Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Business Marketing

I’m New, I’m Broke, and I’m Finding Solutions

Creating greatness from scratch isn’t always easy

I’ve been working on my site as we discussed last time (as well as working on my career) and as of right now, the site isn’t complete. I’ve had some great ideas (both my own and those from others) and we’ll get into those soon, but in the meantime, in order that you don’t forget me (why would you want to?), I decided to write something to try and help new agents struggling through the same sorts of things I am.

Having scratch to create greatness isn’t always easy either

We all know its not easy your first few months of being an agent. You’re still learning tons, you’re out trying to meet people and get clients to work with, you’re going to training classes, you’re driving back and forth showing people houses, doing open houses, working rentals, and just trying to get your career kick-started. So between the cost of your licensing classes, the test, fingerprinting, local board and national association memberships, MLS dues, SUPRA key cost, desk fees, franchise fees, lunches, etc., you’re probably thinking that this whole idea of being an agent is costing you a fortune and in the first lean months, everything seems a bit hopeless.

Now that you’re a few thousand dollars into your career, the phone calls start. Buy this, order these, we’ll make you rich, we’ll give you leads…you know the ones. Everywhere you turn someone has their hand out and everyone is offering you the solution to your money woes. Some of these companies have great reputations and from my own experience, very well trained sales people. I spent almost an hour listening to a guy one day who talked me into everything he was explaining. Luckily, the one thing he couldn’t do was get me to whip out my war-worn credit cards. I’m a cheap bastard, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t like to get sucked in by these people, but when you’re not selling houses and someone starts explaining how they could help you…well, its as tempting as my wife’s double chocolate fudge brownies.

So, all these people got me thinking. What should I spend my money on? Where can I save money? How can I get stuff for free? So I decided to compile a little list of my favorite ideas for saving my oh-so precious cash.

(Note: For those of you with years of experience, these tips might seem super-obvious, so you might just want to skip to the comments section and leave your best ideas for us new agents to borrow from, I’d hate to bore you.)

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Creating greatness from nothing (or little) with help from others

  • Title companies. Find a great title company that you like and can get along with. Meet the various business development staff and/or marketing managers. Make friends with them. Title companies are a great resource for goodies of all sorts. They set me apart from the rest, with no cost to me (you’d be surprised how few people take advantage of the freebies being offered). At open houses, I use these marketing materials, a copy of the MLS printout, a custom flyer I make, a business card (ok, so I paid for these) and put them all in a folder provided by my broker (that he didn’t pay for either thanks to the various insurance agents, lenders, and handymen that put ads on them). When you come to my open house, you leave with information on the home, information from the title company (current topics include TX tax rates, energy efficiency, local wineries, and a school guide), and my card, all tucked neatly into a folder that potential buyers will open later that night and look through (hopefully). Not only have you given your potential clients something tangible to remind them of you, but you’ve now begun building a relationship with a title company that you can rely on when the sales start happening.
  • Lenders. We all know a good lender can save you in a transaction. One who’s willing to go the distance and turn a crumbling transaction into a happy ending, but what I like about a good lender is their willingness to work with you to help create marketing materials. Need some just listed cards? Get a good lender to advertise with you and split the cost (or get them to foot the whole bill). Want some snazzy flyers printed out to give to potential buyers at your next open house? Ask a lender to make them for you (they’re trying to meet new clients just like you are). The idea is that you do the leg work (hanging out at an open house) and they pay the cost for advertising them (and to your benefit – you).
  • Websites. Build your own. Have a friend do it. Have the kid at the local high school do it. Throw out your template site and create – you’ll find it challenging at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will get. I stayed up all night writing my first AG article, then threw it away and wrote something entirely different, but the satisfaction (and feedback) I received encouraged me to do more and to become more involved. You’ll see…the first step is the hardest. This one isn’t exactly free, but the creative aspect of it comes from your mind…and that doesn’t cost a thing, except time (and maybe a few lattes at the local coffee shop to keep you going).
  • Software. Don’t throw your money away on the latest trend in contact management. Many solutions are out there and free. Open source is the way to go. Need Microsoft Office? Try OpenOffice ( Need Photoshop? Try Gimp ( Need contact management? Try any decent email program (Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail). Take a look at for tons of great software to fit your needs. Best part is, by getting involved in the open source community you can help shape the software to do the things you want it to do.
  • Printing. There are tons of way to go punk-rock-DIY with this. First, there’s some great sites that you can create custom flyers/postcards/brochures and I will be glad to share them with anyone that wants to know (I didn’t want to turn this into one giant ad for all the things I like). Plus Lani wrote a great article right here on AgentGenius about making DIY flyers using readily available items on the internet.
  • Read everything you can. Reading has been my best bet in the early days of my career. Taking classes is a great idea and I don’t discourage you from it at all, but the internet is free. Mostly I read other agents blogs and industry news, but some people swear by the various motivational/sales training books available (and there’s millions of them). I prefer the internet blogs and sites, as they are free and more geared towards what I am trying to build for myself (ie, blogging, new technology, creative ways to let your clients know that you’re not just another agent).

