Crushing it in real estate can bring professional and financial rewards beyond what many imagine, but the journey there is often a mystery. By joining the right brokerage, choosing effective technology, creating an effective online brand and other strategies, we’ll show you the practical steps it takes to get there.
Going from zero to hero as an unknown agent takes smart marketing and name recognition. Zillow can give you exclusivity on your listings and place your contact information on the listings of non-Premier Agents in your area. Start collecting commissions and getting your brand known on the largest real estate marketplace on the internet.
Here are the seven steps on how to be a successful real estate agent:
1. Join the Right Brokerage
The decision on what brokerage to join should be made with great consideration, with a specific focus on the training and mentorship it provides. While commission splits are important, your first brokerage, whether franchise or boutique, needs to foster the skills and guidance to build a solid foundation upon which your career will be built.
Franchise brokerages are established national companies that sell their methods and branding to brokers for an ongoing fee. They have systems in place that have been found to be effective for them. For example, we rated Keller Williams the best real estate company to work for in 2018 because of the extensive training as well as fair commission structure.
The benefits of working for a franchise brokerage are:
- Brand Recognition: Working for a franchise offers you a way to gain credibility in your market, even as a new agent. You’ll benefit from branded business cards, signage, and the ability to use their name in your advertisements.
- Tested Training Regimes: While boutique brokerages can sometimes offer more individual attention, franchises have extensive training methods and practices that have been successful for years. Some of these, like Keller Williams, are known for being extensive and particularly well done.
- Access to Technology: Franchises usually offer access to technology that would be expensive on your own, and that boutique brokerages may not offer, such as transaction management software, customer relationship management software (CRMs), online marketing advertising, and other benefits. For example, Century 21 offers their agents free online advertising perks.
Boutique brokerages are usually smaller in size than a franchise, not affiliated with a national brand, and are owned by an individual or single company like many franchise firms. Boutique firms can often offer solid mentorship as well as incredibly individual attention and guidance through your professional development. Many are very successful, and have name recognition in their area of operation.
The benefits of working at a boutique brokerage are:
- Individual Mentoring: While this can certainly be found at larger franchises, the opportunity for mentoring and personal guidance is greater with less agents overall.
- More Cooperative Atmosphere: Some larger brokerages have reputations for being cutthroat, while the overall reputation of boutique brokerages is more collaborative in nature. You’ll find leads shared a bit more often and people working together to get the job done.
- Innovation: Boutique firms do not have the large corporate structure of franchise firms and can incorporate change quickly into their everyday operations. This allows them to function much like startup companies with the ability to innovate quickly and incorporate cutting-edge ideas and technology.
Overall, remember that while these are the trends that tend to occur, every franchise and boutique brokerage is unique. Be sure to talk to boutique and franchise brokerages about all of the elements above to get a handle on what they can offer you as a new agent and whether this is the place you would like to start your career.
To learn more, see our article on how to choose a real estate company to work for.
2. Determine Your Farm Area
A farm area is the geographic area you have selected to practice as a real estate agent, and choosing it wisely can make or break your early career. In beginning your career, it is advantageous to work in an area you know well and that has a real estate market that can provide for your financial needs.
Some areas to consider when selecting your farm area:
- Proximity to Your Home. Being close to home offers availability to contacts as well as clients, and can make your career far more seamless with less travel.
- Demographics. You want to examine the demographics of your area and what that might say about housing trends or inventory. Is your area primarily composed of young families or those in retirement age? This may also determine your marketing direction.
- Local Employers. Examine whether your farm area has an industry or two that can sustain income and a robust housing market.
- Average Sale Price and Market Activity. Does the market have the price points and turnover to sustain your career? Examine both the area and neighboring communities to see if expansion into those might help your income and career.
Determining an effective farm area to begin your career is an important step in how to be successful in real estate. For a more in-depth analysis examining the particulars of this process, see our article on real estate farming: how to choose and dominate a farm area.
3. Develop a Business Plan
Developing a solid business plan is your strategic advantage. By laying out goals, budgets, and examining your market with continued re-evaluation, you are laying the groundwork for your future steps. While others struggle in how to be successful in real estate, this important document helps you chart your course.
Developing a business plan requires you to:
- Outline Your Vision: Your vision will include the opportunities available in your market, and how you will leverage your skill set to execute on those opportunities most effectively. This would include determining your farm area, areas of focus, and a general marketing plan.
- Assess Your Farm Area: Your farm area is simply the market you want to work in, and this section is to assess that market potential. Examine things like market competition, residential turnover, average price of sales and rents, and local demographics for feasibility.
- Outline Your Lead Generation and Nurturing Strategy: Your strategy should be actionable and specific, setting into your calendar specific times that you will be working on your lead generation and how. For example, outline when you make cold calls or send newsletters.
- Develop a Realistic Financial Plan: These are the bottom line numbers you need to both survive and thrive in your real estate career. Set a budget to make informed choices on both professional and personal expenses.
