The 43 Lessons I Wish I Would Have Learned in Real Estate School

How to Start a Real Estate BusinessIn real estate school, they teach you how to get your real estate license. They don’t teach you how to do real estate. That, my friend, you will have to learn in the field and through great teachers, coaches, and mentors in the industry. I was an agent like you, just starting in 2007 (yes, as the real estate market crashed), and I did a lot of floundering out there. My husband and I started in real estate at the same time, so it was the blind leading the blind. Luckily for you, people have gone before you to blaze a trail. I’ve taken the liberty of writing down a list of things I wish I had known when starting in real estate. Enjoy! I hope this helps you in your ventures. This list is in no particular order. I added them as they came up in my mind’s dialog.

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  1. Start day one with a database.

    43 Lessons I Wish I Would Have Learned In Real Estate SchoolYes, moment one. You need a system for storing and communicating with contacts. Your first system does not need to be high-tech, but it does need to be something you will use. When my husband and I first started, I actually used a card file box (index cards) for him because he’s more “old school” than high-tech. It worked brilliantly. For listings, he kept a 3-ring binder sorted by dates. He created a contact “file page” for each client and moved them around the binder so that he knew when to follow up.This works well for storing and for calling but not as well for emails and such. The type of system you choose will depend on you and your needs.Some agents use multiple CRM‘s (Customer Relationship Managers). One example is keeping your contacts in a simple Excel spreadsheet. Use the Excel sheet while using email software such as

    This software allows you to send time set, action plan video emails.The best database is the one you will use. Many databases come with a free trial, so I’d suggest you play with a few to decide what works for you. I use Facebook as one of my CRM‘s. It’s great for seeing what is happening in people’s lives. It gives me suggestions on how to communicate based on their post, and I can take it offline and send them a card, make a call, or schedule a meet-up. Some high functioning CRM‘s (databases) now integrate with social media.I believe this is the trend moving into the next era of CRM‘s.Every person you meet should be added to your database. You will want to know exactly how you plan to communicate with each “group” and how often. Then, you will need to hold yourself accountable for contacting them. You could simply add them to your CRM and set a timer in your phone calendar so you know when to contact them, if not already using a CRM that allows you to schedule reminders.

    As you get busier in your new real estate career, you will find it more challenging to do things like this.Having the discipline to communicate with your database will be the difference between you launching a high-profit business out of the gate, rather than staying the struggling rookie.Have a basic system for rating your contacts and clients. We like to see who our top referring contacts and top clients for income are at a glance. Our system is simple. Each time someone does a real estate transaction with us, our earned commission gets added to theirscore.Let’s say we close a $200,000 home with them earning a $6000 commission. They would now have a score of 6000. The next year they send us a referral and we earn another $6000, their score now becomes 12,000 (the new buyer or seller they referred gets the same score of 6000). This continues as long as they refer or do business. Then, we group our contacts by a score range so we always know which of our contacts are Platinum and VIP. We believe that Platinum and VIP contacts should be rewarded extra throughout the year. The more you communicate with your database, the better your business will be.

    Related: Best Real Estate CRM’s to implement in 2015 as voted by Real Estate Agents

    UPDATE:  Since this post, we have moved to INFUSIONSOFT. We still believe in Contactually for most agents, but since we are a geeky team, we wanted a geekier product that would do more for all of our companies.

  2. Avoid Loans and Credit Cards

    Avoid loans and credit cards. – It’s so easy to get caught up in loans and advance payday structures when you are just starting a new business. In your head, you might think, “If I only had $X, I could invest and then the return would be there, and I could pay it back with no problem.” The challenge is really doing the math to structure ROI and many times the ROI takes much longer than the loan payback does. You wind up chasing one after the next with large fees when the loan is paid back.  It’s easy to throw things on a credit card. Many agents forget that credit is really cash and it will have to be paid back in full, or you will pay more in fees than you did for the item over time. This decreases your ROI significantly if you purchased marketing products on your card. The best policy is to only spend what you have and as you build a great business, you will have more room to spend. If you need to use a credit card for tracking,  best practice is to use one that requires pay off each month. This will help you stay in check with your balances.


  3. Lead Generate 3-4 hours a day

    Nothing in your business will matter more than leads. If you tackle the most important task of the day, the rest of your business will flow. Many new agents get caught up “in the deal” and let lead generation time go. This is why so many new agents ride a roller coaster with major ups and downs all through the year. Seasonality and the market may bring you up, but if you are not lead generating daily and holding to that discipline of 3-4 hours, your business will always come down. Learn this skill early, and you will exceed your goals. Calendar your time and protect it, as it truly is the most important activity in your business.

