After over 20 years of a successful real estate career (starting with 12 people on my contact list back in 2000 - yikes!) I still think I would have at least $500,000 more in the bank if I had read - and implemented - a list of tips like this as a new agent.
So... let's get started!
1. Stay in touch with past clients.
I can't believe how often I've asked people who their real estate agent was when they bought or sold their house, and they couldn't remember - even when they tell me they liked that person enough to use them again!
(Yes, that clinking noise you hear is the sound of money down the toilet.)
Next time you walk into your house, glance at the foundation and ask yourself how your home would look without it.
Past clients and sphere are the foundation of any successful real estate business. Contact them at least once a month. (I'll give you tips on how to do that further down.)
2. Be yourself.
The best real estate advice I ever got as a new agent was from my now-gone Harley-riding agent friend, Rick Bakke. His advice was simply this:
"If you can't be yourself in this business, hang it up."
When you're in a personal growth phase (which you will be as a beginner agent) it can sometimes be hard to tell when you're just leaving your comfort zone vs. when you're trying to become someone you're not meant to be.
I share some pointers on how to tell the difference in my other post on Rick's advice.)
3. Avoid asking "How much can you afford?"
Instead, ask "What price range would like to stay within?"
4. Don't forget your sphere.
In fact, START with your sphere.
We're talking about friends, family, former work colleagues, neighbors, people you've met through community groups or your kid's school... you get the picture.
These people already know and like you, and they will trust you as a real estate agent and refer you to their friends once they've had a chance to see that you're knowledgeable and competent. So, reach out to your sphere at least once a month by sharing your real estate expertise with them in a helpful way.
Tip: Focus on topics that help them get more value, enjoyment, and safety out of their current or future real estate. (Seriously, who ever said 'No thanks' to any of those things?)
The rate of return on this is far higher than the return from cold calling, and it's a thousand times less painful. ;)
5. Automate your real estate marketing.
Unless you have an assistant, at some point you're going to be too busy to get your marketing out the door. (That is actually the whole point of doing the marketing in the first place, right?)
Plus, your time is too valuable - or will be too valuable - to spend doing everything it takes to churn out quality real estate marketing consistently.
Start looking now, and find something good (notice I didn't say "something perfect") that will go out regardless of how busy you are.
If you're looking for a good real estate client email newsletter that's done for you so you don't have to write it every month, check out the service I run at www.ToolsForRealEstate.com.
6. Ask for a referral in your voice mail greeting.
Just say this:
"And if you were referred to me by friend or family member, please let me know who that was so that I can say 'thank you'."
This lets every single caller who gets your voice mail know that you expect and appreciate referrals.
And whoa... you just automated some marketing! :)
7. Ask for referrals, period.
Most people find this painful. But what I learned is, it works.
No matter how much they love you, sometimes your clients will forget to refer you unless they're reminded. And, no matter how badly you botch the asking, they're more likely to refer you afterwards.
And speaking of botching....
8. Beware of perfectionism.
I recently saw a well-meant slogan put out by a real estate company that said:
"Perfection is the goal. Excellence will be tolerated."
My reaction? Well, I think my toes might still be clenched in little fists of despair.
Perfectionism is the killer of forward motion and the playground of procrastination.
And let's face it: It's flat out impossible. (There's a reason the line "Nobody's perfect" is a cliche, right?) Since when does it make sense to strive for something that's literally impossible?
And... when did "excellence" become a bad word?
Strive for excellence and laugh (ideally with a Jabba the Hutt type of laugh) while you kick perfectionism to the curb.
9. Do a home buyer presentation with every buyer.
If you want to work with informed, loyal home buyers who are excited to have you as their agent, a home buyer presentation is how you do it.
Even now, after over 20 years in real estate, I don't feel like a home buyer is really my client unless I've done this. (They may think they know why they want to work with me, but until we've done this presentation they don't know why they want to work with me.)
In the home buyer presentation you give your client a step-by-step overview of the home buying process. It's not salesy, it's informative. Your prospects end up far better prepared, respectful of your time and expertise, and ready to make good decisions. It's win-win!
Here's a link to a free "Home Buyer Presentation Checklist" you can use to structure your own presentations.
10. Get the referral spiel down.
If asking for referrals feels awkward, you'll subconsciously try to avoid it. But by not asking you're guaranteed to lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in future business.
So, make it not awkward.
I don't care if it means locking yourself away in a hotel room with a week's supply of Crunch Berries, do what it takes to come up with something that sounds like you and slips nonchalantly off your tongue. (Remember, you can always modify it later.)
Tip: Start now by using this language shared by real estate coach Brian Buffini: "By the way, I'm never too busy for your referrals."
