So you want to take the leap and become a Realtor

Taking a LeapWhen I was a small boy, 9 years old, my family was traveling on summer vacation and we stopped at a campground that had a huge pool with a high dive. It was 1972. There were a ton of older kids lined up to jump and dive off the high dive into the pool. I had never made such a leap but wanted to try, so I put on my swim trunks and got in line.

After reaching the top of the board, and walking to the end, it looked much higher than it had from the ground. I became scared and didn’t want to do it anymore. I turned to head back down the ladder, but the other kids were lined all the way up the ladder, waiting. The next kid in line, a fat red-cheeked bully-looking type, stood at the top staring me down. He said, matter of fact, “you can’t go back, you have to jump”.

I was paralyzed and frightened. The other kids became impatient and started heckling me. “Hurry up”. “Go!” “Come on, chicken”. I almost started crying. I wanted my Mom. There was no way to get down unless they all backed down the ladder and let me off, which wasn’t going to happen. I had to do what I climbed up there to do. I walked back to the end, and jumped.

The fall down seemed long. I was off balance, arms flailing, legs peddling. I hit the water on my side and felt a painful sting as the water spanked my skin hard. Ouch! Under water seemed other-worldly as I tumbled, disoriented. I realized I was ok, kicked a couple of times, resurfaced, and let out a war-whoop of triumph waving my fist at the other kids, who were now cheering and laughing at my ungraceful plunge. I scurried out of the water, my side burning with pain, and got back in line, hungry to do it again.

I had made the leap. I had survived. And I never felt so ALIVE and full of confidence.

I wasn’t old enough to interpret what that plunge represented at the time, but I now know it was one of many instances in life where we are all called to face our fear, step through, and take a leap. I was learning how to approach life with fear in front of me. I was learning that I can do scary things and come out ok, even if it wasn’t perfect. I was learning to feel absolute terror about doing something, then doing it anyway.

Can you take the plunge into real estate?
For many who make the decision to go into real estate sales, they climb the ladder, but never climb back down nor take the plunge. Instead, they remain in the safe place of doing neither. There is not a crowd of people yelling at them to hurry up and do it, the bills are still being paid by the job, so they remain in limbo, having neither failed nor succeeded at becoming who they want to become.

I was on staff at a men’s training this weekend, the New Warrior Training Adventure, where I met a man who is a Realtor from another city and has been standing in such a place for years. “I do 2 or 3 deals a year” he told me, “for friends and family members, sometimes co-workers”.

“How’s that working for you”, I asked.
He said, “I really want to do real estate full time, but it’s hard to give up the job and take the leap”.
I asked him, “what are you afraid might happen if you quit the job and take the leap?”
He said, “I’m afraid I won’t make enough money to pay the bills”.
“And if you don’t make enough to pay the bills?”
“I’d have to start over.”

That’s a scary thought.

I then asked, “And what are you afraid might happen if you never take the leap and just keep your job and keep doing what you’re doing?”
He pondered, and then said “I’ll never know if I would have been really good at it. I’ll never know my full potential”.
“And if you never know your full potential?”
“I’ll feel like I haven’t lived life to the fullest”.

So, on the one hand, taking a risk means possibly losing everything and having to start over. On the other hand, playing it safe means never knowing what could have been. Those are tough choices.

Then my final question: “which would you rather avoid – failure or regret? Assuming the worst, and you quit your job, take the leap and it ends up not working out, which story would you rather tell your grand kids – the one where you tried and failed, and all the stories that go along with that? Or would you rather tell them that you played it safe and kept the job you dislike, and the stories that go with that?”

He said he’d probably regret not ever trying, which is what most of us will probably say if asked. But then few of us will act on it.

I then offered him one of my favorite quotes, which I heard from an old Navy woman on a documentary about the birth of computers, “a ship in harbor is safe, but ships were meant to sail”.

We have to ask ourselves when standing at these crossroads in life; am I going to sail my ship? Or am I going to sit on the dock, dangling my feet over the water, dreaming, staring at other ships as they disappear over the horizon, but terrified to sail my own because I’m afraid of the unknown?

Remove the Option of Failure
Your best chance of succeeding in real estate full time is to set yourself up so that failure is not an option. Keeping the job is planning for failure. If you plan to fail, you’ll fail, because that’s what you planned for.

I’ve seen it over and over again. Part timers enter the real estate profession and either remain part timers or wash out because part time rarely cuts it in this business. There are exceptions, but the best way to leap a scary divide between salary and commission pay is to get a running start and just do it. It’s hard to get a running start when you have a full time job weighing you down and holding you back. You can’t fully commit yourself dragging that load. If you’re not fully committed to being the best Realtor that your clients will ever know, why do it?

But it’s scary
Yeah, it is. I was scared when I quit my salaried High Tech job as a computer programmer in the 1990’s and decided to try real estate full time (Sylvia and I had been full/part time off and on many years already). I had it good with the salaried job too.

