A 2021 Guide For New Real Estate Agents : Your First Year

Let’s get this out in the open: real estate has a high failure rate for new agents. NAR has reported in the past that up to 87% of agents will not make it 5 years in the business.

This guide is what you will need to know to not only survive – but thrive in your first year as a real estate agent and beyond.

It is everything I did, wish I had done and have learned along the way of a decade as a top producer in the industry.


1. Preparing & Planning


Here are some first steps that you want to get out of the way before hitting the pavement and getting closings.

• Real Estate License

I am assuming you know this, but you cannot sell real estate without a license in the US.

You can find both in person classes with an instructor and online classes to obtain your license.

I took an in person class, and the networking opportunity and additional knowledge I gained was worth the extra money.

However, many people go the online route and are successful. There are tons of resources for you online (hint: you have found a great one right now) and you can get licensed and learn remotely fairly easily.

At the end of the day, choose the method you will complete to take your licensing test. Maybe you are better learning with an instructor. Go in person. Maybe you like to learn fast on your own. Go the online route.

While you are learning, keep this in mind: the licensing classes teach you the laws nationally and in your state. They will not teach you to succeed in this business.

Learning the laws is important, and are one thing that can set you apart as an expert if you are knowledgeable with laws and contracts. It is also obviously hard to sell real estate if you are dealing with legal issues, ethics complaints and suspensions.

So study hard, pass the test, but get ready to learn about running a business separately.

Being knowledgeable, but having no clients is a quick way to be one of the agents that fail.

• Choosing A Brokerage

Most new real estate agents work with a company or brokerage. For example, ReMax, Keller Williams, eXp Realty, BHHS, Century 21 and other smaller local players.

I have worked for 2 brokerages my entire career. I joined Keller Williams as a new Realtor in 2013, left after 2 years for eXp Realty, and came back to Keller Williams.

Would I have done anything differently looking back? No. I joined a brokerage where I was beginning to have a strong network and they had great training both in our our office and regionally/nationally.

Here is what to look for when you are trying to decide what brokerage to join as a new agent.

  1. The supervising broker/manager. You are going to have questions, lots of them. How available is the person whose job it is to answer those questions? How patient are they? Do you trust they will be there if you have transaction issues (you will)?
  2. Training. How much training is available? Who teaches the classes? Are there larger events you can attend? Do they teach about business/sales and contracts? Ask a real estate agent who is new at the brokerage how their training has gone so far.
  3. Other agents. Real estate is funny in the sense that other agents are at times competitors and allies. Some offices focus more on competition, others cooperation. I have needed a little of both, but for me having agent friends is 100% essential.
  4. Mentorship and teams. There is a large amount of programs for new agents, from getting a mentor to joining a team. Find out what is available, as a mentor if you are not joining a team. I did not join a mentorship program or a team. Looking back, I would have done a mentorship program as a new agent.
  5. Leads. “Leads” are potential clients that you have identified may need help buying and selling. Does the office offer any kind of leads to new real estate agents? Eventually, I believe you should learn to find your own clients. But getting some help in the beginning can make a difference.
  6. Money and splits. A “split” refers to the portion of your commission you will be giving to your brokerage. Every brokerage is different. When you are new, this is the least important thing to consider. Skills, knowledge, support and relationships are WAY more important than financial considerations when you are new. Focus on being the best you can for yourself and your clients and you will get taken care of.

Finding a brokerage and signing up when you are new seems daunting, but keep in mind many real estate agents switch later if it is not a fit. Interview 3-4 as quickly as you can then make a decision and keep taking actions toward your goals.

• Written Budget

I neglected this when I was new. I almost went broke twice before I learned the importance of planning and budgeting.

It is essential you know where you stand financially as you start any new venture.

I eventually split my first budget into personal expenses and business expenses. It was simple, just written in a notebook. I figured out all my recurring expenses, and the average of other expenses for the last year.

Eventually, I figured out how much I needed to make per month in order to start to build up some cash.

The goal of this budget is 2 things.

First, it answers the question “how long can I without any income?” The real estate sales industry is notorious for up and down income, and new agents sometimes go months without a check.

Second, it tells you how much you need to make in a month to have a profit in your business.

• Minimum Needed Start Up Costs

New real estate agent kneels beside real estate sign outside of a home for sale.
Me as a brand new real estate agent in 2013, in front of one of my first listings. This sign was effective, but not expensive.

As part of your budget, you will want to identify what you need to actually start selling.

Here are some of the example startup costs as a new real estate agent. There could be more or less for you.

  • Licensing costs.
  • Realtor Association fees.
  • MLS (Multiple Listing Service) fees.
  • Lockbox access/card fees.
  • Brokerage startup fees.
  • Business cards.
  • Sign(s).
  • Lockbox(es).
  • Technology (as needed, i.e. laptop).
  • Notecards (thank you notes, etc).
  • Modest marketing budget.

