Competition makes agents eager to please

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Every Sunday there's pages and pages of real estate ads in the newspaper. On these ads are snapshots of the realtors willing to sell you a dream home or help you sell the house you're currently living in.

If you're prone to wondering about such things, you might wonder how so many agents are able to make a living selling real estate.

Local real estate agents say the market is a competitive one, but anyone wiling to work hard and go beyond the basics can be successful.

In previous years when credit was easy and people were buying houses, selling them was a fairly easy job, said Denise Glass with ReMax Realty Experts of Cape Girardeau.

"Before, someone would walk in, they'd show a house and then write a contract, get it put together," Glass said. "Now they have to be a little more creative. With the market we have now, I see a lot of agents leaving the industry because now they have to hone in their skills; they have to actually do some prospecting build a clientele base."

According to figures from the Missouri Real Estate Commission, there are 32 licensed real estate brokers in Cape Girardeau County, 79 licensed broker salespeople and 199 licensed real estate salespeople. In other counties in the region, with smaller populations, there are fewer licensees but the numbers are still substantial. In Scott County, there are 23 brokers, 18 broker salespeople and 91 real estate sales people. In Butler County the numbers are 15 brokers, 17 broker sales people and 54 real estate sales people. Those numbers don't include inactive licenses and there are hundreds of other licenses issued to the region at various levels.

There may be a glut of agents in the industry, Glass said, but natural selection will weed out the ones with staying power and separate them from those who sell part time to supplement their other jobs.

"Eighty percent of the agents out there are really not doing that much," she said. "They have a license, they're selling to family members once or twice a year. The 20 percent of the agents actually doing 80 percent of the business will be able to survive this type of market."

Sheila King of Realty Executives in Jackson said she started out six years ago to be a part time agent, while holding onto a job she had with the Jackson School District. She said her husband, who was in real estate at the time, encouraged her to get her license, thinking she could sell enough to family and friends to do well enough financially for herself.

Selling to family and friends led to referrals, and ultimately the realization that she loved selling real estate enough to make it full time.

"I admire the people who do it part time and do it well," she said.

But she's not one of those. King said she is the kind of person who has to give 100 percent or she won't be satisfied with her job performance.

Doris Jean Arnold of Century 21 Ashland, who has 28 years experience, said the job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

"It doesn't fall in to your lap," Arnold said. "It's not easy. It takes at least two years building a client base and a rapport with people who are going to refer you. It takes dedication, work and considerate service."

Success means going above and beyond the basics.

"If a client calls at 2 or 3 in the morning because he can't find the keys to his home, you get up and get a spare key made," Arnold said.

Frequently family time takes a back seat.

"I remember when I first started, I was coming back from my grandpa's house on Christmas Day and two people called me," King said. "You can never get away from the phone. Ever."

King said she reached the point in her career where she could hire a full-time assistant who could fill in for her and keep her clients happy. A call on Christmas from someone who's visiting a relative and happened to see a house that interested her isn't something to turn away. Another agent might get that sale.

Being a successful agent takes commitment and a willingness to set yourself apart from the rest of the flock.

"Nobody comes into the world, Mom and Dad don't say we have a top producer here," said Glass. "You make the commitment to a career you have chosen. You don't stop the course work. You go on and get a designation -- I'm a certified residential specialist. I'm a strong advocate of education. I'm consistently learning and studying about new trends."

Arnold agrees that education is paramount, and said she merged her former real estate business with Century 21 to take advantage of the training that business offers its agents.

Likewise, Arnold honed in on her financial background. She works with customers using her experience as a loan officer to help them find a house they can afford.

"You see where he needs to be and then show him a house," she said.

It takes a people person to be a good agent.

"Be honest with your people and be yourself," King said. "I don't treat the $90,000 people any differently than I treat the $300,000 people."

"If it's in your blood, do it," Arnold said. "I've been a teacher and a travel agent. Nothing gave me the personal satisfaction like real estate. It's a natural high when I make a sale."

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