There’s always something to howl about

Ask the Bloodhounds: “What are your top recommendations for a Realtor just starting out in today’s market?”

An email from Nicole Ford, a newer agent working on the Gulf coast of Texas:

Hi Greg,
I’m a new agent (started in July) and have recently started reading the Bloodhound Blog. First, I want to say thank you for providing such an incredible resource. Second, I have a question that I’d like to ask of you and all of the other incredible writers (and readers) on your site: What are your top recommendations for a Realtor just starting out in today’s market? What are the most important things that I can be doing to guarantee my future success?
I realize that I have picked a very difficult time to start as a Realtor, but I’m convinced that once I weather this storm and become successful now, I can look forward to a great career in the future. I also believe that a positive outlook (even in the toughest times) can be a tremendous asset.
Thanks in advance for any thoughts and advice that you share. I look forward to reading (and contributing to!) your blog in the years to come.
All the best,
Nicole Ford
South Padre Island Realtor

I’m interested in answers to this question from all perspectives. I get the impression that Nicole has things more together than most new agents, but some sincere advice for beginners will be welcomed, I’m sure, by the ninety-and-nine folks who didn’t have the guts Nicole exhibits by asking the question.

So what should a new agent do to keep body and soul together in this market?

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34 Comments so far

  1. Ryan hartman January 31st, 2009 7:51 pm

    Prospecting, prospecting, prospecting.

    Pick a way, any way.

    Same darn way, every day….

  2. James Boyer January 31st, 2009 8:03 pm

    Make the commitment to yourself, that you will always learn new things, that you will become the best sales person that you can be, and that you will never give up. No matter how many times you get taken advantage of, or told no, you will never give up.

  3. Jerry Robertson January 31st, 2009 8:58 pm

    First, there is no silver bullet in this business. It is hard work and most of that is about building relationships. You need to add people to your database, call them, see them, write notes to them and build strong relationships. I would encourage you to work on building a referral network and care for it every day. It may start out a bit slower than those that cold call or do other ‘lead generation’ activities but if you treat people with respect, do a great job and ASK FOR THE REFERRAL you will do well.

    I believe that is how you thrive in this or any market. People do not want to be treated like a lead. Build relationships and work by referral and your life will be so much easier in the long run. This is not the same a word of mouth so try to learn the difference. One is active and the other is passive.

    Second, stay positive at all costs. Go on a ‘news fast’. The news is negative by design and you need to surround yourself with positive influences. I don’t mean to ignore the world but rather filter what you take in. Control the input and the output will be much better.

  4. Brian Brady January 31st, 2009 9:50 pm

    The primary purpose of a business is get, keep, and serve customers. Follow Ryan’s advice.

    Be consistent with your prospecting. Spend at least 3 hours a day finding new customers, regardless of how busy you get.

    The secondary purpose of a business is to generate a profit. Start with the primary, master it, and the profit will come.

  5. Nicole Ford February 1st, 2009 7:16 am

    Thank you everyone for the advice – it is much appreciated!

    Ryan – what are some of the best prospecting methods that have worked for you?

    James – I really love your advice. Are there any educational materials, books, websites, specific courses or designations that you would recommend to an agent just starting out?

    Jerry – thanks for the advice about the news – I’m still working on learning how to stay informed but also how to filter so that I’m not overwhelmed by the negativity!

    Bryan – my question for you is similar to my question for Ryan. Any methods of prospecting that you’ve found to be particularly successful? I understand from my reading here that cold calling has worked very well for many of you. FSBOs, neighbors of “just solds” and “just listeds”… Anything else I should be trying?

    Thank you again for your thoughts and advice – I look forward to learning from your collective experiences.

  6. Eileen Pettengill February 1st, 2009 8:46 am

    Nicole- Please let me add my 2 cents too. I share your appreciation for the whole BloodhoundBlog family,even when I feel miles behind them! They are a preciuos resource and a gift. I would suggest a couple of things starting out-first, treat this as a serious full-time job. Work at it all day(no Oprah, no laundry,no shopping). And secondly, make sure everyone you know knows you are a real estate agent-your dog groomer, your cleaners, your dentist, etc. Pass out cards every day. Good luck!

  7. Cheryl Johnson February 1st, 2009 9:25 am

    And since no one else has said this yet: Keep learning!

