Things I Never Knew Before Becoming a Realtor

Home buyers and home sellers often comment that real estate agents are overpaid, believing that they do little more than show potential buyers through houses, help them write contracts, and then collect large commission checks at closing. Many of today’s Realtors (members of the National Association of Realtors) had their own misconceptions before they started working in the field. Click through to learn a few realities about the real estate business that caught these Realtors by surprise.

  1. Every Sale Is Different

    Every Sale Is Different

    Unlike some jobs where you can count on doing the same thing every day, nothing can be taken for granted in the world of real estate. After 13 years in the business, Sep Niakan, owner/broker of HB Roswell Realty in Miami, says he learns something new each and every time he sells a house. “Real estate is so personal and situational,” says Niakan. “Each and every sale comes with its own set of surprises and issues, and there’s always a wild card.”

  2. Home Buyers Are Well Informed

    Home Buyers Are Well Informed

    As a new Realtor, the biggest surprise for Adam Wright, an agent with NextHome Integrity Group in Fort Worth, Texas, was that home buyers are super savvy when it comes to house shopping, thanks to all the listing information available online. “I had to change my tune from being a tour agent to someone who would experience the house with them as they viewed it for the first time,” Wright says. “Buyers know what they are doing and expect agents to be more advisers than information gatekeepers.”

  3. It’s Not Always the Highest Offer That Gets Accepted

    It’s Not Always the Highest Offer That Gets Accepted

    In a hot real estate market, homeowners may feel pressured to take part in a bidding war, but that’s not always the ticket to having your offer chosen. Julie Upton, Realtor with Alain Pinel/Compass in Northern California, was surprised to discover sellers don’t always accept the highest bid. Rather, they’re looking for the “whole package,” Upton says, “including such things as “proof of down payment funds,” a “letter of approval,” and “being able to close quickly.”

  4. Realtors Can’t Answer All Your Questions

    Realtors Can’t Answer All Your Questions

    Before she was an agent, Jo Ann Bauer, Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Scottsdale, Arizona, wondered why the agents she spoke with would not discuss the particulars of some neighborhoods. Once she got her license, however, she discovered that “discussion of demographics, schools, or crime would violate fair housing laws.” These laws are intended to prevent discrimination against home buyers based on race, religion, disability, national origin, and familial status.

    Related: 11 Lies You Can't Tell When Selling Your Home

  5. Missing a Deadline Can Be Expensive

    Missing a Deadline Can Be Expensive

    Real estate contracts are full of various deadlines for things such as inspections and appraisals. Valerie Burmester, broker with Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty in Redmond, Washington, once missed an inspection deadline and ended up paying for chimney repairs out of her own pocket so her buyers wouldn’t be stuck with the cost. “It was my responsibility to watch the contract, and it was my fault.” Burmester says. “But, I will never let that mistake happen again.”

  6. Contracts Can Fall Through

    Contracts Can Fall Through

    Before Jodi Moody, agent with Smoky Mountain Realty in Tennessee, got her license, she thought once a SOLD sign appears, the sale was a done deal and the house was off the market. She found out differently. “Home inspections, appraisals, and financial disruptions can all cause the sale to fall through,” Moody says, explaining that real-life home sales are a far cry from the always-successful ones seen on "reality" TV shows.

  7. Clients Don’t Fall Into Your Lap

    Clients Don’t Fall Into Your Lap

    Paul Williams, Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in San Diego, thought that as soon as he got his license, buyers and sellers would automatically start calling him. “I was so wrong. I had to learn how to contact my friends and acquaintances to ask for business and learn how to not sound like a cheesy car salesman,” Williams says. In reality, successful real estate agents put many hours a day into making contacts and building their reputations.

  8. Agents Don’t Get the Whole Commission

    Agents Don’t Get the Whole Commission

    Before she started selling real estate, Brenda Greenhill, agent with Keller Williams in Smyrna, Georgia, thought she’d get the entire agent commission from the sale of a house. “I didn’t know my commission was going to be split multiple ways among the listing agent and broker and the buyer's agent and broker,” Greenhill says. It was yet another shocker to find that after splitting her commission, she still had to pay marketing expenses on the house she listed.

  9. It’s Not as Glamorous as It Might Seem

    It’s Not as Glamorous as It Might Seem

    Before she got her license, Elly Harris, agent with Distinctive Coast Properties in San Clemente, California, thought Realtors “dressed nice, drove fancy cars, toured beautiful houses, and had the easy life after they cashed large commission checks.” Instead, she found successfully selling real estate involves being “part marriage counselor, part psychiatrist, and part lawyer.” Like many agents, Harris loves her job and feels she has done her job well when she can finally hand her buyers the keys to their new home.

    Related: 12 Reasons a Realtor Might Not Want to Work with You

  10. Financing Options Are Available

    Financing Options Are Available

    Jose Hernandez, Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Chicago, used to think if one bank turned you down for a loan, you were out of luck. “I didn’t know there were so many types of financing,” Hernandez says, until he had a buyer who made an offer on a property with code violations. The buyer’s regular banker refused to make the loan, but Hernandez found another bank willing to make the loan and also lend money for the repairs necessary to bring the property up to code.

  11. Sellers Aren’t Always Forthright

    Sellers Aren’t Always Forthright

    The real estate business can be a sticky wicket at times as John Hayter, broker at Land Broker MLS in Colorado, found out after he got his license. “I had no idea to what lengths many sellers go to hide problems with their homes, such as water leaks, foundation issues, structural issues, and so on. Shocking what you find,” Hayter says. The solution for buyers is to insist on comprehensive inspections as part of the buying process.

    Related: Watch Out for 12 Real Estate Tactics Designed to Make You Spend More

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