Developing a business plan will be one of your most treasured tools as you navigate how to be successful in real estate. For more details and to download a free template, see our expansive piece on how to write a real estate business plan.
4. Choose the Right Technology
Real estate technology includes websites, CRMs, and marketing spend at minimum. While the right technology pays for itself many times over, an error in judgment could get you locked into contracts that sap resources for months. For brand and marketing effectiveness, you’ll need a lead generation tool, real estate website, CRM, and accounting software.
Here are the four best technology options to get you started:
Lead Generation: Zillow Premier Agent (2-30 cents per impression)
Zillow Premier Agent is an advertising platform that allows you to buy ads in your zip code that do two important things. As a Premier Agent, you are displayed on the listings of non-Premier agent competitors and you also become the exclusive agent shown on your own listings. Being the exclusive agent on your own listings increases the possibility for a healthy commission when buyers contact you for your own listing.
With careers built on the back of past client referrals, expanding your brand recognition and getting leads as a new agent will be the bread and butter of your future career. The price of Zillow Premier Agent is contingent on the zip code and market conditions of your farm area. The cost per impression of your ad can range from two cents to over 30 cents, depending on your area.
With over 160 million views per month, amp up your free agent profile, get reviews from clients, and begin advertising on the largest real estate marketplace on the internet. To read more about the Premier Agent program, see our article on how Zillow Premier Agent works.
Real Estate Website: Placester (free)
Placester offers a lead generating real estate agent website absolutely free to National Association of Realtor (NAR) members that can drive leads and establish your brand. This free website offers agents a beautiful, mobile-friendly site that has an integrated CRM and lead generation features. However, if you want further lead generating and nurturing, Placester charges $99 per month for their upgraded agent website.
Placester’s $99 per month option remains an outstanding value compared to more pricey options available, with many of the same features such as IDX integration, lead capture, blogging ability, and more. See our buyer’s guide on the six best real estate website design companies for more information.
ProTip: Establish Your Unique Brand on Your Real Estate Website
The average real estate agent will change brokerages at some point throughout their career, so you want to be sure that when you are establishing your site, you choose a domain name and brand that does not incorporate any one brokerage, but instead capitalizes on you. For example, if your name is Jonathan Peters, be sure that your domain name is not “RE/MAXJon.com” or some other variation but rather “RealtorJon.com” or even simply your name “JonathanPeters.com”.
With your real estate website, you want to be sure to establish your own brand and your own reputation. When people wonder how to become a successful real estate agent, look at the models you see online. People like Ryan Serhant, Josh Flagg, and others all have their own name recognition apart from their brokerage, and you should develop your website with this in mind.
CRM: Freshsales (free)
Freshsales offers a CRM packed with features, and you can use a version absolutely free to keep in contact with clients and nurture your leads. The free version of Freshsales includes call, text, and email logging as well as lead capture from Gmail and webforms. For agents, a nice feature in the free version is a tasks, appointments, and notes feature with the ability to sync with your calendar.
When thinking about how to be a successful real estate agent, it’s all about communication. Having a reliable CRM that you can grow with is crucial to scaling your business. Freshsales offers a free version, with the ability to upgrade to $19 per month for more features like their “sales pipeline.”
See our review of the best free real estate CRMs for more information on Freshsales and other free CRMs you might want to check out.
Accounting Software: QuickBooks Self-Employed ($10 per month)
With a $10 subscription rate per month, QuickBooks Self-Employed tracks your professional versus personal expenses, work mileage, receipts, and more. This software is truly a life saver for any contract employee, and it makes tax time a breeze because it seamlessly integrates with TurboTax.
5. Create a Consistent Online Brand
Creating a consistent online brand helps clients find you across platforms and establishes you as a professional. Clients now follow and interact with online realtors, look at their listings, and contact them through various social media outlets, so it is important that you remember this as you post photos, video, and content.
Some of the best tips for creating a successful real estate agent brand online are:
Have the Same Handle Across Platforms
Try to secure the same username and use the same head shot photo across platforms for consistency and to make it easy for people to find and recognize you. For example, if you are known as “LancasterJon” on your website, it helps clients find you elsewhere if you are also “LancasterJon” on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.
Post Appropriate & Interesting Content
When posting to any social media website, show that you are both a professional and someone they would want to work with. Everything you do online represents your brand, so it is often best to stay away from controversial topics such as politics and focus on your hobbies or real estate information.
Interact with Followers
Interaction is the key to relationship building. Take the opportunity to respond when someone posts a comment, and leave your DMs open for private conversation or inquiries. As an out-of-state homebuyer, I found my own real estate agent through Instagram. Social media interaction pays off.
Finding new followers and engaging with your audience often comes from great hashtag use and being discoverable. To learn more about using these effectively, check out our article on the top 25 real estate hashtags.
