It Don’t Come Easy

Last Sunday, at my open house at 1067 Hewitt Dr in San Carlos, a young guy asked me about a career in real estate. He’d been referred by one of my clients and had come especially to meet me and pick my brain a little. He works at Yahoo and had just gotten his real estate license with hopes of making a career change. He had almost all of the same pre-conceptions that I did 20 years ago about this business and it was sort of funny and fun to talk to him. Somewhere deep down he thinks 1) I can make alot of money in real estate, 2) Realtors don’t really have to work all that hard to make all that money and 3) I’m really so much smarter and so much more capable than most of those people I keep seeing holding these open houses. I know he thought these things because that’s what I thought way back when and he confirmed it when I asked him. Ultimately, he said he wants to try real estate out. Since I’ve heard that particular expression about 500 times in 20 years I gave him my standard reply…you don’t try out real estate, real estate tries you out!

I’m here to tell you…real estate is a never ending seige. It’s an incredibly hard business. That’s the truth. When I see the marketing of various discount brokers that diminish the work that “brick and mortar” agents bring to the table it makes me crazy. They really have no clue. Actually, I think they do have a clue…it’s just that their pitch cynically manipulates public misconceptions to their own end. Alas, that’s another story.

When you start in this career the biggest initial hurdle is how to get clients. It’s kind of tough to get your hands on all that money without a client or two and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get folks to make the biggest financial decision of their lives with somebody who just got their license, has had very little training and essentially is clueless about the process. Oh yeah, how about that gravy train of cash all those realtor types are rolling in? Last year the average income of Realtors, according to the National Association of Realtors, was $36,700. In San Mateo county a year ago 65% of agents sold 2 or less homes in a year.

Here’s the thing, the vast majority of successful agents I know who do indeed make good money…have earned it!  They’ve worked their butts off too. I can’t tell you how many amazing stories of personal triumph I’ve heard among real estate agents. I know many immigrants who have come to this country with very little and who knew almost nobody and have become successful in this business. I admire them greatly. A couple of years ago an agent and friend of mine, Denise Pearson, died when an aneurysm in her brain ruptured while she was working out. I went to her memorial service…along with about 100 other agents I knew, and I was profoundly moved by the pride I felt at being a part of that group of people. They were all survivors, every agent I saw there were just terrific people, who care deeply for their families, their clients and their industry.

I’ll say it again…I’m proud of what I do and I love doing it. Here’s a link to Denise’s obituary. It pretty much says it all:



  1. You said it all, and exceptionally well, indeed.

  2. Cara Marcelle Mancuso says:

    Awesome morning motivator to my day. Now…off to WORK!!!! Thanks Jim!

  3. You are SO right. I grew up in a real estate family (my mom was a Realtor in the San Jose area for 40 years) and even I thought it looked easier than it was! By the time I was paying any attention, of course, she’d been selling homes for over 25 years, so naturally had a lot of repeat and referral business. What I initially failed to understand, but you explained so well, is that the # 1 job for Realtors is finding motivated, capable clients who want to buy and sell now. The general public thinks we only hold open houses on the weekend but we’re all making 200k a year. As you said, that’s hardly the case.

    It is a great career for people who can be self-starters, are highly motivated and not afraid of hard work and hearing “no” six times out of seven…at least to start. Those of us who are still in it despite the Great Recession are adapters, like surfers who figured out how to stay on the board despite the ever changing type of waves and weather. Easy? Not by a long shot. Rewarding? You bet.

  4. Perrin Cornell says:

    It is WORK…but good work! Takes a lot of planning too… you cannot wait for the phone to ring…oh I guess you could while you are researching another career…

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