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Are You SURE You Want to be a Realtor?!? – Writer Debut

Writer Debut

Please welcome Michael Bertoldi:

my_avatar_copyPlease welcome Agent Genius’ new writer, Michael Bertoldi who has spent many years in the marketing sector and is now *almost* a real estate professional. We met Michael on Twitter where we talked about technology and college football (see, he’s an Alabama fan and I (Lani) went to Texas, so we’ve got an unfriendly rivalry going on). I learned that he was considering becoming a real estate professional and like a true sadist, I was highly encouraging. By reading his personal blog we gained an appreciation for his writing and creative thought processes, and we thought that his taking our readers along for the ride of his new career would be valuable to him AND for those readers who would benefit from thinking back to their first days. Michael will be crowdsourcing his real estate career right here on Agent Genius and we know this will be a blast!

desksAbout one year ago, my career was going pretty well. I was a copywriter at a local marketing agency downtown. For those who are unfamiliar with copywriting, when you see a funny commercial or a clever billboard, someone came up with that funny or clever concept. That’s what I did. I wrote websites, billboards, brochures, TV commercials, and radio spots.

During this time, I talked to a local real estate agent on twitter. He and I discussed real estate and I found myself very intrigued. First of all, it seems very satisfying and meaningful to help a family new to the area find the perfect home. I love my city and I thought it’d be awesome to welcome new families to Huntsville. Secondly, I wasn’t really on the same page with the higher ups at my marketing company. Last but not least, I thought “Hey, I’m in marketing, it’s what I do. I bet marketing experience would carry over well to real estate.”

So, here I am.

One Year Later, It’s Exam Preparation Time

Since I initially became interested in real estate, a lot has changed. I was married in June, laid off in September, and found out we’re expecting in December. How’s that for a 7 month span!? With that being said, having no real job is bad for two out of those three events. I’ve been blessed to find a great place in Huntsville called the @Homes Realty Group. I’m not only going to be an agent there, but also head of marketing. While not really fruitful yet, this situation has loads of potential. And, with seven months to go until my life changes forever, I’m determined to make something happen. At this point, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with my career. Perhaps I’ll end up in real estate full-time and only pursue marketing on a freelance basis – only time will tell.

I’ve finished my real estate coursework and am preparing to take the exam. I don’t think the coursework was that hard, but it wasn’t that easy either. To all those who think real estate licenses should be harder to acquire, I’d ask, what should the requirements be? I think the real estate license requirements are good, maybe not great, but pretty good as they are. I have a bachelors degree in advertising and a minor in psychology, but I can assure you I can’t remember much about the War of 1812 nor have I used the FOIL method to produce any writing. Would you like real estate to require a 2-year degree? A 4-year degree? I like the fact that real estate course work is all about real estate. Now, what that course work should encompass is something I’ll leave to the professionals, you guys and gals.

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I understand that I’ll probably never be showing a house and have a client say “Hey Michael, do any of the neighbors have an easement by prescription here?” If they do, I’ll be shocked and impressed. By the way readers of AG, how many times have you used “easement by prescription” in your everyday work? What are some other things you learn in the course that are useless in the every day job? I guess those are some of the things that could be changed about real estate. However, just because you seldom use information doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t know it.

So, as I prepare for my exam and my career in real estate, what should I know? What have you learned that wasn’t taught in the coursework? You know the saying “I’m telling you my experience so you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did?” Let’s go for that. But not just mistakes, let’s be positive and talk about successes. What did that mentor teach you that was valuable? More pressing, how did you prepare for the exam? I’ve heard horror stories!

I’m off to read Jonathan Benya’s post on “10 Things I Wish They Taught in Real Estate School.” The comments here are yours.

