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11 Things A New Agent Should Know (or Thanks For Stating The Obvious*)

The Stigliano Chronicles - Simple & Obvious

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

In having changed offices recently, I’ve been doing a bit of self-reflection. What has worked, what hasn’t. Where I should refocus and where I need to reinvest my efforts. What I believe in and what I would tell someone I learned so far. I haven’t been an agent for eons, but because of the slow market, I think I was at an advantage…I had time on my side and an eager willingness to learn.

Advantage newbie.

When I started, I dove in with almost reckless abandon. I was never reckless with the clients, but with my thoughts, theories, and ideas – I listened, took chances, and said to hell with some of the things I was being told. I took in wisdom and advice from those with more experience, but also listened with hesitancy. I didn’t want to learn just the “old way” – I wanted to learn the “new way” and combine it with the practical and sensible from the age old real estate principles. Obviously, I aligned myself with many of you that come here. I saw something I understood, was comfortable with, and wanted to see become more prevalent in the industry. The idea that technology and open-source style ideas weren’t a nuisance or detriment to our business. That online social interaction can bring about meaningful real life interaction. That cutting edge tools and off beat ideas can lead to some of the great discoveries that lead to meaningful change in the industry.

Things I’ve learned.

If you want to be part of something, you have to join in. When I first read AgentGenius, something spoke to me in those posts. I knew there were people out there that wanted more out of real estate than just commission checks. I discovered people that spoke geek (some more than others) and I could get along with. I even found some of them to have musical tastes that were right in line with my own. But, I sat there…admiring them, listening and learning. One day, I spoke up. Not long after I was invited to join AgentGenius as a regular writer. Had I never taken my first step to join the discussion, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Quality over quantity. I guess I learned this years ago really. My mom used to always tell me, my teachers did, and so did the many cooks I worked under in my days in the food industry. Whether it’s followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook, blog posts, agents that I count as friends, referral network agents, or houses I list; the rule still applies. Make what you do quality and make those around you accountable to that quality. If they don’t want to play the game your way, cut them loose. You don’t need dead weight pulling you down.

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Fail early and fail often. Failure is an option.

If your broker isn’t there, you don’t have a broker. If your broker speaks to you only through memos and a company newsletter, you might as well not have a broker. A broker should be around and available. If not, you might as well be let lose on the world without a clue. Your broker should be there to help you, guide you, and encourage you. A broker should be experienced and knowledgeable, but still open to suggestion. If they’re not, find a new one. Do it sooner rather than later.

Make good friends with someone you think is awesome. Sounds obvious, right? Have someone you know you can call late at night when you’re not feeling like you can keep going. Know that they’ll be your support when you need it most. Look for someone who wants nothing more than for you to be successful. They’re out there. Trust me on that one.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong. You should try to avoid being wrong when it comes to a client’s transaction, but when you’re discussing theories, new ideas, or possible business practices – make mistakes. Say something stupid in front of those agents with god-like reputations. Let them correct you. Don’t get offended…learn.

Listen in before you butt in. I encourage interaction earlier, but make sure you “know” something about the people involved before you start yapping at them. Jeff Turner is a great example. I knew his name, but I didn’t know who he was or what he did. I listened to him. Once I figured out enough about him to be comfortable, I asked him a few questions. He responded. We talked and I felt enlightened when I came away. I’m afraid to meet the man, because he might blow my mind. In fact, a lot of what we talked about was listening to the conversation around you. If I had just jumped into conversation with him on day one, he might not have responded with interest.

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Don’t be anyone but yourself. I don’t think you should show up with Slayer pouring out of your stereo and your favorite beer in hand to a showing, but don’t be afraid to be personal. I have clients who have seen my tattoos, listened to my records, and know my favorite beer. That didn’t happen on day one, but as we formed a relationship we built up trust and talked about things outside of real estate. Trust and comfort go hand in hand. If your clients are comfortable with you and trust you, your business will be easier, more fun, and go further than one transaction.

Surround yourself with positivity. Don’t surround yourself with false positivity. If the market crashes tomorrow, don’t call me and tell me how wonderful real estate is. Don’t lie. To your clients or yourself. What I am saying is that if everyone you work with is crying and saying “this is too hard” you might want to consider a change of venue. I don’t like the sunshine and roses approach to real estate that some agents preach. “Now is a good time to buy” can grate on my nerves. Be truthful, but don’t get mired down in the gutter by thinking everything is negative. If you don’t like your situation there is only one thing you can do about it – change it.

