How to Survive as a Real Estate Agent in 2018
Have you ever heard the story of the War of the Worlds in which a radio show in 1938 aired a broadcast all across the United States warning citizens of a Martian invasion happening in New Jersey? Panic broke out across the country. New Jersey residents fled the city for their lives. The power companies shut off citywide utilities so that the “aliens” couldn’t find them in the dark. There were even rumors that the (accidental) hoax caused people to harm themselves, although no deaths were ever actually confirmed. The reality of what happened was an airing of an adaptation of an Orson Welles story that was just meant to entertain listeners on that pre-Halloween October 30th.
There have been countless events like this throughout the course of modern day history. Some are meant to be funny. Some are meant as an experiment to see how human kind reacts when faced with imminent doom. Some sadly are meant to be harmful. Whether or not you’re a conspiracy theorist or a person who feeds easily into negativity, it’s not hard to feel like lately there is always something bad that’s about to happen. Our industry has full blown embraced the Chicken Little mindset that everything is falling apart, and it’s not hard to see why it’s left some running for the hills.
We’ve all read the stories… It’s that old journalism adage “if it bleeds it leads.” And boy, the press in the real estate world has been bleeding us dry and leading us right to our own emotional slaughter. Everything from robots taking our jobs, to the consuming public believing we are worthless, to article after article on how you must defend your living, to the companies that shall not be named with the big Z or the Big A or the big R restructuring the fabric of life as we know it, to real estate agents going completely and fully extinct in the next 6 months.
Yes my friends, the world IS changing.
Rapidly. At a pace we’ve never seen before. And yes, there are some changes you will need to enact to future proof your business. But no ladies and gents, monster alien Martian robots from the depths of the underworld have not in fact been summoned to wipe you off the face of the planet. And so, please find my not quite millennial, not quite old school, high producing, long time industry veteran take on how to survive the market in this brave new world.
Real Estate Has Always Been Bought and Sold. There Is No Ticking Time Bomb.
As long as people have needed a place to live, some type of transaction has occurred that involved the moving around of people from place to place. It begs to reason that there has always been some type of facilitator who assisted with this process. Realtor as a term was coined in 1916. There are accounts of real estate transactions in history dating all the way back 334 BC as Alexander the Great was the first to really conquer real estate by force.
Here’s my point… Real estate has always, always, been bought and sold. It was bought and sold during the first major boom and bust on record in the 1830s. It was bought and sold during the Great Depression in the 1930s. It was bought and sold during the 1980s where interest rates were in the double-digit percentage range. I personally built my career and loved working in the extremely downtrodden years of our generation’s Great Recession between 2007 and 2009. I can tell you first hand that I witnessed and participated in a lot of real estate being bought and sold during that time.
Jason Calacanis (Launch Ticker founder) says, “fortunes are built during the down market and collected in the up market.” There are a lot of us vets who love and actually prefer to work in a “down” market, so if the sky falls don’t worry, you can still help people buy and sell real estate. I promise. In fact, that’s when your clients should buy, buy, buy. Down markets are the time where you help your clients build long term wealth! Don’t be afraid of a down anything. Don’t buy into the fear that a bursting bubble or a world event or the invention of a new Realtor killing web portal will hurt you. It doesn’t have to if you prepare correctly. If you feel yourself ever feeding into the fear surrounding what a shift of any kind (economical, technical…) may do to you, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of SHIFT by Gary Keller. It’s an amazing book that will help you learn to shift proof your business.
Find a Grounding Anchor. The Island is Real.
I’ve always called real estate “The Island.” It’s a funny job. You join a brokerage, and depending on where you are there are varying levels of support. But, somehow you still always have a sense as a single agent that you’re out there on your own. There’s no one really to bounce ideas off of. No one to hold your hair while you throw up because you just lost an entire year’s worth of commissions when a deal fell apart. No one to wipe your tears when you’ve met your wits end on a transaction and you just can’t anymore. Real estate as a single agent is a one player, highly competitive game and the loneliness can be overwhelming. And I know you know what I’m talking about. Teams (which did not exist when I came up in this business) when done correctly provide a more close knit culture and supportive environment, but we all know that in this business we are the only ones at the end of the day that can make or break us. Real estate has an approximated 87% fall out rate in the first 5 years that someone is licensed. In my opinion this is because of one of two things: 1) The person does not have the financial ability to survive while building their business. 2) The Island eats them alive. That fall out rate in my opinion has nothing to do with whether or not someone is made for a real estate career. If you let the Island isolate you, you won’t survive.