Written By

Michael is a copywriter turned social media maniac who digs marketing. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he has a degree in advertising with a minor in psychology. His theory: combining traditional advertising and old school values with the technology of today is a great way to go about your business. So what's he doing here? He's a real estate agent trying to find his way. He's taken his license and marketing ideas to @Homes Realty Group in Huntsville, Alabama. He's here to learn from you, the AG community, and hopefully share useful information with you in return. You can find Michael talking marketing at and his real estate blog is



  1. Aaron Charlton

    February 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Copywriting is a perfect fit for real estate now that everyone is online looking for homes. I think you will do well. Good luck!

  2. mWoods

    February 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Congratulations. Please fasten your safety belt and keep your hands in feet in the car at all times, it’s bound to be a bumpy ride. There truly is a reason why the human gestation period is 40 weeks…A lot can happen in that amount of time. You’re going to do very well.

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks for the encouraging words! I’m optimistic and excited myself.

  3. Sheri Moritz

    February 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Good luck and welcome to AG

  4. Patty McDonald

    February 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Work hard, stick with it and promote yourself.

  5. Ross Therrien, Prudential Verani

    February 17, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Welcome aboard and yes fasten your seat belt. After 20 years in real estate I’m still learning.
    Pre-license education is just the footings to this profession. Reality is graduate work.

  6. Pete Skoglund

    February 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Be prepared to be, beyond your fiduciary duties in real estate, a counselor, mediator, emotional negotiator, and bomb difuser. As a former state instructor, please note that real-world real estate and the licensing course are worlds apart. When your Buyer is arguing with a Seller at the closing table over sheets, guess who’s going to WalMart to buy sheets? MOST IMPORTANTLY, when you interview with a Broker, INTERVIEW THEM! Most will gladly welcome you aboard as a glorified free secretary until they get around to training you, which is a waste of your career. “Marketing Professional” sounds like a much more worth while endeavour! GOOD LUCK!

  7. Matt Stigliano

    February 18, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Micahel – First, let’s dispense with the “welcome.” It’s good to see you hear. We should still definitely catch up, I know it’s been hard to do so far.

    Hmmmm…suggestions? When you get your first lockbox key, go set up some previews. Get comfortable with your key and get used to locks that don’t work, doors that stick, and keys that you can’t find. There’s nothing like standing there with a client fumbling around. It was nerve-wracking.

    Read your contract once a day until it really sinks in. Then prepare to not know what any of the words say the first time you sit face to face with a client. It’s a different experience than your contracts class. No matter how easy it seemed then, that first one is a nightmare.

    If you’re wearing a white shirt and you like coffee – carry a back up, especially if you’re rushing to a listing appointment.

    Get to know the inspectors, lenders, and title companies – you may need to experiment before you find the ones that work with you the best, but once you do, you’ll know it. When you find good ones let them know it. You can get a lot done when you have people who appreciate your business as much as you appreciate how hard they work for you.

    Never be afraid to say “hey wait a minute, I don’t get it.” Not just during transactions, but with your marketing (hopefully that will be easy for you), prospecting, and any of your systems. There are a ton of differing opinions out there, don’t be afraid to ask people who may be doing something different than you or your immediate peers. Obviously, being a writer in your position at AgentGenius should make this much easier to do than it is for most people. You’ve got a platform to ask, use it.

    There’s a few things from my earlier morning memory that I would want to know.

    PS I love the use of the green chairs. I spent hours agonizing over which “green” photo I would use for my first post here.

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 18, 2010 at 9:29 am

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Matt!

      Lock boxes and keys – got it. Contracts, man, just the thought of them kind of scares me.

      Things like carrying an extra white shirt to a listing appointment is practical advice that I might not think of until after I’ve already drenched myself in coffee. That’s the kind of “been there, done that” advice that’s so helpful.

      And if I’m not sure how something works or why, I’ll definitely ask – regardless of how dumb it might make me look. Long ago, when I wrote for my high school newspaper (funny right) we were taught to write to the audience as if they knew nothing of the subject – kind of like they were dumb. Well, I’m that audience now, haha.

      Thanks again.

