Jennifer Gilson always loved real estate. She grew up with parents who built and remodeled homes and Jen showed an interest in the field from the time she was little. She was always trying to tag along when her father went to job sites to see the early stages of the homes he was working with. He welcomed her enthusiasm and would show her the floor plan of where everything was going to go—kitchens, bathrooms, closets, bedrooms, etc.
It was obvious that this was the career for her. But even though she was a natural fit, there were still some things about working in real estate she didn’t expect. Now that Jen has been in the industry for a while, she has gathered these six key things she’s learned (and that you should know) if you want to start a career in real estate.
1. A flexible schedule does not always mean shorter/fewer hours
From an outsider’s perspective it can seem like working as a real estate agent is pretty simple. You can jump into the field, make money quickly and easily, all while escaping those pesky nine-to-five office hours.
But in reality, it is a lot more complicated. You may not have set hours, but that doesn’t mean your life is a snooze. Everything relates back to your clients and working to give them the best experiences. This means you might be on international calls starting at two, three, four in the morning. Other times you might be up with the clients and lenders until very late into the night or even early into the morning.
In fact, even when you really do go on a vacation, you’re still probably going to be checking in with your clients. Just because you go away that doesn’t mean that your clients stop needing you.
“In the end, we can choose how flexible our schedules and our communication is. I always meet my clients no matter where I am. If you don’t have the passion for real estate, this isn’t the field for you.”
2. It’s emotional work
“I genuinely care and understand this as an emotional process. I always end up becoming very good friends with all of my clients!”
This emotional side of the business is both Jen’s favorite part of her job as well as one of the biggest challenges that she faces. Every client that you have is unique and you work closely with them, get to hear their stories, meet their families, and sometimes create lifelong relationships.
At the same time, these relationships can also complicate things. During negotiations things can become very heated and clients might take things personally. You have to be careful to keep your cool and try to help clients stay calm as well.
To make sure that nothing gets out of control, you have to make sure that you approach each sale and interaction with confidence and patience. It’s important to have a positive attitude at all times.
“If you exude happiness, you attract clients.”
3. Communication is key
Although every day is different, one thing remains the same; you’re constantly in communication with clients and other agents.
Jen also recommends going into the office even though it’s often not required.
Jen started at Vanguard Properties here in San Francisco and she still keeps in touch with everyone there. Now, she’s at Alain Pinel Realtors in Burlingame and she’s having a ball. Her manager is irreplaceable and they have a very strong relationship.
“She knows what I’m capable of and is always pushing me to do better and at the same time is like a second mom to me.”
Even though you don’t have to, go into the office every day. Being around the energy of others and creating those relationships will make you a better agent. It’s an interpersonal business so you have to exercise those skills.
4. Consistency is necessary for success
On any given day, Jen is completing a huge variety of tasks. No day is ever the same.
She’ll start with checking and responding to emails in the morning, negotiating with clients and agents, and making sure her clients feel at ease.
Then she’ll usually have coffee with a client or friend around nine in the morning. After that, she’ll pick a client up and tour a property or prepare a home for sale. That preparation consists of meeting with a gardener, a house cleaner, painter, handyman, etc. to let them know what needs to be done to prep the home. She’ll also meet with sellers and buyers to go over paperwork in preparing the home for sale or for purchase. Jen will usually go the extra step and also purchase a client gift.
On Tuesdays, there’s a Broker’s Tour, which allows agents to preview or view homes for their buyers and sellers’ clients. Active agents are out touring every Tuesday to keep a pulse on the available inventory, trends, and to be generally informed about the homes that are for sale and the prices at which they’re listed.
In addition to all of this, Jen also manages client databases and marketing. Despite the large variety of tasks that she has to do daily, Jen makes sure to be consistent. It’s important for not only her own sake, but her clients’ as well. They need to know they can count on her.
“Whatever you do, you have to be consistent. CONSISTENCY=SUCCESS.”
5. Be smart about your entrance into the industry
Even with her love of the field, Jen did not become an agent overnight. After she graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2004, she started working in real estate but not selling homes. Another successful real estate agent, Joyce Nakamura, also mentioned that it’s good to get background knowledge of the industry first.
Jen spent time working in commercial real estate, for the SF Builders Association, and for a private investor who developed condos from Tenancy in Common. She also had years of experience observing the building and remodeling of homes because of her parents’ profession.
“Begin your career in a positive, upbeat brokerage surrounded by great training and most importantly people that want to succeed and want you to succeed.”
6. Save before moving to commission
You don’t have to work on the other side of real estate when first starting out, but not only will it give you helpful background knowledge of the industry, it will also allow you to save up some money. Jen saved up enough money to last her about four months before making the leap from salary to commission.
She took the real estate exam while still working at a job that guaranteed a steady paycheck. Then, she made the leap and it was scary but worth it in the end.
“The thought of only being paid on commission versus having a steady paycheck was very scary. But I knew this is what my passion was and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. In the first two months, I got my first listing and it’s been an amazing experience from there.”
Jen leaves us with a quote, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle
Homework time! Interested in working in real estate? Check out our post about Joyce Nakamura and her experience in the field. Also, consider starting out as something other than a real estate agent. Learn all of the behind the scenes information so that you can make an educated transition into sales. Check out this post where we explore some of the career opportunities in the field.