In the beginning, try to keep expenses as low as you possibly can until you start to get clients and close deals. Spending a ton of money right out of the gate does not mean you will be successful.

And some spending will not pay off for many months or even longer. This website did not make any income for me for 18 months.

So spend your energy building up cash before you go on a spending spree.

• Study The Contracts

Real estate contracts are legally binding, enforceable contracts between buyers and sellers. And the listings agreements/buyer representation agreements spell out your relationship with your clients.

You are not a lawyer, and you are not expected to be one. But you are going to be expected to know how to read and use these contracts to complete transactions.

You will also occasionally run into contracts that you are not used to seeing (for example, a builder contract). If you are skilled at reading and interpreting these contracts you will be very valuable to your clients if they have questions.

Read your local contracts provided by the Realtor Association and/or brokerage office.

After you read them, attend some trainings on how to use them.

When the time comes to use them with a potential client, you will want to be comfortable and confident. If you do not know what you are talking about, that potential client will rarely become a real client.

If you are unsure….ask for help. This is where it really is essential to have a broker or superviser available and responsive in the office that you join.

• Get to Know The Real Estate Market

A screenshot of a large list of homes for sale in the MLS database.
At night, I would comb through different areas to see what homes were on the market. Tedious, but a great way to learn the inventory.

One of the first things that many buyers and sellers ask you when deciding to use your services is “how is the market?”.

What is for sale in your area? How fast does a certain type of home sell? Are some areas currently selling faster than others? Are home values going up in a given area? Is there low inventory or plenty of homes for sale? Are multiple offers common?

These are just a few of the questions you want to know the answer to.

Real estate is also hyper local. The market for a home in one neighborhood could be different than the market for a home two miles down the road.

Being a great real estate agent includes knowing the markets where you provide services.

Go “preview” homes in the towns you want to sell in. Go to brokers opens and open houses. Ask other agents how they view the market. Go through MLS data.

This is all essential to being an expert. Buyers and sellers want to work with experts, not slick salespeople.

• CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

A CRM is a database and system, digital or otherwise, where you can keep track of communication with clients, potential clients, past clients and other leads.

In more simple terms, it is a list of people to contact to grow your business. This includes people you don’t know yet but need your real estate help (leads) to people you love and trust already (sphere of influence).

There is a huge array of CRMs available. I have experimented with close to 10 CRMs in my career, before finally landing on one that does almost everything that I need it to (none are perfect).

I highly recommend finding one you can grow into. The one I currently use is free to start, and then you can add features as your business grows.

Cloud based platforms I have found to be the most functional, and finding one that offers good security will keep your data safe.

You want to separate your CRM out into different categories that make sense to you. For example, buyer leads, seller leads, sphere of influence, etc.

A follow up calendar is also critical. Creating tasks such as call this person, email that person is the only way you will remember once you have a large database.

When you are just starting, think of everyone you know, put their name, number, email and address into your CRM. As you meet potential clients with all your efforts over the years, you will continue to add them into your CRM and follow up.


2. Goal Setting


Goal setting in real estate can be easily overlooked, but is one of the most important steps in starting out as a new agent.

There is a ton of research on the benefits of having written goals.

Here is the minimum I recommend to get started.

So sit down in a quiet space for an hour or two and get ready to come out motivated and ready to sell homes.

• Why Are You Selling Real Estate?

Without a purpose, you will not take the required actions to succeed long term as a real estate agent.

Maybe you already know your “why”, and maybe you are not sure.

Either way, I recommend writing a paragraph or two about the reason you want to be a real estate agent.

Making tons of money is fine, but go deeper. What do you want to do, who do you want help, what do you want to have, who do you want to be? How will being a real estate agent help you get there?

What will your commissions be funding for for your life, your family and society?

My reasons have changed over time, and yours probably will too as you grow as a person and agent. But I make a point at least once per year to write down why I do what I do.

• How To Write Goals

A list of goals from a new real estate agent, using the SMART system.
An example of one of my early goal writing sessions. I like to write my goals by hand to get away from the screen for awhile. I transcribed this.

There is a specific way to write goals that make them more achievable, meaningful and get better results.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of goal setting.

  1. SMART goals. This acronym stands for Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time bound (or similar variations). This is a tried and true method you can see more about here.
  2. Give yourself rewards. For small goals, I go out to dinner after achieving them or buy tickets to a sporting event. For large goals, I buy something for myself I would not normally or go on nice vacation. It is important to celebrate when you hit your goals.
  3. Adjust if needed. Sometimes my goals become obsolete or there are other reasons to pivot.
  4. Write and revisit them. Written goals are much more effective than just thinking or talking about them. I pin my goals up in my bedroom and see them every morning.
  5. Be accountable, but not mean to yourself. Share your goals with someone. I talk about my goals weekly with another agent friend of mine. If you miss your goal, figure out how you can improve and move on. Negative thinking will stop you in your tracks. Do not beat yourself up.
  6. Include personal goals. One of my values is to have a diversified life. I do not enjoy life when I am working every waking hour. So include other goals as well as business. For me, these are family goals, fitness goals, spiritual goals. But make them your own.

