…or so I’ve heard. You know what else it’s not easy being? A successful real estate broker. Pardon the pseudo bait and switch topic, but would you read this if it was called “It’s Hard to Be a Realtor?” I wouldn’t. Too whiney. Waa waa! Right? But stay with me. There’s a solid message here for anyone who expects to be successful at anything. And a sub-message for anyone who thinks real estate sales is easy money and anyone can do it. First, in fairness, it is easy money (occasionally) and anyone can do it (for a while). But there’s a reason why 80 percent of new licensees are out of the business within two years. And it’s the same reason why only 6 percent of high school football players go on to play in college, and only 1.6 percent of college football players will don an NFL jersey for even one game. That is because it’s hard to succeed in any field. Note that the average real estate agent sells less than seven homes per year, about one every other month. That includes new and veteran agents!
But I totally get the seductiveness of it. We wear nice clothes. We drive nice cars. We have the super flexible schedule in which we can work if we want to and don’t work if we don’t, right? It actually does look pretty cool and easy to do. And the best agents will absolutely make it look easy, even while accomplishing a lot, because if our clients knew all the hassles and curveballs and obstructions that we insulate you from, then your stress level would rise dramatically, and we wouldn’t be serving our maximum value to you. Think of the duck, who appears to serenely glide across the lake, but whose feet are paddling like the dickens under the surface. Yep, that’s us!
And the nice clothes? That’s mostly for our clients. There aren’t many people who wouldn’t actually prefer to go to work every day in jeans or sweats or wear shorts and a tshirt on warm summer days. A professional work wardrobe is not inexpensive and is usually not as comfortable as the alternative, especially when it’s hot out. If you work in a professional business environment, likely you understand what I’m talking about. Much the same is true of the cars we drive. Because of client considerations, it’s critical that we have clean, dependable, comfortable transportation for showing properties, or just for showing up to one client related commitment after another. I sometimes envy those who take a train or bus to and from work, and don’t have to fight traffic, pay extra liability insurance costs, but do get extra time to just read or chill out. I
“ …I committed like the pig commits to
that bacon and egg breakfast, not like the chicken”
know none of this will elicit a lot of sympathy, and that is not my intent. I do feel very grateful that I have a decent wardrobe and a nice automobile. The point is, these things incur a lot of overhead for a small business, which is what every real estate broker is. So, for all the apparent glamour, there is a price to pay, and no guaranteed dividend to collect. The tech requirements are insane! And all that is just part of the cost of being in business that most don’t consider when they decide to jump in. Many will cut costs by foregoing professional affiliations, additional education and assistance in areas where their own expertise is lacking. The service they provide usually reflects those shortcuts.
Remember that awesome, flexible “work if you want, don’t if you don’t” schedule I mentioned? Again, true! And that is both good news and bad news. Very few businesses succeed without a lot of hard work. And I mean a lot of hard work! And for more than just the usual 40 hours per week that normal people work. So, if the plan is to sell a few homes a year for some extra money because you’ve already got enough, then OK, you have the luxury of not having to work terribly hard. But you will also present a higher risk to your clients, mostly friends and family, for the lack of commitment and availability to their needs and to their transaction details, on top of the lack of experience that every agent starts with and every part-timer is forever saddled with. Many a friendship and family relation has been dashed in these situations.
I was new once too, and I’m clear on the risk I presented, and infinitely thankful that I made it through that time period without doing any harm, due in large part to the experienced mentors I utilized constantly, and the accelerated elective education I delved into from day one. I take the term professional very seriously and, truly, the top 10 percent in my field do the same. The Pareto Principle would indicate that 20 percent of the real estate brokers do 80 percent of the work. In this industry, though, it’s much closer to 90/10.
Consider this: When I decided to sell real estate, I committed like the pig commits to that bacon and egg breakfast, not like the chicken. Think about that. I left my construction management career behind me by selling my truck and my tools, buying some threepiece suits and ties, and the car I needed to get started, as well as extra classes. There was no turning back. I had built homes from first shovel to last shingle, so I felt I knew this product as well or better than anyone else. I joined Toastmasters so I could better present myself to my prospective clients and I took one education course after another to deepen my knowledge of real estate and the service I was delivering to my clients.
Please know I’m not trying to put down new agents. Some number of them will rise to a respectable and even admirable level of professionalism and success. In the decades I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen it over and over. And I greatly enjoy doing business with these pros. I’ve also had a policy on my team, as long as I can remember, that we will do our job and the other agent’s job in any transaction if that’s what it takes to make it go smoothly for our client. Often, we do. So, truly, I very much consider myself tolerant and supportive of the committed newcomer. My purpose in writing this is just to give you pause if you are one of those who believes you ought to jump into the real estate game because, after all, it sure looks easy and sure looks glamorous and profitable. That’s why the number of licensees in Colorado has jumped 50 percent in five years!
There really are a lot of excellent realtors in our area, and some very promising up-andcomers, and it’s a pleasure to co-op with them on transactions. My advice to the newcomers, that I perhaps haven’t already elaborated on, is to let the experienced agents you’re working with know that you’re new and let us work cooperatively even as we serve our different masters. And bug your managing brokers and mentors to death! That’s what they’re there for, and everyone will suffer less brain damage in the end. So, to our clients, as always, I wish you Happy Homes, and to you newbies in real estate, Happy Home Sales!
K.C. Butler, ABR, CRS, MRE, ePro, CDPE
K.C. has been a broker for over 30 years, and with RE/MAX from the start. He’s earned the RE/MAX Hall of Fame Award, the RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award and the “Above The Crowd” Distinguished Service Award for industry and community contributions. K.C. has been in the top 5 percent for sales production of all Realtors nationwide for most of his career. He is past president of the Jefferson County Association of Realtors, and past vice president of the Colorado Association of Realtors. Past Jefferson County Realtor of the Year is but one more testament of his commitment. K.C. and his family have resided in Evergreen since 1998.