Making A Living In Real Estate

Making a living in real estate is really not as easy as it looks.

Making a Living in Real EstateI am reminded of this all the time with each new transaction and each new set of clients. It really came home to me while I was having a conversation with a friend about real estate. It turns out that in my 18 year career I have only had multiple transactions with the same agent a couple of times. And that was a long time ago.

Back in the early 2000s I actually helped two sets of clients buy two separate homes where the listing agent was the same person. Every other transaction I’ve been in – and there have been hundreds by now – has been with some new and unique real estate agent. Some, to be fair, have been in the business as long or longer than I have. We just hadn’t crossed paths. Most, though, have only been in the business for a few years or more and quite a few were doing the real estate thing while they were still holding down their “day job”.

You see, a lot of people jump into this business thinking that there will be good money that comes fast and easy. However, after working with a couple of family members, a few friends and one or two co-workers people realize they actually have to go out there and find more business and that costs both time and money. Sometimes lots of time and lots of money.

Anyone Can Do This

The real estate industry works hard to make real estate look easy. After all, new agents are the cash cow of most real estate brokerages. The agents go out and work with the buyers and sellers and lenders and title companies and home inspectors and appraisers and the brokerage gets anywhere from 30% to 50% of the agent’s commission. It’s a pretty sweet deal for the brokerage.

Yeah the brokerage takes on legal liability which can be substantial and it maintains the physical office and office equipment and yadd, yadda, yadda but the bottom line is that the new agent really doesn’t make that much unless they are really out there pressin’ the flesh and getting house sales to the settlement table. It isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s really a lot more than putting a sign in the ground in front of someone’s home or taking your friends out to see a few houses on the weekend until they find the one they want to buy.


It gets old real fast when you get the buyer who decides, after six months, that they’ll rent their apartment for another year. Or, the people who just can’t seem to make up their mind about the type of house they want. Or the seller who insists their house is worth a ton more than the comparable sales in the neighborhood. Or the house that looks like someone is trying out for Hoarders.

Maybe everything is going smoothly but the financing falls through because the loan officer didn’t really do a whole lot of background checking on the buyer’s finances. He just pumped out a quickie pre-qualification letter and hoped everything would go though.  More likely, though, the loan officer had high hopes and it was the underwriters who turned down the deal.

The truth is that anyone ca do it but it really takes a person with a lot perseverance, stamina and resilience to make a living selling real estate.

Agent Turnover

That brings me to the reason, I think, I have never really done business with the same agent more than once.

They just don’t stick around.

It doesn’t take long for someone who came into the business with visions of big houses and fast cars dancing in their head to realize that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

Here’s a true story:

Many years ago I was helping someone’s daughter buy a condo. I knew the family pretty well and we were friendly and got along with each other. Eventually, the daughter found the condo she liked and we got through the process of the purchase. Everything went pretty smoothly.

It turns out “Mom” thought the whole thing looked pretty darn easy. Heck, she could get into real estate, quit the job she didn’t like (but bought in a regular paycheck) and make plenty of money to transition into a nice retirement.  Sounds pretty good.

As it turns out, though, she lasted a little over a year.

I have a feeling that’s what it’s like for a lot of people. It looks easy from the outside. In fact, I always say that the more invisible I can make things look, the better I am at doing my job. I don’t share all the phone calls and e-mails and various negotiations and scheduling of home inspections, appraisers, settlements and more.

No. If I can make the whole thing looks easy and painless to my client than my job was done well.  It’s after people think it’s easy and jump into real estate that they realize, “Whoa, I had no idea there was this much stuff involved.”

Is Making A Living In Real Estate For You?

It could be. After all, I kinda just fell into myself. I didn’t wake up one day and think, “Hey, I want to a be a real estate agent.” I’ve been at it for 18 years now and sometimes I wonder why I didn’t just stick to some nice, safe 9 to 5 somewhere. It can be rewarding in ways that don’t have anything to do with money. But if it’s the money and the cars and the nice house that you’re after, you may want to think twice about it.

About Ken Montville

Ken Montville is a Realtor® and Associate Broker with RE/MAX United Real Estate in the beautiful Maryland Suburbs of Washington, DC. He has been selling nice homes since 1999. Way back in the 20th Century.

When Ken Is not doing the real estate thing he can be found all over social media in places too numerous to mention and he listens to jazz, reads a little (mostly non-fiction), hangs out with the Rotary Club of College Park, MD and can be found blogging at