What I've Learned 5 Years In Real Estate (And Why I'm Still In It)

I started in real estate full-time in 2015. Prior to real estate, I had a successful career in Oil and Gas, was earning 6 figures and my wife and I were expecting our second child.

In March 2015, I was let go. Like most others, I was mid-level in seniority with my current company at the time and on the cusp of costing more in terms of benefits and salary (nearly 5 years). No brainer right? Get rid of the employee that might cost us more during a downturn, leave his box open, and when the time is right fill it with someone new.

August 2015, Zak showed up. And I will tell you as much as I was happy to see him, I was also terrified about what will happen next. Honest questions like, how will I provide for him, Tahira, the family while Shazeen was on maternity leave?

Questions like where is the next paycheck coming for the mortgage? groceries?

But as we got through the year. And every year since, it's been a journey. Here are my lessons learned over the last five years.

Lesson 1: Nothing Is Guaranteed

My father in law (who is also a realtor) one of two pieces of advice that have stuck with me throughout the last five years:

"The ones that will let you down the most will be your friends and family"

He's been in the business now for over 20 years and he said this to me being family. Not for any negative experience or anything like that. But for this simple reason:

Your friends and family already know you. They know your demeanor, how you act, they might even know you better than you know yourself. And because of that comfort level with them, it doesn't feel like a business. It's helping your family.

So you don't treat it like a business. And if you don't treat it like a business, neither will they.

They will ask you to work twice as much for half the pay. They will also not be the ones that refer you because they want to give their friends and family the best option possible. And if you aren't treating it like a business with them, how can they refer you to someone close?

So you will feel let down when they ask you to work for less, or don't refer you to that client selling their $1.2m luxury home. And it will make you second guess why you are in the business if you cannot have your friends and family in your corner.

I've tried over the last 5 years to improve on this. But coming from the community that I'm from, we treat everyone we know like we are family. But this is one of the continuous improvement goals that I work on each year with different coaches and business models. And each year I make it a bit better, making my business a respectable one to my clients.

Lesson 2: Every Sale Is Emotional

Any investor will tell you that when they buy a property, there is no emotion in the purchase. I'm calling that out here. It's not true.

Even the most seasoned investor is buying that property for some form of financial security for what they hold dear. Whether that be financial security, loved ones, retirement, etc.

But investors aside, every home buyer or seller I've spoken to has a motivation to sell. And at times, it can be very emotional.

If you've been in Calgary for the last 5 years, you know that our housing market hasn't been hot. I'd be surprised if you'd even call it lukewarm. Before the pandemic, sellers were losing their shirts when they sold a property. Foreclosures were more common, and don't get me started on the condo market.

I mention this because going into a listing presentation and advising sellers to sell way below what they needed was a gut-wrenching activity. I can't count the number of times I had to show sellers a net sheet of their proceeds and you could just see the optimism drain from their bodies.

And it wasn't only sellers. Today, with the market being "hot", buyers are now having the same fleeting optimism of not being able to compete for homes or losing to a point that they leave the market altogether.

There have been some great moments as well. Some of those sellers that held out 4-5 years ago are selling now with profits in the bank. They are overjoyed and share some of the most wonderful testimonials.

We as realtors need to be impartial to serve our clients. But it takes a lot to be a counselor to someone that is hurting because of the market. It is an emotional toll that most agents will tell you we carry with us each day.

Lesson 3: There Is A Toll To Pay

"This to shall pass" - Tom Hanks

My kids are now 8 and 5 years old. The little guy and I try and watch as many sports games as we can when I'm home. It's some of the most wonderful times in the world for me because I know how precious time is with him.

So when they ask me, as I'm leaving to show homes each evening, "Daddy, why do you need to go to work?" It's truly a hard question to answer.

This industry is one where you can make a killing, without a doubt. There are agents in my office easily making over $500k a year. But there is a price to pay. That price is time.

I've learned over the years, where my time is spent is truly most important for me. I don't know how much time I have here, and I don't know how much longer my kids will want to hang out with me before I become the one they don't want to spend their evenings with.

So my time is extremely important to me. And over the years, I've developed certain restrictions on my time when it comes to my business. I ask my buyers before we view homes how motivated they are and if they are pre-approved for example.

As I've gotten older in the business, my clients are coming more and more from my referral partners and past clients. They completely respect my time as I do theirs. And of course, I still work the odd online buyer here and here, my criteria for my time still remains.

The funny part is this actually allows me to be more available to my clients than not. I'm able to respond back to them faster, provide better insight and help them achieve their goals faster.

Our time is so important and passes every day. No amount of money in the world can replace it and this has been something I've learned as my kids and I get older and wiser.

Lesson 4: Brick By Brick

I recently listed to the audio version of Will Smith's book, "Will". If you get the opportunity to read/listen to it, it was really one of the best books I've read this year.

In the book, he mentions his father's work ethic through an illustration of him and his brother tasked with building a brick wall, by hand.

It took them months to complete the wall. Once it was complete, they were overjoyed to show their father their accomplishment. And how do you think he reacted?

A brief nod to the boys, and told them to get back to work in their ice shop.

This resonated with me when it comes to our business. There are no accolades of accomplishments outside of other agents and brokerages sharing their achievements via a social media post. How many times have you seen your favorite agent post their own ranking in their office or nationally?

The fact of the matter, the consumer could care less about the achievements you've made in your business, they are only worried about their home and achieving their task.

Just like Will's dad.

But that task of building the wall led Will Smith to learn his own work ethic and that has taken him to heights he never would have dreamed.

The real estate business is the wall. Brick by brick, year over year, we are building our businesses to give us more time to do what we enjoy, become more financially free, and have something for us to retire with when it's all said and done.

No accolades, no awards will do that for us.

Each year that passes I've added a new brick to my business, whether it be to be more active with working with sellers over buyers, bettering my time management, vetting my clients better, adding different business models, etc.

The better we can get the better we can serve our clients.


And there you have it, some of my lessons learned over my first 5 years in the business. If you are new to the business, know this business is phenomenal. It will give you opportunities you can only dream about. But it is also one that is unforgiving.

I enjoy this business because it has the ability to allow your dreams to come true. Whether that be to earn the absolute most you can and become that million-dollar agent or if you are like me, allow me to earn while adapting to my family's needs.

There aren't many careers out there that will allow you to do both.

If you are new and would like to reach out, feel free to send me an email at aly@calgaryareahomes.ca (no recruiting, I promise) Until next time, take care and I hope we can connect soon.

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