• Big Picture Goals

When I sit down to do a goal writing session, I start with how I want my life to look in 5 years. Some things are very specific (see SMART goals above), while others are more general.

After I write these, I take time to reflect and really soak in how it will feel to have achieved these goals in 3-5 years.

Save these. I recently read a 5 year goal I wrote almost 5 years ago. It had a huge impact on me, to see how I have grown and to also see that I achieved some of the big things I wanted.

• First Year Goals

Now it is time to do your goals for your first year as a real estate agent.

My first year, I did a number of transactions goal. I think this is a great place to start. As a new real estate agent, you want to get in the habit of saying “yes” to all the business opportunities that you can.

Although I do not have a copy of my first list of goals, I believe was my goal was 1 per month, or 12 in the first year.

This will vary widely. I have mentored agents that have done over 30 deals in their first year and others that have done just a few.

You can add other goals as well such as income goals, etc. Just make sure it follows the guidelines in the “how to write goals” section to maximize how effective the goal is.

• Daily/Process Goals

If you do no other goal setting at all (not recommended), and are rigorous with daily action-type goals, you probably will still have a solid first year in real estate.

These are daily goals that start fresh every day, for most people 5-6 days per week.

For example, contact 20 people per day about real estate. Set 1 appointment per day. Write 15 handwritten notes per day to listing leads.

Setting daily goals is what allowed to get to a six figure income in real estate in my second year.

These goals focus on the process of generating new business so that you can achieve your yearly goals.

• Business Plan

Make no mistake, you are going to be running a business. There is a lot of competition, and the best real estate agents realize that this is a service based business, not a hobby and not a job.

If you ignore this fact, it will just be a poorly run service based business.

If you join a team, that will be more similar to a job. But you will still be helping get sales for the team which is its own business.

Business plans for startup and larger companies are usually formal and can be very detailed and take a lot of effort.

You do not need a “formal” business plan with graphs and 100 pages.

I recommend you have concise plan that tie in your goals, and how you are going to achieve them. You can also add in your budget you created. Finally, it is a good idea to put in your value proposition. Why should a client hire you? Write down the answer to this question.

You can get a little more in depth if you would like, but I would not spend so much time on it that you do not start the next step.

Which is to get new business and start to close deals and make commissions.


3. Acquiring Clients


It does not matter how smart you are, how organized you are, how bad you want success, and how well trained you are UNLESS you use these skills to help others.

Obtaining new clients is the fuel that your real estate career will run on and grow.

New real estate agents who do not focus on generating leads and closing to make them clients are highly likely to fail in the first 1-5 years.

But that will not be you. Here are some tips on how to church up new business in your first year.

• Use Your Prime Hours

A calendar of a real estate agent, different colors for everyday tasks and other appointments.
My important tasks (growing this website, following up on potential clients) come first. I fit in everything else around it.

Most high producing real estate agents start each new day with their lead generating activities. The morning time is widely considered the best time to contact potential buyers and sellers.

Not because this is the time leads are ready to hear from you, but because it is the time when you are fresh, ready for action and most likely to handle the rejection that goes along with the successes.

There are some agents who do better another time of day other than the morning. That could be you, but be honest with yourself. If you continue to push off lead generation, try to put it first thing on your calendar everyday.

I block my morning time for growing this website and lead follow up. Occasionally, something will need to get into that morning time. But that is the exception, not the rule.

• Respond Quickly

When I was new, I missed a call while in a movie, and called that person back 2 hours later. The person did not answer, and I finally got ahold of them about a day later. They were looking for someone to list their home, but already signed paperwork with another agent.

That missed call cost me about $15,000.

You have life outside of real estate, and you should. But know that when you are new, response time is absolutely essential.

An LRM study reported what I found out already in that movie: the odds of entering the sales process with a potential client are 21x higher if you respond in the first five minutes, than if you respond just 30 minutes later.

When someone reaches out to you about real estate, timing is absolutely crucial.

• Your Sphere of Influence

My first real estate deal ever came from a friend of mine who I reached out to and let them know of my new career as an agent.

Simply put, sphere of influence business comes from people you already know, see socially or have a relationship with. This include past clients, who are an essential source of business. Keep in touch with them.

To be truly successful, especially as a new real estate agent, you want to help friends, acquaintances, family and be constantly building on your network.

You may feel weird asking for business from friends. I did at first. I am more introverted than most agents and felt like I was coming of as “salesy”.

I got over this, and you will too if you feel the same way. People who love and trust you want to help you, and you can help them by doing a great job as their agent.