    Learn everything you can about the history and character of the area you work. Learn who’s who in local government. Learn everything you can about mortgage and financial markets. Learn everything you can about real estate in general. Take a few days to read every word in the various contract forms used in your state.

    So then, as you make those rounds networking with people, when they ask you questions about real estate, you can answer with a feeling of confidence.

  8. Tom Vanderwell February 1st, 2009 12:35 pm


    One thought I learned when I sold real estate and the other I learned as a mortgage lender:

    1. As a Realtor, my broker taught me, every day you have to tell 5 people a day who you are, what you do and ask for referrals. It doesn’t matter whether you do it at the grocery store, on twitter, at the mall, or however. You need to ask for referrals.

    2. As a lender, I’ve come to learn that while you need to weed out the negativity, your clients need to be able to rely on you to keep them informed and educated on what’s going on. Now more than ever, being up on the rules, regulations, market forces, tax changes etc. is very important.

    Good luck and thank you for asking for help. I’m confident that any of us here will do anything we can to help another be a success.

    Tom Vanderwell

  9. Barry Cunningham February 1st, 2009 1:09 pm

    1. Don’t take advice from anyone not making money selling or buying real estate. It should be easy for someone to SHOW you how to do that which is going to lead you to success..since you only should be asking those who are successful.

    2. Ignore ANYTHING that lawrence Yun or the NAR says

    3. Stay off of Twitter if you are looking to actually make money

    4. If you want to make money learn how to offer as many captuire points in as many locations as possible on the Internet

    5. Ignore advice by anyone who can’t show you how to capture buyers and selelrs online

    6. If you want to make money stay off of active rain and ANY other site that focuses on dogma and propaganda instead of making money…

    7. Not sure what market you are in but it won’t be hard for you to become the STAR agent in your one else knows how or wants to do it…focus on being the expert in your area

    8. Understand that you MUST learn to operate and manage a business and most agents will not have any advice in this regard

    9. Learn as much as you can avout short sales, and reo’s..if you don’t learn how to live on 30k per year and be happy..or get a second job NOW!

    10. I only write this assuming you actually want to make MONEY…sorry I am an absolute capitalist and everything I do MUST show a measurable retrun on investment in a very short period of time or it is not part of my business plan

    11. I don’t spend more than 10 hours per WEEK in real estate and do better than 95% of the agents out there. If someone tells you to spend 4 or 5 hours per day prospecting…then with all due respect…I’d run!!!

    My buyers come to me, my system is automated and what I have written above is what I tell all that we work with.

    The key is in setting up your BUSINESS so that it does not require you to be working on it.

    But what do I know? Maybe the alternative of knocking on doors, mailing out thousands of postcards and making dozens of cold calls per day titillates you.

    Me..I choose the fun of South Florida..Ciao! Off to the Casino..just stopped in to check email!

    12. Read the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss TODAY!! Before you ask any more questions and begin implementing it right now!

    13..Before I forget…read this:

  10. Eric Blackwell February 1st, 2009 2:20 pm

    Hi Nicole;

    One of the best strategies that I have seen work well lately is for a new agent to (while prospecting on their own as well), team up with a more experienced agent who is on the “back nine” (so to speak) or maybe the 17th green of their career!

    Many of them have built up significant books of business. They have experience in negotiation that will take years of hard knocks to learn. They have capital so they are not hounded by worry.

    Yet they see the market changing and are baffled by online leads.

    Contrary to Barry’s advice (at least one piece of it), if they don’t know how to close an online lead, they may be the PERFECT person to work with. You bring that value to the table. You bring the skillset of communicating and marketing comfortably using technology. They bring experience. You work on deals together.

    Would someone do this with you? Yes. 3 times in our office that I can name recently. The net result when handled successfully (and if the person is picked carefully!)? Both parties win and when the senior person eventually retires, the junior person buys their book of business out.

    Is it for everyone? Nope. I don’t know if it fits your personality type or not. If it does, start making friends with other successful agents systematically. The opportunities will appear over time.

    I also heartily recommend Ryan’s advice.

    While I could go into which methods of prospecting to use, I think that is unwise. I think you need to be authentic to yourself and your abilities and simply do it.

    At the end of the day prospecting and closing are your only success so be efficient and effective at those and you win.

    Kudos to you for jumping in the deep end!



