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What I wish I knew at the beginning of my real estate career

realtor career

Beginnings aren’t easy. Even seasoned real estate professionals will tell you that at the start, it was a struggle. Most would say that if they had a chance to start over again, they’d do a few things a bit differently.

I left a corporate job at American Express to join Zolo Realty. At the time, I wanted a challenge and I wanted a career that allowed me to do what I was most passionate about: helping people. Now, as the President of Zolo Realty, I’m happy to say I’ve never strayed from that initial goal of helping others. These days, I focus more on helping agents, but I’m confident that the lessons they learn translate into a better experience for the customer.

I’ve been told that I’m good at helping people and I think part of that success is because I’m willing to learn from my mistakes. And truth be told, I’ve made more than a few. In an industry where you can feel quite lonely and confused, it’s nice to know that there are some managers (and business models) that are still committed to helping you become a successful Realtor. Here are three lessons I wish someone told me when I first dove into the real estate business.

Lesson No. 1: Enter with a plan

Nothing works as it should without having a clear goal. Set your goals and develop a strategy to realize those goals, even if it’s only in your brain. Many failure stories come from agents that didn’t know how to nurture potential sellers and grow their brand. The toughest sell is that first sell and the best strategy is to have a plan. Of course, like many eager agents, my plan was great on paper. Knock on doors; tell them how much I want to help; wait until the clients came rolling in. Another version of this is to tell all your family and friends that you’re now a Realtor and watch all their trades come in and you won’t have to cut them a family and friend deal discount, either!

Truth is, these plans rarely work. So build a better plan. Plan not to earn anything for six to nine months. You read that right. No real income for six to nine months. Once you know how to make that work then you can concentrate on the real work: Becoming an expert in your chosen area. Get to know the neighbourhood. Knock on doors. Volunteer at events. Get to know your neighbours. People work with people they trust, so, become a trusted member of that neighbourhood. It will pay off. I promise.

Lesson No. 2: Be proudly different

The real estate market is very competitive and there are thousands of real estate agents fighting for the top spots in every market, so distinguishing yourself from the crowd is not as easy as it might seem. Focus on something one or two attributes that really speak to you; perhaps it’s your impeccable work ethic, your astounding customer care or your sharp negotiation skills. Just choose attributes that really highlight your key advantage and then promote this heavily. Very heavily. Eventually, clients who care about these attributes will find you and, if you give them great service, this will guarantee a regular flow of clients that know what they’re looking for and why you’re the agent to give it to them.

Lesson No. 3: Look professional, be professional

To be treated like a professional you need to look like one — and act like one. You have to hold high standards in both the way you conduct your business and in how you present yourself to others. Maintaining a professional look is a must if you want to be taken seriously by clients. So go through Facebook and delete those college party photos. Now go through your wardrobe and update your professional attire. Not all Realtors where a suit and tie, but all successful Realtors take their profession seriously enough to dress up and present their best.

In the end, being a successful Realtor boils down to long-term relationship building. You won’t get it all right at the start and you will make your own mistakes along the way. But, even in the difficult times remember: Your chosen profession is a very rewarding one. It can bring you the fortune you seek — both the material and the emotional one — if you’re willing to work for it.

Image of Mustafa Abbasi

Mustafa Abbasi

Mustafa Abbasi is the President of Zolo Realty and the broker of record in Ontario. He is passionate about customer service and consumer experience.