  4. Hire a Coach

    As soon as possible, hire a coach.

    A coach isn’t there to tell you what to do as much as they are there to help you discover. A coach can be someone to assist you with accountability and help keep you on track. They know the questions to ask to help you get to an A-HA moment. These moments can be pivotal in your choice of activities and the direction in which your business goes. The best investment I ever made as an agent was getting a coach. I personally chose MAPS.

    Related: Keller Williams Realty and MAPS | The Bold Laws


  5. Find A Mentor

    The key, to finding a mentor, is to look for someone that has done what you want to do. This person has a life like you want to live or a business like you want to own. Find someone who believes the same things as you. By watching and learning from them, you could duplicate that success. When finding a mentor, you don’t ask them to be your mentor. You build a relationship with the person from which you want to learn. Ask them if you can shadow them, or have lunch, or offer them value in some way that has nothing to do with real estate. YOU should come from contribution first and many will reciprocate. Mentors usually love to mentor others. I was lucky enough to find three and each one brings something different to my life. I once asked one of my mentors why they spend so much time with me with nothing asked in return, and I was told that he loved helping someone that actually took the strategies and guidance and put them to work, finding success, and then coming back for more. A mentor won’t offer guidance to you long if you don’t take their suggestions. Listen to them and take

    Related Article: What they didn’t teach in Real Estate School by Lori Ballen


  6. Deefine and establish a system for customer service.

    From the first point of contact, customer service is brought into the conversation. How you respond when people ask a question, how you ask a question, how you take action, how you hand off, how you smile or don’t smile are all components of customer service. It’s important to define your customer service. It may be only you on your “team” as you begin, but defining your customer service policy in writing helps hold you accountable for this service. My customers who complete a transaction with a real estate agent are satisfied with the overall process. I can tell you that satisfied does not win you raving fans or referrals. Customer service creates raving fans and referrals. I’ll give you a hint, the best customer service involves massive communication. Communicate with them first, before they ever have to call you, and you will win them over immediately and again and again in the process. Communication IS customer service and creates raving fans and referrals.

    Related: The WOW Customer Care Program


  7. Create your MVVBP.

    MVVBP Las Vegas Real Estate Agent Team with Keller Williams RealtyYour MVVBP defines your Mission, Vision, Values, Beliefs, and Perspectives. When you take the time in the beginning to write up what each of these is to you, your brand begins to come to life. Our WOW factor and WOW theme brand came from defining our MVVBP as we began to identify how that WOW tied into each one of those components. Over the years, our MVVBP changed. It was very long at first, but over time we were able to better define it and remove the wordiness. Your MVVBP should be posted proudly in your office area, included in your buyer and listing presentations, and posted on your website for all to see. You must believe it! You should be able to recite it in a shortened form. Don’t allow someone else to write your MVVBP. Don’t take someone else’s, and don’t worry about making it “flowery”. Create it from the gut, from instinct, and allow it to be. It should give you chills and bring you to tears. If you don’t FEEL it, you probably didn’t connect.


    The Ballen Group’s MVVBP

    Our Mission:

    To Exceed expectations, communicate at the highest level, and to provide a never ending stream of surprises that leaves everyone saying “WOW” while operating a fun, people growing, top-producing Real Estate company.

    Our Vision:

    To be a company that everyone wants to be a part of and if not, feels like they are missing out.

    Our Values:

    Purpose, Passion, Perseverance

    Our Beliefs:

    Life is a Celebration, Work should be too

    Our Perspective:

    We are a learning-based company driven by the desire to learn more to do more. We are a place where high-minded professionals gather together to achieve more than one can do themselves. We believe in success through others. We are a business that raises the bar and sets an example. The Ballen Group is a Company that shows leadership and excellence among the Real Estate Community.

    Related: Building a Real Estate Brand starts with your MVVBP
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  8. Design your Brand

    This may change as you go through growth or it may remain the same. Use the MVVBP to help launch your brand. Choose the “flavor” of your brand. What do you want people to think, understand, feel when they see your colors, and design, and logo if you create one? The earlier you can identify this, the better you can build that brand and create some awareness. Remember your audience. If you are doing “bread and butter” real estate, the average price range, you may not want a “luxury feel”. However, if you know you are focusing on luxury real estate that brand may be completely appropriate. An example is my team in Vegas is known for it’s “WOW factor”, but our WOW factor is more “Circus” Wow than “Red Carpet” WOW, and our over the top entertainer style suits that brand.