  11. James Boyer February 1st, 2009 2:41 pm

    Great List Barry,

    @ Nicole, I have been listening to lots of Brian Tracy as of late. I like his possitive no nonsense attitude, an the statement I gave you above is one of his main points. You have to promise yourself that you will never give up, no mater what happens, you will keep on trying.

  12. Dan Connolly February 1st, 2009 2:55 pm

    When you are starting out in Real Estate, it is all about learning. You have to learn about the value of homes in your market area. Study the sales over the last 3-6 months and become an expert in the value of property in your area. You have to be able to advise your clients on their purchases, number one.

    As for where to get clients, look at the internet. That is where they are. Building a comprehensive website, with a search for homes capability is the best way to find clients. I want clients to call me, I don’t chase them at all. I have never been busier than I am today and I have been in business for 23 years. Internet, internet, internet. Blogs are helpful and a necessary part of the push but the search for homes (searching all the listings, not just your listings) is where the money is.

  13. Cindy in Indy Marchant February 1st, 2009 7:52 pm

    I disagree with Barry. I am an Active Rain participant and learned how to blog there; am now ranked on Page 1 of Google for my keywords and have a PR of 2 (not great, but not bad for zero dollars and just hard work for six months). I have learned more about SEO there than any place.

    I think the most important thing to do is to work on your sphere. If you can’t write down 100 names of people you know that would refer you; it will be hard to make any kind of a living. Then teach that sphere that you are a realtor…I was an accountant before and it took awhile to get them to see me as a realtor. Now I talk/touch/see them 33 times a year; I’m a Keller Williams agent and we do that well. Those contacts are far better than any internet lead.

    I would start blogging as well; but before you do…be sure you have a website worthy of a visit, an IDX that is easy to use and have capture points on it. I use ImagePro for $37.00 a month and it works great. You don’t “have” to spend a fortune on a custom website. Internet leads are not as good, but do provide bread and butter in lean times.

    Lead with Revenue; if it doesn’t make you money…stick with things that are free. Those would be Sphere contacts and Blogging.

  14. Barry Cunningham February 1st, 2009 8:32 pm

    Hi Cindy..with all due respect…your comment is EXACTLY why Nicole should ignore most if not all of what is written on Active Rain.

    You SEO belief is that there is a big accomplishment with attaining a ranking for the keywords “fishers real estate and homes for sale”.

    The problem with this is most on Active rain don’t realize that attaining a ranking on Gooogle is only of any significance if anyone is actually SEARCHING for those key words.

    For example…the search volume for the keywords you select doesn’t even register a SINGLE search by Google..not even 1 search per month.

    No one is actually searching the term “fishers real estate and homes for sale”, so ranking in the top 10 for that search keyword is of no significance.

    Carmel real estate has a good search volume but Cindy’s site doesn’t show up in the top 30 rankings..which is akin to not existing.

    Lastly…Cindy’s site has NO client capture feature on the home page…which is exactly what I wrote above.

    So Nicole, please understand that I mean no disrespect to Cindy or anyone else from Active Rain…but too many have no idea what they are talking about.

  15. Joshua Hanoud February 2nd, 2009 6:06 am

    Best advice I can give is to keep your money in your own pocket. There will be TONS of companies out there offering you a magic pill that will suddenly explode your business and show you how you too can make a million dollars in commissions in your first year of real estate.

    I consider myself fairly practical and skeptical, and I got sucked into my fair share of them when I was a rookie. Over time I found that they really didn’t add any value to what I do and that I do much better with a bare bones operation based on what I KNOW…and that’s my market.

    I know my market like the back of my hand, I can talk about it confidently, and when I’m talking with sellers I don’t need a 50 page listing package to prove my credibility…I only need open my mouth for a few minutes.

    Work on that, because those companies will absolutely bleed you dry and they’re GOOD at convincing you that you need them in order to survive. Keep your costs as low as possible, concentrate on learning the business and STAYING in business your first year…ask lots of questions without fear and I think you’ll end up ok.

  16. Arnie Smith February 2nd, 2009 10:46 am

    The only advice I would offer is that knowledge is power. Listen carefully and learn all you can so as not to make the mistakes that could possibly land you in trouble. Only ask questions of those you respect and know will give you the correct answer. Bad habits in real estate tend to last longer than the agents and are often responsible for their demise.

