Recently, CareerBliss.com released its list of jobs with the highest and lowest happiness index. It analyzed reviews from more than 65,000 employees in 2012. Then, Forbes turned it into a handy little slider of the Happiest and Unhappiest Jobs in America. Of the 10 unhappiest jobs in the United States, Associate Attorney is number one, with the low bliss score of 2.06. So, what is the happiest? Real Estate agent with a bliss score of 4.46. While we aren’t surprised, we wanted to know exactly what it is that makes real estate agents so happy in their chosen profession. Two of First Team’s great agents share their experience with us and give some advice to anyone looking at real estate for a career: Lisa Adams, real estate agent for 22 years, and Kathy Leimkuhler, real estate agent for 7 years.
Q. Why did you become a real estate agent?
- Lisa Adams: This career allows you to basically set your own destiny, that’s what attracted me. The possibilities are endless as a real estate agent. Some people are happy selling 3 houses a year, others are happy selling 300 houses a year. So yeah, it can be a good life. That’s why I’ve stayed in it 22 years. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
- Kathy Leimkuhler: I needed the income, and I was at a point in my life where I needed the flexibility. On the opposite side of it, I also had the flexibility to be an agent. My children were older and my husband was more established in his career so he was around more on the weekends. I was in a place where I could do the job and I wanted to. It’s a great paying job. I like the flexibility of the job; I like that I’m my own boss. For example, I’m working hard, I’m putting in a listing in the MLS, and I’m sitting in my kitchen.
Q. Why do you like being an agent?
- Adams: I love when I help my clients achieve their dreams, whether it’s buying or selling. Real estate is going to be the most expensive investment these people make in their life. So, when I can find a buyer’s dream home, that’s what excites me. When I can get a fantastic offer on the sale of a seller’s home, I’m in heaven. I love when I can achieve the goals on both sides of the table.
- Leimkuhler: It’s fast moving, its faced paced, it’s ever changing. You’re never doing the same thing twice. Each house is different, each buyer is different. There are so many variables: the economy is one, home prices is one, interest rates is one. I love the challenges of listings and the creativity that’s a part of marketing homes. I see a house and think, “How am I going to sell this?” I love all my clients to call me back when they’re making a decision; it’s not all about the sale. You make of it what you want. It’s a job you can take with you, the pay is great, the upsides are great. It’s just a great job.
Q. What are some of the jobs main challenges?
- Adams: Many buyers and sellers set unrealistic expectations. Buyers usually have a long wish list of things that they want, and my goal is to check off most of those boxes. Every seller thinks that they have the best house and are sometimes unrealistic with their asking price. Some agents are basically non-communicative. They fall off the face of the earth. You can call, email, and text and you’ll get no response.
- Leimkuhler: The first year, the challenge is your lack of knowledge. People get started and really don’t know what they’re doing. Sure, you pass a test but the more experience you have, the better you can answer questions. Three years in, there’s a burn-out level because you’re going so fast that you’re always reinventing yourself. One personal challenge was making the adjustment to short sales. There are lots of rules and regulations. You have to know what you’re doing. Now, I don’t take any of that on on my own, I use a First Team short-sale negotiator.
Q. What are the downsides of being a real estate agent?
- Adams: Even when you do everything on your clients behalf, the ultimate decision is up to the party. When i’m unsuccessful in putting together a deal, it’s the most heartbreaking thing. That’s especially how the market is right now with multiple offers on properties. Not everyone can be the winner. Someone is going to lose out.
- Leimkuhler: It’s consuming. You’re always on call, 24/7, and that’s been difficult. It was an adjustment I had to face and my kids really had to face. Everybody’s getting mad at me for answering my phone, but the calls are vital to these people. They’re counting on me. It’s hard to take vacations unless you’re part of a team. And nights weekends? You’re pretty much committed to giving them up. You have to remember that people are looking for homes when they’re not working. It’s not a 9-5 job in any way. You don’t get to leave it at the office. You have to be self motivated. I see agents that go to the classes, are in the office, and on the computer all the time. You need to get yourself out the door.
