Working for Century 21 as a Real Estate Agent
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Real Estate Agents
Million dollar real estate agents fascinated me years ago. It was mind-boggling that a middle person engaged in the buying and selling of houses could earn so much money. With that in mind, I decided to try my luck as a realtor in the 90s. This article is a recollection of the frustrations and trials and tribulations of working as a part-time Century 21 real estate agent in 1994.
Century 21 as a Global Real Estate Franchise
Middle Persons in The Buying And Selling of Houses
The average person doesn't have enough knowledge or experience to jump through all of the hoops in the buying and selling of real estate or real property such as houses and land. For this reason, trained middle persons exist to assist buyers and sellers make real estate transactions. These middle person players consist primarily of real estate agents, realtors, and real estate brokers. Let's look at each one.
1. Real Estate Agents
A real estate agent is a licensed person who functions as an intermediary between sellers and buyers of real estate. He or she tries to find sellers who want to market their homes or land, and also attempts to identify buyers for real estate. In addition, a real estate agent will also assist homeowners rent out their houses and handle the ensuing rental or property management.
Realtors are real estate agents who are members of the U.S. National Association of Realtors (NAR.) As dues paying members of the NAR, realtors must adhere to a code of ethics, ethical work habits, and consumer protection.
3. Real Estate Brokers
Real estate brokers are experienced real estate agents who have passed a more advanced state real estate test so that they might own, manage, and operate their own brokerage. Real estate brokers have administrative responsibility over a group of real estate agents who work for them.
Why I Became a Real Estate Agent And Worked for Century 21
Why I Became a Real Estate Agent
When living in Maryland, I often saw fliers in the mail from real estate agents who were advertising their listed properties for sale. Some identified themselves as million dollar agents which meant that the total value of the houses they had sold was at least one million dollars. Working with commissions as high as seven percent, many agents were putting a pretty penny in their pockets. I thought to myself that if these agents could make money selling houses, why couldn't I.
My ex-wife also encouraged me to first get my feet wet in the real estate business as a part-time agent while I had a full-time job. After retirement, I could devout as much time as I wanted to this endeavor. Furthermore, by being a licensed real estate agent, I could save money by avoiding the commissions which I would have to pay for selling a home and purchasing another.
Why Work for Century 21
Over the years, I had a lot of business dealings with Century 21. Century 21 is a real estate franchise which was founded in 1971. It has over 8,000 independently owned and operated offices around the world.
I bought my first house through a Century 21 office, and this same office found me a renter and handled my rental property management when I worked overseas for one year. I also had a personal relationship with the broker and head of this office in the community of Maryland where I lived. Don supported my plans to become a real estate agent, and he said that his office would give me the necessary training so I could pass the state real estate licensing exam. In return, I agreed to work solely as one of Don's agents.
Preparing for Work as a Real Estate Agent
At the end of September of 1993, I received notice that Don's Century 21 office was starting a beginning real estate course for anyone interested in getting licensed as an agent and then working at his brokerage office. It was a 60 hour course which met 6:30-9:30 P.M. on Mondays and Wednesdays over 10 weeks. The instructor was a senior licensed real estate agent working for Don, and I had 7-8 classmates from different walks of life.
In preparation for the Maryland state real estate agent licensing exam, we had a textbook and learned topics in real estate law and practice. Some of the topics we learned included: licensing laws and regulations; laws of agency; deeds and legal issues; contracts of sales and leases; real estate finance; land use regulations; valuation process and pricing properties; human rights and fair housing; property insurance; and taxes and assessments.
After completing the course, preparations were made to take the state licensing exam in December. I remember the test being multiple choice in nature and consisting of 50 questions. The test was taken on a computer, and I received immediate notice that I had passed the test with flying colors.
The next step was applying for the sales person license and paying a one year licensing fee. Within two weeks of submitting my application, I had my license in hand and was prepared to begin the long anticipated work of being a real estate agent.
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Working for Century 21 as a Real Estate Agent
1. Daily Office Routine
Due to a schedule of working full-time, I only was able to do real-estate work in the evenings and on the weekends. It was a late Monday afternoon at the beginning of January when I reported for work at Don's Century 21 office for the first time. Working hours would be from 5:00 until 9:00 Monday through Friday and on either Saturday or Sunday from 9:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M..
After being assigned a desk with a telephone, I quickly learned that a real estate agent is chiefly a sales person working on a commission which is split between the agent and his broker boss. Commissions ranging from 3-7 percent of the sales price are received whenever your clients buy houses or sell them. There is no pay or benefits for any of the other work you do in or outside of the office with clients.