Phew! How hard was that? :)
11. Turn away from distractions.
If you work in a social office, this can be a challenge.
But the next time someone pauses at your office door in a well-meaning attempt to talk about their Labradoodle's toenail operation (or worse, to commiserate with you about the downsides of real estate), remember:
There are always more of them than there are of you.
Beware, and find ways to politely guard your productive time.
(And, obviously, turn off all phone and browser notifications that aren't truly important. :)
12. Listen to these four books.
I say "listen to" rather than "read" because I completely and utterly love Audible.
Audible lets you listen to amazingly helpful business books while you're driving, working out, doing dishes, sorting laundry, waiting for clients, you name it. (Why waste all that potentially productive time?)
With that in mind, here are four books for real estate agents that are great "listens":
"Never Split the Difference" by Chris Voss. (Negotiation skills.)
"Atomic Habits" by James Clear. (Productivity and consistency.)
"The 1-Page Marketing Plan" by Allan Dib. (Small business marketing.)
"Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done" by Jon Acuff. (Overcoming perfectionism.)
You can try Audible for free for one month, and that includes a free audiobook. After 30 days it's $14.95 a month, which includes a new audiobook each month (even if the print version of the book is far more expensive).
13. Learn basic copywriting.
Real estate is actually a marketing business - but 90% of us jump in without ever having learned how to make someone want to buy something!
Here's a cheat sheet:
1. It's about them, not you.
2. Talk about benefits (what they get), not features (what it is).
3. People buy on emotion first, then justify with logic.
So when you're writing a listing description or any kind of marketing, start with the emotional appeal first and afterwards justify it with logic.
14. Learn the basics of home staging
Becoming competent in home staging as a new agent will really help you get listings in the future. You don't necessarily have to get a certification (I don't have one myself), just learn what it takes to prepare a home for sale.
Here's a "before and after home staging" example from one of our own listings.
Tip: Remember to ask yourself the question, "What are we selling?"
This helps prevent over-staging (aka hiding the house), and also means no more $1.75 dish towels covering up $900 stainless steel ovens.
The majority of agents don't do this, or if they do, they sometimes lose market "pop" by not getting great photos.
And speaking of photos....
15. Be the new agent with the great real estate photos.
I can't tell you how many times I've looked at home photos on the MLS, and in my mind's eye I see a vision of the listing agent being led away in handcuffs. (Yes, seriously!)
You can actually get pro-grade photos (or nearly) on your own - the key is to first prepare the home correctly, and then to use a camera lens that has a decent field of view and take multiple exposures at different levels of brightness that get merged into one photo.
Our entire setup (for when our pros are not available) cost around $600 for everything, mostly used - and that's an investment you could share with other agents.
I'd like to write a tutorial on how to do this, if that would interest you let me know and I'll move it up on the list if there's enough interest!
16. Don't get stuck in lower price ranges.
As a new agent you might start out working with a lot of first-time home buyers, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, there's no need to find yourself specializing in that price range.
(Remember, boosting your average price point by 50% turns a $50,000 annual income into $75,000, or $200,000 into $300,000.) Another way to look at it is that you could make the same revenue from 20 clients that you used to with 30.
Here's a free "Common Mistakes New Agents Make" cheat sheet you can download that gives you helpful how-to tips on how to start working in higher price ranges early on.
17. Ask for testimonials (and use them in your real estate marketing).
The power that other people have when it comes to selling your services is far greater than your own. But most real estate agents have a string of happy clients... and no written testimonials they can quote!
There's an easy way to ask for and get testimonials, which I share in my post "How to Get Better Testimonials".
18. Don't focus on just buyers for too long.
It's totally normal for a new agent to work primarily with home buyers in the beginning, but think about it:
When this happens, aren't you losing out on around 50% of your potential real estate income?
I highly recommend not doing what I did, which was to wait 5 to 7 years before starting to figure out how to become confident listing homes. (That was when my original buyers began selling and I thought to myself, "Oh crap, I'd better get good at this fast.")
The "Common Mistakes New Agents Make" cheat sheet linked to in Tip #16 has good tips on how to gain experience with home listings as well.
19. Use a pre-listing book for home listings.
I used to secretly dread the "And the commission/real estate fee/whatever you want to call it is..." part of the listing presentation?
Then... (insert rainbow and winged unicorn prancing by here)... I figured out how to use a pre-listing book. Phew! :)
What is a pre-listing book?
It's a binder of information that you drop off off a few days before your initial walk-through or meeting.
It lets the seller see your marketing plan, testimonials, previous listing photos, work philosophy, etc., along with samples of listing forms that include your commission.
