The Real Estate Encyclopedia
Open Letter from a Rookie to Fellow Rookies
Category - Real Estate Information Sources - Real Estate Articles

Kirk Shillington, a RE/MAX rookie agent in Colorado and the 6th Place Winner of Season III for the Real Estate Apprentice Grant, is this month's "Rookie Hall of Fame" choice. In the past 12 months, Shillington has completed 15 transactions; selling 5 homes himself, and representing the buyer on 10 others - and is now a member of the RE/MAX 100% club. This distinction is defined as agents who earned $100,000 - $250,000 in gross commissions in one calendar year. Kirk recently offered some strategic advice for rookies as well as veterans or those coming back into the industry after a hiatus.

Advice For a New Agent

It is never easy to get started as a real estate agent, especially when the market has recently taken a downturn. I began my real estate career in June of 2005 and my business has been growing. Here are some thoughts I have had about where I am, the challenges I have experienced, and how I have gotten here.

I work in the South Metro Denver area, specializing in residential home sales. Our average home price in Denver is around $310,000. This year I am a member of the RE/MAX 100% club. This means I will earn over $100,000 in gross commissions, although after all of my expenses it's a lot less! Of course as a new agent, just staying in the business for a year is a success.

Getting to that $100,000 number hasn't been easy. One of the biggest barriers to becoming a good agent is taking the first step. Switching from a regular salary to a 100% commission based pay structure is a major obstacle that many people cannot overcome. I found it's absolutely necessary to have all of the following in order to even CONSIDER getting into the business:

  1. Believe in yourself
    Before you start in this business, you must KNOW that you will be a successful salesperson.

  2. Make sure your significant other is behind you and shares your dream
    If this person will not support you, you won't make it. There have been several moments of weakness where my wife has kept me motivated and on track.

  3. Treat real estate as a business!
    You are now president and CEO of your own company. If you aren't out there earning money, no one will. I've seen several new agents leave the business because they weren't giving enough attention and respect to their new career. Just because you are not required to go into the office doesn't mean you shouldn't.

  4. Make sure you have enough money to survive!
    Many new agents come into the business expecting a regular check, just like their last job. Remember you won't only need money to pay for your real estate business expenses, but you must budget for regular living expenses like gas, groceries, medical, and housing expenses.

  5. Expect to take on some debt.
    Not only did I save up enough money to last six months, but also I ended up with another $10,000 to $20,000 in credit card debt, which I recently paid off.

  6. It takes time to grow your business.
    It takes time to get started. I was fortunate enough to come into the business with several clients waiting for me. Most agents will need at least 2 or 3 months to get their first closing. (And paycheck!)

If you can accept these requirements then you may be ready to enter the real estate industry. Are you already an agent? Then I can share a few things that have worked for me, things that might be helpful to you also.

  1. Open Houses
    Open houses are great for new agents and for finding new business. I was able to close several buyers that I met while doing open houses. Be ready to spend a lot of time! I spent almost EVERY weekend during the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM at an open house, unless I was out with a buyer that day. Do some research so you know the area where you sell and can answer basic questions about the house. Remember, you only have a short period of time to develop a relationship with that person and convince them that you are the one to help them with their home search! However, most importantly, get out there and do it!

  2. Floor time/Internet leads
    Some agents have sworn by the number of leads they've gotten off sitting at floor duty or from the internet. I have had limited success with them, but it is worth a try, especially when I am in the office or activity is slow at the time.

  3. Geographic Farming
    It's not sexy and it takes a long time to payoff, but I've seen many agents have great success with this technique. I've sent postcards out to my sphere and my farm after every sale. While it hasn't generated a cold call lead, it has kept my face in front of the people who I want referring me and that has generated listings in my farming area.

  4. Working by Referral.
    I'm a big believer in Brian Buffini's system. Clients who are referred to you are much easier to work with, are more serious, and pay better. Talk to everyone you know and make sure they know you're in real estate!

Here is some final advice for anyone thinking about getting into the business or even for someone who's already in:

  1. Create a support team of experienced professionals
    I work with a great lender and title representative. Both of these individuals are from reputable companies and have been doing real estate transactions for a long time. They take great care of my clients and make me look good.

  2. Spend time with experienced agents
    I try to stay involved and understand the business practices of the experienced, professional agents. I do this so that I can emulate them and keep growing. This practice has allowed me to succeed where many other new agents have failed.

  3. Take Continuing Education classes and get designations!
    To better represent my clients I believe in learning as much as possible.

This is an amazing industry. For many people who aren't properly prepared or have unrealistic expectations real estate sales can be a very difficult experience. For others it can be the answer they have been looking for! While I have the ability to set my own schedule, I find myself working harder then I ever have before. This is so because my income is now directly related to my efforts. To sum it up, I recently spoke with my old boss/friend and told him "I'm never coming back!"

To my fellow real estate apprentice finalists I say good luck and I wish the best to all of you.

Kirk Shillington, ABR
RE/MAX Alliance, Lone Tree, CO

About The Real Estate Apprentice® Foundation
Sponsored by RealtyU® and founded in 2004, The Real Estate Apprentice® Foundation is a non-profit venture created to assist newly licensed agents by equipping them quality guidance, education, products and services designed to alleviate their concerns and facilitate their rise to successful profitability. This is accomplished by providing 5,000 semi-annual grants, totaling $1 million awarded each season with no strings attached. Grants are sponsored by various major real estate companies, service providers and industry leaders.


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