Unquestionably the 2 MOST Important Factors in a Successful Real Estate Career


September 25, 2019

“How much money can I make in my first year as a real estate agent?”

“I want to make $100,000 by the end of my first full year.”

“I want to be the #1 Realtor® in Haddonfield in five years.”

“I want to build a team and then open my own real estate brokerage.”

These are just some of the things students at our Cherry Hill real estate school say on the first day of their real estate licensing class. I listen patiently as they describe their road map to the real estate careers on which they are about to embark.

Then I offer them a couple of my own thoughts.

Secret #1

The first secret to a great real estate career is to make it about the people, not about the money. It may sound corny, but if you put the people you serve—your clients—and even the people you work alongside first, every day will be brighter.

I used to work with a real estate agency where there was a lot of cattiness among agents. “Are you sure that client didn’t call and ask for me and you stole my lead?” one agent would say when another agent announced a new listing. The office had constant gossip about who the manager was hitting on or who was doing what with whom. Agents would refuse to share with new agents forms or scripts or advice because “That’s mine, and I don’t want you stealing my own ideas.” It was awful. You wanted to just come in, run to your office and close the door.

The day I moved to another brokerage, one agent gave me the open house forms he developed, another agent said, “Here’s some additional lease clauses an attorney drafted for my clients that you might find helpful.”

To this day, the culture there is to help one another, to have cookouts at the office on a summer Friday afternoon, to have family bowling or mini-golf outings together. Just last week, the management brought a Mister Softee truck to the office and all afternoon it was there to serve free ice cream to their agents, families, and clients. When you enjoy the people you work with, it is a pleasure to go to work every day.

Real estate is a people business. Covey said that one of the “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” is to “Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.” So it is in real estate. Our clients come to use in times of great happiness and sadness, of anticipation of a joyous future or in desperation from what has happened in the past.

We have first-time buyers so excited about building a nest for their new marriage, or of a larger home they’ll need for an impending addition to their family. We also have clients who are being forced to sell because unforeseen circumstances such as financial failure, divorce, job loss, or bereavement.

We have commercial clients wildly optimistic about the new business they are starting and the same type of clients who come to us desperate to sell after having sunk all their savings into a business venture that failed.

Through all of this, we must focus not on the commission, but on the people; on the emotions they are going through and on how much we can intercede to help them in their moment of happiness or their moment of sadness and despair.

Our goal should be that long after WE forget how much commission we made on a transaction,  our clients still remember how much we helped them attain the results that they came to us to provide.

Secret #2

If Secret #1 is that it is about the people, not about the money, Secret #2 is that we should enjoy what we do.

Money is important. I absolutely agree with that point. But it should not be the most important thing. If making lots of money was the key to a great career, why do so many highly paid professionals quit? I was supposed to meet a friend for drinks after work one Friday afternoon and when he finally showed up—an hour late—he was at the point of total exasperation because of the stress a family law attorney endures on the day before a holiday when his clients are screaming about their ex-spouse not having their child delivered to them on time.

A few weeks later, John quit his law practice.

According to Forbes, one-third of the cost of the cost of physician turnover is attributed to burnout. Attorneys, hedge fund managers and high-flying Wall Streeters are right up there in the same level of burnout, stress-related deaths and career changes. Another attorney friend was a partner with Burlington County’s top law firm and one day, he simply walked out and chose a different career because he had come to hate his job.

There is not much value in being the happiest man in the graveyard.

Every year, the Gallup Organization conducts a poll to ask the public which vocations they trust the most and the least. Car salesmen, lawyers and politicians hover around the bottom. But every single year, nurses, elementary school teachers, pastors/rabbis, and military officers are in the top five. I would wager that none of those people chose their vocations because of the money; they chose them—and they remain in them—because they love what they do.

I feel the same way. For many of my years in real estate, I simply loved being a Realtor®. Even now when I no longer actively sell real estate, I think it is a noble profession. A person asked me just last week, “What kind of job do you have?”

“I don’t,” I answered her.

“Oh, so you’re retired?”

“No,” I said. “I am an instructor at Garden State Real Estate Academy. But I don’t consider it a job. I absolutely love what I do and come home every night with a spring to my step. I wouldn’t change what I do for anything.”

So if you are considering real estate as a career, please don’t do so just because of the money. If you put your clients first and empathize with them, always trying to satisfy their real estate needs instead of your commission goals, you will succeed. And if you have fun at what you do, my prayer for you at NEXT Thanksgiving is that you’ll feel so thankful at having chosen real estate that you, too, will tell your friends, “I’m a REALTOR® and I don’t work a day in my life!”

At Garden State Real Estate Academy, we teach students how to learn the complex topics they need to know to pass the state licensing exam. Our small class sizes and great instructors have helped our students attain an 85% pass rate on the first attempt at the state exam, compared to 62-63% from all schools combined. But we go further. Our instructors are experienced in the real world of real estate. So we also pass on tips from decades of expertise that will help them “hit the ground running” after they earn their real estate license. Come join us at Garden State Real Estate Academy and let New Jersey’s top-ranked real estate school help you get your license soon!

David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 31 years ago. During his career, David and his business partner sold more than 450 homes in South Jersey.  He is now School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 14 books. You can reach David at David@GSREacademy.com

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