    Related: Branding


  9. Choose three – four sources of primary business

    Your first choice may be made for you. Some agents get into the real estate business because they already have a source of business. This source may be a major investor (sometimes themselves), a strong sphere of influence (referred to often as SOI or COI), an affiliate business that brings in a stream of real estate leads, or a spouse who brings in a stream of leads from their workplace. If you have this to begin with, you are ahead of the game and should work hard to nurture that stream of business (remembering to add to and communicate with the database as we discussed earlier). Otherwise, it’s time to choose. If you don’t choose, the market will choose for you and that may not always be in your favor. Look at your natural talents and skill set. Choose your sources of business around the activities that will generate business around those talents and skills. Research average price ranges and the audiences for that type of business. Don’t choose web leads without first investigating what it takes.

    You may love to sit behind a computer, but are you prepared to shuffle through registrants and work to convert 1-5% to business? It takes a lot of work, and the changes in search and social that are coming on so strong will require you to be at the top of your game. That being said, many choose internet marketing as a primary source because of the wide net you can cast and the opportunity to do a great business when done well. Look at the top agents in your market, specifically YOUR market. What are their sources? Are there commonalities? Do any of these interest you? Study them. Look at things like budget. What did they have to put IN to get the return, and do you have that budget? Radio, direct mail, television, and billboards require hefty upfront costs long before you see a return.

    If you have to invest, and can commit, great. If not, you may choose something else such as open houses, expired and for sale by owner prospecting, door knocking, networking groups and so forth. You are not limited to three by any means, but most agents who do a great business have two – three primary sources. You will too. The difference is that if you start early, you can choose them rather than them choosing you.

  10. Get active on social media.

    When I moved over to Keller Williams from Coldwell Banker, I got my first Keller Williams Referral in the first week from Twitter. There is gold in social media. The quickest way to be “discovered” as a new agent is through social media. No, I’m not saying blast your newest listing or broadcast to “Like my page” (eww), or say “hire me” every hour either. There’s an art to letting others know you are in the real estate business without saying “hire me”. (See the Related Articles Below).

    Getting active on social media also means creating a mini media company sharing your blogs, videos, press releases, and other content. Your primary website traffic could be driven through free or paid ads on social. With the search engines now listening for these social signals, your website could gain ranking benefits from this social traffic, as well. Facebook Advertising doesn’t have to be a hefty cost and could be a quick way for you to begin generating web traffic and leads when done well.

  11. Take RSTLM early and often

    I won’t spend too much time here, as you will need to grow into this one. If any form of RS comes to your area (Recruit Select, RS, Action / Train, ATLM, Mega RS etc.) – Take it. You won’t retain a lot of it at first, and it will take you many times over to understand the “language” of RS, but it will help you greatly when you get to the point of hiring. The more you are immersed in a growth mindset, the faster growth you will experience and have fewer pains in that growth. RSTLM is a course taught by Keller Williams and dives into finding talent, training and retaining talent, behavior profiling, and so much more. RSTLM will show you that you don’t attract who you want, you attract who you are and will equip you with the tools to grow.

  12. Go to the trainings.

    Early and often. If your market center, or local board has a training that you have not yet mastered, attend that training. Anything you can attend that’s local and free, you’ll want to take advantage of attending. Webinars can be very valuable, as well. It’s quite amazing how many agents will tell everything they have in their toolbox and will openly share the ins and outs of their specialty. Look for these people. They are everywhere. When you can afford to do so, invest in professional paid training. You are not spending money; you are investing in yourself.

  13. Get on planes.

    Someone told me early on in my career at Keller Williams that I would need to get on planes. At the local level, training is great, but there is a world outside of your local market that offers specialized training in niches or topics. There’s also value that can’t be equated to a ticket price. This is the value that comes from the relationships you build outside of your local market. When you are not directly competing, you can find a network of agents that love to mastermind, share ideas, share in struggles and in successes, and who will grow alongside you or pull you up with them if you are following. It’s true that your income is the average of your five closest friends. The more I raise my circle of friends, the higher my income goes. I’m pushed to higher levels when I surround myself with big thinkers and doers. No water cooler talks for me, I want the conversations that people would move mountains for to be a fly on the wall. Those are the moments that grow you, and you have to get on planes to find this until you build your own valuable inner circle.

