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Prosperity or Perdition? My First Year in Real Estate

Blog Contributor Business Challenges, New REALTOR®, Personal Fulfillment 22 Comments

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Elizabeth Mackay

Elizabeth Mackay

By Elizabeth Mackay

I had the fairytale notion I was so well suited to real estate that I somehow would transcend all odds to rise to stardom in a matter of months.  I thought, naively, that I would visualize and affirm my way to $100,000 in commission in my first year.  Well how could I not, I’m a decent photographer, have a fair command of the English language, I’m a people person, detail-oriented, and reliable.

Imagine my dismay after six months, with a whopping $600, long spent, to my glory. It’s about that time that my first year goal went from $100,000 in commission to “I will not quit!”. When my visualizing and affirming became – DON’T GIVE UP! NEVER GIVE IN! – it was in the following months that I came to accept that real estate would give me something a thousand times more meaningful than money; that if I could hang in there real estate would transform me.

And it has. Real estate doesn’t care about comparisons. It doesn’t care who knows more people, who’s more eloquent or even, shockingly, more affable. It doesn’t care who’s on the most social media platforms, who has a blog, a newsletter, and a mailing list. Real estate laughs in the face of those who think that page one of Google is the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the real estate rainbow. If you don’t know how to leverage it, page one of Google can be a colossal waste of time in getting there and a bigger waste of time in fielding questions and sending information to those who are only looking for information – after all, isn’t that what Google is for?

All your admirable qualities and tech savvy will serve you well in the end, but in the beginning, real estate only cares about who has the guts and the will to stick it out. The determination to keep going in the face of all evidence to the contrary, when the entire world seems to be conspiring to prove to you that all your lofty ideals and fantastic qualities are essentially meaningless. Real estate cares who can take disappointment after disappointment, defeat after defeat and get up the next day and do it all over again, broken heart or not.  It cares about who can rise above deception and declare “I will not fail. I do not care how many people say no. I do not care how many people lie to me. I will not quit!”

So I haven’t earned $100,000 in commission yet, but what I have earned is infinitely more meaningful. I’ve earned my self-respect. Not the surface self-respect we often have – the type that makes us say goodbye to the bad boyfriend and amen when we leave the lousy job. I’m talking about the kind of self-respect that produces humility, perseverance, self confidence, and a sense of security and belonging in the world; the knowledge that you will never be a failure unless you declare yourself so; the courage that comes with knowing you have risen above sensitivity to rejection.

If you don’t quit, you will eventually come to that place where you know that the best is before you. And now, one year after I set out on what I thought was my road to financial freedom, I can say that real estate is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had to stand on my own two feet and walk my personal road to perdition. In all likelihood you will walk yours too, so hang in there, never give in and most important: “Don’t let it be about the money, let it be about being great.

Elizabeth Mackay, MBA, is a salesperson with CA Christie Real Estate in The Bahamas. Connect with Mackay at livelifebahamas.com or liz@livelifebahamas.com.

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Comments 22

  1. I love this article. I am in the first few months of my career in Real Estate and I had the same feelings coming into this career. Its good to know that I am not the only one feeling this way and I think the article is very well written and very much a Must-Read by all beginning brokers! Thanks!

  2. Hi Elizabeth:

    Loved your article. I wish I could assure you that once you are no longer a beginner you will never struggle financially again. But ups and down are a fact of life for most agents, and learning how to handle that is crucial to long time success.

    As your career continues, self improvement should be constant. Because of the very low requirements that need to be met to get a license in most jurisdictions, many agents not only know little when starting out, but also do not improve – because there is no necessity to do so. As an MBA I doubt this problem will apply to you, but make sure you don’t get sucked in to repeating the standard, real estate industry misdirection employed by licensees to get business.

    Where I am many licensees provide buyers and sellers with “pseudo facts” or half truths as a reason why they should be hired. In this situation fiduciary duty always comes second to the agent’s enrichment. My article, “The 5 Mistakes When Choosing an Agent” applies to the way real estate is done here in Arizona, and is my attempt to neutrialize that erroneous information.