Call everyone you know, let them know you are started a new adventure as a real estate agent. Ask them if they need help buying, selling or investing in real estate.

If not, just let them know if they know anyone who does, you are excited to help. Referrals are another essential lead source.

This is a chance to make new relationships, and reconnect with old friends. Be the go to person for anything real estate. And be a good friend. If they need any help in their life make sure to support them.

Many of my past clients have also become friends, and I take them to sporting events, lunch, have them over for dinner and more.

Make sure you are around people as much as possible, and they know you are becoming an expert in your field. You will get business from them, and you will make and bolster friendships by staying in touch.

• Your Strengths

After you connect with the people you already know, is it time to figure out what to do next.

Unless you have a MASSIVE and very trusting network (and even if you do), you are going to need to get business from strangers as well.

So where will your business come from? I recommend you decide this based on your personality.

I recommend taking a DISC assessment test. It is free, easy to read and will give you some insight into your personality.

Are you a social butterfly, who people flock to and trust? Maybe getting face to face with people is best for you (door knocking, open houses, networking events).

Are you a more aggressive personality and not scared to take rejection? You might be a good fit for phone prospecting.

Are you very tech savvy? You might to have success on social media and online.

Write down your personality traits, and this can help you with the next section. The more comfortable you are with a certain type of lead or business prospect, the more likely you are to have success with it.

It is also crucial to remember though not to completely avoid things only because of fear. In the beginning, it is good to get outside of your comfort zone and get used to pushing yourself.

• Identify Lead Sources

A pie chart of lead sources for a real estate agent over the last year, by percentage.
This is where my closings came from in the last year. Half from my sphere and past clients. Yours will look different.

I recommend that you identify 3-4 lead sources, and pursue them like crazy. Use the time you blocked in the morning or your set aside “prime hours” to create new leads, follow up and set appointments.

1 of your lead sources absolutely should be your sphere. If your sphere is very small, then make it a priority to expand it and strengthen those relationships.

Here are some (but not all) possible lead sources for new real estate agents.

  • Sphere of influence*
  • Network Referrals*
  • Open Houses*
  • Door Knocking*
  • For Sale by Owners*
  • Expired listings*
  • Other Agent’s Excess Leads/ Referrals*
  • Social Media Networking*
  • Social Media Ads
  • Online Portal Leads (Zillow, Bold Leads, etc.)
  • Direct Mail
  • Pay Per Click Leads

*=Free lead source

As you can see, some lead sources are free, others cost money. I recommend you start free, and then think about adding in paid resources if you need/want to.

This is especially true if you were like I was and did not have a huge startup budget.

Some of these techniques are more likely to bring buyers, some sellers.

Go for a balance at first. Listings are crucial to long term success, but buyers are great when you are new because they are lost cost intensive and tend to be more likely to give you a shot.

• Execute Your Process Goals

At this point, you should have your daily goals ironed out.

If you need to adjust them to your lead sources, do so.

Your daily goals should be burned into your routine like any other habit. You should be as likely to complete this in a day as you are to brush your teeth.

If your daily goal ends up being too easy and you can get it done very quickly, make it more difficult. If it is way too hard and you never get close to it, make it easier for a little bit.

Use your prime productivity hours and complete your daily goal to find new business, 5-6 days a week, no matter what. If you are unsure of what your daily goals should be ask a veteran agent (or reach out to me).

• Buyers vs. Sellers

There is an old saying in real estate “list to last”. Listings are considered important because they give you an opportunity to market your listing and yourself, require much less driving time and can allow you to build a reputation in a given area.

But as a new real estate agent, you should focus on both. Helping buying clients is a great way to perfect your skills, market knowledge and contract knowledge.

Welcome both buyers and sellers with enthusiasm and a hard working attitude.

• Online Presence

Plan on a lot of people looking you up online when deciding whether they want your services.

What are they going to see? Do a test run search for yourself and see.

Most brokerages will offer you a template website and you can create free profiles on other large sites. This is a great start.

Fill out those profiles and write a bio that highlights any relevant professional experience, what makes you unique and why they should hire you.

Eventually, it is smart to invest in your own website, that you own and can control. Why? You can build it as large as you want and you can keep your content intact, even if you switch to different brokerage.

Templated “piggyback” company pages connected to your brokerage will be removed if you were to switch to another company. So put some effort into them in case potential clients are researching you, but don’t invest too much time into them.

When you are a brand new agent, most of your energy is best spent getting business. Build your own online presence if you have spare time during non “prime” hours and once you are established.

• Client Centered Approach

You can be self centered, or you can be other centered.

Always do what is best for your clients. They should work with you because you are going to work hard for them and get them the best result possible for their real estate goals.

Being client centered will keep clients coming back to you in the future, sending their friends and give you a great reputation.

