Figuring out how to be a successful real estate agent can overwhelming. There’s so much information out there that it can be hard to navigate what works (and what doesn’t work). You’ll find good advice and bad advice. There’s plenty of advice that comes from people who’ve never had a real estate license. When I started in real estate in 2010 I tried plenty of things to try to become a successful real estate agent. Some of them worked, most didn’t. I had to keep on trying new things to see what worked for me and you should do the same. Whether you’re a brand new real estate agent or just trying to build your business you’ll find great tips below so you can learn how to be a successful real estate agent.
To be a successful real estate you’ll need clients. Without clients, there’s no sales and no income. Your first job as a real estate agent is to land clients. This is called lead generation. There are so many ways to generate leads. It’s hard to narrow down, and stick to, the methods that work best for you.
When I first started in real estate it was 2010. The real estate market had just collapsed and was still in decline. I had been working as manager with REI but that had grown stale and I was ready to change careers. I stepped down from management and went back to the sales floor while I started selling houses. It took about 6 months before I sold my first house. My client was a friend who I worked with at REI. I’ve had many ups and downs since that first sale but my business has continued to grow. There are many things that I should have done differently along the way. I just kind of kept trying (despite wanting to quit numerous times). If I was able to learn how to be a successful real estate agent then you certainly can, too.
Finding the Best Clients
The easiest clients to connect with are the people who know you, like you, trust you, and are not already committed to a real estate agent. When I say that they’re not already committed to an agent I mean both by a contract or that they have a sibling or best best friend who’s already in the business. Don’t take offense if your close friend chooses to use their sister to help them buy their house. It happens. There’s plenty of other business you can find. Since the people who know you, like you, and trust you are the easiest clients to connect with most of your focus needs to be on this group. We call this group your Sphere of Influence, or SOI. They’re not only a great resource for business but also for referrals to their friends and family.
People who don’t know you, or weren’t referred to you, are far more difficult to convert into clients. First, they need to find you or you need to find them. Once you’ve connected this group tends to be skeptical since they aren’t familiar with you. Your goal is to bring more of these potential clients into your sphere of influence and to connect with them so they know you, like you, and trust you.
Below are the things that you can do to become a successful real estate agent. Some of these are free and some cost money. My suggestion is to start with the free ones and then reinvest some of your earnings toward those that cost money. Most of these are tips for marketing and growing your business but I’ve also included some general points that are important that will help bring you more referrals and establish your authority as a real estate agent.
How to be a Successful Real Estate Agent
Keep a Database
One of the first pieces of advice that I got when I started in real estate was to write down a list of everyone that I know and call them to tell them that I just got my real estate license. I was told to call anyone and everyone who I’d ever met regardless of where they lived. I’ve lived in a few different states and seemed like pretty stupid advice to me. But, I did write out a list of local people who I knew who knew me, liked me, and probably trusted me. This was the beginning of my database.
You should do this and be sure to include their name, number, email address, and physical address if you have it. Use a simple spreadsheet if that works for you. You just want to be sure that you keep up with these folks and keeping a database is a good way to be sure you check in from time to time. Another option is to use a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management software. I use Insightly and I like it. Your broker likely offers a version too. Most CRM’s promise the world but lack a lot of what you might like. Get used to using an imperfect CRM.
Learn the Real Estate Contracts
This one should go without saying but I’m still going to say it . . . Know the contracts. Your clients will expect you to know the in’s and out’s of the purchase agreement. The better you know the contracts and can explain what your buyers and sellers need to know, the more trust they’ll have in you. If you already have your real estate license you probably know that most states required courses don’t get into much detail on the contracts so it will be up to you to learn them. Teaming up with an experienced agent who can mentor you is a great way to learn about the contracts.
90% of real estate agents quit during their first year. I believe that’s because a lot of new real estate agents think of becoming a real estate agent as if it’s a job. In reality, you’re opening a business and to be successful you need to get the word out about your business. Don’t expect instant results (though there are some things you can do to get nearly instant results listed below). Get through your first year and you’ll have learned a lot of what you need to know to get through your second year.
Build a Referral Based Business
Building a referral based business goes hand in hand with thinking long-term. The more that people get to know you, the more your business will grow. Being a great resource for your clients and solving their problems is a great start to building a referral based business and it’s one of the best ways to be a successful real estate agent. But you’ll find that regardless of how much your clients love you most won’t think to refer business to you. However, if you keep in contact with them and find a few advocates who will continually refer business to you then you’ll be off to a great start.
Create a Listing and Buyer How-to Guide
Most brokers will provide you with a Buyer Presentation and a Listing Presentation. You can use these when you meet with new potential clients to go over how to sell or buy a house and sell them on the benefits of workin with you. My two cents is that these aren’t particularly important. If you’re in someone’s kitchen the chances are that they’re already sold on working with you, especially if it’s someone you know already or has been referred to you. You don’t need to keep selling your services at this point.
What I’ve found extremely helpful is sending potential clients a document that covers the buying and selling process before we meet. Mine are about 5-10 pages but they’re easy to read. I tell them to look these documents over before we meet as it will answer most of their questions. That way when we meet we can discuss their wants and needs in more detail. It makes the meetings go so much better because it gives them the opportunity to talk and me the opportunity to listen.