    Good Luck!

  3. When agents finally grasp the idea that you personally either sink or swim, they tend to expedite the outcome. No one cares – really cares. You are valuable only for the fees that you pay and the exposure that you bring to the brand. Your broker depends on fees, associations, NAR, support businesses…..fees are it.

    This is a brutal business made more brutal by the industry itself – the promotion of the “part time” concept undermines the true full time professional; that 15% that actually earn a living and are pros. That 85% results in the low public perception of agents and more or less a traveling clown show.

    Sounds harsh but I could care less about the 95% of new agents that will be toast by the second year. When I see one of the 5% that really want it, I’ll offer to help. Like everything else, the first and most important place to look for help is in the mirror.

  4. I am finishing up my first year as an agent. In the beginning, I set a goal for myself of selling $1million my first year and was quickly told that was too low. In a market where most homes sell for under $100K I thought it was a good goal. Needless to say, I exceeded my goal and set a new one. However, it did not come quickly or easily. I’ve been told my share of lies from both buyers and sellers, I’ve been threatened to be sued, and spent hours with clients only to have them buy from someone else on a whim. It happens but it isn’t the whole story.

    I have also been given some great referrals, competed for elite listings and received them, and have clients as new neighbors and friends. My broker is phenomenal and has assisted me in negotiating deals and navigating challenges not just to his benefit but to mine as well. I work in a family atmosphere that is not cut-throat, and agents actually help one another out. God has blessed me and my family with this career, in the firm where I work, and with lessons beyond measure. I wish all who enter this career much success – there are no failures, only lessons learned.

  5. Good article. My theory on succeeding in real estate is that you just have to outlast everyone else. So many agents give up in year one and even more in year two. If you can afford to hang on long enough, you’ll become one of the survivors and eventually one of the 5% making 95% of the commissions. Good luck!

  6. Hi Elizabeth!

    Your words have re-awaken the dreamer in me! I have been licensed since 1990. During all those years I held a full-time position as a front desk manager at a four star hotel in Fort Lauderdale, and tried to work in real estate too, but it never worked for me. I did manage to rent some properties from time to time, and made a few dollars.

    I few years ago, I took early retirement, with the intention of working in real estate full time, and I attempted it but it was very hard to stay motivated and I kept giving up. Still, inside of me that has always been that desire to try again, and thanks to your words I am going to give it one more shot.

    It’s funny, because all my life, I have always admired the business of real estate, and real estate investing especially. I thought that maybe one day, I too, would have income-producing properties. Yet, to read about it and even study it (like I have always) is quite different from doing it.

    I can tell that you will do very well, just by your positive attitude towards the hard parts of the business. I sincerely wish you all the best!

  7. Elizabeth,
    Awesome article and great attitude! I applaud your perseverance. There are so many highs and lows in the real estate business. Many people give up in their first year and do not renew their license. I can tell you that I have GREAT personal satisfaction when I close a deal, albeit a sale or rental and see the smiling faces of the families I have helped. I take a picture of the family with their keys to their new home and use that as inspiration! Below is something I read every day…

    You have to do the hard things

    ► You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
    ► You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
    ► You have to give more than you get in return right away.
    ► You have to care more about others than they care about you.
    ► You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
    ► You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
    ► You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
    ► You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
    ► You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
    ► You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
    ► You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
    ► You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts.”
    ► You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
    ► You have to try, fail and try again.
    ► You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
    ► You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
    ► You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
    ► You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
    ► You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.
    ► You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

    Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

    The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you.

    The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

    Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.

  8. Dear Liz,
    That was a beautiful article about self -discovery, self-reliance, determination and growth.
    In life it is the struggles that allows us to grow and stretch our capabilities in new directions.
    I suspect that these are the growing pains of most new businesses and the entrepreneurs that are brave enough to put everything out there. To risk much in an effort to realise a greater gain.
    Keep growing, learning and success will follow.
    All the best

  9. Elizabeth,

    Your effervescence is very refreshing! There is no doubt that you are going to achieve your goals in short order, because it is easy to see from your post that you get “it”.

