Lots of people are attracted to a career in real estate — but is it the right future path for you? The thing about selling real estate is that not anybody can do it, but everybody thinks they can. There are some specific skill sets that the best agents in the business tend to have in common, and if you want to be successful, then you want to either already have or be able to cultivate these skills.
You can listen …
We were all born with two ears, but we don’t all listen — comprehending what we hear and acting on it — equally well. A real estate agent’s core purpose is to help a buyer or seller accomplish an enormous task, and agents do that over and over again, day in and day out.
To make sure their buyers and sellers are happy with the experience, agents need to understand exactly what will make them happy, which means listening carefully to what they’re telling you (and probably also to the subtext).
And you can talk
Communication is really the key here more than talking. Your clients are going through a stressful time in their life — exciting, but stressful — and one way you can make them happy and keep them moving forward is to maintain excellent communication and make sure they always know what they should be doing and what you’re working on, too.
Honesty and integrity
There is a lot of money at stake in a real estate transaction, and if you truly want this to be your long-term career, then you need to behave in a way that ensures you’ll be around long-term. Agents who break the law or who put their own needs ahead of their clients’ might get some short-term gain, but ultimately they won’t be practicing real estate as long as they’d prefer.
The ability to hustle
Real estate is a business with a lot of competition, and if you wait for business to come to you … well, you probably are going to be waiting for quite some time, and then you’ll go out of business. Can you get out there and make some business happen for yourself?
One of the amazing things about being self-employed is that you can work just as hard as you want to, and no more. That’s also one of the worst things about being self-employed. If you don’t have some way to motivate yourself or a sense of drive, you’re going to have a glorious few months doing not very much … until you can’t afford to do that anymore.
Desire to help people
Yes, you can make a lot of money in real estate, and of course, those big commission checks are incredibly satisfying. But this is also an intense, stressful gig. If you’re in it for the money and only the money, you might find that it’s not enough to keep you in the game.
Agents who stay in the business for decades usually are drawing their sense of satisfaction and a job well done from their clients. Buying or selling a house is a huge life accomplishment, and being the person who makes it happen can be hugely rewarding for the right person.
Interest in homes …
Look: If you aren’t at all interested in buildings, architecture, home design, home maintenance, home upgrades, or anything to do with residential real estate, then it’s possible you might be barking up the wrong tree. Agents need to know and understand the housing stock in the areas where they’re working with clients, and if you have no innate interest in those things, learning everything there is to know about it is going to be a pretty tedious slog.
… And an understanding of the market
“How’s the market?” Agents know this is one of the most-asked questions they hear; it’s one you can expect to hear as soon as someone hears you’re a real estate agent. Will you know how to answer it intelligently and in a way that showcases your expertise? Or will you fumble it and encourage your audience to find a better-qualified agent than you appear to be?
If you think that “networking” is a dirty word and you frankly prefer never to do it, then you are probably not the best fit for a real estate job. Nobody’s suggesting that you need to be sleazy or over-the-top with your networking, but you should feel comfortable (or able to feel comfortable) talking to strangers and forming connections with them.
A love for a local community or two
Think about the last time you talked to someone who had a searing passion for something. It felt infectious, didn’t it? Made you want to learn more about it and maybe dig into their passion yourself?
The agents at the top of their games feel that way about the neighborhoods where they sell homes; they could talk to you for hours about what makes those areas the best places to live. Finding your own love for the place where you’re selling homes is only beneficial for your business.
A head for negotiation
When it comes right down to it, a lot of buyers and sellers think they could do most parts of an agent’s job … except, many of them admit, for the negotiating. It’s a dance, a give-and-take, and it involves much more than just a home’s price. The negotiating process is where most agents show their value to buyers and sellers, and it’s where you should shine if you want to be a star.
Attention to detail
There are a ton of moving parts to a real estate transaction, and the agent is at the center of them all. Forget one item and it could delay the deal by days or even weeks — or derail it entirely. Picture having to explain that to a buyer or seller, and you’ll understand pretty quickly why agents have to pay close attention to all the details.
If you had to pick a term to describe what real estate agents do, you could pick a lot worse than “project management.” Buying or selling a house is an enormous project, and agents are the ones making sure everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen. This means you need to have some basic-to-advanced organizational skills or hire someone who does.
Real estate is still very much a paper-based industry, but that’s not going to remain the case forever. Documents, financial verification, and any number of processes are going fully digital, and we can expect that this trend will continue; agents who balk at using technological tools to do their jobs are going to find those jobs increasingly harder.
It’s probably become clear that real estate is a high-stress industry, and part of that is because buyers and sellers themselves tend to be stressed. Sometimes people are happy to be moving, but there are plenty of circumstances when sellers are only leaving because of necessity, or when buyers would prefer not to be making this life change.
Divorce, death in the family, illness — all of those can be reasons to buy or sell a home, and agents who aren’t empathetic and sensitive to the emotional ups and downs of their clients will wind up making one of those clients very angry sooner or later.
A home sale transaction almost never unfolds smoothly; there are snags and bumps and diversions all throughout the experience, and agents who throw up their hands and declare defeat when faced with an obstacle are not agents who wind up staying in the business long-term. Of course, not every problem has a solution, but if you approach every problem as if it’s the end of the road, it will be — for the sale and, pretty soon, for your career.
Real estate agents get used to hearing “no” a lot. (Although, hopefully, it’s phrased as “no, thank you.”) People in sales, in general, have heard the advice to not take no for an answer, and whether or not you believe it’s good advice, it’s definitely indicative of how often salespeople will hear that word.
A good agent is determined to get the listing, get the sale, get the deal done. Determination is the drive and forward motion that takes the solution found with the can-do attitude and pushes it across the finish line.
Entrepreneurs want to build something that’s bigger than themselves and their own worlds. They get really excited at the prospect of creating a legacy that will outlast their own lives. You don’t necessarily have to dream about becoming a magnate of industry, but the best agents have that same kind of push to work hard and create their own destinies.
Lost, perhaps, in all of the stress-management and organizational skills that agents should have is the sense that buying real estate is a big, exciting life event. Maybe it’s not always happy, and agents should understand when to curb their own enthusiasm, but it’s perfectly acceptable — even preferable — for agents to get excited about helping buyers and sellers with this next phase of their lives, and to allow some of that excitement to show here and there.
Most real estate agents are not also CPAs, but the ones who manage to stay in business the longest and make the most money are pretty smart when it comes to making business decisions. They don’t throw good money after bad, they research their options carefully, and they put back enough in savings for their taxes, fees, and expenses, plus a little leftover for a rainy day.