A client centered agent is focused on providing quality service, guides clients, does what they say they will do and wants to help others achieve their goals. Part of this is truly believing you are the best agent to help them.

A self centered agent is overly focused on their commission, overly aggressive with clients and may say whatever is needed to get to closing.

You need to have your own business goals, but stay client centered with your services and attitude.

• Follow Up, Set Appointments

Stats from hubspot about the importance of following up on leads as a new real estate agent.
An excerpt from HubSpots’s follow up stats.

This heading is in italics because it is so important to your business. And because many new real estate agents let it slip through the cracks.

HubSpot’s data reports that 80% of deals require 5 follow ups. However, nearly half the time salespeople give up after 1 attempt.

I have listed and sold homes for people I called and reached out to 10 or more times over a period of YEARS. That is common in real estate.

If you do not have a system for following up with leads at regular intervals you will miss out on business. Lots of it. This is a huge reason to use a CRM, so you can use the task calendars to remind you to follow up.

When you are following up, talking with potential clients about real estate or calling someone referred to you, SET AN APPOINTMENT.

It is a good idea to get to get some information from them before setting an appointment to make sure it is a good use of your time and their time (where they are moving, why, when, what their expectations are, etc.)

But when they say, “I am selling/buying soon” get in the habit of setting up a time to sit down with them in your office or at their home.

• Earning Their Business

At the appointment, this is your time to show you are a hard working, hungry and they will be in good hands hiring you.

This is also known as “closing” and is the final step in going from a potential client to signing paperwork and becoming an actual client.

Hopefully, you have joined a good company/office that has extensive training on listing appointment and buyer consultations.

On your first handful of appointments, it is well worth giving up a portion (even half) of your commission to have a seasoned agent who aligns with your values come with you for your appointment.

Not only does this give you a higher likelihood of earning the client’s business, but also you will see how top performing agents sell their services with confidence, show their value to potential clients and help them move along the process to reach their real estate goals.

Every agent will have a slightly different approach to appointments based on their personality, marketing strategy and skill level. But here are some general tips on being successful on your first few appointments.

  1. Sell your motivation. Most prospects, especially sellers, will ask you about your experience. Be honest. Tell them you are supported by a great office and company (or mentor, if applicable) but you are just starting your career. Because of this, they are going to get your full attention and you will work hard to make sure they are taken care of.
  2. Know the market. If someone thinks you do not know the market, both national trends and locally, they tend to go elsewhere. Think of market research (going through MLS data, previewing homes, etc.) as studying for this big test. Present data to the client to show you have done your research and know the relevant market.
  3. Connect on a human level. I cannot stand buying from “salesy” aggressive salespeople. You should care about your clients and part of that is building trust right up front. The more likeable you are to someone, the more likely they are to want to work with you.
  4. Get a feel for the prospect. Some people want tons of market data and will take their time with a decision. Others, would rather chat with you and get to know you. And some do not want to waste any time and want the process to be fast. Getting a feel for this when you are following up will help you know how they want the appointment to go.
  5. Have your plan written out. How are you going to sell their home? And how will you will help them buy? What makes you different from other agents? Write the answer to these questions out, internalize them and get ready to tell the potential clients at the appointment.

Becoming great at turning leads into clients takes time, practice and training. You want to practice before the real appointment (mock appointments with another agent, training etc.) and not learn by making too many mistake when you can be earning business.


4. Building Your Partnership Team


Real estate is a team sport. To successfully close a transaction there will need to be multiple professionals involved.

Building these relationships as a new real estate agent can help your business grow by making sure your clients get the best service through buying or selling their home.

Here are some of the most important vendors and partners to look for.

• Mentors

Finding a good mentor quickly can make your first year a valuable learning experience.

I was lucky enough to find a mentor quickly, just by coming to trainings and making sure I spent hours in the office every day.

Real estate transactions can be tricky. Problems will come up that you need to work out quickly. Sometimes the right answer is not clear.

If you work hard at prospecting for new clients, eventually you will hear “I want to sell my house”. Going from that point to the closing table is a long journey.

A quality mentor who has been through this process potentially 100s or 1,000s of times will make that journey more smooth and you will learn a ton along the way.

Keep in mind, great real estate agents are very busy and are unlikely to just hand you business because you are new.

The best way to find a mentor is to be proactive and find the business yourself, then come to them to help you take it from appointment setting all the way to closing. Make it easy on the veteran agent to work with you.

Make sure that you make it worth their time financially as well. Real estate transactions I have worked together with another agent I split with them 50/50. This was worth it. It is unlikely I would have earned that business on my own.

Start looking for a mentor immediately in your office. Ask them if they would be willing to help you with potential clients you find. Make sure it is someone who is ethical, has experience and will be willing to help you.

• Lenders

A large percentage of the buyers you find will be taking out a loan to fund their home purchase. Having a good lender partner will make you look good to your clients.

