12 First-Year Real Estate Agent Tips

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The internet is full of first-year real estate agent tips. But how many of them are truly useful? Work hard, learn from the best, expect some challenges…these should all go without saying. You need actionable tips that will move your new business forward in your first year.

Here are our top 12 first-year real estate agent tips.

Quick note: this post was originally published in 2020. This is the new, improved version.

Obvious (But Often Overlooked) First-Year Real Estate Agent Tips

Let’s start with the tips that seem obvious at a glance but don’t often get the credit they deserve for being game-changers.

1. Prospect every workday.

Prospecting for new leads daily is the only way you’ll find success in real estate. Sure, there are lots of paths to real estate success, but they all prioritize daily prospecting.

Furthermore, successful agents know how to systematize their daily prospecting. It’s not enough to make a few random phone calls each morning. You need to attack your prospecting with a specific plan of action each day.

Here’s an easy, but effective, daily prospecting plan:

  1. Start by calling the owners of all the expired listings. You want to be among the first agents to touch base when a listing expires.
  2. Contact new FSBOs (For Sale By Owner listings) and offer a free guide to show them what is involved in selling a home.
  3. Reach out to owners who are behind on their mortgage payments. Why? Because you might be able to help them. As a real estate expert, you can advise them to contact their lender to try to work out a payment plan or a refinance. This could help the homeowners stay in the home and would earn you raving fans for life. And if a deal can’t be worked out, you could help them avoid foreclosure by helping them sell.
  4. Complete all the scheduled contacts on your CRM (Client Relationship Manager). If you’re brand new and don’t have a CRM yet, don’t pay a monthly fee for a CRM subscription. Check out these CRM options instead.
  5. Contact renters and investors.
  6. Contact people in your sphere.

You can even buy a $5 printable on Etsy to keep your prospecting checklist front and center every day.

2. Know your market.

Sounds obvious, right? But you would be surprised at how few agents take time daily to learn their market.

The first thing you should do at the beginning of each workday is to check the daily hot sheets. You want to know about new listings, new contracts, and closed deals. You need to know what’s available in certain price ranges, how long properties are sitting on the market, whether prices are trending up or down, etc.

If someone were to ask you How’s the market? you should be able to cite specific stats in your reply (after asking if that person is interested in buying, selling, or renting of course).

You should also invest time in previewing new listings. Buyers will be impressed when you can describe a home without pulling up the listing.

And for goodness sake, know how to get around your area. You should never have to use your GPS in front of a client.

3. Have a financial plan.

Lots of new agents are warned that it will take 3-6 months to earn their first paycheck in real estate. And lots of new agents disregard this advice because they’re so sure that they’ll be able to earn money faster than average. But stop and really think about this. If you sell a home your very first month (which is impressive and not all that common), a 30-60 day escrow period means you won’t get paid until at least 2-3 months into your career.

This is why it’s so critical for new agents to have a budget. Not just a business budget where you categorize your projected business expenses, but a full financial plan that includes the personal finances you’ll incur while waiting for that first check.

4. Be as responsive as possible, but set boundaries with your clients.

New real estate agents are often surprised to find that they don’t have as much control over their schedules as they thought they would. Clients can (and will) call, email, text, and DM you 24/7. Your job is to strike a balance between being responsive and still allowing yourself a life outside of real estate.

Here are a few ideas to help:

  • Set expectations upfront with new clients. Explain that you’re often unable to reply immediately because of showings and appointments, but you’ll always reply within [#] hours (you decide how many hours you want to give yourself).
  • Reply as soon as you reasonably can, even if only to confirm receipt of the message and assure your clients that you’re working on their request.
  • Explain the overall buying or selling process to your clients upfront to minimize questions about when/if your clients should expect certain things to happen.
  • Create a Buyer FAQ page and a Seller FAQ page on your website. Make sure your clients know these resources exist and how to find them.
  • Consider having a backup reply system. If you can’t answer your phone, perhaps the call can be forwarded to an office receptionist or a live call center. You can also set auto-responses for your texts and social media messages.

5. Build your sales and consulting skills.

While your real estate courses prepared you to pass the real estate exam, the basic course packages certainly don’t teach you how to run a real estate business. Real estate sales is, you guessed it, all about sales! If you’re going to be successful in sales, you need to build your sales and consulting skills.

Books and podcasts are excellent options for getting an education in sales (in addition to this blog, of course!). Check out our list of the best books for successful agents and our favorite podcasts for real estate agents.

Tips and tricks for new real estate agents | first year real estate agent tips | tips for new realtors

Not-So-Obvious First-Year Real Estate Agent Tips

With the obvious but overlooked first-year real estate agent tips covered, let’s move on to the not-so-obvious tips for rookies.

6. Put your business plan in writing.

Too many first-year agents treat their real estate career as a job instead of a business. You have to think like a business owner to be successful in real estate. And business owners know the importance of having a documented business plan.

A business plan outlines the objectives for your business and how you’re going to reach those objectives. Real estate agent business plans typically include sections on branding, financing, marketing, and operations. If you’re new to the business plan concept or unsure about how to get started on your own business plan, check out How to Create the Ultimate Real Estate Agent Business Plan.

