Getting Into Real Estate
Successful real estate broker, Mindy Smart, has worked for John L. Scott Real Estate in Issaquah, Washington. Before pursuing your own job see what she has to say about the good and bad of working in real estate, getting necessary training, and more.
How did you get into real estate?
Actually, I began my real estate career working at a law firm. I started out as an escrow assistant, and then became a “closer” the term we used before the Limited Practice Officer designation defined today.
Eventually, I went back to college for my degree as a Paralegal. I worked for several years as a real estate and business Paralegal, then a short stint at a title insurance company before I obtained my real estate license. I believe that my experience in real estate law, title and escrow made my transition to a real estate career a smooth one and this contributed to my quickly-gained success.
Four years ago I transitioned from real estate salesperson to the Managing Broker for the Issaquah office of John L. Scott Real Estate. I am responsible for the business operation and profitability of our office and the recruiting, retention, training and general support of our agents. It is a very challenging position, particularly in our ever-changing market. I am constantly updating our education offerings, seeking knowledge to help our agents better support their clients and as a company we strive to offer the ultimate in technological tools to support our agents and our clients.
What are your favorite parts of the job?
I enjoy the legal aspects of this business and the opportunities to help my agents and their clients accomplish their goals. Helping others identify their needs and desires and then guiding them toward accomplishing their goals is so rewarding for me.
Daily, I am inundated with questions about everything from contractual terms, the effects of new legislation, consumer protection issues, market trends, marketing proposals, home construction, and the negotiations related to the listing and selling of homes. Being informed and considered as a resource for my agents and their clients is important to me.
I make myself available to my agents 24/7. Fortunately, calls at 12:45 AM are rare but I am willing to be there for my agents whenever they need me. As a former agent, I know how stressful this profession can be – and if I can alleviate some of the stress by helping the agents and the clients at the time they need me and give them peace of mind, then I will do it.
What are your least favorite things about this job?
Some problems are hard to solve. There are so many different people and personalities to accommodate in a real estate transaction. It can be difficult to find a win-win resolution at times. When controversy or misunderstandings arise, I want everyone to walk away feeling satisfied, but that’s not necessarily going to happen.
If you could pick a different career in real estate, what would it be?
I would be a real estate attorney. I’ve always regretted not going to law school when I had the chance. I enjoy the legal connection to our business and the opportunity to research my way through a problem. Or going in a total different direction – I think being a Stager would be fun!
What are some of the challenges for beginning real estate agents?
A major challenge is having the financial backing to begin. I recommend that all new agents have at least four to six months worth of income saved up to get through the initial training period.
Considering that in a best- case scenario, an agent sets up her business and participates in the first sessions of our training program during her first 30 days as an agent. If she sells a house on the thirty-first day, it will still take another 30-40 days for a sale to close. There will be no paycheck that entire time and all the while the agent is spending money for required items like key boxes, signs, announcements, promotional items, license requirements and so forth. Even when that first paycheck comes, it’s likely already “spent.”
The freedom of this profession tends to either be the agent’s best friend or worst enemy. Agents are independent contractors and while our company recommends agents treat this profession like a business and commit to a business plan with goals and accountability, they truly are their own boss. Many find it difficult to make this transition and manage their time appropriately. It’s easy to sleep in when there is no required starting time; it’s easy to spend the day golfing or shopping with the intention of getting work done “later.” Now, that isn’t to say that shopping and golf and what ever else the agent wants to get done can’t happen but it is ultimately important to manage the work schedule in order to be successful.
Again, I would emphasize having four to six months of expenses saved up is critical. A couple of years ago, three months would have been enough but in an adjusting or slower market, agents need to be prepared to go longer between commission checks, just in case.
How should agents select a broker?
Find a brokerage where you feel comfortable with the environment and the leadership style at that particular office. I also encourage agents to seek information about the executives of the company as well. Often times, company websites will provide great information. If an agent inquires, I will put them in contact with a company VP or other executive to get a different prospective about our office and company initiatives.
Having a manager that you feel you can trust and one that offers supportive resources, such as in-house legal, marketing support, transaction coordination and other mentors to support you is essential. Office staffing is also very important. Ask about staff turnover and the background of the support staff. I find that former agents make incredible staff support. They really understand the work that we do and how to get things done.
You also need a brokerage with good branding. A well recognized company with a good reputation in the community will no doubt further your own career just by the affiliation with them. Drive around and see whose signs are posted in the yards of homes for sale, check out the company’s website for ease of use by clients. Stop at an open house and talk to the agents there. Find out what they like about the company they work for.
Find a good brokerage with a professional training program. Don’t assume that policies and training programs are consistent throughout the company, because they can vary even from branch to branch of the same company.
What should a good training program offer?
Our training program is head-and-shoulders above anyone else’s. In addition to educating agents on the basic elements of the business, we offer one-on-one coaching for the agent, a full-time, experienced mentor to help support the agent in their early stages and we offer a plethora of professional development workshops and courses designed to support the new and the experienced agents. Traditional classes include contract law, marketing, branding, time management, objection handling, as well as classes on how to use internal tools. For example, we have a great property searching program on our website (www.johnlscott.com) that allows both agents and consumers to specify the search criteria and with the click of a mouse; every property that fits the criteria is presented. We utilize virtual mapping so clients can zoom into a neighborhood and see what’s across the street or identify where the nearest highways are located from the subject property.
We offer online classes, live tutorials, recorded segments and group sessions designed to perfect the agent’s understanding of how to use both company specific and industry standard tools.
We work endlessly to stay on top of new technology and we introduce the agents to new industry products, such as the inexpensive yet high tech video production company, called Animoto. Video technology is becoming increasingly popular. John L. Scott provides guided tours for all of our listings and recently we increased our broadband to allow agents to download personal marketing videos on their personal web pages as well. We are moving away from traditional newspaper advertising and spending marketing dollars on internet advertising through our website and others. We also support increasingly popular, non-traditional advertising like Craigslist and YouTube as a way to promote homes for sale.
Real estate is not unlike our ever-changing world, constantly changing, and creating the necessity to seek out new ways to provide even better service for our clients.