PART I – WHY BECOME A REALTOR? WHY? WHY? WHY?
And the Answer Is…
One doesn’t usually aspire from an early age to become a salesperson, unless it’s to take over mom’s or dad’s wildly successful practice. (Didn’t Sylvia Porter say that most Americans’ retirement plan is to inherit?) Your parents plan that you’ll become a doctor, an accountant, a techie, or some other profession that commands great respect and a big paycheck. One that can repay your school loans.
Over my twenty-five-plus years in the business, I’ve observed that real estate attracts nonconformists, free-thinkers, people who often fit like round pegs in square holes. Like my family. Mom, an artist at heart and real estate broker by necessity, spawned three realtors with my dad, who studied theology at Loyola University in Chicago fully intending to become a Catholic priest. Mom said he missed his calling. He became a disabled World War II veteran, and my oldest brother followed in his footsteps and became a disabled Vietnam veteran. They were the only two in our family who didn’t go into real estate. They were the only two with steady paychecks.
I wouldn’t exactly say that realtors don’t fit in anywhere else, but when a new agent joins the company he isn’t asked where he hung his license before—he’s asked what he Used To Be. My YoungerBrotherTheRealtor used to be a CPA, but he had too much personality for that and, besides, he figured out really fast that there were bigger numbers to be had selling houses. My OtherBrotherTheRealtor used to be an auto mechanic, and I think he grew something in the hills to supplement fixing Volkswagen buses, but I can’t prove it. I used to be a secretary because I didn’t have the commitment to go on for a master’s degree in social work and, anyway, as a realtor I am a social worker.
So, for beginning agents, what’s it like? You must create an income stream. You will discover that the world conspires against real estate agents who prospect. There’s the national Do Not Call list that prevents us from randomly dialing for dollars; it’s not cost effective to cross-reference the list with a phone directory. Mailing stuff? Bulk mail prices have risen exorbitantly and the system has become so complex that is almost takes less time to hand-deliver a marketing piece than to sort, tag, and deliver it to the post office. Newspaper and magazine advertising are really expensive, and just wait till you solicit on the web. I googled “real estate agent” and got 142 million hits!
My first manager told me I’d have to make one hundred calls to generate three leads, which might result in one listing. And then it might not sell (with me). Not good odds. I decided I needed to reach a large base but certainly not my friends and relatives, who knew I didn’t know that much. So I picked a geographic “farm.” I was cautioned against this by all the heavy-hitting marketing gurus—they said it takes too long to get a return. Well, what else was I going to do while I wasn’t selling houses?
I became an “expert” in my own neighborhood, wrote a newsletter, and hand-delivered it to 950 homes every month. People love things you write yourself. Maybe they enjoy finding the typos; I know my mother-in-law did until I dropped her off my list.
Unfortunately, “my” farm was already the stronghold of another agent who had been born and raised in the area and knew absolutely everyone. I didn’t know that when we moved into the neighborhood. So, it took me eleven months to get my first listing and a few more to get another. But I didn’t starve. Fortunately, I had just remarried, and we were still honeymooning—and are to this day, in spite of real estate. Which brings me to the commission.