By Rebecca Donatelli
Let’s face it, people tend to have a skewed perception of real estate agents. The way we are depicted on TV shows—even the way some people portray themselves on social media. You’d think we only live a life of luxury and glamour, with classy dinners, beautiful homes, and five-star reviews. This has allowed outsiders to develop a misconception about what exactly we do, and our worth.
While there are a few bad seeds in the business that spoil the perception of the industry, it’s unfair to classify all agents in this manner. What they don’t see on social media are the long workdays, stressful transactions, and potentially irregular paychecks. And let’s face it, is a real estate agent going to post on social media about a transaction that fell through right before closing? Or black mold found in the attic during a home inspection? The reality is, they’re not. Real estate agents use social media to promote their business, but that doesn’t mean we’re not real people with real struggles.
Let’s squash these misconceptions right here, right now, especially for those who are considering a career in real estate.
1. Real estate agents make buckets of money.
Going back to the social media piece: the flashy cars, big houses, and steak dinners give people the impression that we are rolling in dough. The truth is, you can make good money in the business if you put the in time and effort. If you are willing to hustle, and truly want the business and success, the money will follow. However, that is true in any business. Whether you are a chef, lawyer, bartender, or medical sales representative—if you work hard the money will come. In all honesty, the six-figure income is not the norm in the real estate business. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the median gross income of REALTORS® was $42,500 in 2016, which has actually decreased from 2014’s average income of $45,800. In fact, many agents enter the business due to this easy money misconception, and real estate coach Tom Ferry estimates that 87 percent of agents quit within the first five years. Enough said.
2. Real estate is “easy.”
This one makes any successful real estate agent laugh. Most people think we show three houses (thank you House Hunters), write a quick offer, hand out keys and get paid.
Let’s just back up to the showings. The odds of any real estate agent only showing three houses and securing a contract is slim-to-none. Last summer I showed a client 66 houses. That’s right, 66. (I kept track.) And guess what—the house my client ended up choosing was one of the first properties I showed her. She ended up becoming a good friend of mine, so I didn’t mind! But the truth is, it’s not as easy as people believe. One house may be perfect, minus the 30-year-old roof. The next home is completely renovated, but tilted to one side. The last one is exactly what the client is looking for, but $30,000 overpriced with a stubborn seller. Showings aside, we are dealing with multiple personalities, and managing listings, marketing costs, and closing gifts. Agents work around the clock to ensure a paycheck. Bottom line: If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
3. Real estate agents have flexible schedules and don’t have to work a lot to make money.
The truth is, we do have flexible schedules. We don’t have to be in an office at 9 a.m. and can take vacations or days off without asking permission or taking a paid sick day. However, while that may be the case, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Time is money in this business, considering it is a 100 percent commission field. Every minute we are not hustling is another minute spent not making money. Real estate is NOT a 9 to 5 job, with evenings and weekends off. In fact, evenings and weekends are typically our busiest times of the week, considering most of our clients have a 9 to 5 job and are only available for showings and listing appointments at those times.
4. Being a real estate agents doesn’t require any skill.
Let’s just counteract this upfront by saying without the proper skills and training, the success won’t exist. First and foremost, real estate agents must follow a strict Code of Ethics enforced by the National Association of REALTORS®. Should you not have the proper training and education to abide by the Code of Ethics as well as state and federal laws, you can lose your license completely. Aside from the strict rules and regulations of the business, as I mentioned previously, the business is more than just showing beautiful homes and signing a quick contract. You need to be able to understand what a contract says, how to properly fill it out and explain it to the client, how to negotiate a sale and home inspection, arrange title searches, monitor finances, and most importantly, guide buyers and sellers through a very emotional transaction. This requires extensive training, understanding, patience, and education.
The reality is, real estate has its highs and lows. There are definitely glamorous moments, nice paychecks, and beautiful homes. However, without the hard work, proper training, and passion, those things won’t exist. Real estate is not a get rich quick scheme or “easy” career, hence the large percentage of agents that don’t last more than 5 years (many after the first year). Hopefully this clears up any confusion and give you a clearer picture of what you need to do to be a successful agent.
Rebecca Donatelli, ABR, SRS, is a top producer at McDowell Homes Real Estate Services in Cleveland who has built a large online presence through social media, specifically Instagram. Follow her @rebeccadonatelli.REALTOR.
This is my first year as a realtor and believe me when I say if I had read this article before I decided to become a real estate agent I would’ve had the crap scared out of me. However everything mentioned here is 1000% the truth. Thank You
Very well said and all true, except that only Realtors (not real estate agents) are required to adhere to the Realtor Code of Ethics.
I’ve known forever people thought Realtors were one step away from being used car salesmen… no shade on used car salesmen. That said, I’ve wanted to sell real estate since I was 20 something! Only problem was, I couldn’t afford the career. I knew how much it took to get started not to mention succeed. Once I started making six-figures in the career I fell into, I found it impossible to leave. Fast forward 30 yrs, I finally get to follow my passion. I, too, just finished my first year and what I’ve learned is, the best feeling in the world is helping your client achieve their dreams. I’ve also learned that if you don’t put up some boundaries you will be eaten alive. I really hope people understand we don’t make this amazing amount of money. My husband is constantly amazed at how much work I do without any guarantee of compensation.
On this, New Years Eve 2018, I raise my glass to all Realtors. We have a purpose. We deliver something that can’t be delivered by an app. We have emotions that A.I. will never have. Here’s to a wildly successful 2019!!
Great article. However let me clear up another misconception. Real estate agents aren’t necessarily Realtors. Most people don’t know the difference or that there is a difference. Agents, if they are not Realtors, aren’t bound to Realtor ethics and won’t lose their license if they don’t abide by them. Real estate agents, whether or not they are Realtors, can only lose their license if they don’t follow the real estate law in their state of practice.
Real estate is like pulling the lever on a one armed bandit. You put your money in, pull the lever, and hope for the pay off. The admonition and delusion from peers is that the moment you quit, the next pull would have been the winner. Hopefully, you’ll get a payoff before your money runs out. And, like gambling, periodic “wins” are what keep you going, interested, and spending your money. Always on a quest for, either that one big payout, or to become a professional gambler (mega-agent).
You are asked what is your reason for being an agent? Then instead of reaching your financial goal, the industry takes away what little money you have making your goal, initially, even more unobtainable. My goal was paying for my children’s college. Now, I’m even spending the money for their college to start my career laden with promises of glitter and gold.
Like the previous poster, had I been told the truth up front, I may not have pursued this career. I believe in full disclosure. I got half-truths.