Real estate salespeople, and other licensees who are required to work for and under the umbrella of a designated broker, are often referred to as real estate agents. In legal language, the term "agent" refers to the strictly defined relationship between a real estate salesperson and the buyers and sellers with whom he or she conducts business. An agent is an individual who is authorized and consents to represent the interests of another person. As an agent, you act to assist people through the process of buying, selling and renting land, homes and other properties.

In addition to meeting licensing requirements and having a comprehensive understanding of pertinent real estate laws, real estate agents have a long list of responsibilities. Real estate agents typically do the following:

  • Advise clients on mortgages, market conditions and pricing
  • Advise sellers on how they can make their homes more attractive to buyers
  • Compare properties to determine fair and competitive market prices
  • Generate lists of appropriate properties for buyers based on their price range and needs
  • Guide buyers and sellers through the transaction process
  • Manage lists of contacts
  • Mediate negotiations between buyers and sellers
  • Prepare and submit all required paperwork, including various contracts
  • Present all purchase offers to sellers for consideration
  • Promote properties through advertising, listing services (such as MLS) and open houses
  • Show properties to prospective buyers
  • Solicit potential clients to buy, sell and rent properties
  • Stay current with real estate laws and trends
  • Work nights and/or weekends to accommodate clients' needs

Here, we take a look at a few considerations that will help you fulfill your agent responsibilities, while advancing your career as a real estate agent.

Sphere of Influence
One way to build contacts and generate leads is through a real estate sphere of influence (SOI) business model. This networking strategy focuses on generating real estate leads through the people you already know, including your family, friends, classmates, business associates, sports team members, and even vendors (like your doctor and hair stylist). The best way to keep track of all the names and contact information is in one place, such as in a spreadsheet program (such as Excel), your email's contacts database or with commercial software.

Once you have established your SOI database, it is easy to add contacts as you meet people – at community events, thru mutual acquaintances or by any other means. The more people you have on your list, the larger your SOI and the better your chances for a referral. Plan on sending out a "new agent" announcement – through the mail, phone, email, text or any combination catered to each type of contact – when you begin your career, as well as periodic updates and shout-outs to keep your SOI thinking about you and your real estate services.

Developing a Professional Image
Developing and maintaining a professional presence is vital to your success as a real estate agent. Your image is projected through your:

  • Appearance – tidy clothing, hair, accessories, makeup. Should be appropriate for your office and local market. Avoid perfume/cologne and revealing clothing (i.e., nothing too tight, too short or too low cut).
  • Face-to-face meetings – good eye contact, positive body language. Strive to be attentive, engaging and courteous.
  • Marketing and advertising materials –quality photos and accurate, compelling text. Should be free of grammatical and spelling mistakes.
  • Phone calls – articulate, engaging and courteous.
  • Web presence – carefully planned Web site, engaging social media. Should be free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
  • Written communications – well-written letters, emails and texts free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

It is important to note that any presence you have on the Internet – whether for your business or personal life – lasts forever and can easily find its way to your potential clients. Therefore, it is judicious to work toward a professional image both in and out of your real estate career.

Utilizing Tools and Technology
Going hand-in-hand with developing a professional image is utilizing tools and technology. Today's agents can use a number of tools to help organize and promote their real estate businesses, including:

Contact Management
Keeping track of your clients is a must. You can go basic with a spreadsheet program or an email database program such as Outlook's, or you can invest in database software designed specifically for real estate professionals. Commercial products offer a number of useful features, including automated contact synchronization to your smart phone. No matter how you keep track of your contacts, keep the list current – updating, adding and deleting contacts as appropriate.

Agent Web Sites
Consider setting up your own domain name and Web site. While this may seem daunting to some, it is easier than ever to build a professional looking Web site. While large corporations may spend hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, developing and maintaining their Web sites, you can do it for a very small financial investment.

A Web site provides you with a "landing page" to direct your existing and potential clients to, while creating a professional, searchable Web presence. It is possible to have individual property Web sites to promote your listings and keep your sellers happy. You can also take advantage of social media by linking to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles (and any other social media platforms).

Marketing
Real estate agent marketing software can help you manage your marketing efforts. These packages typically include templates for business cards, door hangars, postcards, property flyers, brochures, email campaigns and animated home tours to help you efficiently reach out to existing and potential clients.

Apps
A number of apps for iPhone and Android-based devices are available to help you stay connected while you are outside the office. The House Hunter app, for example, allows agents to track and compare an unlimited number of homes, using a proprietary scoring method to identify houses that best match your clients' requirements. Open Home Pro allows you to run an open house on your iPad, follow up with leads, create listing pages and export collected data to Excel or other software.

The Bottom Line
Working as a real estate agent has its challenges: you don't get paid unless you sell, you can work long hours and still have no paycheck, and you have to adapt to changing market conditions. That said, it can be a rewarding career, both financially and professionally. Calling on your sphere of influence, projecting a professional image and utilizing today's real estate tools and technology can help you develop a successful career in real estate.

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