Host Open Houses
If you’re a new agent and you don’t have any listings then you may be able to host open houses for other agents in your office. Open houses can be a great way to meet potential buyers in person. If they’re coming to an open house they’re probably going to be in the market to buy a home within the next 6 months to a year. They may even be ready to buy now, which is even better. Some agents knock on doors nearby the open house to meet neighbors. It’s not my favorite activity but it may work for you.
Open houses work best on new listings that are well-priced. If a house has been on the market for a while it’s pretty unlikely that an open house will get any traffic. But, you can post a photo of yourself at the open house to your Facebook or Instagram which is a good reminder to your sphere that you’re a real estate agent. Even when there’s no foot traffic you can still make an open house worth your time.
Given the current situation with COVID-19 this one is hard to do. I’ve stopped hosting events altogether but maybe you can find a way where you live. I’ve hosted a few events each year for friends, past clients, and potential clients. It costs some money but it doesn’t have to cost a lot to host an event. You may also be able to partner with a lender to help with the costs. These events have been a great way to reconnect with my sphere and stay top of mind. I’ve hosted pizza parties and wine tastings and had success with both. I don’t even talk about real estate unless people ask. The most important thing is to keep it fun for your guests.
Hosting workshops is a great way to share your expertise as a real estate agent. Even if you’re a brand new information you still have information to share. I’ve hosted a number of first time home buyer workshops where I went over the home buying process. It took some work to advertise these events and put them together but after a few times I started to figure out how to do it and put systems in place. I see a lot of agents doing online virtual workshops which is a great way to do it so that people don’t need to leave their homes to get the information they need.
Mailing postcards to potential clients is still done and it can be done very effectively. The key with mailing postcards, and having success with it, is repetition. If you’re just starting out with mailing postcards you’re better off picking 50 homes and mailing something every week for two months than you are doing a single mailing of 400 postcards. It’s the repetition that will get attention.
This is another method of finding business that’s hotly debated in the real estate industry. Door knocking is simply picking a targeted neighborhood and knocking on doors looking for people who may be interested in selling their home. Just like sending postcards this requires repetition. You should probably knock the same doors that you’re mailing postcards to if you’re going to do both.
Consistent door knocking for leads works. However, I fall firmly in the don’t door knock camp. A big reason for that is that I believe that you should treat people the way that you want to be treated. I don’t want people coming to my doorstep to solicit business. Especially if they’re cloaking the solicitation by calling it ‘providing information.’ That being said, if you have mouths to feed and this is something you’d love to do then go for it. Just make sure you’re being genuine and up-front with people. Starting off a business relationship by misleading someone isn’t a good way to build a solid reputation.
There’s a lot of debate among real estate agents about buying leads from companies like Zillow and Realtor.com. You can pay these companies to send property inquiries to you. Of course, this will cost money but if you have some money to invest, and you can respond quickly, then it can be a great resource for lead generation. If you’re going to go this route be sure you know what you’re signing up for and for how long your contract will last. If you don’t find you’re getting the leads you want you may still be stuck in a contract. I see a lot of teams that spend money on leads through these outlets. Joining a team who covers this cost is a good idea, especially if you’re a newer real estate agent or you’re not ready to make the investment.
Read Real Estate Sales Books
There are so many great books about how to be a successful real estate agent and I highly recommend reading as many as you can. Some of my personal favorite books for real estate agents are . . .
- Your First Year in Real Estate by Dirk Zeller
- The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller
- Sell with Soul by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Choose a Niche
You’ll hear about niches a lot in real estate. I’ve found that having a niche, or a few niches, is extremely important. You can spend a lot of time trying to find the perfect niche but it’s best to keep it simple. Good niches are first time home buyers, move up buyers, downsizers, and investors. Combine any of these with your location and you have the start of a niche.
It’s tempting to start out looking for a niche that’s a long shot. The common one is luxury homes. Who wouldn’t want to spend their time selling amazing homes at premium prices, right? If you currently travel in luxury home circles then by all means start out with luxury homes as your niche. Maybe you’re already a member of the local country club and live in an expensive community. If so, your sphere of influence is likely already in the luxury home market. But, if you’re 25 and don’t know anyone with a multi-million dollar home it’s going to be far more difficult to break into this market. It may be to work with first time home buyers in your neighborhood.
How to be a Successful Real Estate Agent with Social Media
Social media is free and it’s a great way to connect with potential clients and your sphere of influence. I think that social media is one of the most powerful digital tools for building awareness of your real estate business. The mistake that most agents who are active on social media make is constantly selling. The reality is that nobody goes on social media to find a house to buy so stop posting “Buy this house” posts. But, the life of a Realtor is pretty cool and people want to know what it’s like to sell real estate. Use that for posts. People love to see who you are and what you’re doing so have fun with it.
