Life as a Rookie

by Chicago Agent

Succeeding as an Industry Novice

From working in a tough market to existing on a commission-based income, there are many challenges new industry members must face. But with a lot of hard work and perseverance, rookie agents and lenders can achieve the same success as any veteran.

By Meghan Boyer
It’s not easy being new to an industry, and it’s especially not easy during a tough market. But here’s the good news: Despite the challenges, it is not impossible for fledgling agents and lenders to get started and find success in real estate. All it takes is a lot of hard work, a determined outlook and an understanding of the types of challenges to expect in the first one to two years in the market.

“This industry is ever changing and never dull,” says Maria Casciaro, a Realtor with RE/MAX Vision. But hard work is rewarded, and the income potential is unlimited, she says. Casciaro, like many market newcomers, could not see herself in any other industry now that she has started working in real estate.

Like any career there are challenges, but “I love that I’m my own boss, I love the daily interaction with a diverse group of people and I love assisting people with one of the largest decisions and transactions they will make in their life,” she says.

Tough Market, Tougher Rookies
The real estate market may be slumping, but that’s not stopping novice agents and lenders from entering the business. “Some people actually laughed at me when I told them I was becoming a Realtor,” says Paul Baker, a Realtor with Koenig & Strey GMAC in Wheaton. “Every day you are hearing about how bad the market is, and everyone has two cents about it.” >>

Even though the weakened housing market represents the greatest challenge for new (and existing) industry members, hard work can persevere over difficult times, according to market rookies who have found success. “The current market does hinder getting started,” says Joshua Jones, a senior mortgage banker with National City Mortgage. “I expect to work late. I expect to work harder for every deal,” he says. The hard work, though, pays off.

Starting in a tough market can help newcomers develop good habits, which will be valuable in the future when the market rebounds, says Staci Wolff, a Realtor with Advantage Realty in McHenry. “I have developed some good habits of prospecting and following through with every [client] no matter what,” she says, adding that the current market is the only one she knows, so she has learned to thrive in it. Jones agrees: “If you can succeed in this market, you can succeed in any market,” he says.

More To Overcome
The housing market isn’t the only challenge new agents and lenders face: From experiencing initial client rejections to understanding how to exist on a mostly commission-based payment system, newcomers must learn the ins and outs of life in the industry to succeed.

Getting rejections from buyers and sellers and not receiving commission checks go hand in hand, says Baker. “If you’re getting rejections, you’re not getting paid,” he says. For market rookies who were used to success in their previous careers or in school, accepting initial rejections can be difficult. “I’m not going to lie. That wasn’t easy constantly getting those rejections,” he says. Baker eventually became used to clients saying no and learned to move on after a negative answer. It also helped when he began securing his own listings and making sales, he adds.

Not receiving commission payments adds sting to early rejections. One of the most difficult aspects of beginning in the market was handling finances and not receiving a steady paycheck, says Wolff, who entered the real estate industry from a sales and marketing career. “I have to be in better control of my budget because I can’t exactly predict when the next check will come and how much it will be,” she says. Wolff sticks to a budget to ensure she will be covered if there is a low commission month.

“Financially, it was not terribly easy,” agrees Baker, who landed his first closing five months after he received his last paycheck from his previous career. He prepared for the lag in income by setting aside funds. “It’s unrealistic to think someone can start and begin making money in a few weeks or months,” Baker says. “You need to have money set aside in case you don’t make a sale right away.”

In addition to budgeting, novice agents and lenders need to learn the importance of time management, says Casciaro. “Sometimes it’s hard for me when I’m working with buyers and sellers to stay on top of administrative tasks as well as prospecting, marketing, sending out mailers and staying in contact with clients,” she says. Becoming a professional real estate agent is like starting one’s own business, and Casciaro designates specific client times and makes precise schedules to stay on track.

Clients themselves also can be a challenge, says Jones. Consumers can be uninformed or misinformed about the market and may not understand their real options, he says. “Due to the plethora of bad information out there regarding loans, I had to spend hours educating first-time and veteran buyers,” says Jones.

Achieving Rookie Success
Despite the challenges they face, agents and lenders entering the market can succeed and even thrive. Industry success comes from having a passion for the job and from hard work, agree new industry members.

