We’re often asked by those seeking a new career in Real Estate to outline the pro’s and con’s of working in the business. We consistently find that those that ask a lot of questions throughout their interview process usually go on to become very successful agents.
Now, that in mind, this is different for everyone. We’ve also learned that interviews, whether in-person or over the phone, don’t always provide the most productive environment for someone to truly “shine.” This can be due to nerves, lack of experience in interviewing, or could just as easily be triggered by something as simple as they got a parking ticket just before they walked in the door. Whatever the reason, we find that just because an interested candidate doesn’t ask the same set of questions doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have them. The difference is that not everyone knows exactly what to ask, or why. That said, we’ve spent the past few months compiling a list of frequently asked questions consistently asked by the candidates that go on to become successful leasing agents. We’re here to share those questions, and our responses, with you.
When interviewing for a career in Real Estate, there are many things to consider. First, if you are brand new to the industry, are you prepared to endure the learning curve? Are you financially stable enough to go without a consistent paycheck for the first few months while you build your pipeline of clients? Are you interested enough in Real Estate to invest in the additional education required to become a licensed agent? These are questions we ask our new candidates to consider before making the final decision to begin their career in Real Estate. Whether your career begins with Urban Lux, or any agency, these are questions that must be taken into consideration.
1) What is it like to work in a commission only environment?
This is the most commonly asked question, and consequently, one that is likely the most important. We can’t speak for the entire industry, but we can offer some feedback from our personal experience in the matter. The plain truth is this; a career in Real Estate is demanding and certainly isn’t for everyone. Commission only often means that you are an independent contractor, and therefore your own boss. As they say, with great reward comes great responsibility. Not everyone excels in this environment. However, that in mind, those that do often see higher returns that one could ever expect to achieve in any entry level “9 to 5″ job. At Urban Lux, the average agent earns between $30-45k, while our most successful agents earn between $60-75k. As you can see, there is a large disparity between the average agents and the top agents. The most important thing to note here is that within the mix of most successful agents include agents that range from 9 months to 3 years of industry experience. The end result of how much one earns is truly up to the individual efforts of each person.
2) What kind of training is offered?
This is yet another critical question to ask. When shopping around between brokerages, this is a key element in what separates the good from the great. If you are just getting started in the business, you’ll want to know how you’ll learn the “ins and outs.” Is the training offered in-house? Online? Does it cost? How long does it take? How long will you have access to the training materials?
We’ll be the first to tell you, every agency does this differently. At Urban Lux, we’ve employed many different methods to address this issue. What we’ve learned in our experience is that everyone is different, and absorbs information at a different pace. To address this, we’ve spent the past 2 years creating our online training program, and launched “Urban Lux University” in December of 2012. The online training consists of 60 modules, are available 24/7 and continue to remain available to all agents throughout their tenure with the company. The training encompasses everything from sales and closing tactics to in-depth training on how to successfully use our full range suite of technology offerings. We find that training done in a classroom setting has its benefits, but ultimately, the amount of information one is required to learn in order to become a successful leasing agent is significant. It’s unlikely that anyone can absorb all of this information in a short classroom training seminar. We’ve found the online training platform translates into better absorption, but again, you have to find the training program that is the best suited for your learning preferences.
3) What kind of ongoing support is offered?
This question is often overlooked, but is extremely important. What kind of support will be offered to you after you’ve made a decision to join the brokerage? There are many areas of thought on this topic, and again, this will vary from brokerage to brokerage. Urban Lux has relied on everything from an exorbitant amount of middle management, to a skeleton crew of administrative assistants. What works? Well, that’s up to you. Everyone is different and you need to find the best solution for you. Personally, we’ve found that agents just want their questions answered – and fast! The delay of even 15 minutes in response time can cost an agent a sale. So what does your brokerage offer? Urban Lux has made a significant amount of changes in the past 12 months, we’ve transitioned away from middle management, and rely on a small, but dedicated, team of experienced administrative staff to offer support from 6am-12am CST 7-days a week. For us, the launch of our dedicated support center provided the transparency our agents wanted and needed. We’ve all been guilty of getting an important email, glancing at it on your phone while at an important lunch meeting, having every intention to respond back when you return to the office, but forgetting to when that email gets buried in your inbox by the time have two minutes to reply. Often the questions are agents need answered are administrative in nature, and aren’t always directed to their Managing Broker. For example, if you just need to know what the pet policy is at “enter building name here” while you are in between showings, you don’t need to wait for your Broker to return to the office to get this information. The support center has been a saving grace for both agents and their Managing Brokers. The addition of this solution has allowed us to reduce the average response time to less than 15 minutes. Of course, if the question is something that can only be answered by your licensed Managing Broker, these questions are immediately escalated and routed to the right person.
In addition to how everyday questions are handled, how will your more technical questions be attended to? At Urban Lux, we have an in-house IT department, and they manage their own section of the support center. When new tools or features are released, they add an informative screencast to the support center so that everyone can learn the new feature at their own pace, and during their own timeline.
4) There are a lot of brokerages to choose from. How does the brokerage set itself apart?
To risk sounding like a broken record, this is probably the single most important question that you should ask when interviewing brokerages. Why? Allow us to explain. Say you are interviewing at Brokerage A, and they have a 90% commission split. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the answer to that question is an ambiguous “maybe.” The truth is, 90% of 0 sales is still $0 in your pocket.
