Real estate is a field wide open to anyone who can pass an exam and get a license, and for that reason some consider it a quick route to an easy payday. In reality, establishing a profitable business can be tough -- especially when it comes to competing with more experienced agents, who have spent years building their reputations and client lists.
But there's hope for talented, hardworking newcomers, according to Dorcas Helfant-Browning, a 40-year veteran of real estate sales and a former president of the National Association of Realtors. Currently, Helfant-Browing is CEO, principal broker and managing partner of Coldwell Banker Professional, Realtors, which has 13 offices across Virginia and North Carolina.
Affiliating with a reputable firm and marketing yourself aggressively are two ways to start off on the right foot, she explains in an interview with CareerBuilder.
CareerBuilder: Is there any particular background or set of skills that's helpful to new real estate agents?
Dorcas Helfant-Browning: It's your attitude. Are you organized? Are you willing to follow through on projects? Do you get discouraged easily? Well if you do, then maybe real estate's not for you, because it takes a lot of self-discipline. And you have to enjoy interacting with people. When agents tell me, 'Well, I like houses,' they don't get very far. I want them to tell me about how they like people.
CB: What advice can you give prospective real estate agents about the exam and license they need to get started?
DH-B: There are several ways to take it. If you're anxious to get started in a career in real estate, there are many local schools that will offer you an immersion program where you can get through courses in three to six weeks, depending on state licensing law. And if you want to take it more slowly, you can often take classes through the community college system, but that's going to take you usually two semesters. Is one better? No. It's the same information.
CB: What can a newly licensed agent do to maximize his or her chances of success?
DH-B: New agents should choose carefully which company they join. The brand you affiliate with is critical to your success, because it allows you credibility in your market.
When I was a young agent, I looked for someone who was [a member of the National Association of Realtors] because that gave me access to more training and more education. In addition, I'd look for a firm that has a good reputation in my community. I'd look for a firm that certainly has a good Web presence, because today 87 percent of buyers start their search on the Web.
CB: How might a new agent go about prospecting for clients?
DH-B: Create a contact list of people you're going to reach out to. Announce that you've started a new career, and you're anxious to help them find the home of their dreams. We encourage our people to network, to be involved in their PTA, their community clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, it doesn't matter, but reach out and let those folks know you're in real estate.
CB: How long does it take for a new agent to get up and running, and start pulling in profits?
DH-B: They can start running right away. Profitable takes time, though some people can actually do it immediately. I always tell people, if you were to open a brand new business from scratch, would you expect to be profitable today? The answer is no. You have to have time to build your business, get people in the door and create your volume.
CB: How do you advise agents in this economy, with home sales still sluggish?
DH-B: I'm being honest here ... today when people come in the business we can honestly say to them this is the very best time since World War II to buy a home in terms of 30-year fixed interest rates. It's also the best time in terms of price, because prices have leveled to the point that they've not been increasing.