Passing the real estate licensing exam gives you the opportunity to make scintillating cocktail party small talk. Imagine how impressive you’ll sound when you share that there are 43,560 square feet in an acre and when you describe the difference between riparian and littoral rights.
That little piece of state-issued paper also acts a bit like rocket fuel, propelling the newbie real estate agent into an imagined stratosphere of huge commission checks and overnight success.
Then, the splashdown, which generally occurs the first day you spend in your new broker’s office. It’s the dirty little secret that real estate school doesn’t share: you have no idea what you’re doing.
This is why brokers have training programs. They teach rookie agents how to go after clients, how to fill out listing and purchase agreements and, hopefully, the rudimentary aspects of what to do during a listing presentation.
The day-to-day aspects of actually running your business, however, aren’t usually taught. While this knowledge eventually comes with time and experience, there are steps to take to get your real estate career off and running in the right direction.
Most experienced agents agree that the first thing a new agent should do, aside from finding a broker with an amazing training program, is to find a mentor. Look for “somebody that knows what he or she is doing, is successful and who is willing to teach you,” Dano Sayles with Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers recommends.
Watch the more experienced and successful agents in the office, choose one and ask if you can hang out with him or her during the business day. Go on listing calls, buyer showings and open houses. Watching a successful agent in action and then modeling the behavior is a sure-fire way to learn the ropes.
The first year in real estate is one typically spent building your business. Think of yourself as a start-up and commit to making a business plan during your first week. This business plan will be your roadmap through the twists and turns of your first year in real estate.
When considering your business plan, determine your destination first – where do you want to be, financially, by the end of the year? Once you know the destination, you can fill in the rest of the plan with activities that will get you there. How many closed deals will you need to nail that figure? How many contacts will it take to get those deals? The latter is a difficult question to answer when you’re first starting out so run it by your mentor or broker.
Next, add your marketing plan and budget to the business plan. If, like many agents, you’re starting your business on a shoestring, your budget will determine how and to what extent you market yourself.
Free business plans are available all over the Internet. Check out Zillow’s free business plan template.
Regardless of your broker’s brand, you’ll need to determine your personal brand. What sets you apart from other agents? It’s a tough question to answer, especially if you’re new to the business, but answer it you must.
Consider your interests, motivations, educational or professional background and your target market – anything that makes you different from most of the other agents in town.
Once you’ve found a brand that feels right, build it into your business cards, marketing materials and website.
Numero uno in your tool kit is a laptop or iPad. This is the one tool, aside from your smartphone, that you’ll depend on the most to keep track of prospects, clients, listings and deals so it’s critical to have it from day one.
Next, you’ll need to add some productivity software and at the top of the list should be customer relationship management software (CRM). Spend the money to get a robust solution, one that not only manages your interactions with leads and clients but allows you to automate marketing campaigns and client retention efforts. Placester has a nice walk-through of what to consider before purchasing a CRM and IXACT has a free, 6-month trial for rookies.
Finally, get your own website. Every marketing piece you produce should drive people to your site where you have, at the very least, a lead capture system, an IDX so that buyers can search for listings and a blog.
The biggest mistake you can make is to try to save money by opting out of an IDX system on your site. Real estate consumers shop almost exclusively online when they first decide to buy or sell. Buyers want to see listings and many sellers do too (to see how their home stacks up, price wise). You can either fulfill these wants or inadvertently send these prospects to someone that will.
Once you have loaded the contact information of everyone you know (your “sphere of influence”) into your CRM, it’s time to give them a shout out about your new business. Do this via email, snail mail, phone, text or social media, but do it.
Next, get involved in the community. It’s a great way to meet new people, thus expanding your sphere of influence.
The most important thing to keep top-of-mind when starting out is that real estate isn’t a new job or even a new career – you are starting your own business. Throw out everything you know about being an employee and start thinking like a business owner. Take the baby steps to give your new startup a strong foundation.
Check back later this week to learn about building your new brand.