The commission split is important, don’t get us wrong. We’re just saying that it shouldn’t be the single most important factor when choosing a brokerage. At Urban Lux we have several commission plans to choose from, we have everything from a draw program which helps new agents build the bridge when starting a new career, to a 55% commission split which can grow based on skill level and the achievement of pre-established benchmarks.
Now that we’ve went on a tangent about income generated from sales, we can get into the meat of this question. How does a brokerage set itself apart? Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: What technology platform do you use? How long have you used it? Is this an off-the-shelf solution or is this a custom developed platform? If it is a custom developed platform, is the developer in-house, or was it developed elsewhere? Is there room for customizations or suggested improvements to the platform? Do agents have their own personalized branded websites? Who controls the content and do you have the ability to add/edit your own content? How do you market for listings and can you generate your own leads? How do you find out what availability exists in the marketplace, and what methods does the brokerage employ for the distribution and streamlining of this information? Is there any quality control?
Phew! Those are a lot of questions, many of which are extremely technical in nature and often questions that one may not consider asking when they are interviewing a brokerage. But why are these questions critically important? We’ll tell you why! Many brokerages use the exact same off-the-shelf solutions, which means you and the potentially hundreds of other agents using this platform can be somewhat homogenized. How do you stand out, yet alone get ahead, when you’re up against so many others using the same tools? Do some digging and see if the solution is also used by other local brokerages. This is usually easy to determine, if the websites look similar, it’s likely that they are using the same back-end technology. It’s best to do your research, because the key to your future success in Real Estate truly depends on it. Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t suggesting that all brokerages that don’t have an in-house IT department are terrible. As a matter of fact, some brokerages are very successful and do not have an in-house IT department. However, if standing out among the crowd is important to you and if you want to be able to contribute to customized solutions to meet your personal needs, a brokerage without an in-house IT department isn’t likely isn’t a brokerage for you.
Again, we can only speak to our own experience, but Urban Lux has spent the past four years building and maintaining some of the industry’s most advanced tools. We’ve gone on to develop customized tools for some of the nations leading Internet Listing Service providers. These tools are developed and maintained by our in-house IT department. Each Urban Lux agent has their own personalized urbanlux.com domain, and all traffic driven to that domain remains exclusive to that agent. We have the most advanced Craigslist posting solution that allows agents to market individually created listings in just one-click. The leads generated from those efforts are flawlessly integrated within our Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), which helps agents to track a lead from an initial inquiry to a final sale. In most metropolitan markets, there are hundreds, if not thousands of available apartments available at any given point in time. Partner buildings typically send out these vacancies through what is commonly known as a “hot sheet” which is essentially an email or a fax outlining the available inventory. If you are in a metropolitan market there are likely to be hundreds of buildings with vacancies. Maintaining any semblance of organization with this information can be overwhelming. At Urban Lux, we employ an entire team of administrative assistants that work 16 hours a day compiling this information into one, easy-to-use and up-to-date availability database. We aggregate this information into what we call our “opportunities” tab, which showcases which available listings agents are missing in their current offerings. With just a few clicks, the availability inventory can become an active listing to be showcased on the agents personalized domain, and all of the relevant listing information is automatically imported into the listing on their behalf. If there are inaccuracies in the information, or if the listing is taken “off the market” agents can flag a listing or availability entry to ensure quality control.
5) Do you monitor or expect a certain level of commitment or number of hours?
This question is often asked by those transitioning out of a salaried or hourly position. The plain and simple answer to this question is this: absolutely not!
As an independent contractor, you are your own boss. The level of commitment you put into the job is entirely up to you. You are building your own business within the brokerage. The number of hours and time spent doing this is truly your decision to implement and manage. If you wouldn’t consider yourself to be exceptional at self-motivation and time management, then a career in Real Estate might not be the best choice for you. While you’ll have a network of other like-minded individuals to support you, you won’t find the same amount of structure or “requirements” that you may be used to. Building your pipeline can be challenging, it often means working with clients that aren’t moving for 60-90 days. What often happens with new agents is that they spend their first few months looking for the “quick cash” and focus their efforts only on clients that need to move within the next 30 days or so. It’s not that this isn’t logical or that it’s not understood, it’s just not the best way to develop a long-term career in Real Estate. Most of us need a steady income to survive, and having that commission check in your account sooner rather than later is always preferred, we understand this. However, ask yourself this question. If you were planning on renting an apartment, would you plan to start your search 2 weeks before you moved in? Or would you start 2-3 months before you needed to move? For most circumstances, the answer is the latter of the two. Many new agents fall into the trap of the “quick cash” mindset and end up losing out on 80-90% of incoming leads because they aren’t moving within the next 30 days. This cycle often repeats itself, creating financial stress for the new agent month-over-month. It’s impossible to build a pipeline without engaging all leads, regardless of when they need to move.
So the next question, what options does the brokerage have to avoid this dilemma? If you don’t have 2-3 months of flexibility to forgo a steady paycheck, but you want to start a career in Real Estate, you should consider opting for a draw program, if available. At Urban Lux, we offer a draw program (in exchange for a reduced starting commission split) to help new agents as they begin to develop their careers in Real Estate. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a salary, it’s still commission and is generally a “loan against future commissions” but if you believe that you have what it takes to become successful, and are willing to take the risks with the rewards, this is a great way to get started in the business.
And there you have it! Remember, when starting a career in Real Estate, the interview should always be a two-way exchange. You are interviewing the brokerage just as much as the brokerage is interviewing you. Ultimately, you have to find the brokerage that is the best fit for your personal needs.
For more information on career opportunities within Urban Lux, click here