My primary duty in the office included answering the phone, and then either directing the calls to other agents, or answering questions about the listings of all houses handled by Don's office. On a few rare occasions it involved working with a potential new client who was interested in either listing a house for sale or purchasing one. Another duty was to meet walk-in clients and either list their houses for sale or assist first-time buyers find houses for sale. When I wasn't answering the phone or meeting walk-in clients, I was expected to do cold calling. Cold calling was a form of telemarketing in which I would call go through a telephone book and call people at random. After introducing myself as a Century 21 agent, I would ask people whether they were interested in either selling or buying a house through Century 21 services.
2. My First Listing
Agents were recognized and rewarded for the number of sales listings they could secure for the broker. These were recorded on a big blackboard in the office with the address of the property, listed sales price, and the name of the agent who had gotten a signed exclusive right to sell contract with a homeowner. After a buyer was found for the listing, and a date set for the closing and transfer of ownership, this information was also duly recorded on the board.
In Don's office I was working with 10-15 other agents who were competing with me for listings. Most of the agents were engaged in real estate full-time, and they had been working for Don for a number of years. They had all built up a network of contacts, and completely understood the housing market around our office area.
In spite of my inexperience and handicaps at the job, I was finally able to proudly list my first house for sale four months after I started. It turned out to be a listing which none of the other agents wanted. A young man had walked into the office one Saturday morning and told me that he needed to sell his town home because he was going through a divorce. I gladly agreed to take the listing because it was my first as an agent. The young man accompanied me to his house, and at that time I found out why no one else wanted it. It was located in a bad neighborhood of Baltimore County and a long way from Don's office. While I was going through the house and taking pictures for the listing, I learned from the tenants of the house that the basement walls leaked, and that other repairs were necessary. After placing a for-sale sign in the small front yard, it became obvious that the tenants would not be very interested in letting prospective buyers in for showing. Needless to say, the house never sold while I had it listed.
3. Working with Buyers My frustration in getting buyers for listings was just as great as my trials and tribulations in getting listings. After six months at work, I was finally able to get a young walk-in couple interested and qualified for purchasing a home listing which I had pulled up from the Multiple Listings Services (MLS) computerized listing of all houses for sale. It was a Friday or Saturday evening when the young couple informed me that they were very serious about signing a purchase agreement for a listed house in the vicinity of Don's office. After informing the seller that I had found a buyer for his home, I accompanied the prospective buyers over to the seller's house with great hopes of returning to the office with a signed purchase agreement and deposit money from the buyers. With great disappointment, the deal fell apart at the last moment while all of the other agents were attending Don's party.
4. Finally Success
I was finally able to earn a commission through a referral of a buyer to a Century 21 office in another state. One of my full-time work colleagues was transferring from Maryland to Hawaii and wanted to purchase a home there. Harry knew I was working for Century 21 and that I could refer him to another Century 21 office in Hawaii to assist in house-hunting. I was successful in doing this, and a few months later Harry purchased a house in Hawaii through a Century 21 agent. Finally, I was awarded a commission for the referral which I had to share with Don. The check for $500.00 is still framed as evidence of my one and only success story as a real estate agent.
Power Prospecting - Cold Calling
Working for Century 21
Lessons Learned as a Realtor
My part-time work as a realtor ended in September of 1994 shortly after I received a commission from Harry's referral. I was frustrated and sick and tired of the frustrations and trials and tribulations of being a part-time real estate agent. Also, I came to the realization that I was not cut out to be a realtor for the following reasons:
1. Unsuitable Personality
It was hard for me as a basically introverted person to be outgoing as a sales agent. I hated cold calling, and even worse, I hated walking around my neighborhood, beating on doors, and soliciting Century 21's real estate services.
2. No Gift of Gab
As a shy ingoing type, I didn't have the gift of gab where I could engage anyone in a conversation on any topic. It seemed that so many of the successful agents just loved taking to people. If I had been a smooth talker, I probably would have had more success.
3. No Networking
Having essentially no network of relatives, friends, neighbors, or fellow agents, it was almost impossible to find leads on people interested in buying or selling property.
4. Not Daring Enough
There is a saying: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. All of the successful agents at Don's Century 21 office were very aggressive in their marketing techniques. They were the ones who had the most listings and found the most buyers for listings. A passive approach to real estate did not help me at all.
During my brief time as a realtor, I learned that the field of real estate was very interesting, challenging, and frustrating. I found out that it is not a job for everyone as evidenced by my personal experiences. However, for an outgoing, smooth talking individual with networking and negotiating skills, real estate can turn out to be a lucrative career.
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn
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