Q. What are the best parts of the job?
- Adams: The majority of my clients become my friends. My husband and I will go to dinner with them, we’ll go to cookouts at their house, I’ll go to their children’s birthday parties–I mean the list goes on and on. I’m at the point in my career where the majority of my business is referrals from past clients. These friendships and relationships that I’ve developed in the real estate industry would have never happened had I been in a corporate job, sitting in a cubicle, working from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Leimkuhler: I love that the challenges are always changing, and I really love being that intensely a part of people’s lives. I love when a home is a perfect fit and the buyer says, “Wow, I love that.” It’s a great paying job, too. I never shy away from that. If you do well, and you sell the homes you say you’re going to sell for the price you say you’re going sell, its a great paying job. It can afford you a lot in life.
Q. Why do you think some agents never succeed or excel?
- Adams: Consistency. People who are good but don’t become great are not super consistent. You find a really great agent is consistent in everything they do. I’ve got a list of agents that I would never want to have another transaction with. They are non-responsive, don’t adhere to the timelines in the contract, don’t follow through, and don’t say what they’re going to do. For me, part of excelling is staying in touch with past clients and forming relationships with the other local real estate agents. A lot of times, I will get calls from agents stating they’re going to be listing a new property, giving me a heads up on a listing before it hits the MLS. In turn, top producers in the area are calling me, asking me what new listings I have coming on. In real estate, you wake up every day with no sales; you gotta start over again.
- Leimkuhler: People get into real estate and all they’re seeing is the money and not the work. They’re not self motivated. It’s like anything that’s high pay, it’s high risk. One of the biggest things in this business, more than in any other business, is you can’t get greedy. You have to have your clients interests in mind or else it shows through. You can’t just try to find a sale, you have to find the right sale. Real estate is really an “earn it” kind of occupation. You have to do what’s best for each client, and sometimes that’s walking away. Maybe they’re better off not selling or they’re not ready to buy–you have to take yourself out of the equation to be a great agent.
Q. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in real estate?
- Adams: If you’re someone starting out, you should probably have a year’s worth of money saved up, because you don’t know when your first sale is going to be. A lot of times people think they’re going to get their license and immediately start getting all these sales. They think that they’re going to sit back and their phone is going to ring. You have to make it ring Yes, it can be a fabulous career, I absolutely love it, but its not for everyone.You have got to be a go-getter. You definitely need to provide knowledge, experience, and customer service to the client.
- Leimkuhler: Link up to an agent who knows what they’re doing and follow them around. Don’t think you get your license and you’re ready to go. Keep learning, see if there’s someone around who will let you learn from them. I went through the first 6 months sitting at open houses, getting people’s names, and learning the industry. You figure it out by jumping into the market. Consistently go see homes. Consistently find out about areas. You have to keep researching. It’s a learning job: be up on what’s going on in the market, be up on mortgages.
Q. For whom is real estate not right?
- Adams: Someone who wants or has to have weekends off. Someone who doesn’t like spontaneity. Someone who doesn’t like people. Someone who doesn’t like engaging in conversation. In my job, there are some days when I feel like a therapist, because sometimes you have sellers that are divorcing.
- Leimkuhler: Introverts. You have to be open. You have to be willing to talk to people. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. You have to be comfortable selling because you’re selling all the time. You really have to be genuine about what you’re selling because people see right through it if you’re not. The hardest thing to me is to sell a house I really hate. But, the seller loves it. So what about it do they love? And that’s what you’re selling.
If you want to become a real estate agent, First Team Careers offers classes to prepare you for the licensing exam and to be an agent. Reach out to First Team Careers today to reserve your spot. Trying to buy or sell a home in South Orange County? Contact Lisa Adams at 949.338.2694 or lisaadams[at]firstteam.com. If you are looking in and around Anaheim Hills, Kathy Leimkuhler is ready to help you. Contact her at 714.855.8050 or kathyleimkuhler[at]firstteam.com whenever you are ready.