A young male real estate agent stands smiling in front of a home for sale.

Trying to make it as a new agent? Get ready to learn, and hustle 

Getting started in real estate is tough — especially in the current market. But the "three C's" and other tips from pros can help new agents succeed.

June 17, 2023
6 minutes

Key points:

  • Don't try to fake it — ask questions and take advantage of learning opportunities.
  • Accept that it will take time to land your first deals (and they may be small).
  • Promote yourself and prove your value by becoming a "connector."

If you're a new agent, the difference between making sales and sitting on the sidelines may boil down to the "Three C's." That's right, it's all about Confidence, Coaching, and Choosing the right company, says Gary Malin, Chief Operating Officer of The Corcoran Group.

"A lot of companies will tell you they offer training, but it's important to do your research and make certain they have a strong education platform," says Malin. "Of course, as a new agent, it's also on you to ask for help. Don't try to fake it until you make it. You need to go to open houses, ask other agents if you can help with their open houses. Learn the market."

For new young agents, the challenges can be even greater. "Young agents need to prove to clients that, while they may not have experience, they have hustle and they're going to put in the time and energy to get the deal done," says Malin.

Start with 'baby steps,' and ditch the safety net 

Alicia Soekawa, associate broker and founder of The Collaborative in Richmond, VA., says newer, younger agents often jump into real estate with dreams of immediately selling multimillion-dollar homes. "Blame HGTV, but that typically does not happen," she says. "When you first learn to drive, you don't start out with a Ferrari. It's more realistic to build your experience and understanding of homes by selling condos, townhomes or starter homes. Baby steps."

Soekawa, who is also a business coach for the Tom Ferry organization, says safety nets can be one of the biggest impediments to young agents. "Having parents who will run in and rescue you if things don't work out isn't necessarily a good thing," she says. "Jumping into this without someone to save you means you have no choice but to succeed. Yes, it's scary, but fear can be a real motivating factor."

Successful careers don't happen overnight

Vincent Gray is putting absolutely every bit of energy he has into his real estate career. "I think about it, I talk about it, I dream about it," he says. Still, since becoming an agent in January 2023 with Coldwell Banker Metuchen/Edison in New Jersey, he hasn't yet had a sale or a listing.

"I've put in offers, but it's tough out there," he says. "I know it will come, but the beginning is hard."

For now, the 27-year-old is studying and working with mentors. He's finding clients and potential clients through referrals, cold-calling and door-knocking.

"I've actually had the best luck with door-knocking because it gives me a chance to introduce myself and find something in common with the people I'm meeting," he says. He enjoys connecting with people over anything from a shared interest in cooking to a book they've both read. "And even if they're not buying or selling right now, I believe some of those people are going to remember our conversations when they do need an agent."

Gray has been supporting himself during this start-up phase by managing some of his family's Section 8 rentals. Have these first six months been difficult? "Yes, but I know Rome wasn't built in a day," he says. "I just have to remember that slow and steady will get me to where I want to be. I have big goals and they're going to keep the fire burning."

Build relationships for the long term

Alexa Micciulli is a third-year agent with ERA Justin Realty in Rutherford, N.J. She advises new agents to consider even the smallest deals as stepping stones to larger ones.

"Back on my first-ever deal, I met my clients through a lead-generator," Micciulli says. "They were from out of state and they needed a rental in the Palisades Park area. I showed them a couple things and I was really nervous. In fact, I stumbled over something and the agent on the other side said, 'What is this, your first deal?' and I had to admit that, in fact, it was. In the end, I helped them find a beautiful $3,500 side-by-side rental."

She notes some agents might scoff at the idea of working in the rental market but it was a start for her. "I sent them a follow-up email a couple months later, just checking in. My marketing budget was pretty small, but I sent them a $15 Target gift card and told them I knew it wasn't much but I just wanted them to know how much I appreciated their business."

Two years later those early rental clients reached out to Micciulli and said they were ready to buy a house. "They could have hired any agent," she says. "They could have hired a top producer or someone with decades of experience, but they called me. And now we're under contract for a $2.7 million duplex. It takes time, but I'm proof that the relationships you make in the beginning can really pay off."

4 tips for new agents

Everyone has to start somewhere. These tips can help new agents get on a track to success:

Don't be a secret agent. "It can be difficult when you're just starting out because you don't have a track record, but you can't be afraid," says Malin. "You have all these different spheres of influence — your family, friends, college alumni, friends you play sports with — you need to make certain all these people know you're an agent and you're ready to help them. Say it loud and proud."

Prove your value. Share information about the housing market on social media. Have a friend with a leaky bathroom faucet? Connect them with the best plumber you know. "Being a connector leads to people turning to you with other problems," says Soekawa. "It builds trust and respect, so when they need an agent, it makes sense they may trust you with their business."

You may need to spend money to make money. "Don't think of marketing or buying leads as expenses," says Malin. "Think of it as an investment in your future. Even if you have to get a small loan from a family member, it'll be worth it."

Use downtime to make connections and learn all you can. "Study the market. Visit builders and ask questions, learn everything you can about new developments," says Soekawa. "And if you're not already, find ways to get involved in your community." Volunteering for a cause you care about will help you meet others who share your interests and passions — which could lead to future business.

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