You need to find a grounding anchor for support. This is someone who is 1000% for YOU. It can be a spouse, a friend, a mentor, a partner, a sibling, a parent, a coach… you name it, as long as it’s someone you can go to when times get rough. Someone that you can lean on when the stress is too much. When you’ve been up until 3:00 am reading articles about how the world is coming for the job you just gave up everything to start. When you really question whether it’s worth it or not to keep going and you want to quit. You need a grounding anchor to talk you off the ledge, remind you why you started, and tell you that you can and will do this if you continue to put in the hard work and the time it takes to be great.
If you don’t have a grounding anchor I will help you find one or would gladly stand up for you as yours. I know first hand how devastating the Island can be, so if you ever need it you email me at LMann@thecreedgroup.com and I will be there for you.
Competition Isn’t Bad. The Market Disrupters Can Make You Better if You Let Them.
“I pray for my enemy because without him there is no me.” – Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, World Champion MMA Fighter. There is nothing more motivating than having a person to chase. Ask any athlete, Olympian, business owner, salesperson… They all have a target they look at constantly and aim to beat. In the movie The Guardian with Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher is a competitive swimmer who tattoos a huge black 2 on his back so that the guy behind him in the pool always knows he’s losing. The same goes for having someone (the big tech companies aimed at disrupting our market) chasing you.
Your competition may scare the you know what out of you. They may keep you up in the middle of the night making you think they’re coming for you. They probably are. But a little competition has never been a bad thing. Yes, our world is being rocked by companies that are literally being built to shake up our industry, but nothing runs faster than a person with a target on their back and necessity is the mother of all invention. The creation of all things aimed at disrupting real estate is causing us to get better. Faster. Run leaner and smarter businesses. Offer better service. I don’t see anything that’s a byproduct of their existence doing anything at this time but causing us to get stronger.
Self Care is a Real Thing. You Need Boundaries.
Take it from someone who has spent 16 years never having boundaries, the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to establish them NOW no matter what level of the game you’re in. We are living in a scarcity market in almost all of the country. There are less homes than there are buyers, and there are more agents than there are deals to be done. Buyers are in a huge scarcity mindset, sellers are in a huge instant gratification mindset, agents are starving, and I don’t think it’s going too far to state that sometimes this results in situations that really are borderline abusive. Here are my recommendations for how to take back control:
- You need one day off a week. Your “7th Day.” Choose what it is (it doesn’t matter what day) and stick to it. Block out your schedule. Don’t allow anyone to take it from you. Set the expectation with your clients and other agents up front that you are not available on that day. What people really want is to be taken care of. You can take care of them 6/7 days a week. The 7th Day is yours, and like the Bible says, it is good! [Symbol] If you’re not servicing people in the other 6 days, then you have a problem and you’ll never be able to get this done. So, days 1-6 are for working extremely hard to ensure the 7th Day is solely and only yours. Let the calls, texts, and emails build up, you can deal with them the following day. *Side note… For those of us who have been physically dying for a text message auto-responder on iPhone here you go!
- You need business hours. There is literally no other business on earth besides Wal-Mart and the emergency room that are open 24/7. Do you want to be Wal-Mart or the emergency room? NO. So stop acting like it. Choose a time of day in which you will no longer answer your phone. Set the expectation with your clients and other agents up front and stick to it. Change your voicemail to state something like “my business hours are _____ to ______. If you are calling during these times I will return your call the next day. If this is an absolute emergency please send a text to _____.” Then friends remember, it’s not an absolute emergency unless someone is on fire, something is flooding, or you have a contract deadline. Don’t give in to the urge to deal with the not-really-emergencies, let them sit until the next day.
