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Did you know you can earn a great real estate agent income even if you don’t have a massive book of business or a sphere of influence?
I’m going to tell you how you can maximize your income in your first year in real estate whether you’re a bit of an introvert or someone new to the area with absolutely no contacts (other than your family and pets, of course).
I first began my real estate career in the State of Georgia, in a town called Warner Robins in 2012. I’m going to share with you my approach as a new Realtor® in Warner Robins and then starting over as a first-year real estate agent in a new state after we moved to Illinois.
My approach and technique were completely different in both states, and I want to share what worked and what wasn’t so effective so you can have an amazing first year in real estate!
During my career as a Realtor, I’ve learned from many of the mistakes other real estate agents make (particularly with marketing).
First: What is a Real Estate Sphere of Influence?
If you’re new to real estate or researching information before becoming licensed, you might be wondering what a real estate Sphere of Influence is exactly…
Simply put, a sphere of influence is a circle of all of the people you know and who they know that you may be able to “influence” to make a sale. This can include family, friends, acquaintances, your hairstylist, your preacher, etc. You get the gist.
Communicate with your Sphere of Influence
You want to keep your SOI close, contacting them at least quarterly, so that they keep you at the forefront of their minds when they think of real estate. The last thing a Realtor wants to see is a friend or family buying a home through another Realtor.
Unfortunately, this happens more than you’d think. Even though they know you, that doesn’t mean that they automatically think of you or trust you with the largest purchase or sale of their lives. You have to earn their business.
Real Estate Agent Income in Georgia
When I lived in Georgia and decided to obtain my real estate license, I had worked as a banker for 8 years. I was sitting in my Wells Fargo office, frustrated because after my Manager had quit, I applied for her position and was told I was “too valuable in my current position”.
As the Personal Banker II/Business Banker, I was responsible for leading the office conference calls and reporting numbers multiple (so many) times a day to the District Manager, all while trying to hit my sales goals and make sure everyone in the office was hitting their numbers. So I was doing the Manager’s job without being given the title, position, or pay raise.
I had actually spoken to a real estate broker several years earlier but felt that it wasn’t the right time for me to quit my job and start selling real estate full time. You really need to have a good nest egg (emergency fund) built up before you make such a drastic decision (unless your spouse is the primary income earner and you’re not counting on your income).
So the first thing I did in Georgia was I joined an experienced real estate agent’s team. The original deal was that he was going to pay me 50% of all the homes I sold, in exchange for administrative/social media marketing duties, and if I chose to list a home, he’d take 20%.
This was after the main brokerage I was affiliated with took 20% of my income. So let’s say I sold a $100,000 home on the buyer’s side and the commission was $3,000 (or 3%). The broker took his 20%, leaving me with $2400, and the Realtor® whose team I was part of would take his 20%. I also had to pay an administrative fee of 1.5% of each transaction, and this left me with a little less than $1,900 before taxes and expenses.
This was a terrible set up from the get-go. Forget about the fact that the guy I worked with was a narcissistic a-hole. I wasn’t set up to maximize my real estate agent income during my first year. After two weeks of no sales, tons of “busy work”, and after having him telling me that I wasn’t allowed to bring a Chic Fil A cup into his office (oy vey), I walked away and decided to go it alone as an independent agent.
Week One as an Independent Real Estate Agent
Within a couple of days of moving to my own tiny office, I sold my first house! It was a floor duty lead, and I showed the couple 4 or 5 homes before they made an offer on the one they loved! Unfortunately, it took us 3 months to close on this property since it was being financed with Wells Fargo (go figure…I couldn’t get away from them lol).
But I did it! While I waited for that property to close so I could get paid, I was able to sell a couple of other properties. I was taking advantage of floor duty whenever I could, and I was emailing and calling everyone in my sphere of influence. But I really had no idea what I was doing.
The Slowest Month for Real Estate Sales
Everyone says December is the slowest month in real estate. It makes sense. It’s cold, snowy, windy, and downright miserable to get out. Plus everyone is focused on Christmas and the holidays with their families so they usually take a break from house shopping.
I was originally licensed in July of 2012, and my first December I actually closed on 5 homes! I wasn’t in an affluent area, so my commission was only about $10,000, but I was pleased with that! It was a GREAT December!
Take advantage of the “slow months”. You are building a business while other agents are on vacation. Continue communicating with your sphere and prospecting in the offseason, and when Spring comes, you’ll reap the rewards.
My First Year Income as a Real Estate Agent
So now we get down to it…how much did I make my first year as a real estate agent in Georgia? My total gross commission was about $20,000 from July – December 2012. After expenses and fees, I think I showed a profit of $6,000. I remember cringing when I wrote the check for desk fees in the amount of $50 to my broker. I was on a strict budget, and if we were going to make this work, I had to count every single penny. Little did I know that $50 was next to nothing for an office/desk fee.
