How rookie agents make the grade

by Mary T. Prenon

To earn a real estate license, future agents must attend a state-approved course. If they pass the class test, they must pass a state test. After that, they are a licensee — but becoming a successful agent is not so simple.

State training curriculum covers legal topics, like ethics, consumer protections and taxes and liens. It does not, however, teach students how to represent buyers and sellers or effectively build their business. So, how do new agents get up to speed?

One rookie’s story

Two years ago, right in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Wahid Noori made the choice to get into real estate. The Kirkland, Washington, resident was just 20 years old when he decided to switch occupations: from buying and selling cars to helping others buy and sell homes. “I didn’t want to be a grease monkey for the rest of my life,” he joked.

Noori, now an agent with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, was recently named Rookie of the Year by his industry peers in Seattle Agent magazine’s Agents’ Choice Awards. “Even though it was tough in the beginning, I just fell in love with real estate,” he said. Relying first on family and friends for contacts, he was able to get some deals early on. “It is hard to be competitive when you don’t know what the game looks like, and it could be a bit of a struggle at times,” he admitted.

Noori started at Compass as part of a real estate team but later joined Sotheby’s. “They believed in me, and I was a great fit with their culture. They offer great training and hands-on help from other agents and staff,” he said. “I’m now enjoying every second of it.”

Armed with a degree in computer science, Noori relies on his tech savvy to set himself apart, utilizing all available social media platforms to get his name out there. Growing up with social media, he was already comfortable with it and makes it a point to post something every day. Currently, he has close to 20,000

Being named Rookie of the Year was a bit surprising for Noori. “Yes, I was shocked but very excited,” he said. “I know this is the right business for me. I don’t want to be stuck behind a desk all day and not talk to anyone. I like to be around people, learn new things and try to make a difference.”

Navigating NAR

Brittany Schanck, financial wellness manager with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), discussed a wide variety of classes and workshops NAR offers to both rookie and seasoned agents. Additionally, NAR has rolled out two recent programs that cater to new agents specifically — among them, the NAR Spire program, which provides mentorship opportunities.

Launched in 2021 under the leadership of former NAR President Charlie Oppler, NAR Spire helps new agents learn the fundamentals of the industry while planning their career paths. It also matches them with a mentor who is already established in real estate. “Basically, it’s having someone who is experienced in the business show you the ropes, beyond what you learn in real estate school,” Schanck explained.

For now, NAR Spire is open for enrollment just once a year, and the most recent applicants were paired with mentors in June; they began working with them in July. The three-month program is free, and mentors volunteer their time to help.

Currently, over 450 mentors and new agents are paired up throughout the country, with communication occurring live or via Zoom. “This one-on-one undivided attention is the key to helping those new in the business with everything from structuring their daily agenda to setting goals,” Schanck said.

NAR also offers an online platform for the public at FutureInRealEstate.Realtor, which includes a questionnaire for newcomers to determine the type of real estate career that matches their skills. Their choices are not limited only to the role of real estate agent — based on their responses, they may be best suited for property management, appraisals, inspections, home staging, mortgages or administrative positions.

Additional resources to help rookie agents navigate the industry are available through NAR’s Center for Realtor Financial Wellness. “This includes webinars on budgeting, taxes, financial planning, investing, savings and anything they need to help them with financial business readiness,” said Schanck. “[Users] can also take a financial assessment, which is so important for the rookie agent. It will help them visualize their financial goals.”

Other programs are available too. NAR offers endorsements from its Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) program to help showcase Realtors who maintains the highest level of professionalism. It is based on 11 self-assessments that measure professionalism, ranging from customer service to use of technology. That program is free and, to date, over 100,000 NAR members have participated.

Schenk also stressed the importance of new agents’ familiarizing themselves with associations closer to home. “All new agents should get involved with their local and state associations to determine what they have to offer in terms of training and educational resources,” she added.

Exploring a city association

With over 45,000 members, the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) is one of the nation’s largest local real estate associations. As its director of professional development, Rita Blevins heads up HAR’s education and training programs. “We have always been centered around newer agents, since the majority of our members are part-time now, working in other businesses until they can do real estate full time,” she said.

For new HAR members, there are a range of classes and workshops available, as well as orientations. But, for both new and experienced agents, there is the Realtor Launch program. “We went to the larger brokerage firms in the region and asked what they incorporate in their training. Then we tried to bring as much of that as we can to the association,” Blevins said of its format. “[Brokerages] were all very receptive to the idea, because the more we can help new agents, the better they’ll be prepared.”

The four-day program covers everything from contracts to closings, and HAR also works with the Texas Association of REALTORS® to offer the program statewide. “It’s basically everything you don’t learn in real estate school but need for your business,” Blevins said.

HAR’s Certified Strategy Marketing Specialist (HCSMS) program is another popular option among entry-level agents. The 10-session course features topics like business marketing, handling rejections, using social media and more. Most classes are still virtual, but they have started to offer some live options.

“We see a lot of people … who tend to gravitate toward the social environment,” Blevins said. “Many of our programs are free or low-cost, since new agents are often spending quite a bit of money to get started in the business.”

Over the years, Blevins has seen some significant changes in attitude toward continuing education. “We find that our members are always talking about [education] and wanting to learn more,” she noted. “The most important thing we try to drive home is that they should all treat real estate as a business, not a hobby. They’re not ‘practicing’ real estate, it’s a career.”

Employing your brokerage

With more than 3,500 agents in the greater Chicago area, @properties Christie’s International Real Estate constantly has new agents coming through its doors. And it’s Amy Corr, executive vice president, culture and agent development, who oversees the onboarding and training of all those new recruits.

Starting off as an agent herself, Corr knows who is likely to make a great broker. “Originally, we didn’t target new agents, but there are some amazing candidates out there,” she said. “The industry has changed, and we’re seeing very experienced corporate people with great skill sets.”

Their formal program, RE101, includes nine two-hour sessions over a nine-week period, conducted via Zoom. Course time is also coupled with assignments that the new agents must complete, such as meeting with their managing broker, attending open houses and establishing office hours. “We tend to look for people who want to do this full time and have the time and financial resources to put into their career. We’ve found this makes their success rate much higher,” Corr said.

The brokerage also offers a one-week boot camp that covers negotiation skills, marketing, social media opportunities and other admin tools that help grow a business. “Usually, no one has taught these agents how to be the CEO of their own business. So, that’s essential for not only newcomers, but all agents,” Corr said. “It’s important for them to know that every connection and transaction builds on each other — it’s like packing a snowball.”

Jackie Louh, chief operating officer of Lamacchia Realty, would agree. With offices in Massachusetts, Florida, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine, Lamacchia reports that all of its 475 agents have completed either one or two programs after joining the brokerage.

Mandatory for rookies is their Real Training Basic Course. It’s three weeks long and covers all the basics: pulling comps, writing offers, listing homes and keeping up conversations with buyers and sellers. The brokerage uses scripts to envision questions from clients, including their objections and rebuttals. “Role playing is huge,” Louh explained. The typical licensing course doesn’t teach what to do out in the field.”

It’s what happens out in the field that defines a career in real estate: the conversation, the back-and-forth, the messy joys of homeselling. So, as you rookies clamor for experience, remember that education does not stop after getting licensed. And seasoned agents, if you’re reading this, consider taking a rookie under your wing.

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