Diane Stevens, a realtor from the Silicon Valley, fills us in on what it’s like breaking into the real estate field and working full-time as a real estate agent.
Earlier this week, I was able to catch up with Diane over the phone from her home in San Jose, CA. Diane is a San Jose native, and informed me that it’s never too late to break into the real estate business. In fact, she didn’t enter the profession until she was 42 years old.
Diane earned her BS in business/marketing from CSU Chico immediately following high school, although she informed me that to become a real estate agent you only need a high school degree. After that you must take a few classes in order to pass the real estate exam. Requirements vary per state, but are similar where ever you go.
Diane explained to me that after you’ve passed your original exam, you need to continue your education by keeping up with ongoing classes and license renewals.
“The education is not particularly difficult, but you do need to continue your education in order to keep your license current.”
Even though you don’t need a college degree to become a real estate agent, I wondered if perhaps you needed some sort of internship or apprenticeship in order to break into the field; Diane told me, however, that you most certainly do not. In fact, she was not aware of an opportunity for either in residential real estate.
I then wanted to know what she viewed as some of the most important skills prospective workers should have, to which she replied:
“You must be willing to work a lot of hours and a lot of nights and weekends. You need a friendly, outgoing personality, but mostly, you must be trustworthy. You must also have great time management skills and be a self-starter.”
What tips do you have for prospective workers in the field?
“You should not give up. If you work hard and keep going, even when it seems like you are not doing well, you will prevail. Always act with the utmost integrity. It will pay off in the long run. Again, you need to be trustworthy.”
To follow-up, I asked Diane how much time a real estate agent typically works per week? What do you do on a typical day, or even an atypical day?
“The number of hours worked per week is flexible when you are just starting. However, the more hours you work, the sooner you will have clients. Once you have active clients, you can expect to work at least 40-50 hours per week and again, many of them at night and on weekends. If you are highly successful, you would most certainly work more than 50 hours. A typical day consists of many possible things. Cold calling, sending mailers, creating flyers, fielding calls regarding your listing or from potential buyers, managing contractors, working with loan companies, titles companies and inspectors. If you are looking for clients, you might be attending networking events or even walking neighborhoods to meet potential clients.”
What is the most memorable or satisfying project you’ve worked on?
“The most satisfying experience I have had was when I helped a lovely couple buy a condo in Gilroy, CA. They were relocating from Texas and were very stressed about the sticker shock. They had a 4,000 square foot home in Texas and could only afford a condo here. I was able to get them into a nice condo and three years later the called on me to sell the same condo. They were now relocating to South Africa and wanted to sell quickly. Not only did the condo sell quickly, but the price of their condo had nearly doubled in three years! This transaction was satisfying on several levels. They were nervous about paying so much for their condo, but ended up nearly doubling their money. In addition, they were so grateful for my help in the purchase originally, they contacted me again three years later to sell it. They were very grateful again and I look forward to them moving back so I can help them again!”
This gave me a strong appreciation for Diane’s work. This anecdote painted the job of a realtor as somebody that can really make a difference in another person’s life. It seemed that being a realtor offered an emotionally rewarding way to make money, so I decided then to ask:
What do you like most/least about your job?
“I really love working with people and this is likely the biggest financial investment most people make. There is a great sense of responsibility and also satisfaction when things go well. There is nothing better than handing off the keys to someone when they finally get their dream home. What I like least about be a realtor, is that I feel the need to be on 100% of the time. It sometimes feels that in order to be successful, you need to walk around as if you have a neon sign over your head announcing you are a realtor.”
How much does the job pay entry-level workers; people who have been in the field for a long time?
“The pay is commission based, so completely depends on your success. There is no other pay and in fact, there are usually “desk fees” charged to the agent by your broker. This can be difficult when you are first starting out.”
What is the general future employment outlook for the field?
“In my opinion, real estate will always be a viable profession. There will always be ups and downs, but the need for agents will continue.”