A few thoughts on jumping into the real estate business…

Every so often I’ll get a call or an email from a friend saying they are thinking about getting their real estate license. Because they know I’ve been at this for a while (this month I start my 14th year), they’ll ask if I would mind sharing some advice. And I’m always happy to oblige.

So about a week ago I sat down with a friend and client who had just passed his real estate exam and wanted to get my thoughts on how to get started. Beyond which companies would be a good fit and how compensation packages are structured, there are some big picture thoughts I’ve shared often, which I hope have been helpful.

If you’re considering getting your real estate license—and we don’t get the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee—here are a couple thoughts based on my experience:

1. My first broker, Billy Flint (who’s a fantastic guy, by the way) told me two things I’ve never forgotten and have shared often. Number One: be prepared your first year in real estate to make between $0 and $25,000. Which was eerily accurate for me back in 2006. And Number Two: be prepared to go 6 months without an income (3.5 for me). Naturally some folks will beat these odds, but this helped set my expectations. Keep in mind, all the while you’re spending money you haven’t yet earned on setting up your business.

2. Many times I’ll hear folks say they want to get into real estate because they love houses and they enjoy people. And that’s great, because let’s face it, if you don’t like houses and you aren’t crazy about people, real estate isn’t for you. However… I encourage people to look at real estate as a pie with roughly 12 slices. If you’re good with people, that’s one slice. If you have a mind for homes and design, that’s another slice. But there’s also contracts and paperwork, marketing, ongoing education, networking, prospecting, budgeting, negotiating… and I could go on. Only enjoying 15% of the pie isn’t going to get you far.

3. All of which brings me to my next point, you have to look at real estate as a business, not a job or hobby. Even if you don’t plan to do real estate full time, it should still be “your business.” If you don’t join a team, then you’re a one-person company—you wear all the hats, you’re responsible for all departments. It’s the same as if you’d opened, say, a landscaping business. Just because you aren’t mowing lawns for a couple months doesn’t mean you don’t still own a landscaping company.

4. Another thing I warn folks about is the never-ending flow of products and services that are marketed to real estate professionals. It’s incredible. The gurus, the books, the seminars, the marketing products, the email services, blah, blah blah… and here’s the catch with all the things sold to REALTORS. It only has to work once! “True, this product might be $3500, but if it gets you one sale, it’s paid for itself!” You can literally justify almost any expense in real estate this way, and it’s overwhelming. My recommendation—make sure you want to be a real estate agent first, and then work on figuring out what kind of agent you are second. After that, you might consider a product or service that fits your style.

Is now a good time to get your real estate license? Hard to say. The market strength of the past few years has certainly encouraged lots of other folks to jump in—as of press time there were 717 members of the Lynchburg Association of REALTORS. Of that number, 108 joined in 2018. That means our local membership grew almost 18% last year. In the first 5 business days of 2019 alone 9 new REALTORS joined our ranks… so you’ll have lots of company!

The bottom line is this: real estate can be awesome—it has been for me and for many others. Sure, it’s not for everyone, and it does take a significant investment of your time and your resources to build a lasting business. But it can be a wonderful opportunity to do just that.

If you do decide to take the leap, I wish you much success. Come find me and let me know how it’s going!

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