  8. Joe Loomer

    February 18, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Michael, Michael, Michael. Welcome to the Fray!

    – avoid debt like the plague
    – self promote online with your existing skill set
    – avoid print media like you avoid debt (Open House tiny ads excepted)
    – when someone mentions buying/selling, the only words coming out of your mouth should be “can I be your agent?”
    – everything Matt said
    – the pre-license course – if like Georgia’s – teaches you nothing about being an agent, thus you must study every form used in your state
    – shadow a Mega agent at least once a week for minimum two months (at least six million in volume -that’s assuming Huntsville is on par with our market with an average sales price in the $140K-160K range if the average price is higher/lower, adjust the volume of your mentor)
    – feed your database daily, hourly (including weekends)
    – study Good Faith Estimates
    – avoid debt like the plague (did I already say that?)
    – come here often, you’ll learn more here about trends and national market conditions than anywhere else (Lani is the queen of finding cheap/free tech tidbits to help you grow your business)

    Welcome aboard!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 18, 2010 at 9:37 am

      Thanks Joe,

      This is definitely a check list I can use. Avoid debt, avoid debt, avoid debt. Got it.

      I agree, print advertising is lacking. If I ever used print it’d probably be simply for brand awareness, not really expecting much ROI other than that. Then again, I don’t see me using it anytime soon.

      The pre-license exam teaches you nothing about being an agent? That’s what I’m hearing. But, it’s not that disheartening. I’m more of a hands on learner anyway.

      I’m blessed to already know who I’ll be working with, and she’s a good one. And you are right about Matt and Lani. Both do what they do and do it well. I’ll be back here often to learn from people like them and yourself!

      Thanks for stopping by Joe and thanks for your service to our country.

  9. Ken Brand

    February 18, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Welcome to AG and welcome to Wild World of Real Estate.


  10. Justin Boland

    February 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

    This is a fascinating article for me, because I was literally asking this rhetorical question over a Guinness not more than two nights ago: “Are people actually getting INTO the Real Estate business?”

    Apparently so! I really appreciated the details here. Personally, I’m more interested in housing than houses, but as any analyst knows, Realtors are the superhuman engine of the industry. Good luck in 2010.

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

      Thank you Justin. I’m hoping it all works out and looking forward to a good year in 2010. Here’s to a great year for you as well.

  11. Madison homes for sale

    February 18, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Welcome to real estate, Michael! A few pearls of wisdom that have worked for me:

    -never attempt to guess where the lot lines are located (it could come back to bite you)
    -if you don’t know something, say, “I don’t know but if it’s important to you, I’ll find out” (most of the time people will tell you it’s not that important)
    -make sure you invest in car chargers for everything real-estate related that could run out of juice
    -get ready to work harder (and longer hours) than you have ever done in your previous life!

    Best of luck to you in your new career! Being a good writer and marketeer is so critical to being a successful agent today. I’m sure you’ll do fabulously well!

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 18, 2010 at 3:03 pm

      Thank you for the kind words! Hopefully my wife learn to get over the “long hours” part. haha

  12. Grant Hammond

    February 18, 2010 at 11:41 am

    As it relates to real world use, most state real estate exams are much more difficult than what will be asked of you every day as a practicing real estate agent. But, you will get that one deal that will call all of those random riparian rights knowledge you can muster onto front stage and on that day, you will be glad that you studied.

  13. Grant Hammond

    February 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

    The one piece of advice that I can give is to NEVER act as a dual agent, it’s a bad idea and should be an illegal practice IMHO. Dual agency is inherently an oxymoron am impossible to achieve.

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 18, 2010 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks Grant.

      I figured that a lot of real estate coursework won’t come into play in everyday work, but at times it may show up.

      The dual agency debate is one that has been supercharged around here lately and to be completely honest I have found myself on the fence at times. But I guess I’ve got plenty of time to make up my mind and I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I’ve got to pass the exam first and foremost.