It is important to serve every client and follow every lead, says Wolff. “I have truly embraced every client as if they were buying a million-dollar home,” she says. Casciaro agrees: “I treat every client as if they are my only client,” she says, adding that she’s never too busy for a showing, a meeting or a phone call with clients.

Similarly, Jones puts himself in his clients’ shoes and respects their situations. “The industry, in my opinion, is based on trust, and that is what I like to establish with my clients,” he says. To create trust, Jones focuses on selling the whole package and maintains communication throughout the entire lending process.

Some rookie agents and lenders find that their newcomer status can be a benefit as well. Being new to the industry has helped Jones’ progress by allowing him to have an open perspective. “Everything was new to me. I didn’t have ‘old guidelines’ or ‘old programs’ to work with,” he says.

There are some clients, however, who may be skeptical of a new industry member’s skills. In this way, being new is a “minor speed bump” to overcome, says Wolff. “When people see me in action and are aware of my successes they quickly forget that I’m a rookie,” she says. Similarly, Casciaro uses her novice status as an advantage. “I turn what some people view as a weakness into a strength by explaining to my clients that as a new agent I am able to dedicate 110 percent of my time getting them results,” she says.

If newcomers are uncertain about whether or not to tell clients how long they’ve been in the industry, Baker has this advice: “If they don’t ask, don’t mention it. If they do ask, be confident in yourself.” Clients only will become concerned with a new industry member’s skills if the rookie is not confident in his or her abilities, he says.

Standing Out
When interacting with clients, new agents don’t need to reinvent the wheel to set themselves apart; a little creativity goes a long way, says Baker. “Just do what works,” he advises. Baker tries to maintain relationships with his clients even after closing the sale, and hopes to create a lasting impression by giving them a unique closing gift.

Using a scene from the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” for inspiration, Baker gives his clients bread, so their house may never know hunger; salt, that life may always have flavor; and wine, that joy may reign forever. The character George Bailey gave a family the same gifts in the film, but Baker also includes a copy of the movie when giving the gift to his clients.

Wolff also uses a creative gift to stand out. “I like to give my buyers a Home Buyers Survival Kit,” she says. It includes a Snickers (to remind them to laugh), a rubber band (to remind them to be flexible), Starbursts (to give them a burst of energy), a pack of gum (to remind them to stick with it), Smarties (when they need extra wisdom), Hershey’s Hugs (when they need a hug) and a bag (to keep it all together).

Industry newcomers also can set themselves apart on the Internet. Many companies provide their agents with individual, customizable Web sites for leads and advertising. It’s a “valuable tool” for a new agent, says Casciaro. “I have been able to convert and close many transactions in the past year” from a lead-generating Web site provided by her company. Wolff agrees: “Computers and the Internet are my best friends,” she says.

In part, new agents and lenders are able to distinguish themselves in a crowded industry due to the offices they choose to work in. Finding an office environment that allows novices to be creative and succeed is important, agree newcomers. “Don’t underestimate the importance of picking a brokerage with a great training and mentoring program,” adds Casciaro.

Sharing Their Knowledge
Though they might have only been part of the real estate industry for a relatively short time, rookie agents and lenders quickly learn what it takes to succeed — and they aren’t afraid to share the knowledge.

Those new to the industry should treat their real estate careers not as jobs but as personal businesses, says Casciaro, adding agents should always be organized and follow a business plan. Running a personal business instead of going to a job is a difference of hard work, says Jones. Those who want to succeed must get used to the idea of working more than 40 hours a week, he says. Above all, new agents and lenders need to stay positive, says Baker. “You can’t give up. You can’t listen to people who are telling you negative things,” he says.

For industry veterans, the advice is simple: “Just because we are rookies doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing,” says Wolff. It’s also important for seasoned agents and lenders to not forget the basics, agree newcomers. “I would encourage veterans to keep that same level of service to your clients as you gave when you first started,” says Casciaro. C.A.

Paul Baker
Koenig & Strey GMAC

Maria Casciaro
RE/MAX Vision

Joshua Jones
National City Mortgage

Staci Wolff
Advantage Realty



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