  14. Track early and often.

    I could write pages on this topic. Oh wait, I have (see related article below). The sooner you track the quicker it will become a habit. Start a simple spreadsheet. I like my spreadsheets online (Google or Smartsheet) because I can get to them anywhere. Start several columns and begin tracking the following: lead sources, contacts made, appointments, escrows, closings (total sales volume, commission, source). If you don’t have a bookkeeper yet, start a new sheet and track where you spend your money. When you are ready, dive in and learn even more numbers you will want to track, but start with the basics. Even if you don’t know what to do with this data, you will thank me later for encouraging you to track it now.

  15. Hire a bookkeeper as early as possible.

    Know how and where you spend your money. I talk to so many real estate agents who believe they have X amount of profit, and they don’t have anywhere near that once we break it all down. Your commission check is not your profit. What you keep at the end of the day after all of your expenses is your profit. Learn this early. One of your early vendor hires should be a bookkeeper unless this is a natural skillset of yours. A couple of hours a month in the beginning before you have a lot of expenses will be plenty, and then it may become hours in a week. This is generally a subcontracted position billed monthly. Ask around and get quotes. Make this an early hire.

  16. Use a certified public accountant (CPA).

    Your CPA will advise you on taxes, setting up your entity, how to pay yourself, and will work with your bookkeeper to acquire the numbers needed for filing. A great CPA will advise you on saving money for taxes, or how to pay it regularly so you don’t get caught with tax deficiencies and have the IRS on your back. Trust me. I’m one that didn’t receive great advice early and am still paying for it in 2015. I always had a CPA, but I didn’t interview them well and didn’t receive the best advice on how to structure our business. Now, I realize this is one of the most important hires in any business and doing the homework up front to find the right fit in a CPA is imperative. Don’t just hire one, hire one you truly know is right for you and your business. More expensive doesn’t always equate to more skilled.

  17. Treat your business like a business.

    You are a real estate agent, a salesperson or a broker. Yes, that’s true. Business owners have a mindset that is different than a standard “salesperson”. A business person has a profit and loss statement, a business plan, a brand, a MVVBP (as we discussed earlier), and shows up to run their business on a regular basis. Let’s suppose someone asks you what you do for a living. If you answer, “I’m a real estate agent,” you have immediately labeled yourself as a salesperson. Instead answer, “I own a real estate business.” This change holds you to a higher standard. Your answer gives has a license to open doors.

  18. Check your mindset daily or hourly, if needed

  19. Surround yourself with like-minded people.

    As I mentioned in “getting on a plane”, it’s important to surround yourself with positive, growth minded, learning based individuals. You will be brought up or deflated by the energy around you.

  20. Master a listing presentation and price your listings correctly!

  21. Master scripts, especially commission handlers.

  22. Join social groups for great learning.

    Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer great resources for learning. I have a couple of groups on Facebook. The one listed below is great for real estate agents learning marketing and real estate.

  23. Become an icon in the industry.

    The more you are known and seen, the easier it will be for you to generate referrals and to attract talent. Come from contribution, be seen and heard, and you can do this in a short amount of time. You must invest in that process. It has to be purposeful.


  24. Know your local market better than anyone else.

    When anyone asks you what the average days houses are on the market in your area, average price range, comparison of this year vs. last year, or sellers’ market vs. buyers’ market, you’ll want to have these numbers in mind. Show you are the expert by knowing your market.

  25. Research your competition.

    It’s good to know who your competition is in your area or geographic farm. Know the market share they own and how they are getting that share. Online, you can use amazing tools such as to research your competitions rankings and backlinks online. I personally adore that tool.

  26. Preview homes.

    This keeps you on top of the market and will bring homes to mind when you are meeting with buyers. If you have new construction in your area, know these communities. In Las Vegas, new construction is hot and Realtors® love it because the on-site agent handles so much of the process. When you preview homes, always leave your card to let the seller know you visited. It’s always good to show that you are the agent who has buyers out working in that community. Other agents see your card frequently, as well, and it will show you are busy and in the field, which is always great.

  27. Set goals.

    Set goals early and often. Set goals for contacts made, appointments set, listings and buyer agreements taken, closings, financial, profitability, and any others you desire.

  28. Track your dollar per hour.

    Simple. Log how many hours you work. Use the spreadsheet like I mentioned earlier. Once you receive your profit and loss statement each month (total income minus total expenses = profit), take the bottom line number and divide it by your hours worked. Track it over time and watch it increase. If you ever build a team and decide to work through leverage, you will LOVE how much you make per hour!

  29. Time block.

    As a new agent, it will be very easy to “lost” in the shuffle of activities that eat up your time. The earlier you create a time blocking discipline the more productive you will be. The difference between the “average” agent and the “great” agent is how they choose to spend their time. Lead generation first, everything else after. Learn the skills and leap ahead of your competition through this effort.