I had a casual workplace where I could wear my shorts, tee-shirts and flip flops, sip Dr Peppers, eat pizza, listen to my tunes, keep my hair the way I like it – long and scruffy, be surrounded by pretty marketing chicks all day, and have great health insurance for my family. All I had to do was crank out my code and meet the deadlines. But the cube scene – doing the corporate thing – that just wasn’t where I felt my spirit wanted to be. I was hiding out, playing it safe. People thought I was crazy when I quit, but they also said “I wish I had the guts to do that”.

The scariest thing about commission sales is, you earn what you’re worth, no more, no less. If you’ve been hiding in a cube, behind a safe paycheck job – living in a Dilbert Cartoon – held back by neurotic bosses and scheming co-workers, you may not know your true potential because nobody has ever invited you to unleash it. But there’s only one way to find out. Take the leap. If you’re good at it, it will happen for you. If you’re not, it won’t. But you can always start over and have some stories to tell.

And don’t underestimate the motivational forces of Fear and Urgency. If you have no consequences of failing (keeping the job), and you’re in no hurry to succeed (bills are being paid), then where will your motivation come from? You have to make it scary and dangerous. You have to have serious motivation. In my case, I had a wife and two small kids. I was not going to let them down. No way.

It is fear and urgency that got me off that high dive and into the water. Without fear of failure, and the urgency of those screaming voices, I would gladly have given up and climbed back down and ran crying to my Mommy, perhaps never to try that particular leap again.

Instead, I discovered a part of myself that has served me well ever since – the Bold Adventurer. It’s the Bold Adventurer who was willing to walk away from a great job with about 6 month’s living expenses in the bank, and set sail. Is there a Bold Adventurer in you? Will your ship set sail, or remain tied at the dock?

If you’re pondering a real estate career, call me or Sylvia any time and we’ll be happy to share what we know and what we’ve experienced as Realtors. It’s not for everybody, but anybody can succeed.

If you’d like more information about the New Warrior Training Adventure, where men find their Bold Adventurer and much more, click the link or call me.

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Steve is a Real Estate Blogger, Husband and Dad, UT Austin Grad, Runner, Real Estate Broker and owner of Crossland Team and Crossland Real Estate in Austin TX.

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Scott - 9 years ago

Great story and insight… gets me thinking for sure… Yep that’s me, mr. very part-time realtor/loan officer here in California. Friends seem not to want to use me because of my part-time status. Too hard to give up the decent paying job, especially in light of the current market conditions, two small children and wife, mtn biking habit, etc…

Kristen - 9 years ago

I took the leap just this summer. Quitting my old job was easy…I was a state employee. It was the mental leap was the hardest to make. But my decision is, without a doubt, the best decision that I have ever made! I finally found a job that I really enjoy doing, and I can see so many bright, possible futures for myself that did not exist eight months ago. I am fortunate, I have a very supportive family and had two closings early on. Now I just have to keep that momentum going. Any recommendations for what to do the first year of business to make sure that there is a second year?

scott - 9 years ago

I think there are so many agents out there that it is a very viable concern to take that leap. Think of it. You are leaving
a job with regular paychecks and benefits, and maybe room for future advancement, that you may have spent years and more than a few bucks in college preparing for, for a 100% commission situation with no benefits, and no guarantees of a regular paycheck, let alone of thriving in the business.

That being said, the individuals who indeed do have the skill set and energy to thrive will never know until they do it full-time, as part-time is not enough of a yardstick of itself. You can say that about any leap into that great unknown of sole proprietorship. One with a love of cooking and something unique to offer will never know if that restaurant is doable until they give it a 24/7 effort. Same with all the rest. RE is a business, and like any business, much time must be spent getting it, and your name, off the ground before any tangible results are seen. However, failure isn’t an option to those with families/mortgages/bills, so I can very much understand someone never getting past the “sticking the toe in the water” stage.

I think it is also a “community college” thing as well, where people take college courses part-time to make themselves feel better, and keep dreams and escape
routes open, just for that sake, but never consummating that. That’s one of the beauties of real estate, that you can make your current job palatable by keeping the RE dream alive, even if its only 2-3 deals per year. Sometimes I think keeping the dream alive is the most important thing. Maybe that person will never go beyond that, and really can’t, but those 2-3 deals make them feel a little better about themselves, give them a modicum of independence lacking from their job, and keep the dream of doing it full-time alive. And, who knows, maybe a few of them will actually do it!

Jim - 9 years ago

Agree with scott….when you have thousands of part-timers with safe jobs, who are willing to give a large chunk of their commission away just to get their family/friend’s business, it’s very tough to sell yourself as a full time professional. Most people are too dumb to understand the value, they just see you as someone who puts your name on paper and collects a check for nothing.

