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What Separates the Rookie Realtors From the Pros?

What separates the Rookies From the Pros?

There are many things that separate the rookie agents from the pros. One of the things I notice is how they each manage their time on the job. If someone calls a rookie and asks to see a listing, they drop what they are doing, change their schedule if necessary and go do it, even when the listing is not their own. That doesn’t sound bad on the surface but if you look at the big picture it is a bad habit to get into. I have never lost a dime or an opportunity by telling a prospect that I don’t have any openings today. If they really want to work with me they will wait, and I am worth the wait.

We sometimes get into thinking that customer service is about giving up an afternoon off because someone wants something. As the rookie agents business grows he or she is in danger of burning out as the demands keep coming and he or she keeps responding. The more clients we work with the more demands and eventually we can’t do it all. We end up being able to serve fewer clients and ultimately make less money because of it. We do need to have some flexibility but we also have tasks that need to be completed everyday if we want to keep our business’s humming and growing. Being a great Realtor takes more than just being available.

The professionals

The Pros, schedule vacations and days off. They are there for their spouses and children. They know that their business is not about the potential of making a quick buck on a holiday because some stranger happens to be in town and wants to see a property now. They are in the business for the long haul. Being available just isn’t enough anyway. There doesn’t seem to be an exact correlation between how many hours worked and how much income is earned. There are always more demands and always something to do, and we can work smarter instead of harder.

What is an emergency anyway? Is it an emergency when someone calls and says they have been thinking about selling and they want you to come over and look at the place today? Will you lose the contract if you are booked and it will have to wait a couple of days? I honestly think my clients have more respect for me because they know that I am busy and not just sitting by the phone waiting for them to call to go house hunting. When they have respect for me my job is far more enjoyable, and easier too.

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I have been known to juggle a bit or squeeze someone in but it is usually because I have a day coming up with no appointments and I want to keep it that way. People who pick up the phone and call random agents when they want to see a home often do not make very good clients. They are the same people who hop from realtor to realtor and pick the agent of convince who is in the right place at the right time. I am not the right agent for them. They will make me work hard and will only be loyal as long as I can accommodate their every whim, which isn’t very long because I have other clients.

More than availability

Most experienced agents have much more to offer than availability, most rookies have little more to offer than availability. There is always that story about the agent who got a million dollar deal because they answered the phone on thanksgiving. It does happen but not often enough so that it is worth sacrificing every thanksgiving just in case. Rookies are taught that they need to be responsive. We all need to be responsive but working with out a plan and jumping from one emergency to another is not the way to grow a business. The behavior will limit business growth, and make what can be a great job a living hell.

Some of the rookies have been in business for many years. They will never move beyond the rookie stage until they learn to take charge of their schedules and their lives. They also jeopardize their relationships with their spouses and families, while limiting the growth of their businesses. They can’t keep promises or honor commitments because when business calls they just leave other responsibilities. Who wants to be married to someone who puts work before family? Who wants to work with a spouse who never stops and does not put any value on personal time or relationships? Does a good parent miss a little league game because a client suddenly decideds they need to see a home now?

Just say when

It is easy to take charge. Just tell the caller when you will be available. If the potential client moves on, trust me you would have not wanted them for a client or have been able to serve them anyway. It is OK to say no to potential clients who are too demanding. It is in your own best interests to do so. One bad client can ruin a day, or even a week and make it much harder to run a business or serve other clients. While you run out to show that one prospect you may never see again, someone else’s listing, consider what you could have been doing with that time. Often what you could have been doing, or should have been doing was a better way to generate revenue. Unfortunately this only sinks in after you showed the home and the client moves on.

Plan ahead, be strategic, have a schedule. Get your work done, have fun and schedule time off. Be there in the here and now for the people who need you. Reward yourself for working hard and take a day or even an afternoon off for the heck of it. Being available is not what it takes to be a professional Realtor, it is how rookies get started because they have plenty of time but no business. Don’t limit your job and your life by being always and forever available. Being available won’t make you richer, it will just make you tired.

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Written By

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.



  1. Rob Aubrey

    March 26, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Well said T. I remember a trainer saying that the freedom comes from a very tight and rigid schedule.

    You are so right about the come and meet me now people. You can have them, they typically have no respect for anyone or anything that is one inch past their nose.

    When you have a plan and a schedule you have predictability.

    I teach newer agents that I am never rejected. Of course they all lok at me with the deer in the headlights look.

    Then I go on to explain
    If I am to work with someone they must be;
    Willing to follow my procedure
    Follow my schedule ( i am flexible when for their work schedule, not their social schedule)
    They must be motivated and they must meet me at my office (buyers) the first time

    If they do not fit the above I do not work with them. Therefore I reject them, they do not reject me.