7. Niche down.

As a real estate content writer, I write professional real estate agent bios every month. One question I always ask my clients is what is your specialty (or what do you want your specialty to be)? About 70% of the time, the first response is residential real estate. And around 20% of the time, I’ll get something more specific like buyers or listings. Experienced agents know that these answers aren’t specific enough to build a successful real estate business.

Now, I understand the perceived logic of casting a wide net to land as many potential clients as possible. It sounds like a good idea. But here’s the problem: When you’re competing for all buyers and sellers in your market, you’re also competing with all agents in your market. And as a new agent, this makes your life exponentially harder.

Instead, niche down until you’re the perfect fit for a certain group of buyers or sellers. Maybe you focus on sellers who are downsizing for retirement. Or first-time homebuyers in the 90292 zip code. Or families relocating for a job with your market’s biggest employer. Check our list of profitable niches for real estate agents for more ideas.

Yes, you’ll be limiting yourself to a more narrow market, but your chances of resonating with clients and actually landing their business are substantially higher when you focus on a specific niche. Before long, you’ll be the obvious go-to agent for buyers or sellers in that niche.

8. Establish your online presence.

Today’s buyers and sellers expect to be able to find you online. They want to see a professional website (not just a profile on your broker’s site) and at least a basic social media presence. An online presence gives you instant credibility in the eyes of your prospective clients.

Failing to have a website is one of the biggest mistakes new agents make today. And I get it; websites seem complicated or expensive (or both!). But as we learned in Do Real Estate Agents Really Need Their Own Websites? there are 10 killer benefits to having your own website. When you’re competing with established real estate agents, you honestly can’t afford not to have your own website.

What if I told you you could build your own professional real estate website this weekend with 3 years of web hosting for under $250? In fact, you could complete your website for just over $100 if you want to start with a shorter period of web hosting. That’s right; you don’t need to pay thousands to a web designer or pay an expensive monthly subscription fee to “rent” a website. Just check out my FREE guide How to Build a Real Estate Website.

Then there’s social media. It’s a good idea to at least have a basic presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Then choose just one or two platforms to focus on. Learn more at How to Build a Lead-Generating Social Media Calendar.

9. Track everything.

If you don’t track your actions, you won’t know what works. This is especially important when it comes to marketing.

I see agents who spend a fortune every month buying leads, and don’t realize that these leads aren’t converting into enough clients to justify the expense. Their money would be better spent on something like social media ads, blogging for organic Google traffic, or sponsoring local projects. The marketing section of your business plan should include a place for you to track the ROI (return on investment) of your marketing dollars so you can double down on your successes and pivot from the marketing activities that don’t work.

Apply this tracking principle throughout your business for continual improvement.

10. Ask for referrals.

You may have expected this item to be in the obvious category. And maybe it should be. But time and again, I see agents contacting people in their sphere to ask if they’re thinking of making a move in the next year. Only rarely do they think to ask if that person knows of anyone else who might be looking to make a move!

Get in the habit of asking for referrals during every prospecting interaction.

Bonus tip: When you get a referral, thank your referrer publicly. Send a thank-you bouquet (of flowers, cookies, fruit, balloons, whatever) to the referrer’s workplace. It will cause a stir and give your referrer a chance to tell his or her coworkers about you!

11. Consider a real estate-related back-up income stream.

We’ve already discussed the importance of a financial plan, especially since it takes a while for new agents to get that first paycheck. And even longer to pull in steady income. A common, highly destructive mistake new agents make is to take a part-time job doing something unrelated to real estate in order to make ends meet. Think waiting tables, driving Uber, selling cosmetics, etc. Having a second job or side hustle away from real estate immediately undermines your credibility as a real estate professional.

So what should you do if you’re struggling to make enough money from your commission checks? You should diversify your real estate-related income.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Expand your real estate service offerings to include things like property management, property tax appeals, or credit repair services for buyers. This increases your value to your clients, establishes your reputation as a real estate expert, and pays the bills while your sales business grows.
  • Monetize your real estate blog. There is money to be made in blogging. And since you should be blogging for real estate leads anyway, why not take the extra step to generate passive income from your blog?
  • Sell a real estate-related product for passive income. Think books, courses, and digital templates. Don’t expect immediate income since you’ll need time to create and market your product, but this can be a lucrative income stream for real estate professionals.

Need more income ideas? Check out 55 Ways to Make Money in Real Estate.

12. Know how to handle a recession.

If you’re entering real estate in the early 2020s, you’re coming in during a recession. Recessions are a normal part of the economic cycle, but they do change the rules of the game a bit. If you’re going to compete with established agents during a recession, you need to know how to handle a recession.

This website is full of tips for recession-proofing your real estate business (The Recession-Proof Real Estate Agent Checklist is one of my favorite resources). But if you prefer a step-by-step playbook for growing your real estate business through a recession, check out The Recession-Proof Real Estate Agent: How Savvy Agents are Finding New Opportunities in Slow Markets.

What are Your First-Year Real Estate Agent Tips?

What do you think of our 12 first-year real estate agent tips? Do you have anything to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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