Read AgentGenius. Ok, so you think I’m just doing a bit of butt-kissing here. Go ahead and think it, but you can thank me later. When a site exists with the intent to encourage, support, question, and argue; you need to pay attention. An open forum with different opinions there is no “company line” here. The day Benn and Lani tell me I don’t fit into their “mold” I’m out of here. You’ve got a little bit of everything here – humor, new agents (that’s me), fact, news, opinion, discussion, dissension, community, and life lessons. If you can’t learn something here each week or find something to comment and discuss on, you’re not reading the posts.

Connect the dots. The greatest thing I’ve learned to do in the past year is to “connect the dots.” Lani taught me this the best. When I started here, she spent a lot of time introducing me to a lot of you and people outside of here. I watched her do it for me, then continued to watch her do it every day on Twitter and in emails. Lani sees an important aspect of each person and inter-relates them. She is a connector. As I watched her, I started to see connections myself. Now I am connecting people in my local community that may have never crossed paths. Being the connector puts you in the position to network without the handshake and “Hello, my name is…” tag on your shirt. Just practice it when you can…you’ll see. If it wasn’t for Lani, I might not have ever met Kristin Moran and I probably wouldn’t be at the office I am now.

Nothing ground breaking in there.

A little common sense and thinking out loud really. I hope some of the newer agents will read through it and see something they might be missing. It’s not easy being “new” at times. I’d love to see some thoughts on what the more experienced agents learned when they started. Not the “read this book” or “prospect x hours a day” kind of stuff though, we get enough of that from our brokers and other agents (not that it’s not appreciated – just a different focus here). Give us something simple, give us something that will make us slap our foreheads in typical V-8 style. Speaking of giving…thanks. You’ve all given me a lot in the past year and I hope to repay it someday with the most mind-numbing post you can imagine.

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* I realize a lot of this seems obvious, but some of it took me awhile to really latch onto. Perhaps there will be a nugget there for you to latch onto, perhaps it will spark a new idea in you, and perhaps you’ll never even get this far.

photo courtesy of ejhogbin

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. San Diego Luxury Homes

    July 10, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Thanks for your post. Being a good Realtor takes a lot of time and dedication. It really is a 24-hour-a-day job. There are lots of real estate gurus who sell the idea that it doesn’t have to be that way. But in order to build a good reputation and respectable business, accessibility is key. Reputation is the foundation of any good Realtor’s career. Once it’s gone you can’t get it back. That’s why the points that you raise are so important. Tell the truth, call it like you see it, be yourself, but be well informed. Resist the temptation to take the easy way out. Don’t believe all of the real estate gurus. If it was that easy, they’d be selling real estate rather than giving seminars. There are lots of programs with valid ideas, but be selective and only do what feels right and works for you.

  2. Susie Blackmon

    July 10, 2009 at 6:31 am

    “If your broker isn’t there, you don’t have a broker.” – – I have [almost] never been so shocked, disappointed and disgusted as when I realized that [many] brokerages protect the bottom line with no true [sincere] regard for the client. It appears they may be caught up in their underwear at the present time.

  3. Glenn in Naples

    July 10, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Matt – Your article is excellent. Unfortunately, many agents have experienced the same experiences as yourself. You might have made mistakes, but the positive side of this is life is a learning experience and you took corrective actions. Unfortunately, there are some that continue to make mistakes and do not take corrective actions.

    Good luck with your new brokerage.

  4. Ken Brand

    July 10, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Sound and profoundly simple, words of wisdom for agents of all ages.

  5. Missy Caulk

    July 10, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Matt,the one thing I learned when I was new was to not listen to why it wouldn’t work. How do they know, maybe they didn’t do it right?

  6. Lani Rosales

    July 10, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Wow, what kind words! I’m so glad that you found AG and allowed it to become such a part of your life and I’m SUPER glad that you’ve changed brokers and taken so many leaps of faith in your career, you’ll be much happier and successful for it. 🙂

  7. Joe Loomer

    July 10, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Matt, I posted this on FB and called it “Required Reading” for all agents – credit given to you, of course.

