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Are real estate professionals actually masochists?

Lured by a national real estate frenzy , people flocked to get their real estate licenses during the boom. Our industry was flooded with part-timers, moonlighters and straight up amateurs chasing quick commissions and fast deals.

You could throw an ashtray on the market and it would command multiple offers! But then, as we all painfully know, the market imploded on itself. Without the promise of easy money, these agents deserted the business as fast as they joined….which leaves the rest of us. Why do we stay?

Let’s be honest. Behind the glitz and glam of the business, being a real estate agent is often an endless string of heartbreak & disappointment. The vast array of things we put up with, all in the hopes of even snagging one deal, never ceases to astound me. Doing shift after shift of floor time hoping for that mythical walk-in buyer, cutting down a small rain forest to blanket your ’hood with postcards, thrusting your business card any chance you get at friends, families, strangers, frenemies, begging to host an open house (“No really! I’m more than just a warm body!”) where you’re lucky to even get some nosy neighbors, spending a disproportionate number of hours blogging, tweeting, facebooking, hoping to god someone out there mistakes your stabs at social media as bonafide real estate experience. We spin our wheels & jump through hoops without any proof there is a pay off.

The roller coaster of uncertainty

Let’s say the real estate gods smile upon you & toss you a lead. Well, the roller coaster of uncertainty doesn’t stop there. You grow a new set of gray hairs fretting about agents poaching your client, buyers getting burned out after you spend every weekend for 6 months shopping, out of town appraisers coming in under value & blowing your deal, overly picky home inspectors taking out their frustrated contractor dreams out on your house, skittish buyers backing out over (fill in the blank), a revolving door of inaccessible asset managers who lose your file & don‘t seem to care, loan agents informing you “Loan Denied!” right before a signing…That’s just scratching the surface! And this is all before you’ve even been paid a darn cent!

More than any professional career, there are absolutely no guarantees in the real estate game. And yet, we remain. We plug along, eeking out a living. If it were only about money, we would have bailed long ago with the aforementioned fair-weathered agents after the market crashed. There must be more to it than moola.

Why do we do it?

Why do we endure such pain & agony for this tumultuous job? I believe all us agents have a streak of masochism. No one put a gun to our head and forced us to choose this life. We can walk away anytime as independent contractors. So why do we soldier on in the face of such discouraging odds? What is the allure? Autonomy? Helping others? Thrill of the deal? Insanity? Please share your reasons on why you are still a Realtor!

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Written By

Watch Real Estate Expert Herman Chan put the REAL back in REALTY. In his show Habitat for Hermanity, Herman skewers the real estate business and pokes fun at his fellow agents, all the while empowering buyers & sellers with behind-the-scene tips & secrets of the industry! Get a glimpse beyond the glitz & glam of real estate. It's a hot mess! Featured on HGTV, House Hunters & other media outlets, Herman is the undisputed Real Estate Maven whose helpful & hilarious commentary you just can't live without! In fact, his real estate TV show has just been optioned in Hollywood!



  1. Deb Tabor

    July 11, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I vote insanity!

    No, actually – I do this for a number of reasons. First off, as primarily a buyer’s agent, I love the thrill of the hunt. I love negotiating a win/win. I love that excitement as first-timers open THEIR door with THEIR keys (I don’t love it so much when they call me because they’ve found x, y, and z wrong, but I know it goes with the territory *grin*). Second, I love working for myself. I love that my office is in my dining room, and I love not having to be behind a desk 8-5 Monday through Friday. Being a Realtor gives me time to work on another venture as well, hand-batching and selling sipping vinegars. I couldn’t work Farmers Markets from a desk.

    I love this job, even when I’m worried about when my next check will come in, and I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can.


    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      “hand-batching and selling sipping vinegars”

      deb, that is a great point. selling real estate does afford us the chance to pursue our other interests.

  2. Charlie Pitkin

    July 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Ironic I should come across this tonight. I was chatting about this very topic with an entrepreneur friend of mine on a run around Town Lake in Austin this evening. At one point in the conversation I mentioned I’ve never made “less” in my professional career, yet never have I been wealthier.

    Three things came to mind.

    1. The challenge of making a deal come together. Whether it be finding a buyer for that impossible listing or helping find that elusive dream home for a buyer, there is nothing more satisfying than mission accomplished. I’m very competitive by nature so maybe that’s why this is my #1 reason.

    2. The ability to wake up in the morning and set the game plan. I love being able to call the shots on what I can do that day to make my client’s life a little better.

    3. Seeing first hand good people get good things. I know it sounds cliche, but having the ability to choose who you work with gives you a much better chance at working with incredibly nice well meaning people. Being part of them walking into the most meaningful purchase or sale of their lifetime gives me goose bumps everytime. It’s for this reason I am very careful who I will work with. No commission is worth missing out on this experience.


      July 13, 2010 at 5:23 am

      “I mentioned I’ve never made “less” in my professional career, yet never have I been wealthier.”

      so true! when i removed myself from the rat race, i can’t believe how much happier i became. money isn’t everything!

