It has been just over a year since I earned my Ohio Estate License and I wanted to share how the last year has been for both people considering getting their licenses and for my current and future clients. Here are some things I have learned.
Picking Your Broker
This was no something I was prepared for before I applied to sit for my test. I have been around real estate since I was 18 and I know a lot of people in real estate and many of them are scattered all over brokerages here in Lancaster. Some are with Better Homes or with Gorsuch or HER or Rise Realty and the list goes on. I had a hard time choosing just from talking to other agents so I setup meetings with several brokers here in town. That really helped me make a decision.
Do not just choose your broker because you know people at that brokerage or because of the name or because they have the most signs in yards. Choose the brokerage that feels right to you. In my case, I had a hard decision because two brokerages felt like they would be a good fit for me and the final decision was a difficult one but such a correct one.
In any career that requires a license, generally continuing education is required to keep your license. First off, the State of Ohio requires 10 hours of post licensing education within one year of getting your license – take the class early – like a month or so after you get your license. While it took an entire weekend to complete, it was honestly more beneficial than the entire 120 hours required to sit for your licensing test.
Continuing education in general – take all of it. A lot of times it is offered by other brokerages and title companies and for pretty inexpensively (which is a plus because being in Real Estate is expensive but that comes later). Real Estate changes often (like every hour, I swear) so it is imperative that we as REALTORS stay up to date in what’s going on in the real estate world. I am going to do my best to not try and cram all my required hours into one very long weekend in two years.
Real Estate is Expensive
This is one of those things that I knew going into getting my Real Estate license but I guess I had no idea at all how expensive it was actually going to be. So I thought it might be fun to lay out exactly what it takes on a pretty regular basis to be a REALTOR.
Real Estate classes
Test Fee to sit for the test
First year license renewal
Local Association fee
State Association fee
National association fee
MLS fee (Lancaster and Columbus)
Electronic key membership
Board Membership Meetings
Printer and other Office Supplies
Gas for your car
I’m sure I’m missing stuff because there is seriously so much. You’re running your own business so most of this is to be expected. Some of that is one time stuff too like the classes and the license fees. I take all of it as an investment in myself though – an investment in my business. Some of it I could not really afford at the time but I did it anyway because I knew in the end it would better my business.
Time Management and Organization
When I started into this career, I was working a full time job (and still am) and was not expecting to be super busy and could easily manage my time at my full time job as well as my other time with my clients. However, in the grand scheme of things, I have never been good at time management or organization.
So I have learned to keep a calendar. And a calendar with both personal appointments, full time job appointments, and Real Estate appointments all in one. My friends and family will comment that “I must be so busy I have to pencil people in” because I immediately pull out my phone and put it in my calendar. If I do not put it on the calendar, it does not exist and will not happen. You also have to make time for yourself. Do yourself a favor and sometimes, just turn your phone off, turn your laptop off, and have a few moments to yourself – it’s for your own sanity and will allow you to better serve your clients and customers.
I’m not kidding. Everything. Every text, every phone call, every email. Better Homes gives us access to Dotloop which allows us to do the majority of a real estate transaction paperlessly. I still insert my emails, texts, phone notes, etc in my loops for each transaction just to have them. You really never know when those notes may be needed.
Income Taxes, Tax Deductions, and Mileage Tracking
So you are running a business and (hopefully) making some money. We have to pay taxes on our commissions, just like we would at any other job. This is the part where I tell you to get an accountant. I’ll be honest – this first year – I did my taxes on my own like I do every other year but this year, I may think about it and I’ll tell you why.
When I spend any money for my business, I track it. When I drive miles for my business, I track it. When I make a commission, I track it. I pay for Quickbooks Self Employed and it’s work every dollar each month (and it’s deductible!).
Keep your receipts and track your mileage. And each time you make a sale and earn a commission, be sure and set back something for potential income tax. Oh, and your yearly dues! My goal was to save $100 a month in 2017 to cover my dues for 2018 and my taxes for 2017. My dues are good to go but we shall see when I file my taxes if I saved enough.
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate offers us a lead generation system. I did not like to use it at first because it was tedious and time consuming but now that I’ve used it for a bit, I see how beneficial it has been. Sending emails and making phone calls can be tedious and irritating – especially when it really seems to get you nowhere. I have not made a sale from a lead yet and it is frustrating but it’s getting your name out there and it is planting a seed in peoples’ heads that “hey, I got an email from a Realtor recently, I should give them a call!”
It takes, on average, six months of contact for a lead to convert to something productive. And it takes time to build a real estate business. Use that time to get your name out there and talk to your leads. If the broker you join has a lead generation program, use it!
When I first heard the term networking years ago, I thought of computer networking. I blame my background in IT for that connection. And really, I hate networking (the social kind) and that is mainly because I’m not a very social creature and I am slightly introverted. Talking to random people is a difficult thing to do for me. I will say that becoming a Realtor has brought me out of that bubble though. I talk to everyone now and I find that I appear to be more approachable than I was in the past. Sometimes it wears me out but I truly do love talking to people.
The best thing you can new as a new agent is to talk to the other agents in the your office, go to meetings, offer to hold open houses for other agents, go to membership meetings, join local groups.
And talk about real estate everywhere. I am guilty of weaseling it into literally every conversation I am in. And more times than I can count, someone has said “Oh you’re a Realtor?!” and they suddenly have questions and want to pick your brain and a couple of times, that has resulted in gaining a new client. But it also planted a seed in that person’s head so that hopefully when they want to buy or sell property, they will think of you.
This one is simple. You help your clients buy and sell homes in a particular market. In this case, I help my clients in and around Fairfield County. To make yourself better at your job and to know your market, you have got to get involved.
Go to city council meetings, talk to your council people, join the local Historical Society, and neighborhood Facebook groups. Pick a local organization and find out what they need and make a donation or volunteer your time. If you get to know the community you serve better, you can serve your clients better.
However, do not just get involved in your community organizations, get involved in your local Realtor board. The Lancaster Board of Realtors does some pretty neat things. They also have some interesting speakers at their monthly membership meetings. In September, their speaker was from the Ohio Association of Realtors and he is our lobbyist to the House and Senate for Ohio so it was fun to hear about what he does and how he helps us as Realtors at the government level.
Closing Thoughts and Remarks
When I started into real estate, I thought of the other agents and brokerages as my competition and sometimes they are. Competing for a listing? Sure. But in the end, I feel that we are all co-workers and are all looking out for the best interest of our clients.
Take advice from agents who have been in the business and also from newer agents. If they offer it up, listen. They have probably done this before. Once a listing agent of a property my buyer was in contract for gave me their thoughts on how I handled something and at first, I was annoyed and irritated. How dare they tell me what to do? But after I thought about it, I realized that they knew I was a newer agent and that the situation could have been handled differently and I took their thoughts to heart.
On the other hand, sometimes agents know you are new and will try and push you around. Do what you think is right and best for your client, be as ethical as possible, and follow license law.
If you do not know something, do not try and bullshit your way through it. Your client will not think you are stupid or incompetent. They are expecting you to get them through this process as smoothly as possible. Ask someone for help if you need it.
When you join your brokerage and get started, find a mentor. If you do not know someone who can mentor you, ask your broker if they might suggest someone.
TALK TO YOUR BROKER. I cannot stress this enough. Your broker is there to help. I know that I can call mine day or night and she will help me with whatever I need and it does not matter how long it takes to find a solution or to answer a question.
Answer your phone, return voicemails, answer texts. Quickly. If you must delay, let the person know you are working on an answer for them and call them back as soon as you can.