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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Life of a Realtor Part 1

Back in 1995 a friend of mine told me he was going to open his own real estate company and asked me if I'd be interested in coming to work for him as an agent. I had no real experience in the real estate field and not really any experience in "sales." But I was interested in houses, how they were built, how neighborhoods were put together and I liked working with people. I liked watching HGTV. So I made one of the few really risky moves in my entire life, against the advice of a few others. I went to real estate school, got my license, quit my comfortable, secure job with the county government, and went to work for my friend at his brand-new company. And I stepped out into the world of working for one's self and humping for commission.

My conversation with my friend, who eventually became my broker, was over 16 years ago. Initially, I thought a career in real estate would be a "good opportunity" but likely just be a stepping stone to my next "career move." I honestly never thought I'd be in this business this long. And it appears that I'll be sticking around for as long as the economy allows. For the first ten years in the business I learned and honed my craft and became a successful agent for my friend's company. And for over five years now I have been the broker and owner of a successful (non-franchise) real estate company, with no plans to do anything else any time soon. I pretty much started the company from scratch and made it work.

I remember asking my friend "what's a normal day as a Realtor like?" To which he said "There is no "normal" day in this business. Every day is different." So I pressed him, "Well, what do you do all day?" He Said, "It depends. Every day is different. Some days I'm out showing homes, some days I'm in the office doing paperwork. It just depends." That answer left me with more questions than answers. Eventually, as I got my wings as a new agent, I learned what he meant. No day is ever the same.

The nice thing about being a Realtor, especially if you are the broker/owner, is that you can pretty much do what you want, when you want. Now before you rush out the door to sign up for your classes, there are limits.
You really can do what you what when you want. However, if what your doing and when you are doing it isn't leading to any income you soon find that there are limits to how you do what you do. What you can do, what you have the freedom to do, is find a way to be successful. You have the ability to be creative and find ways to make things work for you. You have the ability to be your own boss, to make decisions completely by and for yourself, and to also reap the rewards of those decisions, or suffer the consequences. And if you step out to try an idea there is probably a better chance that it won't work than it will. So you dust yourself off and try something else. It's a pattern I have repeated over the years. Find what works by trial and error. And then when find something that IS successful, don't sit on your laurels. Find something else that works as well. But try something, try anything. And remember the old adage: it takes money to make money. If you don't believe that then you wouldn't make it in this business.

But I digress. So, every day is a little bit different. Some days are scheduled and regimented, others allow more flexibility to catch up on paperwork, work on some marketing, go buy office supplies, or catch lunch with a lender or a friend (or both). Some days start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 10:00 p.m. Many times I've left the office after everybody in my building is gone and the crickets tell me "goodnight." When it's busy it's not uncommon for me to eat dinner after my kids are in bed and most of the day is gone. Some days I put it 8 hours of work but it takes 12 hours because I squeeze in other things: personal appointments, kid things, stuff like that. Sometimes I'll work most of a day, go see my daughters' (x 2, same team) soccer game and then go back to work. Sometimes I'll work in the office all day, go home at dinner time, and then work in my home office for a while. Some days I'm on showing appointments or home inspections most of the day. Other days I have appointments in and out of the office so I come and go. Once in a great while I'll take the afternoon off an just go goof off. Don't worry, I always make up for it later.

Some days all I do is work on client files and get caught up on contract issues and paperwork. Other times, like now, I'm caught up on that stuff so before I have to leave for showings I work on my blog, or my company Facebook page, or I revise some document I use or I create a new document of some sort. On the days that I'm caught up on client files the sky is the lim
it. Sometimes I'm extremely productive, sometimes I'm not that motivated. Remember: I can do what I want when I want. And since I'm my own boss I sometimes don't feel like working! YouTube comes calling and I zone out for a while. But usually just for a while and it's back to work.

Realtors don't have "normal" hours, either, or "normal" days off, for that matter. We are expected to be available from sun up to sun down (and then some), seven days a week, to service our clients. Now, it's not always like that, and every client isn't overly-demanding. But the industry has created
a model that basically says that real estate business goes on seven days a week. We do not have "business days" like other people have. We're like doctors who are on call and all of our clients are like patients. We need to be there for them. But it's the sacrifice we make because we believe in what we do and we enjoy our careers. Holidays, you say? Well I normally get Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving off. But I've probably worked every other holiday at one time. I've negotiated contracts on Christmas eve, shown houses on labor day, and met a client on the 4th of July. A few years ago I even stepped away from my daughters' birthday party to negotiate a transaction with the other (impatient) agent. I won't do that again.

Being a Realtor, and especially a broker/owner means I have to wear several hats. I am a counselor. I counsel people on their decision about buying a home. I help them understand the financial implications of owning a home as well. So I know a little about lending and investing. I also have to constantly negotiate contracts and home inspection issues so I'm a negotiator. I have to try and understand people and sometimes predict how things will turn out so I'm bit of a sociologist, psychologist and a soothsayer! As a broker, I have to manage the business, make financial decisions, pay bills, and clean the office. And I have to be familiar with any legal changes that affect real estate and keep up on industry trends. I also have to train my agents occasionally.

I have to stay up on technology because our industry is very technology-driven, when you consider the information that is out there on web sites and the "speed" at which things move these days. I also stay sharp on home construction because I need to know what I'm looking at when my clients and I are considering potential homes. So I'm a bit of a home inspector as well.

In some ways, my most important job is to be a captain. I help people make their way thorough the sea of home bu
ying, trying to avoid the waves, and give them a safe, comfortable, and memorable journey. And I do that while trying to make sure we don't get boarded by the pirates of bad experiences or sunk by cannonballs fired by resistant sellers, bad home inspections, or bad lenders. It's quite a job, if you ask me. In the end, though, we are normally sailing into the sunset on a bed of calm waters.

Stay tuned for more in the life of a Realtor.