    Some rules I’ve learned:

    – Read what “Fiduciary Duty” means, live it.
    – Devour Agent Genius and other real estate blogs.
    – Know the location and phone numbers of all important government offices in your area.
    – Turn down listings you know will not sell or you cannot get priced right.
    – If your phone is not ringing – your price is too high.

    There’s tons more – but I’m sure there’ll be lots of folks posting on here and helping the new (and old) folks get rolling.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  8. Matt Stigliano

    July 10, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    San Diego Luxury Homes – Fortunate that your parents named you so perfectly for your chosen career! Just kidding. What you said about the gurus is good. You know what I’ve learned most from the gurus? Common sense. Most of what they teach is common sense, but with a system to help you keep common sense practices going.

    Susie – The problem is the brokerage model that was built to grow their business is not built to grow mine in most cases. It’s built to feed off of fees and piddling amounts when instead they could nurture me into a awesome top-producing agent. What I heard often was the brokers (several I have met) complaining that “we used to try to do this or that, but the agents never cared.” What I got from that was that the brokers gave up trying. A broker’s job isn’t an easy one – you (in my opinion) should care and push your agents to be the best.

    Glenn – If you don’t make mistakes, you’re lying. That’s the way I look at it. It’s the recovery from those mistakes that matters most.

    Ken – Glad you enjoyed them. Even more glad that you think they apply to “agents of all ages.”

    Missy – I heard a lot of “blogging won’t sell houses” talk. When I did I just got online and read some of my favorite bloggers who were using it effectively. It is true though – blogging won’t sell houses. The agent putting their honest words out there on the internet will make a connection. The agent still has to do the work.

  9. Brandie Young

    July 10, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Matt – great pearls of wisdom that anyone can use … I loved “Don’t be afraid to be wrong”. So true! If a fear of failing prevents a valuable (perhaps painful) lesson, you never know what “might have been”. Thanks!

  10. Matt Stigliano

    July 11, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Lani – And I appreciate all the help you, Benn, and everyone at AgentGenius have given me since I arrived. I was talking to my broker yesterday and I was saying how excited I was about how things were going so far at the new office and she said that she saw that in a rough year to start, I had focused my energy on learning and paying attention to agents who had experience (which is one of the things I set out to do). I was happy that she noticed, but also thrilled to hear someone else voice what I thought I had been doing. It was a definite rocky start for me. Frustrating at times and not always easy. I made the best of it though and I owe a lot of it to the relationships I built right here on this site. How many new agents can say they have a network of super-star agents that will take their calls? How many can say they not only read the blog of Agent X, but have spoken to them directly about all sorts of issues. One of the best things I learned here was that many agents want to see the new guy succeed. The will do what it takes to help as well. As for my change, it’s been life changing so far. Today is another busy day.

    Joe – I appreciate you posting it there. I love your list as well. One of the things I love about my posts here at AgentGenius is that I’m writing from a new agent perspective and trying to give a few things I’ve learned to other new agents (because it’s not an easy start), yet the agents who have been around for a long time (and are the people I look up to) come in and drop their knowledge in there and even sometimes (which flatters me to no end) take away something. As I said in my earlier comment, a lot of what goes on in real estate revolves around common sense. We all should have it, but it can be one of the hardest things to put into practice.

    Brandie – “Don’t be afraid to be wrong.” is one of those lessons I sometimes struggle with. I don’t like to be wrong. I don’t like to make mistakes. I don’t like to fail. Learning to recognize that has been a hard lessons in my life (and not just in real estate), but when you keep it in your head and put it into practice, you can do some amazing things. I hate the moment of realizing I was wrong, but getting past that I realize that my error is my strength. You mention “might have been” as well…this was my thought process of switching brokers. Will it help me? Am I making the right decision? Am I just fooling myself? Can I afford to take this step? A lot of doubt as to whether I could do it or not. Two weeks in and I only wish I had made the decision sooner. One of my big considerations when I felt hesitant to switch was the thought that if I didn’t do it, I’d spend a lot of time wondering what “might have been.” Even my wife said it. I’m glad I don’t have to wonder anymore.

  11. Erion Shehaj

    July 12, 2009 at 10:30 am


    You mean it is not okay to pull up to a showing with Sepultura blaring with your windows down?