Now its your turn…

These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to get things I needed done for free or on the cheap. What are you doing to create greatness without breaking the bank?

Written By

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."



  1. Lisa Sanderson

    October 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Great, but you forgot to link to the brownie recipe. =)

    You really did cover the big ones. The only other things I would suggest are, following experienced agents around if they’ll let you…go on some appointments with them, and study maps and drive around and learn your territory (you might want to do this on your bike to save on gas :p) Learn as much as you can so that when you do get breathing people in front of you, you can wow ’em with your smarts and your enthusiasm to find the answers they need!

  2. Jim Duncan

    October 23, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    go on some appointments with them, and study maps and drive around and learn your territory (you might want to do this on your bike to save on gas :p

    Ab-so-lutely. I got lost with clients early on in my career – they were new to the area (and apparently so was I) – and I was supposed to be the area “expert.” Ha.

    Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson, and didn’t see or hear from them again.

    Always, always, always, preview a route if you are unfamiliar with the area … and even if you are, it can’t hurt if you haven’t been through a particular area in a couple of weeks – a new coffee shop, construction, demolition …

  3. Benn Rosales

    October 23, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Ah how about borrowing a hot property from a fellow agent for an open house. Locate a popular area with low days on market, find a hot listing and offer the selling agent the opportunity to double their homes exposure over the next weekend. It’s a kick ass way to grab a a buyer or two and meet the neighbors in the neighborhood (you know the curious ones that shop every open house) who may be looking to sell too!

    Make darn sure you have handouts for shoppers of all homes on the market in the hood with your card and remind them you’re only a block away if they need to tour (no pressure of course).

    A fast way of building partnerships with those inside/outside of your brokerage is to preview their vacant listing and give them a shout with feedback. Ask them if they would mind you exposing them home for them- we’ve all been new, most won’t say no. You could blog, craigslist for them daily (a pain in the ass many would pass off to a noob), open home.

  4. Matt Stigliano

    October 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Getting lost is horrible the first few times. I recommend Nav4All if you don’t have a GPS solution. It loads on most PDA-style phones and is FREE. I think I mentioned it before, but thought it would be a good time to re-mention it.

    Speaking of “early on in your career” and “clients” – practice opening lockboxes. Its embarrassing when they don’t open for you with the client holding the screen door for you. Of course, there’s not much you can do when the listing agent gives you the wrong combo for the box and when you call and they insist its correct, only to call you back four hours later to tell you that you were right.

    I try to visit one neighborhood a day, even if I’m just trying to find a short cut.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    October 23, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Benn – I never thought of going outside the brokerage (except for new homes). D’oh! That’s why you run a site with the word “genius” in it.

    I actually have done KB Homes open houses every weekend this month…they love it and I’ve met quite a few potential buyers, plus learned about several neighborhoods that I might not have known about. One thought for people surrounded by new home communities (like we are here in San Antonio)…find out when the companies fiscal year ends. They want to get rid of inventory even more during the time leading up to it and will do whatever they can to help you sell their house that’s a drain on their bottom line.

  6. Bob

    October 23, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Some good ideas there Matt. Here is a freebie:

    Craigslist – find a listing agent with inventory and ask permission to advertise their listings on Craigslist. Tell them you’ll do like IDX and put in some fine print about ‘courtesy of the listing office’.

    I have a couple of agents who do this with my listings. One submits in the morning for those surfing at work and the other in late afternoon for those surfing at home.

    They get buyer leads and I get ongoing multiple ads for my sellers.

