How to be a successful real estate agent
Whether you’re looking to become a real estate agent or looking to dramatically improve your current real estate business, growth can sometimes feel difficult.
Success looks different depending on who you ask.
There’s a lot that goes into becoming a successful agent. From startup costs and education to continued networking and marketing, there’s never a time when you can ‘turn it off’.
While it does take a lot of hard work and effort on your part, being a real estate agent can be a very lucrative career.
So, get your notepad ready as we dive into exactly what will turn you into a successful real estate agent.
What are the 25 key things successful agents do?
In our experience, successful agents share similar personality traits.
Along with an unparalleled ambition to win.
We’ve listed out our top 25 below.
- Define what success looks like to you.
- Create a business plan (early) and stick to it.
- Find and learn from a mentor who is a successful agent in your area.
- Build your professional network by attending community events and talking to local businesses.
- Strive to be the market expert.
- Allocate capital to your business by investing in marketing.
- Pick a brokerage to build your career with.
- Know when to build a team.
- Generate leads.
- Make first impressions count.
- Take the time to understand your clients and their needs.
- Provide great customer service and build relationships with your clients.
- Use the right technology for growing your business. This could include reliable CRMs, marketing tools, and more.
- Stay organized.
- Test new marketing strategies.
- Utilize the social media channels your audience uses.
- Keep your personal branding consistent.
- Set up a website.
- Create and post content regularly.
- Remember that energy is everything.
- Never let your pipeline go dry.
- Be adaptable to changing plans.
- Be available.
How can real estate agents stand out in a competitive area?
With more than 3 million active real estate licenses in the U.S. alone, it makes real estate an incredibly competitive job market.
The market can feel even more saturated if you’re in a growing or already popular area.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stand out.
With the right tools in your belt and an outside-of-the-box marketing strategy, you can become a successful real estate agent in any market.
What are other agents doing right to stand out in a sea of average?
They obsess over these three things:
- A+ design that makes you look like the modern agent you are.
- Delivering a comprehensive marketing plan that answers each important question on the minds of every buyer and seller.
- Belonging to a tribe for accountability, masterminding, and staying on the cutting edge to stay steps ahead of your competition.
To really set yourself apart from your fellow agents, follow these additional strategic steps and apply them to your business plan.
Become a thought leader
Marketing yourself as a real estate agent is becoming more about establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
You want your clients, as well as other agents, to see you as an expert in your field and to find value in your insights.
You can become a thought leader by engaging in social media and content marketing, sharing information about market trends and useful tips that will be helpful to buyers and other real estate agents.
If you need inspiration, take a look at a couple of agents who are doing it right:
Jay Marks Real Estate is involved in their community and provides valuable information about their local market, new listings, and home-buying advice across their social media channels and website.
Dean Linnell with The Linnell Group at The Whistler Real Estate Company shares regular content on their website and social channels to assist home buyers and sellers. Gain inspiration from them:
Traci Cornwell with Cornwell Real Estate does a great job of sharing valuable resources on their blog. She answers questions that will be helpful for homebuyers and sellers, and she shares helpful tips for clients and agents alike on her social media channels.
Pay attention to how frequently these agents share content, the kind of content they share, and how they have optimized their social profiles for their clients. These are the things that can really help you dominate and become the expert in your local area.
Learn to identify market trends
A crucial part of an agent’s job is to be able to identify market trends.
How can you master this art and improve your business?
It starts with consistent research.
Good agents study the market every day.
But you have to take it a step further to grow your business.
Great agents study the market every day and then turn their insight into educational real estate content or blogs that helps their clients (and prospects) make better real estate decisions.
To really hone in on this skill, make sure you are engaging in these best practices for market research:
- Focus on the future. As you analyze the economy and local market, keep your eye on the bigger picture, not just the current market. Pay attention to future community developments and the impacts they will have.
- Get involved with local and state associations. Follow the trends and statistics they release and make sure you know where the new commercial developments will be.
- Talk to mentors and other real estate agents. You’re not the only person in your field. Take advantage of the conversations that other agents are having and learn from them.
Invest in marketing
We’ve already mentioned marketing a few times, and that’s because it matters. Marketing will help you continue to grow your customer base.
An important part of being a real estate agent is lead generation; marketing yourself is one major way to do this.
What are some ways that you can invest in your own marketing?
- Invest your time. There’s a lot that you can do on your own–writing blogs, producing video content, posting on social media, and doing your own design work for marketing materials like flyers, business cards, etc. (if you have an eye for that kind of thing).