Don’t get too caught up in how often to post and how to make the perfect post. Likewise, don’t get too caught up in social media channels that you don’t like or aren’t really used by the people you know. I started a LinkedIn account a few years ago because I thought I should have one. I deleted it a few months ago because I never used it. That doesn’t mean that LinkedIn isn’t a great channel, it’s just that it wasn’t for me. Things may change and I may start it up again but for now I prefer Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.
Build Your Email List
Some of the worst advice that I got when I started in real estate was to add everyone I knew into my email list and send them regular emails. The idea was so they would remember that I was in real estate when the time came. It seemed like bad advice but I sort of went with it since I didn’t know better. Regardless of how one might justify this, it’s spam. I felt terrible when people unsubscribed and I felt bad sending them emails that didn’t really offer anything of value. I stopped doing this pretty quickly since it didn’t feel right (and probably broke some anti-spam laws). You should build an email list but make sure that it’s opt-in only. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll get far better open rates, anyway.
Building a successful opt-in email list takes time, but not much money. Not sure what to write about? Write about your neighborhood, buying a home, selling a home, home prices, and your life as a real estate agent. All of those offer good and interesting content that people will want to read.
Become the Neighborhood Expert
If you specialize in a neighborhood you can become the go-to expert for real estate in the area. This takes time but it’s well worth it when the phone rings and someone wants you list their home because you know the neighborhood. There are so many ways to do this and it can be a lot of fun. Get to know the people in your neighborhood by meeting business and community leaders and building relationships with them. You can write up features about them and their businesses to post on your website and your social channels. You can do videos and photos of places to go in the neighborhood. It doesn’t all have to be real estate related, just community related.
Find the Right Broker
Finding the right broker can make or break or your success as a real estate agent. Find the right broker for your needs and how you work. And don’t be afraid to change brokers if you find things aren’t working out. A great broker will be available to answer your questions and will provide training and support to help you build your business. Splits are important but training and support is even more important. To be a successful real estate agent you’ll want a broker who helps you make money. After all, it’s in their best interest to do that so they should be there for you.
Join a Real Estate Team
Real estate teams have become extremely popular over the last several years. By joining a team that provides you with leads you can focus on the sales part of the business rather than lead generation. One of my good friends began her career in real estate by joining a team and it really helped launch her business. The team bought leads and those were routed to her. She answered the phone and was excellent at converting those leads into clients. Within a few years she left the team and went solo.
I’ve never joined a team since I’m just more of a solo guy. There are definitely advantages when it comes to getting business quickly as long as the team provides leads (not all do). Joining a team is also a great way to learn the business. Plus you can focus on the sales part rather than the marketing and lead generation part. But, if you want to build a long-term business I think it’s best to be on your own if you can afford to make it work. If you learn to get your own leads you’ll always have business.
Find a Mentor
You should definitely find a mentor. Even better, find several mentors. Having been a real estate agent since 2010 I can’t tell you exactly how many mentors that I’ve had. I’ve also had the honor of mentoring numerous real estate agents. My first mentor was my wife’s Aunt who’s a real estate agent on Cape Cod (Darci Sequin, if you’re looking for a home there). I’ve had several other amazing agents who mentored me along the way in everything from learning neighborhoods to dealing with paperwork to marketing my business to working with buyers and sellers. One of the advantages of being in a bigger office is that you can almost certainly find people who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise.
Oftentimes, finding a mentor can be as easy as asking to take someone out for lunch or coffee. I love building relationships with newer agents. It’s fun to help them in their careers. Plus, they can often be available to help me by hosting open houses or assisting with buyer clients when I can’t be available to show houses. Offer to help the agents who are willing to take the time to share their expertise.
Working with a mentor who’s already successful is one of the best ways that you can learn how to become a successful real estate agent. I’m 10 years in and I still have a number of mentors. It’s always helpful and there’s always someone who can teach you more.
Hire a Coach
There’s no shortage of real estate business coaches out there. I know many successful real estate agents who use coaches regularly. One obstacle to hiring a coach is that it costs money. Coaches will tell you that when you hire them the costs will pay for themselves with new business. It can be true. Be cautious with hiring a real estate coach. Ask them how they’ve helped other real estate agents become successful. Know what their plan for success is. You don’t want to hire a real estate who’s success plan is door knocking if you hate the idea of knocking on doors for business. Ask for references and check them.
Follow My Real Estate Agent Success Blog
Following some real estate blogs is a great way to get more information about how to become a real estate agent. Be sure to join my email list for (roughly) weekly email updates of new posts and real estate agent success tips. Please sign up below.
Final Thoughts on How to Become a Successful Real Estate Agent
Selling real estate is an easy business to get into. But, it does take perseverance and hard work to build a successful business. Approach your business as a business owner. You’re the head of marketing, sales, advertising, bookkeeping, and everything else. The growth of your business is entirely up to you. While I’ve listed a number of things that you can do to be a successful real estate agent, pick a few and make them work for you. It’s far better to focus on 2-3 of the items above and get good at them. You can add more as you master these initial 2-3 items.
Thank you for reading and I hope this helps as you develop and build your business as a real estate agent! I’d love to hear your comments and questions so please leave a comment below and share this with anyone you know who wants to learn to be a successful real estate agent.
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Published on 9/28/2020.