For a while now, I’ve wanted to write a post about the topic of being a part-time real estate agent. But it’s a bit tricky to strike the right tone, so it’s taken me a while to organize my thoughts and get them in writing.
On that note, a quick disclaimer before we get started. It is possible to be a great real estate agent even if you aren’t devoting 100% of your work life to it. (I started out part-time myself.) So, by no means do I want anyone to interpret this post as a criticism of part-time agents. In fact, part of this post is about how to effectively serve your clients and make a living when real estate isn’t getting 100% of your professional attention.
But it is also important for new agents to know some of the disadvantages to pursuing real estate as a side business or a part-time venture, and to have a plan for addressing those potential challenges. So that’s what this post is about.
Let’s start with what I mean when I say “part-time.” Unlike other jobs where part-time is defined by the number of hours you work per week, in real estate I think of part-time in terms of the professional attention and energy you’re devoting to it. If real estate isn’t your sole professional obligation–if it’s not the sole way you generate your income–then I consider you part-time for the purposes of this discussion.
There are many moving pieces when it comes to the laws, rules and forms that govern what we do, and they are often changing. This is one of the challenges to being part-time. We have monthly trainings for agents at our office about all of that, because it’s so important. Attending trainings and getting lots of repetitions completing transactions, and their accompanying paperwork, is crucial to serving clients well and feeling confident as an agent. If you’re working another full-time or part-time job, it can be difficult (and sometimes impossible) to attend those trainings, get that daily practice and stay on top of industry news and laws. And the financial/business consequences for missing something or making a mistake because there was a bit of information you didn’t know, can be serious.
The more transactions you close, the better you get at negotiations. This is a really critical point. The skill of negotiating and communicating on behalf of your clients is one you get better at the more you do it. It’s like a muscle that gets stronger with practice. I pay attention to things that the agents I’m negotiating with do and say. The things that are really smart and effective, I remember and use myself the next time I’m in a similar situation. The things they do that are ineffective, I make note never to do. You can learn so much by observing agents on the other side of the table from you. Learn from their successes and mistakes.
You might be wondering what to do if being a part-time agent is the best fit for your life right now. As I said, I started out as a part-time agent, and I want to leave you with some advice if that’s the road you need to, or want to, take yourself. There are two ways to structure a part-time real estate career that I think are really solid approaches.
Join or build a team. On a team you’d have someone to serve as your transaction coordinator. This person would manage the extensive paperwork process involved in the buying or selling of a property and provide you with accounting and administrative support. Someone else might host showings for your clients, or conduct the initial meeting with new listing clients for you. At Keller Williams you can do this by paying these support positions on an as-needed basis. Transaction coordinators are paid per transaction completed and other admin support is paid on an hourly basis. So, if you’re devoting 50% of your energy to real estate, in this scenario you’re hiring out the other 50%.
Build a career on referrals. I think I mentioned this in the post about ways to structure a real estate career, but this also applies if you want real estate to be a part-time or side venture. Get your license but don’t fully activate it. At Keller Williams, if you refer a client to another agent within the company you will receive a percentage of the commission on whatever transaction comes as a result of that referral. You don’t actually show any homes, represent any buyers or negotiate any transactions in this career model. This works really well for some people.
These are probably not the only ways to structure a successful part-time real estate business, but they are my favorites. If you’re a part-time agent who’s had success using another model, feel free to post about your experience in the Comments section. And as always, please ask any questions you wish via Comments or by contacting me here.