6. Leverage Printed Materials
Printed materials give you direct access to every household in your farm area and help to boost name recognition and leads. From door hangers and postcards to monthly newsletters, there are an endless array of printed materials to get yourself in front of some of your most valuable future clients.
Here are the three most common print materials used today:
- Postcards: Real estate postcards are typically 5.8 inches by 4.1 inches, glossy, and printed on both sides to give information about your services and specific listings in the neighborhood.
- Door hangers: Door hangers are glossy papers that hang from a door handle and give information about the real estate agent and their services in the local area.
- Flyers: Real estate flyers are typically 8.5 inches by 11 inches and can include newsletters as a type of flyer. Flyers can be distributed to advertise local properties or give your farm area market information.
Knowing how to craft real estate specific mailers to capture attention and compel action is an important part of keeping your name top of mind. ProspectsPLUS gives agents templates they can use, and can save time through the direct mailing services and even help you put some of your marketing on autopilot. For example, their “Done for You” newsletter system generates content at your direction and discretion, and mails the newsletters out on a schedule that meets your needs for under $2 each.
Despite feeling a bit “old school,” real estate mailers have persisted in the business because they have a solid ROI. Here are some tips to keep your mailers working for you:
- Be Consistent. Have a regular presence so that people remember who you are. If not monthly, try to be present seasonally.
- Offer Useful Content. Existing homeowners want to learn more about their market and aspiring homeowners want insights. Try to speak to both.
- Catch Their Eye. Homeowners receive piles of mailing information, so you want to stand out from the crowd. This can mean having compelling images, colors, headlines, and other aspects that make your mailer stand out from the usual they receive.
- Include a Call to Action. Compel individuals who receive your mailing to contact you. Whether offering a seminar or a free home valuation, give them a reason to reach out and have multiple ways clearly available for them to contact you.
7. Work on Your Business, Not Just in It
Successful real estate agents carve out time every day for lead generation and plan out regular intervals to revisit their business plan. Focusing all of your time on active clients will leave your coffers empty. Tips on effective use of your calendar are some of the best new real estate agent advice.
How to become a successful real estate agent by managing your schedule:
Calendar Time for Lead Generation
Every day set aside one or two hours for activities such as cold calling, blogging, nurturing existing leads, and ad creation/management. Although it can seem intimidating at first, most successful real estate agents start with their own sphere and work outward. Here are some activities to consider, and these are only the beginning:
- Send emails to family about your new career
- Blog about your neighborhood and the local housing market
- Bring business cards to post at the coffee shop you frequent
- Talk to parents at your child’s school
- Post a card or flyer at your place of religion
- Nurture leads already existing in your CRM
- Use ad management on Zillow or other platforms
- Attend restaurant or gallery openings with your cards
- Schedule conferences to swap referrals
- Join referral networks
- Sign up for leads on FSBO, expired listings, and pre-foreclosures on REDX or other providers
- Try cold calling leads
- Join house flipping and real estate investor groups in your area
Revisit Your Business Plan Regularly
Sustaining and growing your real estate business requires regular evaluation. Your business plan is a living document and should evolve as you grow, with elements altered or changed as you find the things that work and other things that do not. When examining how to be successful in real estate, planning and agility are at the top of the list.
Areas to revisit and revise regularly include:
- Marketing fees versus ROI on specific marketing platforms
- Commissions versus cost of living and business expenses
- Lead generation standing and goals
- Client expenses
- Pipeline status
- Technology subscription expenses
How to Become a Successful Real Estate Agent Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
While we’ve included a lot of information about how to become a successful real estate agent in this article, some questions are asked more often than others. We’ve provided the responses to some of the most frequently asked questions here. If we haven’t answered your specific question, feel free to ask it in the Fit Small Business forum and we’ll provide a response!
How Do You Get Into Real Estate?
Getting into real estate requires first taking pre-licensing coursework and passing the real estate licensing exam. Be aware that real estate licensing coursework and requirements do vary from state to state, so be sure to check the real estate licensing commission in your state to see what the guiding policies are where you live.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Agent?
It takes an average of four to six months to become a real estate agent, accounting for the coursework, licensing exam, and finding a broker sponsor to register for licensure. Note that many online real estate schools are self-paced, which may allow you to finish your requirements faster than this traditional timeline.
Can You Make Good Money as a Real Estate Agent?
What you earn will largely be determined by your market turnover, the price of homes, and the number of transactions you participate in. Real estate agents are paid by commission, so you earn a percentage of every transaction of which you are a part.
The Bottom Line
How to be successful in real estate requires focusing on the things that matter, and being open to evaluating and adjusting your course. Joining the right brokerage and adopting useful technology that streamlines your process can truly make all the difference in moving your career forward.
If you’d like to amp up your real estate knowledge through continuing education or haven’t yet taken the initial requirements to become an agent, be sure to check out Real Estate Express. As the premier online real estate educational provider, you have a range of affordable options that can get you started in the convenience of your own home.