By Blanch Evans
Posted: 1999 ~ Reviewed: 2005

If you are thinking about becoming a REALTOR® or you have recently acquired your license, you are surely wondering what is the best way to get started as an agent. Even though you may get help from your broker or manager, you are still “on your own.” That can be scary – how will you get leads and when will you sell your first home? To survive and thrive, you have to think in terms of what is the best way to shorten the time between being a rookie and becoming a top producer.

Barbara Jean Pickens, ABR, CRS, GRI, is the owner/manager/broker of Realty Executives of Wichita, has an answer. When she was building a career under another broker, she was a ground breaker – the first agent in Wichita to have a licensed assistant. Since then, she has become a franchise owner five times over and a sought-after speaker on the subject of hiring personal assistants.

“Start your career as an assistant to a top producing agent,” advises Pickens. “If you don’t have your license, start as a secretary or administrative assistant and get your hours and license at night. If you have a license, you can assist buyers and sellers and close deals, ” says Pickens.

“Top agents need an assistant to grow,” says Pickens. “and it is a great way for someone to get the experience they need in the business with very little risk.”

Why would a top producing agent be willing to share the wealth with a rookie agent? “With 24 years in the business, and selling 90 houses a year, I have a backlog of clients. My problem is time – not customers to work with,” says Pickens. “I need the help to expand my business. A licensed assistant can show homes, answer ad calls, take over when I’m out of town, and keep things running smoothly in the office.”

Pickens maintains that she handles most of the client interaction. “I handle all very good news and all very bad news. I don’t hand that off to an assistant. I do all the negotiating,” she says.

Licensed assistants help top agents like Pickens grow their business, but there is a down side to depending on them – when they learn what they want to know, they leave. And some try to take the agent’s clients with them. Pickens learned that the hard way. Now she has assistants sign an agreement which prevents them from soliciting or stealing clients.

Most licensed assistants will remain one to two years with a top agent, says Pickens, who advertises for assistants in the paper, by word of mouth and through past clients. “I look for the same qualities that I have – hard-driving, self-starting, friendly, individual. I’m looking for a clone.”

When they are ready to leave, she offers them a desk of their own and they begin on the 100% commission plan that she is on.

What is the advantage of starting off under the employment of an agent instead of grabbing a desk for yourself?

According to Pickens, licensed assistants can tap into a brand name that is already established.

Here are some points to consider:

Hands-on training. You are trained from the top. Many franchises and brokers promise great training tools, but very little is hands-on. Under the supervision of a top agent, you will have the day-to-day involvement with someone who doesn’t lose deals.

Negotiating skills. You learn to negotiate from the strong points rather than the weak points of a contract.

Instant connections. You can connect with your agent/employer’s title company, lenders, inspectors and other contacts, and immediately have instant credibility that continues when you go out on your own.

Instant credibility with the public. If you are working for a top agent with name recognition, you will have that name recognition, too. You’ll have an easier time calling on a for-sale-by-owner as a representative of a well-known agent, than your would on your own.

Company affiliation. According to Pickens, it is extremely important what company you go to work for. She maintains that the national franchises have more top agents who sell more homes than non-franchise companies.

Knowledge by osmosis. In addition to an inside look at the brain of a top agent, you will be around other top agents and can learn from them, too. That is a big year. The top agents across the country are with a franchise company, you are learning from the agent, and other top producing agents within the community.

Earn while you learn. Pickens says her assistants earn between $30 and $50,000 their first year, in a market in which the average home is $80,000 for selling between 12 and 20 houses. The second year, assistants will sell around 30 houses on average. By contrast, she says the average agent who begins in her market may sell between three and six homes the first year – for a take home of $6,000 to $12,000.

Ready-made market. You are part of a local, regional and international market.

If you are interested in becoming a licensed assistant, how should you go about it?

“Contact top producing agents in the marketplace,” says Pickens. “Because turnover is great, top Realtors are always preparing for the next assistant to leave and thinking of hiring another one.”

“Try to get with an agent who is making 100% commission. They will have more to share with you. Also, try to go with a top agent who is part of a large franchise. There will be more opportunities for training and name brand identification.”

“Don’t expect to write your own ticket,” advises Pickens. “There are always people who want to work with a top agent. You can expect to work 7 days a week, 8 hours a day, unpredictable hours.”

“But instead of taking six months to put your first deal together, you’ll do it in about six weeks.”

Copyright © 1999 Real Times. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Michelle Lind

K. Michelle Lind, CEO of Arizona REALTORS®, is also an attorney, State Bar of Arizona board certified real estate specialist, and the author of Arizona Real Estate: A Professional’s Guide to Law and Practice. Please note that this article is of a general nature and may not be updated or revised for accuracy as statutory or case law changes following the date of first publication. Further, this article reflects only the opinion of the author, is not intended as definitive legal advice and you should not act upon it without seeking independent legal counsel.