  14. BawldGuy

    February 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Michael — Before I say anything, both Matt and Joe gave excellent advice.

    If possible, get one on one mentoring by the most experienced, successful agent you can find. Take as much of their time as they’ll allow, and become their bitch if that’s what it takes.

    Real estate is the highest paid hard work, and the lowest paid easy work you’ll find. You’ll also notice there’s essentially no middle class in the business. You’re either pretty successful, on your way to that status, or on your way out.

    But if there’s one thing I could impart to you, it would be this: Get your first 10,000 hours in as quickly as you humanly can. Not only is repetition the best teacher, hands down, it will set the stage for an explosion in business and referrals in roughly 3-4 years. Understand too, that by repetition, I don’t mean ‘practice makes perfect’. I mean ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. 🙂 That’s not to say hard work won’t produce a handsome income now, cuz it will. But regardless of how much you may initially make, once those first 10,000 hours are under your belt, you’ll skyrocket.

    Solid expertise, knowledge, experience, and the simple ability to consistently produce results can’t be underestimated.

    The best of luck to you.

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks BawldGuy.

      Seems like your comment summarizes to “you get what you put in” right? I’ll definitely be getting the mentoring necessary to be successful. And of course, I’ll work hard and do my best to make sure I’m in that successful part of the industry.

      10,000 hours as fast as possible. Check.

      Thanks again for the advice. It’s people like you that will make being here invaluable.

  15. Dave Choate

    February 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    You’ll rarely use anything you learned in real estate school in real life. The most successful REALTORs are networkers. Stay in touch with your friends on Facebook on a daily basis. Compliment them on their posts. Above all else, be likeable.

  16. Jay Ferguson

    February 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Good for you! If yern for an adventure that is always changing, nothing is the same, almost confusing at times you have found it.

    – learn to say no
    – don’t let just anyone in your car, some people think realtors have all of this free time
    – Saturday is now your new Monday!
    – host as many open houses as you can, fill your database, talk the talk
    – find a supportive broker who can help you grow your business
    – avoid on0line marketing leads, they don;t really work
    – slick web site tied to your blog
    – offer classes to other realtors on what you know best until you get your feet off the ground

    Lastly, don’t take youself too serious and have fun!

  17. Elizabeth Cooper-Golden

    February 20, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Michael, I’m so so excited to have you on board. Tim and I are the lucky ones to have you. We both are confident you will set the market on fire here in Huntsville 🙂 You have all the right “stuff” and will acheive great things in your life, both in the Real Estate field and out.

    Hang on for the ride. I’ll do my best to make it as smooth as possible! Congratulations on your new role at Agent Genius. You are ‘da bomb!

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 21, 2010 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks Coop. Glad you could stop by! I think we’re in for some big things in 2010.

  18. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Welcome, Michael – wonderful debut. My advice is: take a psych course, study the art of negotiation, never “spend” a check before it’s cashed, never assume anything, get everything in writing, polish your shoes, and learn to live without sleep. And if you ever decide to sell in L.A., bone up on botox and the Kardashians 🙂

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm

      Haha. Thanks Gwen. Those are solid tips. I actually minored in psychology in college and I’m glad you suggested that. Maybe it’ll come in handy! If I run out of time and have to leave one of those off, it’ll probably be botox. I’ve actually had to watch the Karadashians when it just happened to be on the TV. My wife’s doings, not mine. Thanks again!

  19. Missy Caulk

    February 21, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Welcome to Agent Genius.

    My advice is to you is to not feel you need to buy every marketing gadget that comes along.
    Except for the law you learn pre-licensing you don’t use much of it.

    I hired a coach my second year in the business, who taught me systems that I still use today.

    I look forward to your posts.

    • Michael Bertoldi

      February 21, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      Thank you Missy! Regarding pre-licensing, I’m thinking that’s going to be the consensus.

      I look forward to your comments! Keep them coming!

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