  30. Use Youtube for training videos.

    If you don’t know how to do something, hop on over to and do a search. You will be amazed by the free real estate training on Youtube!

  31. Establish an Operations Manual.

    This may seem very advanced for the new agent. If you start tracking how you do what you do from day one and update it as you move along, you can plug someone into your videos and training when you begin to hire. I find the easiest way is video camera, phone recording, and screen capture. I use Screenflow for Mac but there are other options for screen capture. It would be very simple for you when you sit down to do your online transactional paperwork, to click record and simply record your screen activity. You could voice over or not. Then upload it to Youtube or Vimeo in private mode and save it to store. Save the links on your spreadsheet by topic and later, your first admin can create an amazing tutorial library out of your recordings. If you talk into a recorder, you can have a site such as transcribe it for you! If you ask permission, some clients will allow you to record the presentation with permission. Otherwise, you can do a roll play presentation and record that. Save them, improve them as you improve.

  32. Be the best agent that you can be.

    Work hard to be the best at what you do. Best isn’t always the top producer. If you are going to be a buyer’s agent, be the best buyers’ agent that can be. If you are going to be a listing agent, be the best listing agent that can be. It’s skill set and mindset.

  33. Give, often.

    Share. Mentor. Give it away. The universe will return tenfold

  34. Whatever you do, do it consistently.

    Even if it’s not quality, consistently will win every time. Time on Task. If you are going to mail, do it frequently, never skip a mailing, and be okay with the quality not being perfect if that means you can hit it more often. Quality will come with your budget. If you are dealing in luxury real estate, you may not have the “luxury” of not going straight for high quality, but I believe consistency wins. If you are going to make calls, do them at the same time every day, track them, and hold them accountable for results, but do them consistently. If you are going to do open houses, choose your day(s) of the week, how many signs, your sign in process, your call around or invite process, promotion process, and do it the same way every time. Consistency Wins.

  35. Have a passion for what you do.

    If you don’t love it, you won’t do it when it gets tough. I don’t love working with clients. It’s true, and I’m not afraid to say it. My passion is in the vision, the innovation, and in the build. So, I build and allow other people on my team to work with clients because that’s their passion. No matter what, you will have to do things you don’t want to in this business, but find what you love about it and “live” there as much as possible. I don’t love all of it, so I drive hard in the pieces I do love.

  36. Live in abundance and never got stuck in the fear of losing a deal.

    This breaks my heart. I watch agent after agent fall apart emotionally when a deal ends suddenly. They had spent that money in their head long before the transaction closes. They stop lead generating and stop actively pursuing new clients or cultivating existing leads to close this one deal. And then, it falls out and their world crashes. Don’t be this agent. If you lead generate consistently, and live “abundantly” knowing that there is more business out there for you as long as you make each call, create each post, or knock on each door, you won’t have to suffer this. Will you still be disappointed if a transaction falls out? YES! Of course. But, your world won’t fall apart. Don’t allow your business to be a roller coaster. Even when you get busy, don’t stop the basics. Keep lead generating and you will live abundantly.

  37. Create the vision for your company early.

    Believe your vision and cast it often, even if only to yourself. I cast my vision for my companies to my family on a regular basis. It’s important they see it, feel it and believe it. They will then support it and even hold me accountable to it. When you grow your business and have employees and partners, casting your vision remains your duty forever. When they stop believing in the big picture and where the company is going, you run the risk of losing them. People will work hard for money, but they will work harder when they believe in the same thing you do.

  38. Focus on the activities that will bring you the desires result.

    Back to time blocking and goals.

  39. Stay fit. Your body will require a lot of energy.

  40. Hold every invested dollar accountable.

  41. Know your purpose (Big Why).

  42. Plan your days off and family time in advance.

    Once you plan those days, stick to the plan, even if it means passing on a listing appointment. A calendar is a calendar and a date is a date even with family. Again, if you are lead generating every day and doing those tasks, passing on business here and there won’t hurt you because you will live in abundance. Passing on your family could hurt you more. That being said, don’t calendar more time than you can afford. You don’t want to say, “I’ll be home every day at 3PM for the kids,” when you aren’t doing what it takes to be there.

    and Finally

    43. Be proactive.

    Don’t be the guy that just “puts out fires” as they come. Crying babies get fed first, but if you feed all, nobody cries!

    See the Original 43 Lessons Article Here

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    43 Lessons You Wish You Would Have Learned in Real Estate School PDF to Print and Share



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