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post and its sincerity. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  12. Michael @ My Single Property Websites

    July 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks Matt! Even if you think they’re obvious, the reinforcement never hurts. I need to keep hearing the one about being yourself: Just a little while back I was afraid to even accept friend invite from clients, because I’ve always been so buttoned-up when working! A lot of my clients in the San Francisco market are fairly formal, so it’s tough blending the two worlds, but at the end of the day it’s going to happen anyway, so I may as well control it.

  13. Matt Dollinger

    July 13, 2009 at 11:20 am


    Good post. I think that this is incredibly important to leverage the correct mindset for agents (both new and old) regardless of what office that they are in. I especially like your “Don’t be anyone but yourself” but along the lines of your Slayer analogy, think that too many agents don’t recognize what they are actually dealing with.

    Too many in our industry think of people as “leads” or what I refer to as the “Paycheck Mentality”. And… in their defense, I can understand that being broke, hungry, or unable to pay the lease on the fancy BMW might influence my actions.

    But… I also realize (and have seen firsthand in our Chicago Market) the perils associated with inexperienced, uneducated, or just plain greedy agents allowing clients to purchase homes that were either:

    1. Out of their price range
    2. Out of their price range with ridiculous financing
    3. A unit that they would outgrow quickly
    4. Overpay for a unit that they are now upside-down on

    Which brings me one glaring element that I think you overlooked.


    As a coach for a company of almost 800 agents I preach this day in and day out to new and experienced agents alike. There is NO replacement for education and knowledge about your local market hands down. Too many agents think that their prowess online, or with handling leads is the foundation to a good and profitable real estate business. I disagree… knowing your market, latest financing options, how to deal with short sales/foreclosures, etc. will differentiate you from the pack.

    This is even more important for new agents because they have little or no experience in the buildings or communities that they are servicing.

    Want to set your self apart as a new agent? Be smarter than everyone else in your office and then you have a differentiator for your brand.

    Matt Dollinger

  14. Bill Lublin

    July 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Great Post and from the perfect perspective- the honest one.
    Simple thoughts and observations are more often profound than simple – like why do they call it common sense when its so rare?
    All great journeys not only start with one step, but are completed one step at a time – through perseverance and observation so that you can make changes when you need to –

  15. Jeff Turner

    July 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Matt, I can’t wait to meet you.

  16. Matt Stigliano

    July 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    ** Wow it took me a long time to get back here and answer. I apologize. **

    Erion – Playing Sepultura on any occasion is not a bad thing. Time for rock memories… I played soccer with them (after Max left) at a festival. Igor invited us to go shopping at his clothes store while we were in Rio, unfortunately I got food poisoning. I’ve played with Max a few times and he’s the most down to earth music loving guy I’ve met. Memory over.

    Michael – Benn, Lani, and Brad Nix deserves all the thanks for the “be yourself” one. They pounded it into my head and wouldn’t let me be anyone but. I knew it, but I think I feared the letting rock and roll and real estate cross paths.

    Matt – Look at any of my comments on the topic of education and you’ll know I’m nodding my head in agreement right now. I do my best to learn as much as I can as often as I can. I shake my head in disbelief at some of the things I’ve heard agents say that I knew were wrong. I also shake my head is disbelief in the agents that don’t seem to care, they just want to collect their checks.

    Bill – You’re one of the people I look up to. Your knowledgeable and yourself. When I first “met” you, I would have never guessed you had the sharp-witted tongue you do or could be so much fun. I learned a lot in my first perception of you based only off of posts – I thought you were too “Mr. Real Estate” to be as funny as you are. It may not sound like, but you surprised me (pleasantly) and that my friend, is a compliment.

    Jeff – I think you know the sentiment is returned. I still fear you may fill my head with too much and it might just blow up, but I’ll take that chance.

  17. Shannon Lefevre

    September 5, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I like the don’t be anyone but yourself part. Of course the rest of it is dead on accurate too but that part is super important because I think a common mistake agents make when attempting their climb to the top is they like to emulate more successful agents in their market and sometimes those agents aren’t necessarily successful for what they’re doing now…they’re just riding their own coat tails because they’ve already made a name for themselves. It’s ok to get ideas from more successful agents but make sure they fit within the scope of who you are and keep forward thinking in mind when implementing tricks of the trade.

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