How to Get Your Career in Gear: Advice for Newbie Agents
March 28, 2014

When you're a new Real Estate Agent struggling to get that first listing, selling real estate can seem like the toughest job in the world.

From the outside, things look easy for the big-name Real Estate Agents. Their names and faces are everywhere, and they seem to get listings just be answering the phone.

But they went through what you're going through. We asked a couple of local top producers for advice on getting started. Both are Life Members of the REBGV MLS® Medallion Club (top 10 per cent of Real Estate Agents) and RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award winners.

Stuart Bonner recalls the cold-calling days of the crisscross directory, which listed phone numbers by address. "At 22 I didn't have any credibility," he says. "I'm from out of town, didn't go to school here, didn't know people here. So I had to make a lot of calls to get through the door."

Bonner says the first time someone actually said, "Yes, I might be interested in selling my house," he looked at the phone in amazement. Those hours and hours on the phone had finally yielded a lead.

Michelle Yu says "I remember from the beginning it was not easy to get listings. I remember going door knocking, talking to friends, relatives and everybody and telling them, 'I'm a new licenced Real Estate Agent; please give me a chance.' From time to time I got the chance, and then I got referrals it takes time to get people to know you and trust you."

Here are Stuart's and Michelle's insights on how to do that.

Join a team

Michelle:If I was starting I would want to have really good, supportive real estate company, with a good manager. For young people, when they shop around the real estate companies they need to spend time with the managers to learn what support they will provide to them, number one.

Not all of the agents are willing to help. They're busy. Some, do want to help but they may not have the time. So I think the best thing is to talk to the manager.

And joining a team is also a good start. For young people, right from the beginning I would strongly advise them to join a team. If they have a group of people working together, they'll get lots of experience.

There are a lot of teams that have been in business for a long time. I would say cold-call some team leaders. Set up an appointment with them, talk to them. I'm pretty sure they'll spend time with them.

Stuart:Having someone that you can go to with a question at the drop of a hat, that's invaluable.

Offices offer that. They try to put new agents together with established agents. Teaching can be very rewarding as long as the person that you're teaching appreciates that fact that they're being given this gift. And very often they're not being given this giftthey're sort of being put in indentured serfdom until they're capable of being out on their own. Meanwhile the teacher has got to ration the hours spent teaching, because those are hours not spent selling.

Add value to get value

Stuart:From a new agent's perspective, it's "How can I add value to pay for this education that I'm going to be getting?" They have to say, "Okay, what is the established agent going to be looking for?"

And it's going to be a lead. They have to be always thinking about ways to generate business.

If a new agent has a piece of family business, or a relative somewhere who was buying or selling, and brought that to their mentor, that's going to be a huge incentive for somebody to work with them and show them the ropes. For starters, they'll get a 25% referral for it. Secondarily, they'll be able to watch that agent work that piece of business.

Michelle:The big teams have many listings and they really want new licencees to help them with open houses.

Open houses are really effective, even though you don't really get the buyers during that time. But at least people get to know who you are, and you can hand out your business card it's advertising for free. People will know you in the future. They'll know you're a hardworking Real Estate Agent; they might call you back.

You need to prepare what you're selling. Be at the open house at least 15 minutes early, maybe check with the seller to see what are the selling points about this property, neighbourhood, school area. For my team people, I will have them check to see if there are any similar active listings in the area, any recent solds, and then maybe spend some time to drive around the neighbourhood. You need to know more because otherwise you're just wasting the buyer's time.

Carve out a niche

Stuart:It's very unlikely that you're going to be a 22-year-old selling multimillion dollar properties. You're going to be a 22-year-old selling entry-level properties to other 22 year olds or 32-year-olds. For a lot of these people, the younger people are going to be more accepting of a younger agent working on their behalf. So you're going to be able to get established more easily in a demographic that's closer to where you are and what you are.

It's a good idea to become an expert on a particular building or a particular neighbourhood. On the west side there are a bunch of established people it's going to be tough to break in there. But if you become an expert on the Athletes' Village area nobody's in there. Take your pick. Become an expert on any of those buildings.

That whole area along Main Street, there's a whole new neighbourhood of property that's being developed along there, and you can get in there and carve out a chunk in a minute.

You can go door to door. You can work your social circle. You can set up a Twitter account and start a real estate blog. If I was looking at it as a young person, they communicate differently than older people communicate. So if you can get yourself established as the hub of a network then you're going to get a lot of people calling you to ask your advice.

It's a matter creating the perception of expertise.

Be financially prepared

Michelle:Young people need the family support. If they're married, then make sure the other person can financially support the family. You have to make sure you have enough support to keep going.

You're not going to make a lot of money in the beginning. Plus you need to spend some money on advertising, business cards, your uniform, your website, nicely designed feature sheet plus the agency fees, table fees, licence fees, all the fees you have to spend annually and monthly. So you really need to be prepared for that.

You should shop around the real estate companies to see what the deals are. Some of them are really good to the first-time Real Estate Agent. They'll say okay we can waive all your fees, you can just do your business and once you do the business then maybe you can split a percentage with the company. Some of them have pretty good terms.

Just do it

Michelle:I would say you should test yourself first. Some people may not fit into a sales role, although they're very knowledgeable and very hardworking. It's something that is born in you. You cannot train yourself to become that person. Selling a home is a big thing, it's really stressful.

Before you consider being a Real Estate Agent I think you would gain a lot if you check with experienced Real Estate Agents before you get into the field. It's really important. Even before you take the courses. Talk to a Real Estate Agent and say, "I want to be a licensed Real Estate Agent, what do you think?"

Stuart:You have to be committed. You have to be prepared to stand in there and do all the hard things. And nobody wants to do the hard things, they just want to collect the cheque. Well the cheque goes to the person who's effective and thorough and efficient.

Make things happen for people and the money will follow.

You may have to give it away for 5 years. There's a lot of toiling away in obscurity that you have to do before business starts to come to you. It doesn't just come overnight. There's a lot of phone calls, late-night working, time spent with no income before you get to the place where people will phone you.

If you go knock on enough doors, you WILL find somebody. You just will.

Editor's note:If you're looking for ways to meet established Real Estate Agents who might agree to work with you, try going to meetings of your local real estate board. Veteran agent Marty Douglas of VIREB wrote this article observing that there are very few younger Real Estate Agents attending board events. By participating, you'll be noticed.

And here's another article about a Saskatoon Real Estate Agent who got started by doing all the things Michelle and Stuart talk about above . He's now selling $30 million per year.