- You do not have to take abuse. This is YOUR business. If you’re a Buyer’s Agent you do not have to take abuse from Listing Agents who are cocky and overwhelmed with their offer load. If you are a Listing Agent you do not have to take abuse from Buyer’s Agents who are angry about your response time or your selection of another offer. Bullying is NOT negotiating and a lot of people need to learn the difference. If we want our profession to continue to exist we have to be professionals. Most of all, you NEVER have to take abuse from your clients. YOU choose who you work with. If you are involved in a truly abusive situation (rare, but they do occur) you do have every right to express your concerns and your rules for how things move forward, and ultimately to terminate the relationship if necessary.
- Utilize others when needed. There will always be something that comes up after your business hours or on your 7th Day (your day off.) Find an agent or someone who can help you when that happens. You should always have someone in your arsenal who can show a house for you or jump in and write a contract or amendment if needed. And you should always, always do the same for another in your peer group who needs help whenever possible. In order to survive this market we have to get off the Island and stick together.
Take a Negativity Detox. Don’t be a Sponge.
When the bad press and the scary Facebook posts keep coming up, ignore them. Guarding your notifications is a great way to start. I am in some (yes professional) groups where all that happens is fighting, blasting out of the latest thing to be afraid of, and rampant scarcity mentality. Go through your phone/tablet/computer and turn the notifications for these types of places off. You’ll still remain a part of the group if you need to post something for help or search the archives for something important, but you won’t have constant negative things popping up in your space all day long. Guarding your mind against negativity is a hugely important thing for an entrepreneur to master, and lately it seems like our society is forcing us to drink negative thoughts and people through a fire hose. Shut.It.Off. I promise you’ll feel better and the groups will still be there if things ever change and you want to go back.
Go back to What’s Real and What’s Not Real. We have to learn to mentally filter through news as it comes our way. When something pops up in my feed or my email that makes me feel like the sky is falling (Z starts buying and selling homes, R moves into my market, another $0 commission brokerage popped up in the building next door…) I go back to the first thought in this blog. Real estate has always been bought and sold no matter the market conditions, no matter the industry disrupters, no matter the prevalent world events, no matter what. Don’t forget this stuff is literally meant to hype you up. Don’t let it. We take back the power in this business by not feeding into the disrupters and continuing to do the good work the right way.
There Are a Million Ways to Skin a Cat. Don’t Fall for the Shiny Objects.
One of the most interesting trends I’ve seen in this business in the last few years has been that all of a sudden everyone is selling something else besides real estate. Everyone is a coach. Everyone is building a new software. Everyone is selling the world’s best leads… Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing people innovate and I am totally all for real estate agents building businesses that augment the daily grind of being a practicing Realtor. But, be careful with the shiny objects. I started my business with a barely functional computer I borrowed from my sister, an Xcel spreadsheet, and small core sphere of amazing people. And I still run it that way today. Sure now I have a team and we are supplemented by more advanced technology and systems, but we don’t need them. We could all go back to the borrowed computer and the Xcel spreadsheet and be fine because we built businesses around ourselves and our skills and not around the shiny objects. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the only way to get going or to grow is to buy expensive things. The basics are time tested and true and will get you by just fine.
There are also a multitude of products, tech, and systems out there that are absolutely amazing and game changing and are not so expensive that they will topple a startup business before it even gets started. Lab Coat Agents has done a truly tremendous job of finding and sharing those things with us. I’ve always been a huge believer that you lead with revenue and not expenses and its served me well. When you start to feel you need more oomph in your business, dip your toe in slowly. Remember that all of these companies make their revenue by trying to sell you something. There is no magic bullet in this business. Those who have “made” it know that the only way to success is time on task over time. Hard work over a long period of time is what will make you an overnight success.
My greatest wish for you my dear fellow agent, is that you are mindful of the things happening around you trying to throw you off your path. But that you don’t give them the power to change your life course, which I know is to become the greatest real estate agent, business owner, and world changer that you were meant to be. It’s a new world, and we are all swimming upstream together. May you always remember that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, that you’re only just hard work away from making it your reality, and that you can survive as a real estate agent in 2018 and beyond!