As told to Jerriann Sullivan
Ever wonder what it’s like to run your own real estate brokerage? We asked one broker, who’s been in the business for more than 30 years, to anonymously share a week of his life with us, diary-style. From how he runs his business to making time for family, get the inner thoughts and strategies of a successful real estate broker.
The Broker's Stats
- Age: 55
- Salary: $460,000 + bonus
The Brokerage's Stats
- Age of Brokerage: 29 years
- Number of Full-Time Paid Employees: 3
- Number of Agents: 10
- Average Amount of Business Per Year: $25 million - $30 million
Real Estate Diary: A Week In The Broker's Life
6:30 a.m. My schedule is pretty routine Monday through Saturday, up until the afternoon. I like to start my day with coffee at home in front of the "Today" show, then I switch to MSNBC before I leave.
7:30 a.m. Around this time, I’ll head over to the gym. I have a great trainer I've been working out with for more than 20 years, so you'll find me there almost every morning. Most days of the week are focused on cardio workouts, but we make sure to get in two weightlifting sessions per week, too.
8:30 a.m. Once I’m done with the gym, I head to the drive-thru for my morning egg white delight. Then I'm on my way to the office.
9:30 a.m. I do my best work before 2 p.m., so I try to get right to the office and get down to business. I spend most of this time working on market value reports, sending updates to recalcitrant sellers, and making calls to agents to promote my team’s listings.
12 p.m. I grab lunch with my team. I have about 10 agents, a project manager, finance manager, and marketing manager who work for me, plus an assistant who helps to cover almost all the stuff I don’t enjoy doing. We order salads from a local place and use this time to exchange war stories and get advice from one another. These (almost daily) lunches typically happen organically, and whoever’s in the office and available will attend. That said, I do try to encourage our team to have them without me as much as possible.
Today, one of my agents wants advice on a dual-agency deal she has. She’s representing both the home seller AND the buyer who wants it, and this creates a lot of chatter. Everyone has advice because if one side of this deal feels under-represented, it could hurt our reputation. It’s a spirited discussion with a lot of “cooks in the kitchen.” Dual-agency is very complicated and tricky and needs to be handled ethically. I try to guide the conversation so that no one feels attacked, and we all feel like we’re learning from each other. To be honest, I’m learning from a lot of my agents, as well. Everyone has the brand’s best interest in mind, so these conversations get me super psyched that we can all learn from each other.
2 p.m. I leave for my first meeting. I like to make appointments with clients in the afternoon and early evening. As much as possible, I really, really try to control my day and get back to people before the evenings. My strategy is to pull them into my day rather than just be at their beck and call at all hours of the day and night.
2:30 p.m. I arrive at a former client’s home. He wants to sell and his wife does not. Home sales can be so emotional that, most of the time, I feel like I’m making social calls. They might sell their house this spring or in 10 years, but regardless, my goal is that they come away from the visit knowing that I’m here to help.
We chat a little and I can already feel the tension in the air. His wife really loves the house, so we walk through it and I take notes on the shape it’s in. Then, we go over their expenses, including all the utilities and landscaping charges. My focus is on what’s best for these people. How can I help them get to their goal and be on the same page about it?
Then, we sit down and get down to business. I give them my list of what I think needs to be done before the house goes on the market, the cost of my punchlist, and the time it would take to complete. And we talk numbers. I show comps of what other houses like theirs sold for. We also go over the price of what they’d be looking for in the city, and what that lifestyle might be like — and are they ready?
I’m telling you, sometimes being in this business is like being a therapist. But it really needs to be all about the seller. Once you start focusing on your own goals, you lose integrity.
We leave the meeting with a timeline for getting their house on the market in a few months at the maximum price possible. They have a list of what they need to fix and clean, and they feel excited about the listing price. If they don’t get it, they’ll wait another year and try again.
4 p.m. I’m off to my next meeting. I always allow at least an hour and a half for each meeting with some cushion built in to account for driving time.
This is another home seller, and it’s my second time meeting with them. They’re still deciding on who they want to list with, so I asked an agent in my office to meet us, too — for backup. I try to share a lot of my listings with the agents in my office. However, there are often times when the sellers only want me because my name is the brand, and that can be a challenge. Tonight, I’m bringing along a team member who knows this particular area better than I do so we can present together and, if all goes well, she could own this listing.
The first time I met with this couple, I took copious notes on their home and their goals. Tonight, we’ll present our market analysis and my agent will talk about her experience in this part of town.