- Hire contractors to help with your marketing efforts. Contractors are great for blog writing, website design and other design work, SEO, Google Ads, social media advertising, and other areas where you don’t have the time or expertise.
- Hire in-house. Hire employees that specialize in marketing to help take your business to the next level. A huge benefit of this is that in-house employees really get to know the ins and outs of your business and can help add that personal touch to your marketing efforts.
- Outsource to agencies. Marketing agencies provide all of these different services, and some even specifically work with real estate agents. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
Brand design and awareness
As a real estate agent, you need to establish your brand.
Your brand is more than just a logo on a business card–it’s how people come to recognize you as an agent.
Building a brand involves finding your voice and using that voice to create messaging and design tools that generate customers.
- Your brand’s vision and values.
- How do you want clients to describe you to other people?
- Your appearance on listing appointments.
- Your language and messaging during the follow-up.
- Your website’s design.
You need a website design that exudes your brand and voice. You only have a few seconds to make enough of a first impression for prospects to get hooked and reach out.
Treat your website as your home away from home. Every time you engage with a prospect, learn what prompted them to call you.
This type of client feedback is invaluable as you continue to grow as an agent.
Produce high-quality content
One way to help get your name and brand out there is to produce high-quality content.
And, no, we don’t mean once a month.
We mean producing content consistently.
- Localized articles once a week.
- Organic social media posts (and not just ‘here’s another sold listing’).
- House tours.
- Marketing materials (flyers, postcards, door hangers).
- Feature in local press and events.
The best place to start in producing content is to identify the areas where your target audience spends their time.
If you’re looking to find those who are searching Google for local real estate agents, you’ll want to add plenty of written content to your website and engage in best practices for SEO.
"Create a strong brand with unique messaging and be consistent with your marketing. Deep dive into your local market and adapt an attitude of helping people every day. Focus on quality over quantity. Stay in touch with your sphere and work your database with consistency!"
- Syndi Zaiger, Nest Real Estate
If you’re hoping to establish brand awareness across social media platforms, you’ll want to create short videos and posts with high-quality imagery.
We recommend that you take inspiration from agents who are doing this well.
Here are a couple of Curaytor favorites:
Ken has almost 40 thousand subscribers on his YouTube channel. He spends time curating videos that target local home buyers and people looking to move to the Orlando area. His videos provide valuable information and answer the questions that his primary audience is asking.
Connie Carlson and the team at Carlson Residential share helpful insights into the Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia real estate market. They take the time to really get into their local area, and not just the logistics of real estate, but the fun things that people should know about their community as well.
What is the real earning potential for agents?
This is a valid question–and one you should be asking if you’re looking to become a real estate agent: how much can real estate agents make?
According to Indeed, the average base salary for real estate agents in the U.S. is $106,000 annually.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2021, the average annual salary for real estate agents was $61,480.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports that in 2020, the median gross income for realtors was $43,330. This statistic does include realtors who are part-time as well.
The annual salary for agents varies widely. It’s best to look at the earning potential in the states and cities you are licensed for. We’ve broken this down for the top ten earning states in the U.S. from BLS and the top earning cities in the U.S. from Indeed.
BLS top ten earning states for real estate agents
Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm (OEWS Data, May 2021, State XLS)
Indeed top earning cities for real estate agents in the U.S.
Note: This data is based on the number of individuals who reported their salaries to Indeed.
What are the biggest challenges realtors face?
Many challenges can come with being a real estate agent (as with any job), but we want to focus on how you can identify these challenges and, ultimately, stop them from hindering your success.
“My biggest challenge has been putting my ego aside and recognizing that other agents aren’t my competition. They are my community. I had to do this so I could focus on putting my family first. Being ok not selling every single house in my town or in my service area and instead making it home to eat dinner together, making it to baseball games, that was where the real success is for me.”
- Lisa O'Neil Sevajian, President Realtor @ Northshore Property Shop
A slow buyer's market
When the market is slow and you don’t have many buying prospects in sight, the obvious consequence of this challenge is a decline in sales and income.
Times like this, however, provide realtors the opportunity to better their skills as an agent and continue to market themselves.
Participate in seminars, optimize your real estate bio on sites like Zillow, and focus on building your network during these times.
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to sell during a slow market.
But improving your marketing and brand awareness can help increase sales when there aren’t as many buyers out looking.
Pricing your properties correctly
Pricing your properties correctly can be complicated, especially as the market changes.