  17. Todd Covington February 2nd, 2009 11:53 am

    Everyone, thanks for all the advice. I am new and most of what I have learned has come from advise from others.

    I did a lot of research and probably have the best built website in my area. Getting it to the top of Google has been a serious job and I have A LOT of people looking. The problem is not many people have contacted me as of yet.

    I started to realize that having a great website is just a part to being a great real estate agent. Building relationships is at least as important. So my advise is to get out, meet everyone you can, and relationships will slowly develop. Trust in relationship is the key.That’s the key.

  18. Brad Coy February 2nd, 2009 12:35 pm

    >What are the most important things that I can be doing to guarantee my future success?

    There is some very helpful advice on how to get clients and grow you sphere of influence here, Nicole.

    Almost at the top. #1 for me, is to understand your local contract “residential purchase agreement” like the back of your hand. You should know it line by line and upside down.

    Our purchase agreement in SF is 7 pages and a big part of it is exclusive to the city of SF and varies greatly from the CA forms. I don’t know if this holds true for other city’s. But, either way, it’s something you need to understand before the questions come at you from a client.

    I tend to think that this is where the rubber meets the road when facilitating a transaction and that your future success, in the way of referrals depends on it.

  19. Cindy in Indy Marchant February 2nd, 2009 1:14 pm

    Just for clarification; the best place to have your capture page is on your IDX which is where mine is. You get to look at five listings for free and then you register. And last time I looked on Google key words there were 5,400 hits per month for Fishers Real Estate.

    The point, which Barry is missing, is this…pick your keywords that you want to be found for and then write a blog and link to those key words. Whether my keywords are good is up to me (and I have closed transactions to prove that they are!) but getting to page one can be done by anyone. Active Rain can teach you about how to do that for free. And in this market Free is good!

    Finally, don’t ignore the sphere advise. It is also Free!

  20. Nicole Ford February 2nd, 2009 1:32 pm

    Thank you to everyone for all of your kind words and advice! I am overwhelmed by the spirit of helpfulness that you have all exhibited and hope that I can someday pay it forward. There are many fantastic ideas in the comments above and I plan to get busy tanslating those ideas into action on my part. Thank you! (And by all means, please continue to comment if you have anything to add to this stellar list of recommendations.)

  21. Barry Cunningham February 2nd, 2009 2:12 pm

    Nicole…Cindy is right! When she wrote above..”Whether my keywords are good is up to me (and I have closed transactions to prove that they are!)” She is right…

    What I said was to make sure you did things that were going to generate SUBSTANTIAL dollars FOR YOU! If she has a couple of closings that she feels cam from a lowly searched keyword then that is the bar SHE is seeking to reach by her own admission.

    My bar…and hopefully yours…needs to be set much higher. I want to have MUCH more than a few closings. I want my bank account to be seriously stuffed…which is why we do what we do.

    Some may not like our strategy and some may not like the delivery of our message but guess what…they don’t pay us. We’re p[aid by the throngs of buyers and sellers who are captured on many nets spread across the Internet..not just on an IDX page.

    So basically it’s a matter of ideology and the pursuit of maximum revenue. We aim to CONSTANTLY maximize revenue and generate as much profit as possible to the point of squeezing google and every available portal and feeder online to do so.

    While we may be a bit aggressive, it works and makes us hungrier and more profitable with each and every webiste we install.

  22. Bunny Carringham February 2nd, 2009 6:11 pm

    Nicole, please don’t lend even half an ear to people who have actually managed to survive as Realtors. What do they know?!

    The problem for every new Realtor is, “How do I sell that first home?” Well, Sweetie, that’s just the wrong way of thinking about things. Don’t sell a home, sell a hundred homes.

    “How?” you ask. In block, of course. For cash.

    “To whom?” you inquire. Narcotraficantes de los Muertos. Translation: Foreign businessmen.

    And, Honey, don’t you dare work more than 45 minutes a month! Here in South Florida, there’s just too much fun to be had on the beach. And you never know when some “investment capital” might come floating in from the sea lanes.

    Remember, Doll, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. And if you ain’t got it, flaunt it on the internet! What could be easier?

  23. Keahi Pelayo February 2nd, 2009 6:28 pm

    The best time to start in RE is when the market requires an agent to develop systems and skills. This is that time and, therefore, the perfect time to start.

