By Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Real estate is a hot career. Employment for real estate brokers and agents is projected to grow at 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and real estate agents rank number 4 in the U.S. News “Best Sales and Marketing Jobs” survey.
But real estate can be a challenging way to make a living. In a traditional brokerage, real estate agents are one-man bands who must be good at every aspect of selling a house, from mining for listings to dotting the i’s at closings.
“To be a good agent, you have to be everything to everybody,” says Brad Loe, executive manager of sales for Douglas Elliman, who hires agents for the nationwide real estate brokerage.
“An agent is a financial adviser, negotiator, educator, and therapist. They must be able to read people and read between the lines. Can you learn it? Probably. But if you’re born with it, it comes easier.”
When Loe interviews a prospective agent, he looks for someone who’s engaging. “Someone who can talk to a wall,” he says. “At the same time, they have to be able to stop talking and listen.”
Loe values a candidate who is flexible enough to change styles to meet a client’s needs. “If you’re talking to someone who’s boisterous, you have to turn it up a little bit. If you’re with someone soft-spoken, choose your words more carefully.”
“Time management skills are huge,” Parker says. “And the lack of these skills is probably the biggest killer of an agent. I see agents who are good-to-go for 10 to 20 days in a row and sell two or three houses. And at the end, they’re fighting with their wife, have gained 10 pounds, and haven’t seen their kids in two weeks. So they stop working for a week or two” and business drops. “It’s like a football team that only plays two out of four quarters. You have to stay in the game and prioritize to get the important things done in every aspect of your life.”
Is real estate the right career for you?
The real estate profession is a big tent that welcomes many different personalities. WizeHire, which creates software to help real estate brokers hire more efficiently and accurately, looked at the personality traits of thousands of real estate professionals and developed profiles for each job.
Listing agents: These are born salespeople, hunter-gathers who are aggressive and assertive. They enjoy risk and challenge and thrive on competition. Uncertainty is enjoyable, and the routine is the kiss of death. They get bored easily and can be quite disorganized, scattered, and inconsistent. “They’re great starters, not great finishers,” Niblick says.
Buyers agents: They’re more personable and sociable. Aggressiveness is cut by a third, and they’re more service orientated, and don’t mind showing one couple 23 houses, so long as they find the perfect match. They tend to be more organized and patient than listing agents. They like risk less and stability more. They do better at staying in longer relationships with customers at a slower pace.
Administrative support: They love routine and paying attention to detail. They thrive in a very stable, constant environment. Policy and procedure are like a security blanket.
Inside sales agent: ISAs, who make 150 calls a day from a lead list, are the most sociable of all real estate professionals. They must be able to read people with just their ears, which is difficult. They are service-oriented and love nothing more than handing their lead agent a list of potential clients. Often ISAs are young, eager, and frequently move into agent positions.
It’s important to choose the position that best fits your personality and career goals. Faking it “will make you mentally exhausted,” says Jay Niblick, founder of WizeHire. “Someone who is just putting on a persona will be wasted at the end of the day. They have to constantly think, ‘What should I do now?’ “
In the end, the key to success in real estate is having the “self-awareness and authenticity” to pick a job that suits your temperament, Niblick says. “Know what you’re great at and love to do naturally.”
Lisa Kaplan Gordon is a builder of luxury housing and an award-winning writer specializing in home improvement and real estate topics. She lives in McLean, Virginia.