return.”
While saving is an important goal for beginner real estate agents, Gassett added it’s also equally imperative to put some of your earnings back into your business to support your real estate marketing and sales efforts. Without promotion, he noted, agents won’t thrive.
“It is certainly important when you are going to become a Realtor to have some money put away,” Gassett noted. “It is hard to be really successful in this business, though, without spending money. I would advise any agent to set aside a set amount out of every check they receive to put back into the business. This is something that many Realtors fail at doing. For an agent starting out, personal promotion is critical.”
Becker had similar advice, noting that the first 12 months for beginner real estate agents are the most crucial, particularly when it comes to learning more about the industry.
“Reinvest as much of your earnings in the first year back into your business and yourself in the form of education, and do something with your business every day — no matter what,” Becker urged.
Saving money is just one step.
Organizing your finances when becoming a real estate agent is an important step to ensure your career begins well … but it’s only one step. Learning the basics of the real estate business is crucial to success. There are several fundamentals of being a real estate agent you need to know when starting out, including:
- Recognize it’s a business, not a hobby: Treat your role as an agent like a job, since that’s exactly what it is. Don’t assume you can be a successful agent by only devoting some of your time, energy, and money. You need to work hard securing and nurturing leads daily to get clients and close deals.
- Work with both sellers and buyers: In the old days, it was common for agents to solely go after sellers to gain new business. Not anymore. Contact both seller and buyer leads to maximize your lead generation and, ultimately, profits.
- Build relationships with your leads and clients: Your leads aren’t just contacts in your database — they’re real, living, breathing people. Connect with them on a personal basis as much as possible using social media, email, phone, and in-person meetings.
Perhaps you are still wondering what real estate career is right for you? Check out this guide detailing 15 career choices within Real Estate.