I prefer local, responsive and proactive lenders who are going to care for and help my clients just like I do. And, of course, get the transaction done with as little drama and delays as possible.

Find a few good lenders, as each may have some different options for your clients.

Many real estate transactions live or die by the quality of the lender.

• Home Improvement Contractors

From a getting a home ready for sale, to taking care of items after home inspections, where there are homes being sold, there are contractors working on them.

You will want a few contractors ready to call. Much of the work needed when selling a home needs to be done in a quick time frame and has wide range of types of tasks. You will want someone to take care of small little jobs and bigger remodeling jobs.

Often, this will be multiple contracts each one having their own type of task (painting, small jobs, kitchen bath, etc.)

Read reviews, and give a few contractors a test run on a smaller job. Explain to them what you do and how you would like them to be a resource for you.

• Relationships With Agents

Real estate is a collaborative effort. Top real estate agents have a strong network of agents both in their office, in other offices, in other companies and in other areas.

I spent the first few years of my career seeing other agents purely as competition. And sometimes, that is true. And you do need to negotiate and represent your client’s behalf when in a transaction.

But the bigger your agent network, the more you learn from and teach others and the better your reputation the bigger your business will grow.

• Home Inspectors

Home inspectors are a part of most transactions in a balanced real estate market (sometimes they get less business when the market favors sellers).

Having a good inspector or two to refer your clients to will help your client learn about the house and give your client more leverage to ask for repairs or credit from the seller during the transaction process.

Also, it is a great resource to learn more about real estate. Your go to inspectors have seen 1,000s of homes and the best ones will take calls after the inspection if your client has questions.

• New Home Builders

A row of new construction townhomes, each with a little different color and features.
Get to know the sales reps for large builders, especially if there is a lot of new construction in your area.

Home builders make up the important new construction aspect of the market. I have sold many new construction homes to clients and also represented several builders to sell their homes.

Go and check out the new home communities in your market and introduce yourself to their sales reps.

Smaller builders you also can meet at their open houses to get a feel for what they build.

Relationships with builders and their sales reps are crucial for when you have a buyer client who is thinking of new construction homes.

• Title Companies

Title companies and title attorneys are responsible for preparing closing documents, doing title searches, offering title insurance and more.

This is another relationship that is good to have as you prepare to do your first real estate transactions.

• Other Companies

Selling homes is a big business. There are lots of other companies and industries that will reach out to you to offer their services.

I have found that some are useful, some are not. I do not spend time having coffee and lunch dates with too many vendors unless I am sure it will be beneficial to my clients in the future.

If you do feel the need to meet with vendors, just make sure that you are getting your daily goals completed. If you are not, that is priority number 1 and these meetings should be pushed or done briefly over the phone exclusively.


5. Growth and Mindset


One thing I have promised myself, in business and life, is to always grow as a person. I am not perfect at it. But I have found that I am either growing as a person or I am sliding backward. So I choose growth as often as possible.

Here are some of the things that have worked for me and other agents in my close network to keep on the right path.

• Routine, Habits and Accountability

Real estate is entrepreneurial. This means you have flexibility to set your own schedule. It also means if you do not show up to complete you daily goals, the only consequences are with yourself.

There is no boss to call and see where you are and why you didn’t do what you were paid to do.

There are lots of studies on habit and routine, and we perform best when we make our most important goals into habits.

Because of this, I try to be in the office for the same hours every weekday, chipping away at my daily goals. Put it on your calendar, and make sure to guard that time. Occasionally, you will have to flex for certain situations. But make that a rare occasion.

When I was new in real estate, I had various “accountability partners” among other agents in my office. We would talk on the phone every morning and go over daily goals and then send a message when we were done.

Get a routine. Make it a habit. If you need help sticking to it, find an accountability partner.

• Further Your Knowledge Base

A list of audiobooks that I have listened to on my journey as a real estate agent.
A small selection of the books I have listened to as a new real estate agent to stay focused on growth.

The learning doesn’t stop when you get your license. It never stops.

The best experts in every field spend time reading the latest research, data and well read on how to perform at every aspect of their craft.

As a real estate agent you should be no different. Client’s think it is very important to be honest, knowledgeable, responsive, know the market (local and overall), a good communicator, a good negotiator and more.

NAR’s (National Association of Realtors) trends report tell you exactly what buyers think is important in a real estate agent. If you want a copy of this report get in touch with me.

So keep studying the market, read books on these topics and perfect your strengths. Acknowledge your weaknesses as well and read up on those topics.

• Free Time and Driving Time

What do you do when you have excess free time? What do you listen to when you are in the car?

For me, answering these questions honestly gave me an edge. I went from excessively entertaining myself to listening to audiobooks and reading.

If you are not a reader, listen to more audio. There are tons of books and other content that will help you along your journey.