It can become a balancing act between listing a price that will appeal to buyers while also satisfying the seller and ensuring that you make the commission you need to support your family and lifestyle.
If you master this art, your lead-to-appointment rate will skyrocket.
Familiarize yourself with the challenge of pricing properties, talk to other agents, and know your market and your audience.
These things will help as you navigate the complexity of pricing out properties.
Single sales won't last
Singles sales are great when the market is hot, but they don’t last, and you can’t build a sustainable income from them.
So don’t get too comfortable.
One thing agents overlook (especially newer agents) is the earning potential of a development. Sure, the deal may take longer, but the payout can be game-changing.
The single properties are the bread and butter of every agent.
But the hyper-successful agents understand that larger developments are worth their weight in gold.
Always be on the lookout for new opportunities, and use your past clients for reviews and referrals.
Continue to produce valuable content to stay top of mind to the people who will refer new business to you.
This kind of full-funnel marketing strategy will help you grow your business so you always have new leads coming in.
"Growing and building a team should be strategic and calculated. A successful real estate agent, may not find happiness or success in managing a team. Selling real estate is a different career than managing a team or opening a Brokerage. Real estate changes, shifts happen. We have to be prepared for that."
- Traci Jennings, Jennings Real Estate
Generating affordable leads
Lead generation can be costly. NAR surveyed realtors for 2021 and found that, over a 12-month period, about 31% of realtors were spending more than $250 per month on lead generation. Many were spending well over $500 each month.
But there are ways that you can generate leads on a more affordable scale.
A huge part of generating leads organically and affordably is having a killer marketing strategy, from a website that attracts to brand awareness strategies for your local market.
You should also focus on cultivating your relationships with your clients because each of these relationships can bring you continuous word-of-mouth referrals.
What are the most common mistakes new agents make?
Yet another challenge of real estate is not knowing what you don’t know and falling prey to these common mistakes that new agents make.
Listen, we all make mistakes.
It’s a part of the real estate business. If you’re not failing, you’re not learning.
“Keep track of and stay in touch with every single client you ever do a transaction with from Day 1. One of my biggest regrets after nearly 10 years in the business.”
- Joe Haas Sr, The Haas Real Estate Group
Lack of innovation
As a real estate agent, your creativity can make or break you.
You’re going to hit slow periods and the market will continue to shift and cause you to adapt your strategy.
Even if you don’t feel like a creative person, you can cultivate that creativity and innovation by learning from other real estate agents.
Spend some time looking at what others are doing.
Follow successful realtors on social media, visit their websites, and ask them questions about their success.
Take notes on the new ways that you can reach your target clients and continue to test new strategies and technologies.
Attend training programs and seminars to learn new ways to innovate your real estate business.
Failing to invest correctly
It’s important to invest back into your business. This is one way to ensure continued success.
Agents that don’t analyze their goals and reflect on where their time is best spent in their busines are most at risk of falling victim to this. Take the time to identify your strengths and the tasks that only you can do for your business.
Invest your time and energy into those.
Analyzing your business will also help you to determine what areas you need help in, like marketing, SEO, lead generation, or other tasks that you don’t have as much expertise in. Those are the areas you can invest in financially by outsourcing or hiring assistance.
Doing it for the money
We all work for money. And it can be all too easy to be lured in to real estate by the dollar signs that accompany big sales.
Just working for the larger payouts can cause burnout. Contributing factors to real estate agent burnout include:
- Working long hours
- Increase in workload
- Not keeping a healthy work-life balance
- Not taking enough time off
How can you avoid that burnout?
Keep your goals in check.
It’s great to have ambitious goals, but you should make sure they are realistic and don’t impede on your having a healthy personal life too.
Make sure you take time off from your work, manage your stress levels, and know your limits as the workload gets overwhelming. It’s not all about the money.
You should still enjoy your job at the end of the day.
Relying on referrals
While referrals are amazing when they happen, relying on referrals alone is not a solid business strategy.
Even if every single client you work with gives you a glowing review, there’s no guarantee they will refer someone back to you.
To avoid relying solely on referrals to grow your business, you need to have a multi-pronged strategy for gaining new leads and clients as you progress in your real estate career.
Try these additional methods for gaining new prospects:
- Engage in digital marketing strategies like Google Ads, email marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.
- Get involved in your community by talking to local businesses and attending networking events. This helps improve awareness for personal brand.
- Take advantage of lead generation tools and strategies.
No sales processes
A big mistake that many real estate agents make is not defining and improving their sales processes.