    One money saving note of caution – don’t ever cop to or hint at a RESPA violation:

    get them to foot the whole bill

    If you can do the open house gig regularly, the weekly signage is good, cheap effective branding that will lead to listings. And of course those would be “Rock Star” brownies served up.

  7. Paula Henry

    October 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    In this market – I have heard only about one-third of agents are doing any business; meaning more than one transaction a year. Ask around and find those agents who are giving up, ask for their referrals, and pay them a referral fee.

    Craigs List is a great idea!

  8. Jason Sandquist

    October 24, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Don’t do what I did, get every piece of everything that nearly bankrupted me! You don’t need all that crap. I dumped a lot of money into websites that didn’t get me anything because unfortunately that is what I was told I needed.

    The open source stuff is great, doesn’t cost a thing. Open houses and spheres, along with networking is what worked best for me. It was a grind, but fun at the same time. Get in front of people. Get permission to plug other peoples listing. I once worked a listing for another agent so hard (open houses, flyers, etc), got permission for everything, that the sellers actually started to call me, that wasn’t my intentions of course, but it teaches you how to work. I just wanted to meet some buyers.

  9. Ben Goheen

    October 24, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Amen Jason – most of us have done the exact same thing (myself included). I’m now extremely skeptical of EVERY sales pitch and have most rebuttals down to a science.

    Some very inexpensive resources I’ve found are:

    1. business cards – 1,000 for under $16.

    2. With you get a toll free fax number for $10 (once, not monthly) and have unlimited incoming faxes.

    3. WordPress – hosted on your own domain of course. Free and extremely powerful, what else could you ask for.

  10. Matt Stigliano

    October 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Bob – Good point on RESPA. Luckily I have never had someone foot the whole bill, I just typed it in my excitement for what I was trying to get across. I can see where that would raise some eyebrows and I will make a note to watch “excited” phrases like that.

    Jason – An agent in my office with years of experience always tells me his stories about trying everything out in his early years. He gave me a great answer for when someone is trying to sell me leads. His suggestion? “Sure, I’d love to try your product. Give me three free months, and if I close as many deals as you say I will, then I will pay for a full year in advance.” I have yet to be given a three month trial of any lead generation system, but I also haven’t had to listen to several more hours of sales pitch.

    On the subject of teaming up with more experienced agents, I have to say that I have become good friends with one of our top agents in the office. He’s proven invaluable to me in more ways then one. Open house opportunities, rentals (he’s a property manager too), and tons of great conversations where he teaches me the little tips that you can only learn over time (negotiation skills, how to relate to different mindsets when on a listing appointment, etc.). Best of all, we’ve gotten to a point where no matter how busy he is, he takes the few extra moments to answer my call when I’m in a bind and I don’t have the answer. All because I took the time to make a friend and ask questions early on. He’s an overall nice, helpful guy, but I truly feel that he looks after me and wants me to succeed.

    And Benn mentioned feedback…I always give feedback and have actually had a call from the office of one of the superstar agents in town…to thank me for it. Not only did I get points for what I did, but it showed me how the top producers succeed. A simple call made me know that that agent isn’t just some bigshot that doesn’t care…and I’m not even a client, imagine what she does for them!

    Lisa – She makes boxed brownies but I swear they come out better than when I make them. She’s got a magic touch with them. She also makes the best poached eggs and toast. May sound laughable, but I screw both of those up every time.

    Ben – Awesome resources. Thanks for sharing!

  11. loftninja

    November 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    a very encouraging post…very much appreciated. I used to think i was the only one.

  12. Matt Stigliano

    November 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    loftninja – I spent a lot of time feeling like “I was the only one” on a lot of real estate issues. Part of why The Stigliano Chronicles was created by Benn and Lani for me to write. We had several discussions about my experiences in my early days and they often said ask so-and-so, they’ve been there before.

  13. loftninja

    November 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    well i certainly appreciate your blog and all of your helpful advice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



Business Marketing

Airtable presents the drawbacks of your current marketing strategy and what changes need to be made to make it work efficiently.

Business Marketing

As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again - here are three thoughts to ponder going...

Business Marketing

(MARKETING) You may roll your eyes at sexy strangers hawking snake oil on social media, but influencer marketing is nothing new...

Business Marketing

Men are hard enough to buy gifts for, but the male audience can also be hard to target in marketing. Here's our best tips...


The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.