5:30 p.m. We leave the meeting feeling great, but you never know how things are going to shake out. Now, I head home and continue working on my computer from there. There are always emails to return.
7 p.m. I start making dinner with my wife. Our kids moved out a few years ago, and we’re enjoying the quiet together time. We talk a lot of business, as my wife is equally invested in my brokerage and has great insight. But we love cooking together and talking about our days, the kids, and the weekend ahead. It’s nice.
8 p.m. - 10 p.m. I’ll admit that I usually try to squeeze in a few more emails after dinner, but I have a firm 10 o’clock stop. Whether I’m working from home or at a real estate event, I’m done at 10 p.m.
7:30 a.m. Once I get through my morning coffee and news, I'm back at the gym.
9:30 a.m. I get to the office and meet with my special projects business manager. We meet once a month to go over some accounting and how the agents are doing year-to-date. There are some furniture purchases I need to approve for home-staging projects. Today, we discuss whether or not I should attend a special three-week real estate course. She’s going to evaluate whether that’s a good use of my time and money.
11 a.m. I sit down with my listing manager to sort out the weeks ahead. She’s a crucial part of my team because she’s in charge of arranging the listing dates, getting the floor plans, arranging photography, and keeping me going on my “thank you” notes.
11:30 a.m. An agent pops by my office to go over some concerns. She’s behind on her goal and could use some advice. My agents are all 1099, so while they work on my team and get bonuses, they’re considered independent contractors. All goal-setting is informal, so this is more of a “how can I help you?”-type of meeting. I never want to lose one of my people to another brokerage, so I make a point of helping out my team wherever I can. Today, I sit down with the agent and help her brainstorm ways to get her more business.
12:30 p.m. I skip the team lunch to have a more private lunch with my finance manager so we can talk about business. We discuss projections for the year and whether we should buy a huge piece of equipment for the office.
1:30 p.m. I attend a local agent’s open house. I like to show support for the other agents in my community.
2 p.m. My sellers have an offer, so I get in the car and call them to talk it through. Midway through the conversation, I decide to drive right over to their place to discuss our response.
3:30 p.m. I head over to a new client meeting with a couple hoping to retire in Florida. Their goal for the conversation is to talk timing and housing analysis; my goal is to build the relationship, but I bring along some comps of recent sales anyway.
When I get there, they ask me for my impression of the market and what I think the future holds. I have to look at the condition of the house, and we discuss the expenses it’ll take to keep it up. We talk about their job situation and how long they really want to work.
That’s the difference between being a really good Realtor and someone who just sells houses. You really are caring for these people. I guess that’s why I never want to get out of selling houses — I truly care about the people I’m working with and want to help them.
5 p.m. It’s back to the office for me. I want to make sure I run into some people before the end of the day and answer emails.
8 p.m. I’m finally home and eating dinner. This is when I crash. I try not to check email tonight; I just want to watch “Top Chef” with my wife.
6:30 a.m. I kick off my morning routine of coffee, news, gym, and breakfast, and then head straight to the office.
9:30 a.m. I’m doing emails at the office and waiting to hear from my client who’s selling her house today. It’s a closing day, so I’m on call.
While I wait, I call three sellers and thank them for their business. I also start working on my list of “thank you” notes to people I’ve done business with or met recently. I like handwritten notes, so this requires me to be at my desk and not in my car.
10 a.m. Oh no. The walk-through goes poorly. My sellers didn’t clean the house properly, even though my business manager had gone over everything with them. So, I quickly cancel all my meetings for the rest of the day and head straight to my sellers’ home.
10:30 a.m. I roll up my sleeves, slide on some rubber gloves, and start finishing up the prep work that should’ve already been handled. This includes cleaning a toilet and picking up dog poop from the front lawn.
11:30 a.m. My sellers are still feeling stressed, so I order us lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon at the house helping them pack up the last of their boxes so the closing goes well.
5 p.m. The buyers come back to do a final walk-through. It goes well, which means I get to head straight home knowing the house is in good shape and the new owners can move in after they close tomorrow.
8 p.m. I’m cooking and talking with my wife. I skipped a networking event just to enjoy a low-key night at home with her. Plus, I know she’s going to howl with laughter when she hears my dog poop story!
9:30 a.m. After I complete my morning routine, I head back to the office to get my emails out of the way.
11 a.m. My assistant and I prepare packets of marketing materials for my afternoon meetings.
12 p.m. I stop by a few broker open houses to go through the detailed notes I prepare on each client: who they are, what their house is like, market projections, etc.
1 p.m. I get lunch with a recent client, just to catch up.