A great way for more experienced agents to save money on desk fees is to join Real Broker, a virtual brokerage. I joined Real last year and saved so much money in unnecessary fees and expenses.
Starting Over as a New Real Estate Agent with No Sphere of Influence
We moved to Illinois to be closer to family in late 2014 after the birth of my daughter (our unexpected blessing). As Y’all may know, life has a tendency of throwing you curve balls, and God has a plan for you, whether you expect it or not!
We settled in, and the Realtor® who sold us our new home kept trying to bring me on board with her team. I told her that I’d been on a real estate team before and it wasn’t the greatest situation, so I had reservations about joining a team again.
One thing you should know about the State of Illinois is that everything is more expensive in Illinois. If I was to be a licensed, independent real estate broker in my area, it was going to cost me over $1,000 per month, and that didn’t even buy me an office (let alone a cubicle).
How the hell does anyone make any money if their expenses are astronomical? So I spoke with my local Realtor and she explained that as a licensed assistant, I would only have to pay half of the office dues/fees, and she believed that I would be very successful.
So I jumped in, head first, and transferred my license from Georgia to Illinois. Illinois is a reciprocal state, so all you have to do is take the state exam and pass in order to move your license.
My First Year Real Estate Agent Income in a New State
In my first year as a real estate agent in Illinois, from January 31 to October 31, 2017, I grossed $50,000! I sold 20 homes, and this was all while working from home with my preschooler.
My daughter only went to daycare 2-3 days per week, and my husband travels a lot for work. So I quickly learned to balance being a stay at home/work at home mom and career woman.
I have to say…when I was a working Mom, I was always envious of the stay at home Moms and when I was a stay at home Mom, I was always envious of the working moms.
Now I’m just thankful to be able to work from home and sneak away to have lunch with my kids at school. I’m grateful that I’m able to take quick breaks to play Shopkins and sing songs with my daughter.
So how was I able to make $50k my first year in real estate in a new (totally oversaturated) market?
- I time-blocked. I planned every single minute of every day before the day even started. I scheduled my workouts at the gym, my meals, my blogging time, my trips in the car to drop my daughter off at daycare/school and pick her up. I called that time “Driving Miss Sadie”.
- I focused on money-making activities. I don’t care what all of the veteran real estate agents who’ve been selling homes since you were in diapers say. There is absolutely NO benefit to attending networking events with other Realtors®. Don’t waste your time (especially as a newbie trying to build a book of business) networking with your competitors!
- I didn’t host many open houses. Many real estate agents will tell you “Open Houses don’t sell houses”. I’ve never once sold a home at an open house, although I’ve picked up a couple of buyers at open houses. My advice would be that if you’re stressed and trying to manage work/life/family balance, don’t spend too much time sitting in empty houses, praying for a buyer. Spend Sundays with your family. If you ARE going to host an Open House, consider having it open during a community yard sale Saturday. Enlist some helpers to serve lemonade and cookies on the lawn with signs pointing potential buyers and snoopers inside to check out the home. You never know who they know!
- Every single real estate agent needs a website and an online social media presence. Don’t waste your money on billboards and park benches. Spend your money on building an online dominance in your market. I branded myself “The Dedicated Agent” after looking at reviews and seeing a recurring theme of “dedication”. You can start a blog for less than $100, and it is literally the best investment you can make!
Having a stellar social media presence is vital to keeping up with the millennials. Did you know that the demographic of Pinterest users is primarily women, ages 25-45, who earn over $100,000 per year?
What would happen if you created a business Pinterest profile and a blog and became the go-to source for house inspiration in your area? I bet business would explode.
Don’t know how to start a blog? Visit my easy guide on how to start a blog (even if you have no experience).
Some stats about Pinterest, courtesy of OmniCore Agency. The average age of Pinterest users is 40, however, the majority of active pinners are younger than 40. Millennials use Pinterest as much as Instagram.
There are 75 million users inside the US and 100 million users outside the US. 81% of Pinterest users are female.
The majority of your potential clients already use Pinterest. So why not optimize your profile to put it at the top of search results in your niche and area.
I use Tailwind to schedule my pins, and it makes things SO much easier! It literally takes a few minutes, and you’re done! You can sign up for a free trial here, and you don’t even need a credit or debit card to sign up!
If you’re looking for ways to maximize your real estate agent income, by following the steps outlined above you can possibly earn $50,000+ your first year!
It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth it! What other career allows you to work from home, on your terms, and earn six figures without a college degree?
I’ve done all the things! Girl, I’ve washed my face. I’ve trashed everything that doesn’t spark joy. I’ve walked the baby steps. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed, but my perfectionism has really held me back.
Perfection Hangover can be crippling. Stop comparing yourself to others and start living your best life! That’s why PH exists! I want to encourage you to take control of your money, your blog, and your business.