By Riki Markowitz

In 2016, RealtorMag, the official publication of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), reported that real estate was ranked the number two “happiest industry.” Some of the benefits of the job include making your own hours and the ease at which you can create the professional culture you desire. There is one dirty secret, though. The majority of individuals who become real estate agents never even make it to their fifth work anniversary.

There has always been an impression that REALTORS swim in money. Reality TV shows about beautiful brokers getting filthy rich off of an inventory of stunning NYC condos and Malibu mansions make it difficult to understand how the median annual income for agents in the U.S. was less than $45,000 in 2016. That means that half of all REALTORS take home even less.

We wanted to know what separates successful brokers and agents from the sea of those who struggle or don’t make it at all. To that end, we spoke with several REALTORS who have survived the half-decade mark and created a list of habits and tips that got them where they are today.

#1 Lead Generation

A lot of professionals start each workday looking at a to-do list. But according to many of the busiest agents, the only way to start your day is to work the phones. Dyron Taylor, a broker/owner at The Dyron Taylor Group, suggests spending two hours per day on the phone generating leads. “I’m a huge believer that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” says Taylor, who is certified in short sales and foreclosures.

Most agents don’t like this part of the job because we’ve become conditioned to communicating with friends and colleagues through email, text and social media. Cold calling strangers can make even the most confident person quiver with discomfort.

TIP: Keep it simple. Taylor recommends introducing yourself and asking the potential client if she is looking to buy or sell. If you get a no, ask if she knows someone who is.

“If you can’t do this simple task, no one is going know you’re in the business of helping them find a home or sell a home,” says Taylor, a Platinum Top 50 finalist.

Gregory Tran, owner of the Gregory Group, recommends making no fewer than 100 calls every day. That comes out to about four hours of phone time. One way to find your legs in this exercise, says Tran, is to start by calling people you know. By the time you make your first call to someone officially outside of your circle, you should already have worked out many of your jitters and kinks.

When you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see that there’s a lot business to go around in Travis, Hays and Williamson Counties. The Austin Board of REALTORS (ABoR) published results of a survey indicating that in the first half of 2017, there were more than 4,000 new homes on the market here, which is about 15 percent higher than 2016. Of those 4,000 homes on the block, only 450 were for sale by someone other than a real estate professional. According to a report by NAR – also from 2016 – “Eighty-nine percent of home sellers were assisted by a real estate agent.” So don’t look at it as cold-calling 100 strangers a day, but instead, it’s like a scavenger hunt for clients with the end goal of building your referral business. In that same survey, NAR found that 64 percent of sellers who worked with an agent found that agent through a referral by friends or family.

#2 Always Follow Up

It’s not enough to simply introduce yourself to as many potential clients as you can. The brokers we talked to also stayed in touch with every buyer or seller they worked with, and those who only presented an opening to follow up later.

It’s understandable why someone would be hesitant to make a call out of the blue to someone he or she just sold a home to or found a home for in the last year. But here’s why you should: According to NAR, 25 percent of surveyed homebuyers went back to the agent they previously worked with to buy or sell a home. Further, 70 percent of sellers said they would “definitely work with the same agent again.”

Tip: When making follow up phone calls, it can still be difficult to break the ice. Taylor suggests asking, “How is that property that I helped you get in to?”

#3 Don’t Have Free Time

Wendi Slaton Anderson, a broker with Roots Real Estate, has been in the business for 15 years. She gets new clients almost entirely by referral now.  But even she has a few down days a month. “If I’m not busy doing deals,” says Anderson, “I’m training. I’m always in the middle of an online class. There are so many different designations out there. I take everything I can.”

Tip: You don’t have to have money in the bank or a steady stream of income to take classes. Title companies offer free courses all the time, or for a small $10 to $20 fee.

Even after a morning of lead-gen phone calls and then a 60-minute online course, oftentimes an agent in his or her first year or two will still have a sparse to-do list starting after lunchtime. Anderson says this is when you should be taking property and neighborhood tours to learn everything you can about the area and work on developing a specialty. By going to websites like and, you can find a neighborhood or home tour most days of the week.

#4 Work Weekends

You may be wondering what you could possibly do on a Saturday or Sunday since you can barely keep yourself busy Monday through Friday. The weekends are a perfect time for holding an open house. According to Tran, named a Top Rookie by Keller Williams, and this year a Platinum Top 50 REALTOR, “If you’re working full time as an agent and don’t have any business, you should be doing an open house every single Saturday and Sunday.”

#5 Work with a Mentor

At some point during your early years in the real estate industry you will likely find yourself applying for a part-time job to bring in a steady stream of income. That’s actually one point of no return for many agents, according to the experts we spoke with. Rather than signing up to deliver meals for UberEats or work in an Amazon warehouse around the holidays, agents should use their networking skills to get a job in the industry.

Tip: Anderson, also a Platinum Top 50 broker and a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), says, “Assisting a busy broker is an excellent option for new agents because there’s so much to learn.” She suggests finding an agent that can help expedite the learning curve with you.

A lot of people still believe that selling houses is a fast track to financial rewards. And while this is true for a small percentage of REALTORS, most have to work really hard to make it to five years. When Tran got started in real estate, he worked an hour or two a day, but still had the mindset that he was going to make a lot of money. It’s only when he shifted his thinking did things change. “I came around to believing that if I wanted to be successful, then I needed to treat this like a career,” he said. Making the decision that real estate will be your livelihood is only half of the formula for success. The other half is honest, hard work. RL