In my job as Homes editor, I have been communicating with real estate agents for ten years, so when I recently learned that my son was planning to get his Realtors license, I asked some of my Realtor contacts how they would advise him. Heres what they had to say:
… if he can hang in there …
Harlow Fitzpatrick, Coldwell Banker, Alexandria
It is not the best time right now, but if he can hang in there, it is certain to turn around. There is usually a seven-year cycle, and the down cycle has lasted two years right now.
He should have enough money to last for six months without any income. Thats the most important thing. He just has to have that cushion.
I know people who started last year and have had to go back to their other work because they could not support themselves.
In the long run it is a great job, and I do it because I love it, so everything else falls into place.
It is a good time to start.
Maggie Britvec, Prudential Carruthers, Alexandria
It is a good time to start. I also started at a quiet time, about 12 years ago. That was all right because it gave me time to take all the classes, get some experience and form a mentoring relationship. These are not things you can rush through. And when the market is moving fast, people dont have as much time to help you.
I would not steer him away, as long as he has enough cash to support himself for about six months … or has a spouse who can help him.
Some people who came in when the market was fast-paced are leaving now, but those of us who were in it for the long haul are still here. We have built up long-term clients, so we still have business.
If you can make it at a time like this …
Bobbee Cardillo, Coldwell Banker, Fairfax
Join an office where there is a lot of activity, hands-on instruction from the manager and one or two other new agents. I would certainly recommend my own office, because I have a manager (Gary Lange) who is a great teacher, with a lot of experience and technical knowledge. You dont often seen them combined, but technology is the way our business is going. Our office also has a lot of practical training programs plus a lot of agents who can mentor you.
While this may seem like the worst of times for sales, she said it may also be the best of times to learn about the business and whether or not you want to stick with it.
I started in 1981, when the interest rates were 17 percent and business was really slow, she recalled. A market like this is where you learn if you really love the business, because if you can make it at a time like this, you can make it any time.
This is a really hard time …
Mary Thyfault Clark, RE/MAX Allegiance, Fairfax
This is a really hard time to break into the market. Fewer people are applying for licenses or even renewing them.
Her impressions were confirmed by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, which reported that the number of new members has steadily fallen from 300 in August 2005 to 158 in August 2006 and 99 for the same month this year.
For several years, you did not have to be that good, there was so much business around, she explained. But now, Realtors have to work much harder to get along.
It will take longer now to make your first closing. I got my license in December 2002 (during the late, lamented boom). My first closing was two or three months later, but it would be closer to six months now.
There is still business out there, but it is tougher than it used to be. The buyers are making decisions more slowly, and the sellers need more coaching on how to sell their homes.
When people tell me that they want to get into real estate, I give them a dose of reality by telling them it is not as simple as it may seem. When things go wrong they really go wrong. A Realtor must be a social worker to help someone whose life savings are on the line.
You must approach it realistically. It will not be an instant money maker: It takes a long time to get established. I tell them to approach it with caution. A lot of mothers tell me it would be a nice little job for weekends, but in fact it is hard to make a go of it part-time. The market can change every day, and if you do not keep up with it, you will not be able to give your clients much service.
Besides, a lot of people want to look at houses at night or on the weekend, which is hard for working moms. And the field is very competitive right now.
… the ones you want to learn from.
CC Sells Team, Keller Williams, Ashburn
Get connected with a team that is doing a lot of business, because the people who are doing that are the ones you want to learn from. I have worked with the top real estate agents in the U.S., including Chris Cormack. They will have systems in place that you cannot even fathom before you get in. I started in 1992, which was also the wrong time, and everyone was asking me what I was doing. He is glad, he said, that he did not listen to them.
Now many are saying again that the market is bad, but people always have to buy and sell homes when they have to move.
So I advise you to get licensed quickly. You can find classes that will take two weeks. And then you should find a team that is looking for someone, perhaps as a buyers agent. You should surround yourself with people who are doing more than he is, so you will be inspired to do the same.
Then, if you are not writing a contract, you should be out there seeing what is available. If a client is looking for a two-bedroom condo, say, you had better be able to find it. You have to look on it as a full-time job.
And specialize in one area. I serve Ashburn, South Riding, Chantilly and Herndon. I do not try to cover all of Northern Virginia, so I really get to know the market.
Also ask for referrals constantly, so that when you serve clients, they can tell others about you.
I love my job! After 15 years, I still wake up saying, Yes! It is a fun, fun career. And that same attitude was expressed by all of the Realtors who are in it for the long haul.
You have to be working constantly …
Ron Resnick, Long & Foster, Leesburg
It never hurts to get a license, but he could have picked a better time. The market is worse than it was a year ago or even six months ago. There are a lot of new agents who are leaving the business, although the ones who are in it for the long haul are still here.
When I came in 23 years ago, it was a mediocre market, too, with interest rates at 18 percent. But it was still fun. It was a new type of business, and I was able to get into it, but it was a struggle. For the first six months, I did only one deal and that was a rental.
Still, he stuck with it, and he sees that others are showing the same spirit today.
There is a fellow who was just in my office who had just gotten his license and he said he could hold out for a few months without making a living, Resnick recalled. He is fine wfedith that, and you must be fine with it, because Realtors are leaving at a greater rate than they are coming in.
We are doing a fair amount of business now, but it is not at the level of 1 1/2 years ago. Then, homes were selling after three days for more than the asking price. Now, they are selling in six months and for less.
You have to be working constantly or you will not do any business,and you cant cut back. You must spend at least as much as ever on marketing, even if there is more going out than coming in.
Still, it is a wonderful job. The business is going through a cycle, even if it may take longer than we expect (to get back on the upward stage). But it is still a wonderful job.