  2. Missy Caulk

    March 26, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Teresa, this is excellent. Busy agents can drop everything and run out anyway. Rookies can. Honestly everytime I have dropped what I was doing to meet someone it was a disaster. Once a lady on my daughers basketball team called, she had to see me RIGHT NOW. So I went, listed their house, got an offer the first person that looked at it and had to deal with psycho woman the whole transaction.

    That was about 7 years ago and I learned a hard lesson. If they are demanding upfront, that is what they will be the entire time.

    Lesson learned…

  3. Teresa Boardman

    March 26, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Rob – I like to go one step further, I won’t work with anyone that I don’t feel like I can trust. I don’t think the general public gets that we can be taken advantage of and we sometimes do need to protect ourselves.

    Missy – at least you made some money. The scenario you describe often does not result in revenue just in missing family time or messing up the rest of the day. Took me about four years in the business to learn the truth about jumping every time someone asks me to. Had to be burned a couple of times before I really got it.

  4. Mike Farmer

    March 26, 2008 at 9:26 am

    I’ve been much more selective the past few years, especially with listings. I refuse to list just naything that comes along. I will list a good property if it makes sense financially, otherwise I’ll pass.

    I carried a third of the listings I usually carry last year and had a more financially successful year.

  5. Mike Farmer

    March 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

    or, I should have said — “last year I carried a third of the listings I usually carry”

    And, by not carrying less productive listings I had more time for chocolate.

  6. Chris Shouse

    March 26, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Excellent post Teresa I have been there done that dropping everything. It makes life so much more pleasant when you schedule and not panic thats the feeling you get panic you are going to miss the $$$. Maybe you also feel a little guilt because you are suppose to be in the service industry.

  7. Teresa Boardman

    March 26, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Chris – That idea of Guilt because we are in a customer service industry is just wrong. customer service is not about constant availability. Doctors are also in the customer service industry and they save lives, they have office hours, but most don’t work seven days a week and they play golf. They handle life and death emergencies, but real estate is not a life and death emergency.

    Mike – anything that increases chocolate consumption time should be embraced by our industry and by the general public. I walk from listings almost every week. It just means I have fewer listings but my sales will remain about the same.

  8. Christine Rich

    March 26, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    New voice here — from a rookie in business less than a year. I just had to interject today, because my very first transaction was just like the ones you are all warning about, and I learned my lesson big time. We at least got to settlement but it was heck getting there. This customer (not client) came running into the office asking to get a ride to a listing. Well, I was the only agent there at that moment, and so took it on as a learning experience, and it was. Never again. As a rookie, though, it takes mucho confidence not to do such things.

    By the way, if any of you read Seth Godin’s blog (, you ought to do so today. He’s on the same wavelength.

  9. Collene

    March 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Very well written article on our industry’s customer service.

    This is the age old delima that we all face …do I respond quickly…YES. Do I accomodate…Maybe or if you have the time…we each have to be accessible but we do not have to disrupt our schedules unduly. I think we have all done it when we have been “hungry”. Do I like doing it …No. I try to get them to match my schedule and this usually gives me a chance e-mail them or call and visit with them a little further to get more information.

  10. Jonathan Dalton

    March 26, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    And this comes on a day when I have a listing appointment in 19 minutes scheduled two hours ago in haste. Though to the plus, it forced me to push out a buyer who has looked at a home seven times and wants to see it an eighth. “Can’t you have an assistant show it to us now?” Unfortunately, no. You need to give me some notice.

    Today aside, I’ve abandoned most pop-up showings.

  11. Teresa Boardman

    March 26, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Collene – even when agents are hungry they still need to keep focused and not waste time running after anyone who calls.

    Jonathan – Had a similar situation with a listing appointment last week. Ended up asking them to wait two days. I was very tired and busy when they contacted me. Met with them two days later, last Saturday, they signed the contract and it goes on the market Monday. I think I did a better job with them and even in looking out for their best interests because I was well rested and not rushed during the appointment. I had time to prepare and felt confident about the prices I came up with.

  12. Sean Purcell

    March 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm


    Great post. When I was a young originator I was given some very good advice by a coach I had at the time. He said, “I separate my home from my work and my work from my home… and thereby stay married to both.”

    What is amazing is how difficult it is to engage agents in time management. Now that I am doing the coaching I have a lot of opportunity. I will almost always ask any group I am speaking in front of if they use time blocking and the answer is roughly 1 in 10. (Most use To Do lists which, as I explain at the time, is not time management; it is firefighting.)

