I have a friend of a friend who is an agent in the midwest. He’s been doing it for a few years now and he probably has the most relaxed work schedule of anyone I know (myself included). This really isn’t entirely surprising when you think about it because even with a significant investment in marketing you’re only going to get involved in so many home sales a year and your customers are going to generally expect you to be available to fit their schedule and be available to field their calls. This means you’re going to have to work fairly inefficiently and have a lot of downtime that you can’t fill with a part-time job at McDonald’s (or any other part time job your limited skillset is likely to get you).
Now this isn’t true of all agents, but most of the ones I’ve met over the years have an oversized ego and an oversized sense of entitlement. Let’s say you expect to make $90k/year because you believe you’re worth that and afterall you probably own a fairly expensive car (don’t want to pull up to your client’s house in a Honda) and an oversized house along with luxury habits that you need to be able to pay for. Let’s also say your average slice of the pie on a sale is ~$5,000 (remember, you’re in the midwest in a minor market so that $5,000 is probably being generous and was mostly chosen to make the math easy). With $0 in marketing, expenses, etc. (not realistic) you’d need to be involved in 18 home sales a year to make that happen. That would be 2 sales a month during spring, summer, and fall, and 0 during the three worst winter months.
Those are the optimistic numbers you probably came into the industry with, but with $0 in marketing you’ll quickly realize that the phone isn’t ringing and all that organic marketing crap you read about isn’t as effective as you thought it would be. Let’s say you up your game to $3,000/month in marketing (again, only for 9-months since there’s no sense throwing money away in winter when people aren’t buying): Now we’re up to $27,000 in marketing expenses so to net $90k we need a revenue of $117k. Now we’re up to needing to be involved in 24 sales a year, which would probably be 2.5 sales a month during the 9 months when it’s not painful to be outside and a couple freak sales that came in during the winter.
Now the phone is ringing, but you’re quickly realizing that most of the calls are from tire kickers who aren’t serious about buying/selling, but like having you show them homes to fulfill whatever that does for them. You’re probably getting 5-6 qualified leads a month and are actually realizing 2 sales a month, which wasn’t quite your original goal, but is $90,000 in sales with $63,000 left over after marketing expenses. Not horrible for the amount of work you’re doing!
Of course, now that you’re looking at your actual expenses you’re suddenly realizing that there’s probably another $1,000 per month you didn’t realize was going to be there starting out and that brings you earnings down to $51,000 per year. Still not horrible, right? Oh, that’s right, you’re self-employed, which means that self-employment tax (equivalent of social security and medicare) take 15% off of that, leaving $43,350 before income tax.
Most people in the midwest would kill for a cake job where they put in maybe 3 hours a day of actual work and are making money like that, only in your case you’re barely scraping to get by due to your expensive lifestyle and since sales will vary month to month when you have a month with no sales you’re living off your credit card and hoping next month’s sales will let you pay them off.
Now in time as you’re more established you can ease up on the marketing a bit and probably get involved in some bigger sales to bring your income back up closer to where you wanted it to be, but you’re certainly not living high on the hog right now.
Now some internet hack comes along and tells you that you’re lazy and overpaid and your industry needs to be disrupted? Forget that noise! You don’t want your family to have to start going to the soup kitchen for dinner and waiting under the flag for free cheese.
I’m honestly surprised the Internet hasn’t disrupted this industry long ago. It’s probably one of the most inefficient industries out there, where an agent needs to charge their client thousands of dollars in commissions to deliver what is probably hundreds of dollars in value.