  3. Joe Loomer

    July 12, 2010 at 8:47 am

    I’ve gotta go with Charlie’s #3 here – it’s that simple – the reaction at the closing.

    I would also say it’s those of us in this market who are toughing it out that will reap the reward when the market stabilizes. The Chinese expression of the word “Crisis” is a combination of the characters for “Danger” and “Opportunity.” That pretty much sums up why we’re still at it.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

      thx for teaching me some chinese… confucius would be proud!

  4. Larry R Martin

    July 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I got lucky when I started in my career in real estate. I chose the business because I learned to love land when I was a child, and began learning about it from others who knew how to make a living dealing in it, and building things on it.

    After many other interesting distractions (jobs) in other fields, I was encouraged by one of my wife’s bosses (a successful Silicon Valley industrial real estate developer) in 1975, to check out commercial brokerage. The man I was introduced to who was later to become my mentor, taught me ways of being in the business which assured ethical, honest survival, no matter what the market conditions. Such has been the case for me.

    Today, I look back on that training and realize my fortunate blessings for the privilege to have received it. I see more opportunity in toady’s market than I have seen in most every other market since I started in the business. If you are under 35 years of age, this is the start of the market of a lifetime!

    If your real estate career is struggling for all the reasons cited in Mr. Chan’s excellent article, I encourage you to find a seasoned, successful, local real estate professional who knows several (at least 3) past declining markets, and submit yourself to him/her for mentoring Then, pick their brain clean!

  5. LesleyLambert

    July 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Boy do I hope Joe is right about reaping the rewards for sticking this out! I know that the economy has sent most of the hobby agents running to some other job (good news) and I do like that aspect of things.

    I am entering my 22nd year in real estate and am still doing it for a number of reasons:

    #1- flexible schedule
    #2- love helping people, I never met a good agent that didn’t
    #3- ability to run my own business…no real boss per se
    #4- no income cap (other than what the economy has set)

    There are more reasons than those, but that covers the biggest of them.

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      “hobby agents” HAHA! i’m going to start using that term.

  6. Richard Craycroft

    July 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Sorry, but I have to take issue with a comment in your article:

    “overly picky home inspectors taking out their frustrated contractor dreams out on your house”

    You hear it all the time, “That Inspector is a deal killer”. Let me assure you I have never killed a deal. The deal may have killed itself, but I did not kill it. The deal may have had a touch of “assisted suicide”, but I have never killed a deal.

    I did not build the house, I was not the City Inspector on the house, I was not the sub contractor on the house, I was not the builder’s quality control on the house, I was in fact nowhere near this house until a client set an appointment for me to Inspect this house. I have no opinion regarding anything about this house. I did NOT create the problem.

    I am however, REQUIRED BY LAW to report the conditions present at this house. I observe, I report; that is my job. That is what I was hired to do. That is what I am REQUIRED BY LAW to do. That is what I do. I do that very well.

    So, do I kill deals? Or does the occasional deal kill itself?

    That being said, I feel Realtor’s pain. I have been doing this for over a decade. Realtors are my friends, my colleagues, and even my wife! I am not out to make your lives hell. Quite frankly, I save your butt more often than not. At the end of the day, we are all in this together. Our client’s interest MUST come first. If one house sucks, there are 10 others that are great.

    • Herman Chan

      July 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      richard, to be fair, there are good and not so good home inspectors…..just like there are some good and not so good realtors who also blow deals ( i know we don’t like to talk smack about our own, but, hey, it does happen!) ie, some snooty agents have an ego the size of jupiter , and let it get in the way of servicing the client first and foremost. or some are just so incompetent you wonder how they ever passed the state exam!

  7. Charlie Pitkin

    July 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Hey Richard,

    How you doing man?

    Thanks for always doing an awesome job for my clients. I’m quite certain you are not to be thrown into the lump of “overly picky home inspectors taking out their frustrated contractor dreams out on your house”.

    Having been on site with both the “good and bad” inspectors, I can kind of see both sides here. At the end of the day the deal can come down to not the “quality” of the house, but the “quality” of the inspectors delivery. There are those inspectors out there that are as sensitive as a Bull in a China shop. These inspectors lose sight of the home buyer, who’s #1 fear is buying a lemon. They come across a bad GFCI outlet and present it as if it will likely kill their first born child! The same problem delivered with good bed side manner sounds much more like “It’s a $15 dollar part down at the home depot and any electrician can have it swapped out in 15 minutes.” Same problem, two different deliveries and two drastically different reactions from the buyer.

    A good inspector, like yourself, is seen an asset not a liability to a Realtor. Y’all can take the emotion out of a purchase and present the good, bad, and ugly all within the context of the big picture. A good inspector can ease a buyer’s concerns even if their house not the perfect one…which I have yet to find.

  8. Jim Whitlock

    July 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Charlie – Well stated and spot on!

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