Now I still enjoy a good movie and to watch sports. But I realized that I could do both, and both unwiding and learning were important to my career.

When I spend all my time listening to music and watching shows, I do not have time to learn.

• Classes and Conferences

Quality, in person training is hugely important to jump starting your first year as a real estate agent. Reading and watching training videos is great also.

But do not discount the value of learning from some of the best in the industry.

Many of the top companies, and independent vendors, hold conferences every year that attract some of the best agents and business people in the world to speak and train.

Soak up their knowledge. It will rub off on you, and have an immediate impact in how you go about your day.

Through all this training, do not forget that you can also do too much training. You get paid by successfully helping clients. Unless you are among the agents who get a salary, you do not get paid when you are attending training.

Use the training, but keep in mind if you do not take action afterward you may be using the training to avoid difficult tasks (hint: searching for new business, uncomfortable but necessary).

• Lean Into Discomfort

Growing as a person and in business is about pushing yourself towards things you are afraid of.

The first time I went to knock on doors to invite neighbors to an open house, I got dizzy with anxiety. All kinds of negative thoughts entered my head of why I should go back to my car.

The first 5 doors felt like my shoes were made of lead.

But eventually, it got easier. I started to enjoy the people I met. The negative interactions did not happen nearly as often or as bad I thought they would.

Take actions that make you slightly uncomfortable that you know will have a positive effect on you, both in your daily life and in real estate. When those get easier, add something else that pushes your limits.

• Letting Go of Control

This is a big one. Real estate transactions are full of things that affect us, but we have no control over.

An appraiser can give a low appraisal of a home. Maybe the buyer or seller simply will not budge when you are trying to negotiate. A home builder can have a weather delay. There are 100s of small and big things that could go wrong.

When these problems come up, resolve to quickly do your part in solving them. Take action to represent your client and remove the roadblocks.

But after that, do not worry over business problems to the point that you stop running your business at the highest possible level.

• Rest and Recover

A tropical beach with a hammock and palm trees all around. Sunset over the water.
Pura Vida. This was the view from a vacation I took in Costa Rica the winter after a successful year.

I only recently started to learn how to recover from hard long periods of work.

I read the book “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success” and realized that the world’s most elite athletes switch between periods of stress (work) and periods of low stress (recovery).

Now, before you worry about recovery, make sure you are putting in the work. But if you go day after day of long hours, eventually most people burnout. For me, I know when this happens because I feel consistent stress.

So what does recovery look like? It is different for everyone. But here are some suggestions based on my experience, reading and talking with other high producing real estate agents.

  • Quiet reflection. Meditation and mindfulness has huge benefits and has been shown to help prevent stress and burnout in high stress jobs. Try to incorporate this into your daily routine. I do it at night.
  • Sleep. Some people can perform at a high level with little sleep. They are rare, and I am not one of them. Numerous studies have shown the benefits and importance on getting enough sleep.
  • Exercise. OK so exercise is kind of ironic as a “recovery” tool. But for real estate agents, getting physically active when spending long hours in a car or at a desk can give you a new burst of energy.
  • Days off. If you are like me, this is difficult. But when you take a day to not think about real estate, the other 6 days are much more productive.
  • Vacation/retreat. If stress is getting to you and you feel overwhelmed, take a few days to go somewhere that recharges you. For me, it is in nature. Try your best to stay away from tech and business for periods of time.

I love real estate, but it comes second to my family and my health.

It is not easy to get away from the business, which is another reason why having a strong agent network in your office is crucial. I cover for them while they take time off, and they do the same for me.

Find an agent or two in your office that you can have this kind of setup with.


6. Spending Your Commissions


What are you going to buy when you start making money?

I have seen many agents who started to succeed buy cars, clothes, jewelry and eat out every night at fancy restaurants.

This “stuff” is great and fun, and there is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself.

But remember, you are building a business.

The best way to become a top agent is to put a portion of your commission income into getting more clients. If you have your budget done, you should know how much money you need monthly and annually for there to be an excess to be reinvested.

Here is what to focus on next.

• Profit Before Spending

As a new real estate agent, you should make money before you spend it. Does that seem obvious?

Every day, there will be a shiny new advertising opportunity that you will be tempted to purchase to get more leads, more closings, more commissions. Vendors will call, email and come to your office to tell you about their products.

Some of these sources of business could be good. Some may not. But focus first and foremost on the free or low cost sources of new business.

Profit first, then think about increasing your marketing spend.

• Align Marketing Budget and Your Lead Sources

Above, we talked about choosing your lead sources. When you spend on marketing, it should not be random.

You want to stick to your plan, and pick expenses that are going to build up those lead sources.

For example, if you want to meet clients through organic online presence (this was my route) invest in your website.

If you want to pay for online leads, you will want to look for different companies that offer that.

If you are doing direct mail, invest in postcard design and postage.

