By NASH NUNNERY
The portrait created by reality television of real estate agents is one of multi-million dollar sales, lavish dinners, Coach handbags and Brunello Cucinelli suits.
Truth is stranger than fiction in the world of real estate. Sure, a Realtor can set his or her own hours and carve out time for a vacation or doctor’s appointment. But there’s also prospecting and lead generation, keeping up with the local and national marketing trends, real estate courses, and the paperwork. O, the paperwork.
And then there is the off-season. Unlike professional athletes, real estate agents don’t have guaranteed contracts, no matter how successful they might be.
“The thing about the real estate business is that you get out of it what you put into it,” said David Griffith, a Cleveland broker and appraiser and current president of Mississippi Realtors. “If someone is transitioning from a regular paycheck to a commission business like real estate, the key is budgeting.”
For Ridgeland Realtor and broker Carole Cantrelle, success in real estate boils down to marketing your business 365 days a year.
“When things are slow, you have to promote, promote and promote some more,” said Carole Cantrelle, owner of Cantrelle Realty LLC. “You have to focus year round to increase and maintain your visibility in the marketplace. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never had to suffer during the down times. When things slow down, you market differently.”
Cantrelle, who moonlights as a professional singer, says she markets her business everywhere – at singing gigs, in the grocery store or on the street.
“I’ve sold houses on breaks of a singing engagement, and I’ve gotten singing gigs selling houses,” she said. “It’s all about attitude, selling yourself and what you can offer to the client.”
Continuing education is another avenue Realtors use to make the most of their “down” time. Required refresher courses in contract law, finance, fair housing, ethics and a variety of electives like internet marketing keep them busy during slow periods.
Debbie Easom Thomas, who has been with David Stevens Century 21 in Clinton since earning her license in 2001, says a Realtor can never have too much real estate knowledge.
“I really don’t have that many periods where things are slow,” she said. “When I do, I use the time to market myself, brush up on areas that I would like more knowledge and stay in contact with current and former clients. If there is a slow time in this business, I’ve found that it’s between the first of December and early February.”
Being prepared for the so-called offseason months or a downturn in the economy is essential for all Realtors, aspiring or experienced. Most agents have devised their own personal strategy, Griffith said.
“Some (Realtors) will take a percentage of every commission and put it in savings,” he said. “Some will take the off-time to enjoy themselves while others will review the year, determine what worked, what didn’t, and what changes they can make for next year.”
Thomas advises new agents that seek her counsel to execute a business plan and make a list of friends and family for referrals. And never, ever, stop marketing.
“You can’t be shy – you can never have enough referrals,” Thomas said. “You have to keep the pipeline going and keep it open all year, seven days a week. Also, I’d recommend they save up six months of income before obtaining a license.
“And, most importantly – keep doing what makes you successful.”