2 p.m. I head out to my first meeting of the afternoon. On my way to the second meeting, I call a client from the car (hands-free, of course) to go over the details for her closing tomorrow. I’ve found that communicating with clients ahead of time can prevent them from worrying and calling me at all hours of the night.
2:30 p.m. I do a walk-through of a house that one of our clients is trying to sell. She’s trusted us for years; we’ve already sold one home for her, so I’m happy she chose us again. I offer her some tips on how to prepare the house for sale and put her in touch with my business manager for staging materials we can loan her.
4 p.m. I spend nearly two hours in rush-hour traffic because my next client lives across town from my last. I make a conscious effort to never waste time, so when I’m driving, I make phone calls in the car where I can have privacy and stay focused on one person.
6 p.m. I walk through another house. This time, it’s with a new client who was referred to us by a family whom we recently helped buy their first home. This is the client’s first time selling a house, which means they have a lot of questions, so I spend a bit more time with them to address their concerns and walk them through the process.
8 p.m. As I drive home, I call my son, who’s in his first job post-college and is experiencing a small work crisis. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me at all, but he wants to talk it through, and I love any time I get with him. It’s so nice to watch him launch his own career, and I really enjoy getting to help him sort out the tricky stuff. When I first started as an agent, it was perfect because I could work my schedule around seeing his school and sporting events. And now it’s grown to my own business, but I still have so much flexibility and a team of supportive agents and managers. I don’t think I’ll ever leave this job!
8:30 p.m. I eat dinner in front of my work computer and catch up on emails. It’s been my experience that the money always follows if you do the right thing for people. You can’t be counting your money because, most times, there’s no rhyme or reason why certain deals don’t go through. Some deals are easy, some are challenging. It all works out in the end if you stay client-focused.
6:30 a.m. I wake up feeling exhausted and like I might be getting a cold, so I skip the gym for the day and sleep in.
9:30 a.m. I start the day from my home office.
12:30 p.m. I’m feeling much better, so I head into the office to grab my notes for my afternoon meetings.
3 p.m. Even though I’d love to start the weekend early, I head out of the office for my normal afternoon routine: meeting with clients at their homes to discuss selling their next piece of real estate. Do I handle buyers? Sometimes. But I like to focus on the sellers. That way, I can give the buyers to my agents who are growing their own businesses in the hopes they’ll get the sale 10 or so years from now.
5 p.m. I drop by my last meeting for the day: a returning client who’d like to sell their home and downsize to a condo closer to the city. They know what they want, so we focus on how I can help them get the house. I give them names of movers and painters. I also let them know I have a great name of a Realtor in the city to give them. Referrals can be 25 percent to 30 percent of business, so this is a great way to make some money if you remember to close the loop.
6:30 a.m. I keep the same routine as the rest of the week because I consider Saturday just as important as Monday.
9:30 a.m. I’m at the office to pick up my notes for the day. Most real estate agents work all weekend, but for me, Saturday is the day I make count so I can take Sunday off.
I help my assistant prep for an open house she’s running point on before I head out. We need brochures, “Open House” signs, refreshments, and sign-in sheets. I get her car packed, and she’s off.
11 a.m. I arrive at another open house we’re hosting and find everything has been completed — signs are out, cookies have been baked, and marketing materials are in various spots for prospective buyers to grab easily. I’m the point person on this one, so I spend the next two hours answering as many questions as possible.
1 p.m. I meet my wife out for a nice lunch. Even though I’ve worked on Saturdays for as long as we can remember, we try to make the best of it and meet up during the day. Sometimes she comes to my open houses, too.
2 p.m. I swing by the office and meet a couple who wants to see some homes. I have the next few hours free, so I print out some open house listings and we hit the road. When I’m with new buyers, I always say to them: “I’m going to tell you as much info about where we are, where the schools are located, and where the parks and town centers are so you can decide where you want to focus next.”
We drive around for the next three hours and stop by about four open houses.
5 p.m. Our first-time buyers have a good idea of what they like and what they hate. We stop back at the office and sit for a bit to discuss what we learned by visiting so many homes in one day.
6 p.m. I type up my notes for the day and head home.
10 a.m. Working all day Monday through Saturday means I'm able to take Sunday off. We head out for a day trip to a local coastal town we love, grab seafood, and stroll some shops. It’s our time, but that said, I’m always online, and I make sure my team knows I’m available if someone needs to show something.
8 p.m. Having relaxed all day and avoided (non-urgent) emails, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle my long week ahead.