• Adding Marketing Expenses

Do research on different companies/techniques before buying. Compare pricing, product and preferably talk with real estate agents who have used that company.

Or get a recommendation from someone using that lead source at a high level of success (best option).

Whatever marketing you add, it will take time. Some lead sources take more time than others.

When you add a marketing channel, make sure you have the budget to stick to it for about a year. This is how long it takes to find out if it is working, and how well it is working (how much did you spend, how many leads turned into clients).

• Tracking Your Marketing

Use your resources wisely. Make sure that you are tracking how much money you spend on a given marketing campaign. As leads come in and you put them into your CRM, make a note of where that lead came from.

This will allow you to see how many leads each marketing source is adding, how many of those leads end up going to closing and how much you are paying per lead/ closing.

• Cutting Out Expenses

Sometimes, a marketing channel does not work out. It could be a bad lead source, or could just not be a fit for your skills/approach.

At some point you have a given a lead source enough time and effort with little return to know it is not going to work.

Once you realize it is time to pull the plug, do it. Move on and learn. It can tempting to keep spending money on this type of marketing to make up for your losses. This is a mistake.

• Coaching

A large percentage of the nation’s top real estate agents have third party real estate coaches.

These coaches help with accountability, business planning, hiring assistants, motivation, dealing with roadblocks, mindset and more.

I have had several coaches in my real estate career. When you have the budget for it, the right real estate coach can take your business to the next level, no matter what level you are on.

Treat coaching as you would any other expense, give it some time and if it is not growing your business find another coach.


7. Looking Ahead : End of Year 1


Put everything you can into your first year. Some new real estate agents will make a lot of money, some will make a modest amount.

And many more will quit. But not you, if you are diligent with this guide you will find success and be ready for the next chapter.

After the year is done, it is time to prepare to have an even bigger year in year 2, and to build on the foundation that become your real estate business.

• Identify Your “Systems”

A business system is a way of doing something to accomplish a certain objective.

Everybody has systems, they may just not realize it. It is time for you to write some of your biggest ones down and see if you can improve on them.

Your CRM is a system. What happens when a new lead comes in? That is a system.

You have systems for what happens when you get a new contract, listing appointment, closing and more.

Identify them so you can start to perfect your process.

The more automated and organized your systems are, the more efficient your business will run.

• Building Long Term Lead Sources

Write down all of the lead sources you had over the past year, how many closings came from each (see here) and which ones you will keep and which ones you will change.

You also want to think about building any lead sources that take a longer time to deliver clients. Think of these as planting seeds for future growth.

I started my first website (that I fully owned and operated) in year 2 of being a real estate agent, and online marketing has become the second biggest lead source for me. My sphere is still the top.

• Successes and Growth Opportunities

This is the time to reflect on what you did well. And also what you need to improve.

In my first year, I realized I did really well working with clients I met at open houses. This became a lead source for me for many years.

I realized that I needed to improve my routine. I worked hard, but got distracted easily.

This step is critical for pivoting instead of just keeping the same habits that are not working.

• Hiring Help

Like any business, there may come a time where you want to hire other people to help you grow.

Some real estate agents still work on their own, some with just administrative staff and others run a whole team of Realtors. What you do will depend on your long term goals, I have done both and now am a partner of a team.

Great people can help you in areas where you are weak, allowing to focus on your strengths.

For hiring, I highly recommend doing a session or taking on a coach who has experience building the kind of team you want to build.

Hiring and managing others is a skill that you will want to learn if this is your goal.

• Compare Yourself to…You Last Year

Real estate is an interesting business where you can quickly see how well you are performing compared to your peers and competitors.

When sales are slow (everyone goes through this) it is tempting to feel like you are failing. Especially when your colleague who started after you is selling more properties. Ouch.

Everyone’s journey is different. And at the end of the day you will be happiest focusing on growing as a person and a real estate agent every year.

Focus on humility during the good times. Focus on resilience during the tough times. And in both, focus on taking the next right action toward your goals.

• Gratitude

At the end of year 1, I wrote a sincere thank you to all of the clients that allowed me to be a part of their real estate journey.

I did not ask for referrals, I did not use marketing materials. Just gratitude for having met them and wished them the best in their new home.

Today, part of my routine is to make a list of things I am grateful for. For anything in my life, not just real estate.

Being a real estate agent is a great business to be in, and keeping gratitude keeps me starting each new year excited to help others.


What is Next?


Starting in real estate can be daunting, there is tons of information out there and it is not always clear which direction to go.

This guide is a great beginning to your journey from a new real estate agent to a top producing agent, follow it step by step or take what you want from it.

Have a question? Want to schedule a call with me? Share a success story?

Send me a message below.

Will Rodgers

Will is an award winning real estate agent, author and high tech marketing expert. Adopting a consultative approach he has helped hundreds of clients meet their real estate goals in the Northern VA real estate market.