From the outside looking in, real estate agents have it easy. They work whenever they want, make lots of money and hardly do anything. How hard can it be? The truth is real estate is anything but easy. As professionals, we face constant struggles being in this industry. For me, these are some of the hardest.
1. Pretending things are always great
Ask a real estate agent how the market is and you’re likely to hear “Great!” Ask a real estate agent how business is going and again you’ll likely hear “Great!” Unless the agent you are talking to has already made the decision to leave the business, you will not hear anything negative. Why? “Fake it till you make it.”
This old adage has been around a long time and still holds true today. Success breeds success and no one wants to work with someone who is not, or at least does not appear to be successful. The truth is there is nothing inherently good or bad about the market. The “How’s the market” question is so subjective there is no real answer. The ups and downs in our business however, are very real. Even through the hard times, we must put on a smile and pretend things are great with the hopes next time you ask “How’s the market?” You will actually be asking to hire me as your real estate agent.
2. Time away from family
Real estate can take a toll on your family. Setting boundaries between work and home can be extremely difficult. The public has literally no idea what real estate agents do for a living. Ask your friends what they think you do every day. The reality is, aside from “Selling houses” the dirty (and HARD) work involved is unknown and goes unnoticed. This was cleverly described by a humorous website dedicated to real estate agents which read:
- Public’s Perception: “Must be nice working anytime you please.”
- REALTOR®: “Yeah, I can work any of the 80 hours per week I want.”
When starting a career in real estate there is the belief you will be able to work whenever you want, and frankly if you don’t want to work that day you really don’t have to. You are the boss! However, if you went to your favorite restaurant on a Friday night and saw a note on the door that read: “Closed today. Didn’t feel like coming in” What do you suppose would happen to that business?
There is no clocking in, and it’s unfortunate but there is no clocking out either. Family dinners, birthday parties and even vacations are shared with frequent phone calls, texts, emails, quick showings and last minute appointments inconveniencing your family for a client who in the end may or may not pan out.
3. Managing Expectations – Our Own
If you were to follow a real estate agent for 30 days you would be inclined to diagnose them with either ADHD or Depression.
ADHD: suffering patients have to cope with their condition, feeling frustrated by the second. Many people go through life with ADHD without even being diagnosed. Feelings of inadequacy and inability to cope cause depression, resulting in erratic mood swings
Depression: Depression causes extreme mood swings, happy one moment, hysterical the other and immeasurably sad again.
The reason is because we are sooooooooo heavily invested in the outcome of every phone call, email, inspection, appraisal, etc. After all, if it doesn’t go our way, we might not be able to provide for our families for the next 45 to who knows how many days! How can we not get so invested?
Being a real estate agent is full of ups and downs. When something positive happens such as a client’s offer getting accepted or we are hired on a new listing, everything instantly becomes so exciting and nothing can bring us down. On the flip side, getting too invested can lead us to want to “baby” each transaction so much so that when something negative happens to your baby, you are devastated.
4. Justifying your worth
You sit across from a homeowner who invited you to discuss the possibility of selling their home and to go over what you bring to the table, only to be asked to take less for your services. Don’t get me wrong, everything in real estate is negotiable but it sure doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Real Estate is the only profession I can think of where people will ask you to lower your income. Sorry sweetie, daddy can’t get you that baby doll today. Mr. Joe thinks I’m not worth it. Maybe it goes back to not knowing what real estate professionals do but it just feels like you’re being taken for granted sometimes.
5. Missing an opportunity to another agent
You know what hurts more than losing that listing or buyer to another agent? When it’s a friend or family member who called someone else to help buy or sell their home. Sometimes it’s better not to mix business and personal but what a blow that can be. At least let me refer you to someone competent.
6. Budgeting like you’ll never get paid again
2010 was a rough year for me and my family. I grossed $20,000 and had to rely on credit cards just to survive. Unless you are in a commission only job, you cannot understand the financial pressures involved in real estate. Some months you’re a rock star and think you should have your own real estate reality show, and some months you wonder if your career is about to end and be forced to take that 9-5 job you hated so much before real estate.
Unless your real estate income (if any) isn’t needed at home because of your sugar mama or sugar daddy, budgeting as if you will never get paid again is key. For this reason my wife and I live fairly conservatively even when things are good. We like to keep our bills as low as possible and try not to over extend ourselves knowing full well nothing is promised tomorrow.
The glamorous life of a real estate agent isn’t always what it seems but it’s not all bad either. There isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing (at least right now). Being able to help clients with their most significant investment is very rewarding. But in a business where the average real estate agent sells ZERO homes a year, the struggles are real and can hit you hard. Next time you meet a Realtor, give them a hug. After all, we’re people too.