Frustrated woman looking at laptop

4 common mistakes that sink new agents 

Many people enter the industry without realistic expectations, but brokerages can do more to give their agents a leg up.

Updated July 5, 2024
4 minutes

Key points:

  • Thinking it's enough to just "like houses," or viewing real estate as a fallback instead of a business, are common reasons new agents fail.
  • More intensive education is needed to help agents prepare for their careers, but having the right soft skills is important too.
  • Finding a team or brokerage that provides training, support and accountability is key.

Getting a real estate license is relatively easy — but building a career in the field is hard, which might explain why some new agents call it quits after a few years. Maybe they thought selling homes looked like easy money, or they just weren't prepared for the workload. Whatever the reason, success is hardly a sure thing in the real estate industry.

And that's more true than ever in a post-settlement era where buyer agents in particular will have to work harder to show their value — and get paid.

According to two top brokers, many new agents make the same faulty assumptions or mistakes, or they simply lack the skills to succeed. But education, mentorship and a supportive team can help new agents improve their chances of success. 

Mistake: Thinking it will be easy

"The common thread among those who fail is that they don't have fire in their bellies," says J. Philip Faranda, manager and associate broker at Howard Hanna | Rand Realty. "A lot of people get into this business for the wrong reasons. They like houses. Somebody told them they have the gift of gab. They think it's easier than it really is."

"On the other hand, people who have a need and desire to get out there and make money usually do pretty well because they're willing to do whatever it takes," he says.

Mistake: Going into real estate as a fallback

Bic DeCaro, team leader at Bic DeCaro & Associates in Northern Virginia, says too many people enter the profession without a plan.

"For a lot of people, it's a fallback. They think, 'Oh, I don't know what to do, so I guess I'll just sell real estate.' They think anybody can do it," she says.

Mistake: Not treating real estate like a business

DeCaro believes more new agents would succeed if they treated their real estate careers like the small businesses they are. "A lot of new agents don't manage themselves very well," she says. "Excitement will only take them so far. They need time management skills, they need to get training in areas where they have deficiencies, they need to invest in themselves — just like they would with any other startup."

Mistake: Relying on one's personal network

Some new agents enter the business assuming all their friends and family will become clients, but that doesn't necessarily happen. "For one, purchasing real estate isn't something people do every year," says DeCaro.

"Plus, buying a home is a huge investment. It's hard not to take it personally, but buyers want agents who can bring value to the proposition, and that's often not the newest person in the office."

Education, skills training needed

More intensive education could go a long way toward preparing agents for their new careers, says Faranda.

"As an industry, we're not doing enough," he says. "A 60- or 80-hour course gives them just enough knowledge to be dangerous, but they generally don't know the nuts and bolts. They don't know how to write an offer, how to price a property, what's an appropriate offer on a property," he added.

"That stuff can be taught, but I also see a lot of people come into the industry who don't know how to talk to people," he notes. "They don't know how to handle rejection, how to properly advocate for their client, or how to admit they don't have all the answers. That's much harder to learn. That's the stuff that will sink an agent pretty quickly."

Supportive brokerages offer a boost

Joining a team or brokerage that provides training, support and accountability can make a difference. "It's important to have mentors who are willing to share their experience with new agents, whether that's a formal or informal arrangement," says Faranda.

DeCaro acknowledges that some agents in brokerages or teams see their fellow agents as competition. "When new agents are figuring out where they're going to work, they need to do their due diligence," she says. "Find how the team or brokerage handles mentoring and training. Joining a team with a supportive culture will serve them well in the long run."

Want tips on finding the right brokerage? Check out our explainer: Choosing a real estate brokerage: What agents need to know

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