  24. myrtle beach condos February 2nd, 2009 7:19 pm

    great post. here is what I would recomend.

    1. Get up a website asap!
    2. learn how to blog.
    3. learn as much about seo as possible
    4. learn how to work on your business not in your business – your creating a business not a job.
    5. Read motivational books, to stay motivated – I read a lot and it helps me focus.
    6. Run away from anyone wanting you to prospect – spent that time working on a real asset – (your website)
    7. ignore 99% of the agents out there, now is the best time to get in the business. People are leaving in droves, there is so much less competition!
    8. learn about short sales and foreclosures.
    9. Find a rolemodel – this person may not be a real estate person, just someone positive with a lot of ideas

  25. Cheryl Johnson February 2nd, 2009 8:16 pm

    >> Narcotraficantes de los Muertos. Translation: Foreign businessmen.<<

    Oh come on, Barry. You can give us a better translation than “Foreign businessmen”…… 🙂

  26. Dan Connolly February 2nd, 2009 8:35 pm

    Good one Cheryl! I guess “Narcotraficantes de los Muertos” probably are your primary foreign investors in South Florida!

  27. Jose Lopez February 2nd, 2009 8:52 pm

    I only have one recommendation, read the Millionaire Real Estate Agent, by Gary Keller. I have been in the business for about 10 years, and I wish that I had read it at the start. Listings, Listings, Listings…Those should be your first 3 priorities.

    Sarasota Foreclosures

  28. Barry Cunningham February 2nd, 2009 9:11 pm

    Cheryl and Dan..look a bit more closely…you were referring to a statement made by an endearing fan…not from I…so I can’t clarify the rantings of an interloper.

  29. Joshua Hanoud February 3rd, 2009 11:15 am

    I have to say while “Listings, Listings, Listings” and “List to Last” may have been the game in years past…the game is now “Sales, Sales, Sales”….

    Listings, Listings, Listings = Spending, Spending, Spending and not necessarily income.

    Stay lean, stay mean, and make dollars. Only list a house if you know you can SELL the house. In my market, 90% of the inventory is overpriced…ya know those 10% of the agents who do all the business? They price’em right and turn down the 90%…NO UGLY CHILDREN!…at least not if you want to survive your first year.

  30. Jeff Brown February 3rd, 2009 11:26 am

    Joshua — It’s the listing guys (for the most part) who’re closing several hundred sides yearly. Ask Russ Shaw about how list list list is in ‘years past’. 🙂

    Shaw, and all those like him sport bottom lines requiring two commas. There is of course, plenty of room, and a need for lean and mean sales oriented agents. But in the end, without the Russ Shaws of the world, buyers’ agents die on the vine.

    List list list is still where the mega producers reside. 🙂

  31. Jason Thomas February 3rd, 2009 12:10 pm

    Hi Nicole. I too started in a downturn market (1993 in Edmonton, Alberta “The Texas of Canada”). It is an excellent time to start, you won’t develop the bad habits of a boom market. I highly recommend you invest in yourself with training. And when I say training, I mean the Wickman/Leader’s Choice kind of stuff. That is the nuts and bolts of real estate. I’ve seen many Realtors invest in lead generation systems and then fumble those leads all away due to lack of training. Remember to focus on how many homes are selling each month, not how many aren’t. Stay positive, you will have bad days, but that is okay, just don’t have bad years. Hope this helps and all the best!!!

  32. Jason Thomas February 3rd, 2009 12:33 pm

    Forgot to mention, I noticed on your site that you are “always accessible to your clients”. I did the same thing when I first started, I advertised “24 hour pager”. I admire your enthusiasm, but you will want to put up some boundaries to keep you in balance. This business very easily can get out of hand. Turn your cell/pager off when you are with family and friends. This is an excellent career, but don’t let this business run you and destroy your personal life and relationships. I know you will be successful, make sure your business success is not at the expense of other areas of your life.

  33. Greg Staker February 3rd, 2009 6:23 pm

    Learn to say no.

    Learn to ask for the deal.

    Put yourself in the path of the customer.

  34. Cheryl Johnson February 4th, 2009 4:04 am

    And one more point, that’s just as important as prospecting and learning, but no one ever seems to mention it:

    Get in the habit, from the very first, of setting aside some money out of every commission check, no matter how large or small, for a). Saving and b). the I.R.S.