So You Think You Want To Be A Real Estate Agent?


By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

As Published in The Examiner Newspapers


     It has happened to me a number of times. I’ll be showing homes to a young couple and the wife, somewhat glazed over from her obvious enjoyment of touring one house after another, will ask me, “Do you like the real estate business, and do you think I’d make a good real estate agent myself?”

   When I first started thinking about whether I wanted to be a realtor more than 20 years ago, I sought advice from a neighbor who had tried real estate sales, but dropped out after two years of effort.  I wanted to know why.

   “Don’t even bother,” she advised. “It’s a mean-spirited, cut-throat business where newcomers don’t stand a chance.” At that skewed advice, I remember wondering, weren’t all real estate agents once newcomers? Still, I was influenced by her assessment, and I could kick myself for it now because it delayed my entrance into real estate for two decades. And, in this business, I’ve observed that longevity counts high on the list of elements for success. 

    I wish I had spoken first to Sharon Foley, licensed salesperson at Century 21/Haviland in Pleasantville, who projects an eternally optimistic attitude, a good trait for a realtor. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the business since I started 14 years ago,” she beams. “And, no, I would never say it is cut-throat. In fact, I like to think I enjoy excellent relationships with other agents, both in my own agency and in other companies. That’s very important to your business.

   “At the same time, I know it can be tough to get started. My first year in the business, I wondered whether I had made any money or spent more than I made,” she laughs.

   “What I really enjoy is getting people into a house and knowing that they’re happy about it, or researching the best price for a property I’m listing and feeling that it’s right on the mark,” she says.  Having been a pre-K teacher with a husband who traveled on business 75 percent of the time, Sharon had a lot of spare hours on her hands and, upon the advice of a friend, entered real estate sales on a part-time basis. “But I soon learned that it had to be a full-time effort. You have to be accessible.”

    Underscoring the fact that it’s a good profession for women, who fill 60 percent of jobs in the business, Sharon says, “It’s not easy to be in this business if you depend on it for your bread and butter, and most women start out to supplement the family income. It’s a great opportunity for a woman who has young children in school, because she can work her schedule around that. In fact, young mothers have a great sphere of influence just within their children’s schools.”

   Within a year, when the market was good, Sharon says she was on her way. Her steadfast rule has always been to practice with full disclosure. “Everything must be above board, or I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. I want everything on the line and with no surprises.

     “I now do 90 percent of business through personal referral and, when you get to that point, it can be very fulfilling,” she says. “Also, you can modify your schedule according to your personal situation. Now I’m a grandmother who babysits every Wednesday for my granddaughter, and all the other agents in town know that Wednesday is babysitting day for me.”

    While Sharon had an easier ride after the first year of being an agent by building a solid referral practice, she agrees that, especially in today’s market, it can be tough going for a newcomer.

    But still, whenever people ask me whether I feel they would be good agents, I always encourage them, because I don’t want them to have the kind of off-putting experience I had when I first inquired about it as a profession. At the same time, I advise them of how challenging a career choice it can be in terms of dedicating yourself to it with utmost discipline.

    Elisa Bruno-Midilli, an associate broker and partner with Keller Williams Realty Partners in Yorktown, knows something about the discipline required. “People have no idea what a hard business this is, like any successful business must be,” she says.

     After studying for her license (a 45 hour requirement) her associate broker’s license (another 45 hours, just increased by the state to 90 hours) and GRI (earned through a series of courses offered by the Graduate of Realtors Institute), Elisa says she initially felt properly educated, “but that was barely the beginning,” she recounts after 23 years in real estate. 

    “The trouble with agents who don’t succeed,” according to Elisa, “is that they are not taught that this is a business you’re running. You need a lead generation model, an organizational model and a budget model in order to be successful in real estate or any other business for that matter. When you’re aware of models, you know what you need to do to succeed.”

   According to Elisa, the very foundation of a career in real estate today is to build a database of leads and to “feed” that database every single day.

    To know if a career in real estate is for you, it may help to follow Elisa’s daily routine which demonstrates the level of focus and dedication required.

    “The day starts with a positive mindset and a goal-oriented mindset,” she advises. She devotes three hours daily, from 9 am to 12 noon, to lead generation, “And that’s without exception,” she notes. “If there’s an emergency and a client has to see a million dollar home at 10 in the morning, you reschedule your time. But what you erase, you must replace!”  She utilizes those hours to communicate in a systematic way by phone, email or by sending a value item of some kind in the mail to selected people from her database.  And to prepare herself, she practices scripts and dialogues to know her pitches backward and forward.

     “In the afternoon, I concentrate on servicing all the leads that come my way. I have a goal of scheduling an appointment at 2:00 pm every day, with a buyer, seller or anyone else. After 5, I usually do a lot of follow up, attend networking events, or spend time with my family. 

     “You must get out in front of people, talk to them, and discover what their needs are,” she says.  “You must consult with them to help people get to their goals, and the result is that you’ll get to your own goals.

  “That’s how you build and maintain a business at times when other realtors say there is no business to be had,” she advises. “The toughest part is sticking to your schedule to generate leads.  If you don’t do this, nothing else will work.

   “This is a marathon, not a sprint,’ she concludes. “It’s a journey and there are certain things along the way that will get you to your goal. Like Henry Ford said, whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right!”

   There’s a host of other requirements for a career in real estate that could fill volumes, but to me, the short form is that it seems to encompass every career there is, from technology to marketing, from construction to sales, from human relations to the law.  And, perhaps that’s the biggest upside of real estate:  it’s many careers —  and lifetimes — packaged into one.  Up for the challenge of the journey? Then, come join me.


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( He can be emailed at or reached directly at 914-522-2076.


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