What do you need to know to be a successful Realtor?

what realtors should know

I got my real estate licence way back in 2007.

It wasn’t until a few years after that that I became a Realtor.

What it took back then was three courses for a provisional license and then three more within the next two years to become fully licensed. The first course naturally was pretty basic. Surface stuff. If I remember correctly, the second course was an elective (or maybe it was real estate law) and the third course was a choice of either commercial or residential real estate.

The third course was a week in a classroom followed by a test.

All-in-all, it was pretty easy to get provisionally licensed.

Becoming a Realtor has (had?) a low barrier to entry.

The problem is that the information learned to become provisionally licensed was not really very useful in the way to help a new agent actually work as a Realtor. The information about how the real estate industry developed, about advertising guidelines, about different forms of construction, about legislation around real estate was sometimes interesting, sometimes mind-numbing tedious but only somewhat correlated to establishing a successful real estate career.

It is no wonder that there is such a high failure rate among new Realtors. And that is bad for Realtors and for consumers.

what realtors should knowWhat new Realtors should know as they come out of the gates:

Real estate sales training

Many new Realtors look for brokerage to join that offer free advice and some level of real estate sales training. Some of this is good. Some, not so good. I would suggest to a new agent to join all and any training that is offered, but to keep expectations low. What works for one person may not work for you. Real estate is a very personal business and you cannot and will not change the way you are  – working as a real estate agents forces you to become the person you really are – so you have to pick and choose to follow the advice and guidance that conforms with the way you see the world and the way you behave in that world.

For example, many brokers and sales trainers will tell you to do as many open houses as you can. It’s a great way to learn. It’s a good way to get out there. But if you don’t like to smooze while you try to separate the real home buyers from the tire kickers, then you may end up learning nothing and wasting your time frustratingly. The same goes for door knocking, joining clubs and organizations or whatever the advice de jour is.

My advice. There are a lot of ways to do real estate. There are lots of different kinds of successful agents. You are responsible for your own training. Find out who you are and accentuate the positive.

Dancing in the dark

There is a lot of fakery amongst the general public. I like to think that most of it is innocent. I like to think of it as the buyer-seller dance. What I mean is little white lies like saying, “I’ll think about it”, when you’ve already decided that the answer is “no”. “I’ll be back”, “I’ll call you next week”, “I’ll have my Realtor contact you”. We all do it. It is ok to lie to salespeople. Buyers and sellers are out there trying to glean as much information as they can. They are doing this without giving up any information of their own. They think that they are in an adversarial relationship with salespeople they meet. That’s life. Get used to it. Do not expect honesty from strangers.

Here’s a fun game. Try to go through one month, one week or even one day answering all questions totally honestly. I’m certain the results will be enlightening.

Real estate is hyper-local but part of a greater whole

Realtors have to know the general trends in economy related to real estate. They have to see the big picture.

They also have to get right down to the granular level. That means not only knowing neighbourhoods and schools but streets and houses too. Experienced agents carry around a lot of information in their heads. New agents could join neighbourhood facebook groups and associations. It takes time to become an expert, and you have to do the work. You have to actually do the 10,000 hours.

The value of listings

The mantra in real estate is “list to last”. If you don’t have listings, you have nothing. Statistically, a listing is worth a sale and a half. (A broker told me that.) That’s because most listings sell most of the time and listings lead to other listings and/or home buyers. That’s all great.

But some people don’t really want to sell. Some sellers will only sell if they “can get their price”. Busy real estate agents know that there are opportunity costs of listings that won’t sell. Not only do they waste your time and money, they take you away from more valuable income-generating work.

Every morning, part of my routine is to visit the hotsheet. It is where we keep the up to the minute statistics of listings and sales and expires and cancellations. Today, (Jan 10) so far this year there have been 156 listings on our board that have already expired without selling, been cancelled or suspended. That is a lot of wasted time and money. New agents really have to question the wisdom of “list to last”.

Working the Wu Wei

Real estate is a very personal business. Sometimes, you get really involved in your clients lives and they get involved in yours.

And then it’s over.

Realtors have to remember that our job is to get the clients to the finish line. We are working for them. At one end of the spectrum, it is not about our commission and at the other end we must follow their wishes even if we don’t completely agree. Along the way we have to give professional advice and good guidance.

Sometimes agents get in the way. It is not our job to get in the way. It is our job to show the way.

It is not a marketing business

As someone who has a background in advertising, sales and marketing, I was surprised as a new agent to discover that real estate is not a marketing business. Advertising and marketing is certainly part of the job. But that would be true for dentists and lawyers and mortgage brokers too. Real estate is a communication business. It often seems that every next step goes through the Realtor. Like the point above (not getting in the way), our job is to show the way, to pave the way, to lead the way and to communicate the way to successful real estate transactions.

Get a life

Unfortunately for most successful Realtors, the work of real estate demands that you are almost always “on call” for your clients. You never know when the perfect house is going to be listed and you never know when the right buyer is going to happen along with an offer on your listing.

The good news is that over the last ten years, technology has made it a lot easier to be available even when you are not.

New agents should build a support structure. I just got back from six weeks away, but because of technology and a most reliable and capable associate not to mention an excellent back office support, my clients were well taken care of.

It is not a perfect world

Some deals won’t close. Some people will stand you up or let you down at the last minute. Some buyers won’t be able to come through with their mortgage. Some buildings will fail on the status certificate. Homes will not pass inspection. Buyers will get cold feet.

Be resilient.


Look at me, pontificating.

Usually, but not always, when I write blog post I have a certain goal in mind. Here on keithmarshall.ca, most of my posts are aimed at home buyers, trying to help them understand different aspects of home buying, hopefully answering questions that they have without creating new issues that they might not have thought about.

I blog normally to inform and educate.

Then sometimes, like today, I just want to reflect and ramble.

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