I'm always fascinated by the different paths people take to get into the real estate industry.
As part of my job, I profile a lot of real estate professionals, from newer agents to veterans, team leaders to brokers. I also meet plenty of folks like me — former agents who parlayed their interest in real estate into a related career or start-up company.
Some people grow up going to open houses for fun, endlessly redecorating their homes and developing a knack for “playing well with others.” Others launch a career in real estate during times of economic shift, life change and professional uncertainty.
No matter how you come to your interest in real estate, it’s essential to determine whether it’s the right job for you before you set off down that career path. (If you're already a real estate pro, feel free to pass this information along to someone in your life who's thinking about a career in real estate.)
Advantages of a career in real estate
Many people are attracted to a career in real estate by its high earning potential, flexibility in schedule and location, opportunities for advancement and independence with entrepreneurial control over their business. Real estate offers a host of avenues for growth, with the ability to increase earnings with each new market, niche, or client.
In addition, real estate professionals who are interested in investing and development may be able to put their skills to use building communities, investment portfolios, commercial complexes — and wealth. These types of projects can take a real estate agent’s earnings far beyond that offered by client representation, creating virtually unlimited professional opportunities.
Skills required for a successful career in real estate
Real estate agents who want to flourish should possess or develop solid people skills. These include:
Strong communication and interpersonal skills
Knowledge of the local real estate market and industry trends
Ability to network and build relationships
Marketing and sales skills
These provide opportunities to work effectively with clients and colleagues, both within their own brokerage and in the larger professional community. That can be an advantage when negotiating or seeking referral partnerships.
For more introverted agents, developing in-depth market analysis capabilities, excellent contract evaluation skills, and strong deal-making strategies can offer advantages that go beyond those provided by networking alone. Real estate agents with these skills can grow their businesses by sharing their knowledge with serious investors in their market or by creating high-level educational content for buyers and sellers.
One misnomer when it comes to a real estate career: Extroversion is not a prerequisite for success. You can absolutely put other skills to work and develop a communication style that's not dependent on being the loudest person in the room. While you should develop your self-confidence and resilience, authenticity and sincerity trump a sales-y approach every time.
Challenges of a career in real estate
While a career in real estate can be exceptionally rewarding, it comes with its share of challenges just like any other profession does. There are financial risks associated with starting a real estate business and keeping it going in a variety of market conditions. Agents generally work long hours in a highly competitive environment and take on a great deal of responsibility for managing clients, properties, and transactions.
To succeed, agents need to continuously learn and adapt to changes in the industry, including new laws, regulations, and policies. They are required to participate in continuing education and relicensing classes on an annual basis in order to keep their skills up to date and renew their licenses.
One of the main things to keep in mind, especially when you're first starting out, is that you'll need to ensure that you're optimizing your financial planning, tax planning and retirement planning. Because most real estate agents are independent contractors rather than employees, much of the responsibility for long-term financial security falls on the individual agent.
Is real estate a good fit for you?
So how do you determine whether real estate is a good fit for you? Let the following be your guide:
Make an honest self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses to determine whether you have the stamina and skillset that will make you successful as a real estate agent.
Consider your personal goals and values to determine if there are avenues of growth and professional development that appeal to you within the real estate profession.
Research the real estate market in your area to determine where the need is for real estate agents. Is there a shortage of agents specializing in a particular niche or micro-market? Is there a greater need for residential or commercial agents? Is the area a hot market for investors and developers?
Talk to experienced real estate professionals and get a sense of what they like and don’t like about their jobs. If you are close to a real estate agent, determine whether they would be willing to mentor you as you launch your career in real estate.
The more you can gain real-world experience and perspective before launching your career, the more prepared you will be for the challenges and realities of real estate life.
Ready to take the next step in exploring a career in real estate? It starts with doing your homework. Read up on the industry and on your local market, then shadow a local real estate professional. The more you know as you develop your career path, the better your chances of success and fulfillment.