Being on call. Working weekends. Dealing with finicky buyers and sellers. Meeting quotas. And doing so with a sunny attitude.
No wonder selling real estate is one of the business world’s most stressful jobs.
“It’s very easy for successful real estate agents to lose control of their personal life and discretionary time,” said Kathy Adkins, co-owner-broker of Denton-Adkins Realty, LLC in Jackson. “High-producing agents often work 60 to 70 hours per week even when they’re good time managers.”
Sue Stedman, co-owner of Prudential Stedman & Associates Realtors in Natchez, said it’s often difficult to get away from the job, especially to get away for a few days.
“Everything has to be covered,” she said. “You just cannot leave with things hanging in the balance. Most of the time, you can have another agent or a manager take care of clients while you’re gone. Usually, you just try to make sure that any potential problems have been handled and that your clients needs have been served until you return. Of course, now we’re always available through cell phones or e-mail.”
Earlier this month, Stedman bought a Blackberry. “It can seem like there’s never any downtime,” she said. “Used to, we could ride in our cars to an appointment and collect our thoughts on the way. Now we’re on our phones doing more business. This environment forces you to be organized. The other side of that coin is that your cell phone is your remote control to the office. Clients are usually more comfortable knowing that they can reach you 24/7 if they need something.”
On a Friday in mid-August, DeLois Smith hit the ground running early in the morning. By mid-afternoon, the pace had not slowed down. She had a listing appointment at 4 p.m., a presentation for sellers at 6 p.m., and multiple offers and counter offers coming in the door. Her workday finally ended at 10:20 p.m.
“In the process of juggling all these things, someone wants to borrow the truck, landscape people need to be scheduled for three yards next week, and houses have to be cleaned before we can show them,” said Smith, leader of the DeLois Smith All Star Team, Hattiesburg’s top-producing team with $51.2 million in sales in 2005. “The list goes on and on.”
The pressure to produce varies according to production goals. Some companies report sales by price of the properties closed — $3 million in closed sales, for example — and some report it by gross commission income (GCI) brought into the company.
“As independent contractors, agents are self-employed, so it’s their responsibility to set their personal financial goals regarding production,” said Adkins. “It’s the broker’s responsibility, however, to establish minimum levels of production that are acceptable to remain part of the company. Good brokers also monitor the agent’s work habits, teach sales techniques to aid production and provide guidance in setting goals and reaching them.”
Stedman, whose office represents one of the oldest real estate companies in the Mississippi-Louisiana area, doesn’t have formal quotas.
“I feel that real estate people are either self-motivated or they’re not,” she said. “What I do have is a bonus percentage once they have reached a certain commission level. It’s available to every agent. It’s up to them to get there. I also have a distinction between full-time and part-time.
Part-time agents don’t have a desk, don’t get the opportunity of floor calls and don’t get referrals. If one of my agents isn’t doing well, and it’s because of a lack of motivation, I usually encourage them to do something else.
This isn’t meant to be unkind, but sometimes you just have to face the fact that not everyone is cut out for this job. If I have someone who’s really trying hard and not having much success, then I usually step in and try to analyze what’s going on and give them some direction.”
Smith has a different setup than most real estate offices. Her real estate agents are salaried specialists — buyers’ specialists, sellers’ specialists, listings specialists and a closing coordinator — with buyers’ and sellers’ specialists receiving some bonus compensation. Smith, a seller’s specialist, attends 95% of all closings.
“There are all kinds of different systems in place, but I believe the model we have helps provide better service to our clients,” she explained. “The division of the responsibilities creates more expertise and relieves some of the pressure for other members of the team. Buyers’ specialists, for example, don’t have to be interrupted by scheduling closings and negotiations of offers on other properties. They can make sure everything involved with the buyers’ needs are taken care of. Obviously, the same works with the sellers’ specialists.”
Despite the stress points associated with the job, selling real estate provides rewards other than money in the bank. “Seeing the smile on the faces of first-time buyers when you hand them the keys to their new home … is great,” said Stedman.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.