    This business is not about website rank, social media, the latest smartphone or any of the other things that agents are being told they must have in order to get more business. It’s about people, and helping them through one of the most difficult processes in life – moving.

    Once you are making your goals year after year, go back and look at this post to see how far you will have come. And, when you get there, remember that you were a rookie once and be helpful to the newbies, even if they work someplace else.

    As you can see by the outpouring of positive responses to your post, most agents are really good, caring people. And, the public knows this about us. In the NAR 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (a must have for anyone in the biz) eighty-nine of all Buyers in the study are satisfied with the buying process. Eighty-eight percent of Sellers are satisfied with the selling process. Nuff said.

    So where does the negative perception of us come from then? Just like any industry or business, it comes from the 5% of agents that couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves and think it’s all about them. The irony is, when they bad-mouth other agents, they are keeping the myth of the business being a cutthroat one alive. Fortunately, that sort of mindset is only in a small percentage of agents these days.

    The co-broke is not your enemy. There are times when you will be involved in a transaction with an agent that seems not to know something that you think should be apparent. It might not even be a new agent. Think of these as teaching moments. Share your knowledge with them. This will elevate the bar for the industry. When you shine we all look good!

    Be mindful of the fact that you are not only marketing yourself to your community, but to other agents in the area as well. When you do your job well it is only natural that other local agents will want to do business with you. They will think and speak of you as being a true professional. That’s just human nature.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you all the best for the coming year!

  10. As I read your words I almost come to tears. This is EXACTLY how I imagined my life when I quit my full time job and headed into Harry Norman with my new Real Estate License in hand. I thought -all of this- was going to be me. I cried because I had to walk away for a minute because of the fees, after only making about 650.00 for the YEAR. I couldn’t afford the real estate fees, it was the first time in my adult life I cried like I was 3 years old. I am going to go head in again this month, I am praying for a change. I am ready for the challenge again. I don’t want to give up, I am so glad someone was honest enough to tell the truth of the first year. Thank you for your honesty.

  11. Continue believing! believe in yourself and all that you outline here. belief sometimes kills but it also cures. Keep your chin up Sistah!

  12. As a writer I’ve written hundreds of bios and profiles for real estate agents and there is one question that seems to stump most agents and it’s the most important one if you want to succeed… “What is your unique value proposition?” In other words why should some-one pick you vs. the agent in the next desk who has the same bells and whistles, branding, marketing etc. The answers I usually get are: “I’m a people person”, “I go the extra mile”, “I have a passion for real estate”, “I put my client’s first”….I challenge you to find an agent who doesn’t say that… those things don’t make you unique – find out what value you bring to the table for your clients, develop your personal brand around that and ‘Put It In Writing’ so you can stand out from the crowd, because you have a lot of competition!

  13. I just have to say thank you for this wonderful article. I have just recently started with a firm and recently received my license just 2 months ago. I have heard over and over again my first 2 years will be hard. You are right, I just need to take the disappointment and rise above it. Thanks again for the motivation.

  14. Great article! I really admire your mindset. I’m going through my own struggle with the business at the moment, I knew going in that it was a tough business, but I had no idea how tough. Oh did I find out though! Thank you for writing this article, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced the knockdowns. It’s important to always read something that boosts your mindset and grow as a person, it definitely helps keep you going through the tough times. Thanks again for the great article.

  15. Thank you so very much for this article. God directed me to this site. I actually wrote on my first team application that I wanted to make $100,000 and quit my full-time job within 12 months. I got off to a great start (or so I thought), I lucked up and got a listing about 2 weeks into my career. It was an expired……and difficult to sell. I was/am so worried that everyone I know is laughing at me and that I won’t recover. I needed this article. I thank you very much for sharing. Best, Shanice

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