J’Neka Morrison was just out of the military when she became a real estate agent in 2007. Brad Hammarlund became an agent about six months ago after nearly 10 years of managing a trucking company.
Although their paths to a real estate career differed greatly, both agents had one thing in common: They got into the business with their eyes wide open.
“It takes a lot of dedication,” said Morrison, an agent with Exit Homevets Realty in Killeen. “You have to set your own hours in real estate. For some people, that is hard. A lot of new agents don’t know they have to work weekends to be successful, and they don’t want to do it. They usually don’t last long.”
Hammarlund, also an agent with Exit Homevets, welcomed the independence of being his own boss.
“I was tired of everyone else getting rich off me,” Hammarlund said.
Both got into the business knowing they would probably face a lean first year. They both understood that as independent contractors, they would be their own bosses. They fully understood the time commitment involved in getting a successful real estate career off the ground.
Their broker, Jose Segarra, said it is common for people to get into the business with the wrong idea about what it takes to succeed.
“Some people think it is easy to become a Realtor, make big money and drive a fancy car,” Segarra said. “But that is not the case at all. People come in and think it’s about showing houses and talking to people. But really, it’s a lot of time doing a lot of things you don’t want to do.”
Segarra said a lot of people don’t realize how much it costs to become an agent. That is why he offers regular seminars for people interested in the profession.
“You spend almost $1,000 just in your schooling to get your license,” he said. “It costs $600 for your annual board dues. In our case, the Fort Hood Board of Realtors, it costs $200 every six months for MLS (multiple listing service) dues, then about $200 a year for your key to access houses. Those fees exist whether you are making sales or not.”
Getting licensed is only the beginning.
“Once a person obtains their license and passes the state exams, that doesn’t prepare them for the real world,” said Michael Zehr, a broker with Armadillo Properties and Avalar Fort Hood Real Estate in Copperas Cove.
Avalar specializes in home sales, while Armadillo concentrates on property management.
Zehr said successful real estate agencies have to offer constant training opportunities in order to cultivate successful agents. He said agencies must have someone on hand at all times to work with new agents.
“We are always doing training, and we have an open door policy,” Zehr said. “We review all contracts until we feel the new agent has become seasoned enough.”
Housing market recovery fuels more interest in real estate careers
As the housing market recovers, local agencies are seeing more people interested in becoming brokers.
“When the market is good, you always see a lot of new agents,” Segarra said. “But when it is bad, you see a lot of agents disappear.”
Scott Shine, an agent with The Shine Team in Harker Heights, agreed.
“There is definitely a correlation between the market and the number of new agents we see,” he said.
Shine said all new agents at The Shine Team are buyer’s agents. Buyer’s agents represent only people buying homes, not selling them.
“Being a buyer’s agent is a low-cost way to get started in real estate,” Shine said. “If somebody is motivated, they can get up to speed in a hurry.”
Keeping costs low is the important thing for new agents, because they might not start seeing a steady income for a year or more.
New agents have to have access to funds if they are going to survive,” Zehr said. “There is no paycheck until you close a property.”
Morrison and Hammarlund had savings to live off of while they got their licenses. Six years later, Morrison is an established agent, making a healthy living. Hammarlund has already sold two houses in his first six months.
Good work ethic important for success
They attribute their success to researching what it takes to be an agent before they got their licenses. They also said having a good work ethic and receiving lots of training had a lot to do with it, too.
“I enjoy working with Exit Homevets because they are tech driven and provide continuous training,” she said.
Hammarlund said the training offered by Exit Homevets allowed him to do a lot of “evaluating” before he began hitting on all cylinders.
“The first few months I just wanted to just learn the practical applications,” Hammarlund said.
Segarra said it is the agency’s responsibility to provide the tools to allow real estate agents to flourish.
“Real estate is one of those things where you always have to be training,” Segarra said. “But the main thing is, before you decide you want to become a Realtor, you have to dig deep and decide why you want to get into real estate.
“Obviously, the easy answer is money. And that is why we have such a high turnover in this business. That first year, everything is going out and very little is coming in.”