Kristen Merlino, a New York City real estate agent, is no rookie. She’s been in the real estate business for nearly five years, which means she’s learned a few things about the industry but still remembers what it was like to get started.
We interviewed her about the hurdles of starting out in real estate, and she offered some valuable advice for those seeking to establish themselves as real estate professionals.
How to know if real estate is the right career for you
Conduct an honest self-evaluation of your skills and ambition. To be a good real estate agent, you have to be passionate about real estate, suggests Kristen. Also, are you someone who can set and organize your schedule without needing direction? Organization skills are essential since you’ll have to track the details and deadlines of specific contracts, manage client meetings and follow up on leads. The more self-motivated and goal-oriented you are, the more likely you will succeed in the real estate business.
Part-time or full-time agent
Can I do real estate part time? Of course you can. However, Kristen says, “If you really want to do well in it and you want to make a mark, you definitely have to go at it full time.”
When she first started, she juggled building her business while continuing to work a freelance job in public relations. She encourages those diving in to “give it your all, even if you have to also work a side job in order to make ends meet. Put all your eggs in the basket.”
Working full time helps manage the ups and downs of a commission-only business. It takes time in your first year to build a client base and there is cost outlay the first year. It’s not a career you want to test drive for a few months because many agents don’t see the fruits of their efforts right away.
It takes time to build trust with clients. But with trust comes referrals, which have ultimately fueled Kristen’s success.
Last, if you aren’t putting in a full effort, the times without a commission might make the financial aspect of the business difficult to weather.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median gross income of Realtors was $39,200 in 2015, down from $45,800 in 2014. This average includes both new and experienced agents.
Perseverance and patience
Realtor.com reports the average real estate agent incurs between $1,500-$2,000 in first-year startup expenses. These expenses include purchasing signs, MLS and association fees, desk fees charged by the brokerage, advertising on top of what (if anything) the brokerage provides, business cards, marketing materials, exam and course fees, fingerprinting fees and more. That’s a lot of investment if you’re not certain real estate is the career for you. So first, be sure you’re all in.
Then be persevering and patient. The first year is hard because you don’t have a client base yet; mostly you’re meeting a lot of strangers, Kristen says, but those strangers turn into your network.
“I wish I had the confidence I feel now earlier in my career, but you only gain that confidence with experience and time.”