    Time Management is by far the most important workshop we offer agents, but do you know how many sign up on their own? Hint: it’s less than one. ๐Ÿ™‚ Everyone wants the sizzle and ignores their core. The only way I can get people to attend something this important is to sex up the name. Lately I am thinking The Millionaire Maker- Learn the Secret Four Letter Word to Success (of course, the word is: time)

  13. Jamie Geiger

    March 26, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Great post and oh so true. I have been guilty as a rookie of running to show a listing and as you stated -the people that expect this reaction are not loyal and are agent hoppers. In fact I had people call me Easter Sunday wanting to see a listing and I told them I would be happy to schedule an appointment for Monday. I figure if they are serious buyers they will call me to schedule an appt.

  14. Jim Duncan

    March 26, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I think that running after any and everyone who calls tends to (and leads to) the devaluing and perceived valuing of what we do.

    Great post.

  15. Bob

    March 26, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Sean, the master of time management in this business is in your backyard – Gregg Neuman. He would make a great interview for you.

  16. ines

    March 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm


  17. Sean Purcell

    March 26, 2008 at 10:09 pm


    Thanks for the head’s up! I will see if he’ll agree to a phone interview and post it. I will keep you updated.

  18. Joshua Ferris

    March 26, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    A truly magnificent read. You’ve managed to pack in quality advice and eloquent writing which is no small feat. This is why I subscribe to AG! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Lisa Heindel

    March 27, 2008 at 1:58 am

    Unfortunately, this seems to be a lesson that we all have to teach ourselves. Hopefully, it only takes being stood up or abandoned by a potential client once or twice to learn that you have to be in control of your own schedule or it will just wear you down. When I was a rookie, with no appointments scheduled for the day, it seemed like a “win” to be able to add one to my calendar. Now, I’m much more guarded about my available time and offer options that fit my schedule as well as the clients.

  20. Bill Lublin

    March 27, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Teresa : Great post – I am one of those nuts who always kept the cell phone on and answered it at bizarre times because I figured it was the way to give great service – until my wife pointed out that I was not a heart surgeon and no one was going to die if a call had to wait a little while to be returned – You’re so right that there has to be a balance –
    My worst choice was the one time I ever went in to the office on a Saturday night (during an earlier recession) to work on a deal with a buyer who “couldn;t make it any other time” – Business was reallt tough (worse then now) my som was really young – and I really needed the transaction – Long story short – it was a long time consuming waste – and I never did that agin – and my business (during good times and bad) endured and grew –
    And on the more important topic of chocolate – I’m thinking it should be declared either a food group or a vegetable si that it might reach the appropriate stature in the food community – What’s your opinion? (And where do you fall in the dark chocolate versus milk chocolate controversy?)

  21. Teresa Boardman

    March 27, 2008 at 5:10 am

    Bill – I have my blackberry programed to turn it self off every night at 8:00 PM and on at 6:30 AM. On the weekends it comes on at 8:00 in the morning and off at 5:00 in the evening. I do this so that I don’t throw it at a wall or something.

    About the chocolate. I wrote a Friday post about it and some of my clients saw it. Yesterday I went to write an offer for some buyers and met them at a local coffee shop. They brought me a chocolate egg to munch on while I was writing the offer. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Chocolate, great coffee and two of the most wonderful clients I have ever had the privilege to work with. Made me think about this post and how I only want to work with people who understand chocolate. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jim – you make a great point about value. That might even be an entire AG post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sean – I tried time blocking and found it to be too structured of an approach for me. I have a kind of creative bent and it just messes me up, as in if I don’t feel like writing I can’t. What I do is plan each week and schedule work times, and tasks that need to be completed. I also stick in some things that I want to do that are fun or relaxing. When I get everything done, which I sometimes do, the rest of the week is mine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Toby & Saide

    March 27, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I’m right in the middle of this right now. I’m realizing that I need to keep business moving, but that without spending time with my wife – why does it matter?

    I used to feel guilty for pushing a client back a day, or saying “I’m packed full on Saturday, can we do Sunday or Monday?” Now I realize that in this market being “busy” is a very-good sign to your clients.

  23. Toby & Saide

    March 27, 2008 at 10:18 am

    just not too much “busy” which makes it look like you are ignoring them.

  24. maggiechandler

    March 27, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    totally agree. sometimes there is a serious buyer and a genuine sense of urgency but in almost all cases where the public…and other agents….are so demanding, it results in either no transaction or a super difficult person to work with. the message i get from a demanding buyer or seller who wants you to be available right now is that they have no respect for you and think a lot of themselves.

  25. Cyndee Haydon

    March 27, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Teresa – When someone shared the idea of real time voice mail – I saw how liberating it was and people actually valued me more – knowing what I was doing, when I would call back and that when I was with them I would be focused too. I agree – sometimes wanting to give amazing service by being available actually works against us and our perceived value.

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