This means that when you show up for the walk-through, you're talking to well-informed sellers who have good reason to know, like, and trust you. (And they already know how much you charge.)
The pre-listing book does away with the whole commission conversation by basically doing the listing presentation for you. It totally changed the way I approached listings and is one of the main tools that helped me transition from being primarily a buyer's agent to becoming known as a listing agent.
Tip: If you don't have photos of previous listings yet, that's OK. Start with the rest of it, and you'll still be more prepared than many other agents are.
20. Become an expert at pricing homes.
It's virtually impossible to do a good job for either buyers or sellers if you don't know how to estimate a home's market value accurately. But insanely, this skill is rarely taught well and often is not taught at all.
So, teach yourself. Do your own comparative market analyses for other agents' listings. Go to their open houses. Then track each listing and see what it sells for. Were you on target?
Tip: Don't just look at recent pending and sold home data in the nearby area. Think like a buyer, and ask yourself, "If I missed out on this home, how many similar homes would I be looking at this weekend?"
The answer to that question (i.e. "twelve" vs. "zero or one") helps you catch shifts in supply trends and lets you price homes for the market you're in, not the market that existed eight weeks ago.
21. Hang in there.
At the end of my fifth year of real estate (having done OK as a new agent and quite well during the third and fourth years), most days all it took for me to burst into tears was for someone to say something incredibly poignant....
Along the lines of, for example, "Hi Irene, how are you?"
That's because I went five straight months without a paycheck - working like a draft horse the whole time - and by the end I seriously was wondering if the jig was up.
Was this going to be, in hindsight, the part in the story when I would say "And that's when I got out of real estate?"
I went from November through March without making a dime. But by December I had made twice what I made the year before.
Often we're tempted to give up when we're 80% of the way to reaching our goal. And nearly always, the last 20% of your effort will produce 80% of your results.
So, new agent, hang in there. :)
Great list. You say they are in no particular order, but I think #1 is first for a reason – it’s incredibly important. As you say, it’s wasting money if you don’t. I’m going to pass this list along to the agents I work with.
We really love your site, it has engaging information, Thank you.
Thanks Simon, and you’re right, #1 and #2 are definitely the most important, and the ones 90% of agents ‘know’ about and still don’t do consistently. (I was a peak offender for years.) Thanks for passing this on!
Irene, great list. i found you from a post you had on copyblogger and was intrigued about his recent suject on headlines. I enjoyed reading your tips and appreciate the refresher. I will pass on to other agents in my office as well.
Hi Eugene, thanks for the comment, I’m glad you found this helpful. Nice job on your own blog by the way!
Great Article Irene and I’ll make sure my wife sees this to pass on to her real estate agents for her next training class. It really does not have to be that hard does it? Thanks to Brian for referring me! :)
Thanks Paul, glad you liked it! It’s true, a little info beforehand can make things a lot easier.
Great blog! I’m curious… Can you elaborate on 2. Automate your marketing. What type of marketing have you found to be particularly useful? Sending out flyers, mailings, distributing business cards, cold calling, etc?
Thanks for your comments, yes I can elaborate! I’ll make it the next blog post. But the short answer is I use The Agent Guide’s own automated email newsletter service (at http://www.toolsforrealestate.com/how-it-works.html) once a month, then I do a once a month postcard mailing of community events – it’s not completely automated but is also very popular – I’ll post a photo of the template in the blog post. Thanks for reading!
Wow, Such great insight to the business. I have taken a few Real Estate classes and even read Gary Keller’s “The Millionaire Real Estate agent” which was great. Your help seem sincere and very reputable, which is vital. I know you will help save every type of agent time,money, and lots of headaches. Thanks again, your a true humanitarian.
Thanks Irene for sharing this useful tips. I want to tell Shawnna that don’t go to automate marketing it is best to hire a professional marketing agency.
I like how you mentioned that a seller should learn what it takes to prepare the home that is for sale. This is especially true for me because I’m a garden person, and I take pretty good care of my plants. If I was a home buyer, I’d make sure to purchase a home that is not only pretty on the inside, but also with a well-maintained lawn on the outside. Thanks for the wonderful article. I love it.
That is actually a great tip to stay in touch with folks you worked with in the past. My parents have always used the same guy to do their real estate stuff because they trust him. It pays to be loyal.
Thank you for sharing these great tips and i will focus on my regular blog updating and will also start approaching past clients whom i helped or who just approached my previously.
I like what you said about having professional-grade photos of your house before selling. My wife and I are looking to buy a townhouse by the end of July. We’ll have to get one that can fit at least 5 people.
Aspiring real estate agents can benefit from this. Thank you for providing this article.