It may seem appealing to some to “wing it” or work on the fly when a hot lead comes in, but sales processes can help you land qualified leads and close on sales.
Take the time to identify your sales processes and how you can use them to grow your business.
The sales processes might look different from one agent to the next, but the same basic steps should apply:
- Find prospects
- Qualify them
- Engage them
It’s important that you learn what processes work best for you and your ideal client. Then continue to improve upon those processes regularly.
Ignoring new business
You may be busier than ever, and it gets too easy to ignore new leads that come in during those busy times.
Be careful about doing this.
We can’t always predict when the next sale will come along, so it’s wise to be mindful of new leads and business even amidst the chaos of a busy season.
Even if all you can do at the moment is send a quick email or spare a 5-minute phone call, do it while the lead is warm.
Continue building relationships with new prospects because you never know when the next opportunity will come along.
What's the future of the real estate business?
Any real estate agent who wishes to be successful should always be looking to the future.
What new technologies and innovations are taking place in the industry?
Which of these will become the new standard to stay competitive?
How can you incorporate them into your business?
According to a technology survey from NAR, drones, cyber security, 5G, and virtual reality are among the top emerging technologies that real estate agents believe will be the most impactful to their businesses.
Immersion has become an increasingly popular tool among real estate agents over the last couple of years as well.
Utilizing virtual, interactive tours of homes online allows potential clients to better visualize the homes they can see themselves in before they call the listing agent.
The biggest takeaway from this that we can give is to pay attention.
Pay attention to the technological trends that are taking place.
Pay attention to the tools and resources that your clients respond well to, and continue to build on those tools as you innovate your real estate business.
FAQs for new real estate agents
Now that we have discussed what it takes to become a successful real estate agent, let’s cover some of the most commonly asked questions from those looking to dive into the world of real estate.
Should I become a real estate agent?
Becoming a real estate agent is no walk in the park. But it can be a very rewarding and enjoyable field, particularly for those who are more entrepreneurial-minded.
Some of the perks of being a real estate agent include:
- Being your own boss
- Setting your own schedule
- Earn a comfortable living (if you do it right)
- Spend your day engaging with others
- You have unlimited income potential
Some of the cons include:
- It takes a lot of hard work to earn a living
- It can be difficult to find a balance between work and home life
- The real estate industry is competitive
Only you can know what the best path is for you.
But if you have a passion for interacting with others, aren’t afraid of hard work, and find managing your own real estate business appealing, this could be the right track for you.
How long does it take?
On average, it takes 4-6 months to become a licensed real estate agent. This depends on how you get your license and where you’re located.
A few factors that can impact this timeline include:
- The state you reside in
- How you take your classes (online or in-person)
- The application process in your state
Do note that this is just the time it takes to get the license and education required by law to start practicing as an agent. It can take a while longer to start getting new clients.
How much does it cost?
Many costs are associated with becoming a successful realtor, so it’s hard to lay out specific numbers to get started.
You may need a few thousand dollars just to cover the costs of the license, education, and brokerage fees.
Here are some of the average cost breakdowns of becoming a real estate agent:
- Education: $200-$1,000
- State licensing exam: $85-$200 per test
- Background check: $50-$100
- Hanging your license with a broker: varies greatly between brokerages
- Errors and omissions insurance: $350-$400 per year
- National Association of REALTORS membership: Signup fee plus $150 per year
- Business expenses: $500-$1,000 per year
- Marketing expenses: $1,000+ per year (generally a lot more, especially as you’re getting started)
- Continuing education: $50-$300+ per year
Choose a broker that meets your needs & leverage its reputation
The brokerage you select has huge implications for your future success.
It can be particularly useful when you are new to real estate without real estate knowledge, but it is also important to have experience.
Your broker should ensure your reputation within the property market. In a business relationship with a brokerage firm, the reputation becomes yours for them.
If you are asked by a client to research, you may become associated with the sponsor's broker.
Whether a broker is renowned for selling and promoting property or selling it on the internet, it is a very positive experience to be a part of a brokerage team.
There’s no doubt that it takes a lot of work to have a successful real estate career.
But we’re pretty sure you have what it takes.
As you continue to innovate your business and look to the future, always keep the big picture at the forefront of your planning.
Keep investing in your business and engaging in creative marketing practices.
Watch and learn from your fellow agents.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything on your own. There are plenty of resources available to assist you in growing your real estate business.
We hope this guide gave you plenty of ideas, but if you’re not sure where to start, our sales team is always excited about engaging with new realtors.