Q: I am an intelligent 50-year-old woman, fluent in four languages. I have always worked for someone else, but I think at my age now I'd be safer working for myself. I began the state-approved real estate course but I don't know if I should continue. It requires a lot of work and I am getting nervous about whether I can do it.
A: Successful real estate brokers are busy with establishing clients, securing listings, making sales and writing accurate contracts, so when they have free time, they likely need it for themselves and their families.
Here's an inside tour by Leneiva Head, one of Nashville's top brokers (Welcome Home Realty) in residential and commercial real estate sales to help you decide your direction. Head was employed full time — 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — with Deloitte & Touche for the first two years in real estate, which made it possible to do both without negatively impacting either one. That doesn't mean it was easy.
Head's most difficult situation to deal with was when she realized she was truly on her own. Head says, "I had a broker, but my training focused on preparing my sphere of influence (network of friends, family and others) and learning the forms used with each transaction type (listing, purchase, related disclosures, etc.). That was the easy part."
Head wanted a mentor, someone to shadow so she could see a transaction from beginning to end. Fortunately, an experienced agent in her firm asked her to join his team. He said he wanted to help her jump-start her business, so she shadowed him for a brief time, learned a few key techniques and adjusted them based on her personality and business style. Then she was "off to the races."
"While I learned a few hard lessons along the way, I was able to create a template that would help me as I continued on my own. It helped me organize my thoughts and be better prepared for appointments." She made sure she learned what to say and when to say it, which is what helped her gain her clients' confidence. She made her first sale after four months as an agent. If clients asked about her experience level, she was honest, but they'd usually respond that they thought she'd been in real estate much longer, which was reassuring to her.
She fully believes in customer service. "I have generated a lot of business as a result of another person's failure to return a call." Head recommends someone considering real estate sales to have a minimum of $3,000 to cover the required courses, licensing fees, marketing materials, technology setup, errors and omissions insurance premiums, office fees and real estate board dues that renew yearly. The real estate industry is not an inexpensive industry to master. They also should have at least four months of savings to cover basic living expenses before looking to become a realtor. Head emphasizes, "I encourage them to make a budget."
Head went directly into sales after becoming licensed. She was on her own, armed with a cellphone and could call her broker for direction or assistance. She later learned of opportunities to become a buyer's agent, but she was happy with her progress and was working on branding. She didn't want to assimilate into another agent's identity.
Head says, "Don't view real estate sales as a means to get rich quick. Be realistic, be organized, set attainable goals, and be willing to do what is necessary to ensure reaching them. Select a real estate firm to affiliate with that will show you how to implement skills and techniques to help you reach your goals. And, do not measure your success by the success of others. If you're working hard and meeting your goals, you are succeeding and will continue to do so."
Head's heart-to-heart advice: "Real estate sales is not for the faint of heart. Look inward and consider whether some of the following practices would make you head for the hills — prospecting, networking and meeting new people, reading and reviewing contracts with clients, negotiating, document retention and management, handling confrontation, and remaining positive through it all."
"You must have strong customer service skills to gain your client's confidence and trust. You must be driven. No one is going to make you take the steps necessary to succeed, so your personal fortitude is all you have to push yourself from one day to the next."
Negotiating is necessary, but that skill will improve from one deal to the next. Part of negotiating is being able to collaborate with others, even when a transaction is challenging. You also must be open to change and able to recover quickly. Not all transactions go as planned, but positive thinking is required.
Email life and career coach [email protected] with your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.