It takes a story like the “bozo realtor” from a few days ago for these people to wake up and realize they should have worked with a pro. By then it’s too late, the deal is often done either way, and there’s one more client that got suckered away by a part-timer.

Real estate seems to be one of the few industries where there is too much competition, and it’s very hard to differentiate yourself. The many people who succeed right away usually have a large sphere of friends and referrals, or a ton of marketing money. It’s a lot tougher for the mid-20’s guy to make it, for example, when most of their friends don’t make enough to buy a house, and older folks mistrust them because they mistake young age for inexperience.

Terrill...ific - 9 years ago

I’ve been in commission sales for almost my whole career in sales. Your take on getting paid what you are worth totally correct.

The thing I’ve noticed and I’ve worked hard on over my career is when things are going well I tend to slack off, and then I have to jump start like crazy to ramp up business again. But now I’ve learned that having a blog and using my online marketing efforts have kept my pipeline full and I look and see all the agents who have been successful ignore this vital aspect for realtors. Yes the old tried and true principles still apply of building a trusting relationship and taking care of the client in the transactions, but first you have to find them, and the internet is where they start.

scott - 9 years ago

Jim, don’t give up quite yet…….Lot’s of “older” realtors have nothing going for them but the look of maturity you mentioned. You may at first glance have a small handicap, but that’s just a first impression, and if you can get past that, you can impress them with your professionalism and enthusiasm.

Assuming you live in Austin, I’ll mention a few things germane to that as well…..Austin is a very young city, and, while indeed lots of younger folk are not yet in the income rand and/or interested in purchasing property, a fair share are. You want to target the 100,000 or so tech folks that DO have the ability and interest in Austin. They aren’t exactly octogenarians, as you know, are are just slightly older than the mid-20 somethings you mention. Also, you might want to tap into the investors and people relocating into Austin from out of state. Perhaps you can set up an internet presence to attract those folks to your practice. If an out-of-area person pegs you as informed and enthusiastic, He/She is hardly going to hang you for looking young, especially because they are seeing Austin as a younger city anyway. I do notice many of the top agents working the condo market in Austin are early 30’s or so. Perhaps you might want to try that angle.

Austin has PLENTY of opportunities outside of real estate, so don’t feel tied down to the occupation if you feel its not for you. I personally have in mind a tech breakthrough that I hope will take off like wildfire, and there are plenty of opportunites for venture capital here in Austin as well. Anything like that would blow the doors off anything you can possibly hope to achieve in real estate, and is where the real money lies. Investing in real estate will also provide you
with incalculably more money than anything you can make per real estate commissions. There were flippers in Austin over the last couple years that prob made more money from one deal than most people out here make in RE in a year.

All I can say is don’t limit your hopes and dreams to brokering residential real estate. There’s a whole world of money out there in Austin just waiting to be made.

scott - 9 years ago

One last thing about making money brokering deals vis-a-vis investing in RE……Your income is limited to the 2.5-3% commission (sometimes 5-6, but most are shared, and most agents are having a hard time listing at 5-6 anyway) on each deal. No matter how hard you work on that deal, you will get no more that the stated percentage. All you can hope for is a large number of transactions, and, unless you are working the high-end RE of your area(very few are, if only because there are so few high-end properties), you will have to put together a very large number of sales to accrue a sizable income. Then you have to start all over again with fresh deals the next year, as nothing caries over.

Working as a RE investor, you can make as much profit as the market may bear, and Austin is very much a bull market now, along with the rest of Texas. Think of it….if you make a 15-20% profit on the sale of an income property, you are essentially paying YOURSELF a 15-20% commission. If you own rental property, you can make money on the property year after year, and make out big time when you sell and cash out. I don’t thnk I’ve ever heard of a 20% commission
in RE, so I think that in a nutshell is the gist of what I’m saying. You control the situation, and don’t have to deal with the up-and-down emotions of individuals buying homes, which can drive you crazy. I just think investing is the next step from keeping 100% of your commission at a brokerage set up as such, just like that itself is the next step from a 50/50 split with a conventional brokerage…….

Steve - 9 years ago

Hi Kristin,

> Any recommendations for what to do the first year of business to make sure that there is a second year?

Just do everything it says to do in the Millionaire Real Estate agent book by Gary Keller. If you haven’t bought and read it, do it NOW, and keep reading it over and over again.

Second, get an accountability coach or someone to meet with weekly to hold you accountable to you business plan and activities and goals. It doesn’t have to be a guru, or mega agent, it can be another Newbie even. It just has to be someone (not your husband by the way) to who you commit to meet weekly and report your activities and outcomes to.

All they have to ask you is:

1) What were your goals this week?
2) How did you do?
3) What are your goals next week?

Also, you can download some helpful forms at that match the models taught in the MRE book.

Hang in there and good luck.


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