A real estate agent doesn’t automatically get paid because they qualified for their real estate licence. They must sell their services to those who wish to buy or sell property. If they do that well, then they must work to make a few more real estate deals and then work to make even more real estate deals. Most of their achievements are based on customer recommendations and referral networks. It takes years for most real estate agents to be successful. There are lots of get-rich-quick stories in this business but for the clear majority, it is years of hard work.

How long do you think you might be in the real estate business? Ten years, maybe more? If you ask me, you should be thinking in terms of 20 years. I can tell you over these many decades of watching the business, a couple of things seem to ring true. The first one is always time.

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Whenever I speak to an agent who is considered successful and has made a great deal of money, I find that they have been in the business for a minimum of 10 years and far more often, 20. It just seems that simple. How many times have you heard that old line; “90 per cent of life is showing up every day”? If you do just that for 10 years, chances are you will be successful. If you make the investment of time you will succeed. You can do things along the way that might speed things up, but your greatest investment is time itself and showing up every day.

Another thing that rings true when I speak to successful agents is that most are involved in their community in a volunteer capacity. It may be coaching sports teams, community theatre or attending meetings of committees and associations. There are many things you can do to invest your time. Perhaps you have thought of community help that is unique to you. Time costs you nothing but the impact you have, if it is sincere, can be extraordinary and meaningful. Your good character costs nothing either, but its value is a treasure that cannot be measured. You must work on it always and that takes time.

I remember three or four firefighters who volunteered their Saturday mornings when I was a kid to show a group of us how to operate a fire extinguisher and learn safety tips. After a couple of those Saturday mornings, we got a little letter-size document, made out in a certificate style, to say we had completed a course on fire safety. We were pretty proud of that. It was important to me and I still recall what I learned back then. I also remember a hockey coach who picked me up a couple of times when my dad was working. He wasn’t picking me up because I was the best player on the team. He also picked up other players whose parents couldn’t get them to the game. There were fantastic people in my community who I still remember after over 50 years. What’s it worth to you to have somebody remember you after 50 years? Does that have value for you?

If I was a real estate agent today, I would organize a Saturday morning or a week-night evening to teach people, especially young people, how to manage a home. I don’t know any school that teaches kids what a hydro bill is. I would explain efficient use of water and even simple savings like running the dishwasher at night and a host of other things like electrical safety and tips on energy savings. I would also review simple condominium law. I would show the fundamentals of etiquette to run a condo board of directors meeting. I would bring in experts and make up a little certificate for those who attend.

Today people say time is money but that is not really true. Time is still free and you can give it away to people who need it, if you are willing. You can give it in your community, in your neighbourhood and even in your job. The trick to “investing time” is to do it freely, give it sincerely and make it meaningful without any expectation of return. If you do that, I promise, it does come back, sometimes 10-fold when you least expect it.

The more years you put in, the more you get back. It’s as simple as that. Time is the best investment you can make in your job, in your community and in your life. And it doesn’t cost you a thing.


  1. Heino

    Your comments are always interesting. Being a septuagenarian I have some distant memories that resurface as well.

    One of which was drawn vividly to memory recently when reading a book titled “Perfection Salad,” that really had nothing to do with salad as such, but everything to do with, by my then age, called “Home Economics.”

    Previously always referred to as “Domestic Science,” the subject of the book is largely the mechanics of food preparation from a nutritional, cost-relative association, the beyond boring American (North American) food consumption, and the need for the topic of food management to be taught in the school system of the day, at the turn of the century. Certainly nothing gourmet about it (there or here).

    There wasn’t much cultural information related as such, but the author mainly concentrated on “wifely duties,” what was expected, demanded and provided without doubt. Until eventually even Harvard got involved.

    Today’s woman would likely find some of the matter outrageous, trying to imagine preparing women for running a home or being skilled in what to expect of hired food preparation help or general household help, if so acquired.

    I actually grew up in an environment where as remarked on by the author, about 4 pm a housewife would change her clothes for more suitable attire (literally, women never wore slacks) in which to greet her spouse on his return from a day of “real” work, expecting and certainly providing a meal at the ready as per specific direction and instruction. (And not referring to negligee).

    I maintained that habit process all throughout my prior 30 year marriage. I always refreshed my make-up, my hair, and changed to fresh clothes after preparing the family dinner. Every day.

    And I always “pulled my weight” so to speak, working a real job simultaneously, and ran one of those so-called perfect homes. I truly don’t know how I did it all. But it all came naturally, oddly enough. It was expected. I simply complied.

    And, as noted by the author, it was the man’s job to pay the bills, write cheques, etc. even in days of by then equal or greater income. I never opened the mail in those thirty years. Or saw an invoice. Not my job.

    I had four children in five years (there was no birth-control) and although I was fortunate to have a live-in au pair when they were young, she did nothing in the house. I polished and waxed real hardwood floors on my hands and knees even when I was pregnant. It was just the expected thing to do.

    I was fifty years old before I was “allowed” to have a weekly cleaning lady (and even then it was a battle royal having a stranger in the house). I was by then in real estate and comfortably working at least a sixty hour week and my children were long gone. But I had largely worked, a professional career, from home before a real estate career.

    Today’s up and coming women mostly have no clue about domestic science or home economics. Call it what you will. And only in recent years have received any sort of credit even mentally for their multi-tasking capabilities. Some of the new breed, who earned the corporate corner glass office never did learn how to run a home or a household. By choice. And nowadays both spouses often share chores.

    Jelly salads and church suppers were often the order of the day for most women in “Perfection Salad,” and covered extensively in the text, and those interested in the academics of keeping house worked long and hard to have the topic acknowledged, officially, and approved for teaching, especially in the education system.

    Who would ever have guessed the process in play since the beginning of time. Then, lo and behold, “processed” food appeared after the War. A whole other story to be sure, for the busy little woman. The author dwells on the ramifications relating to work needing doing at home and women working in factories as their men went off to war.

    Today not much is even discussed in the school systems, about domestic science. Back to square one, perhaps, as you noted, learning how to write a cheque or pay a utility bill. ESL courses barely touched on such important topics, either, even as current as the 70’s when Canadian publishing decided to try to fill that void. Still sadly lacking.

    “Perfection Salad” presented some pretty heavy academic reading in parts, and some readers might have been bored. But some parts of the book were very historically alive, relating to actual times in the 40’s and 50’s, to which I could certainly relate, growing up as a war-baby. Even then, although accepted as a scholastic measure, it was frowned upon for women to get too “smart,” being instructed to leave pertinent decisions to the man of the house.

    I still can’t stomach thinking about those infamous jelly salads with poked-in marshmallows, that were the talk of the town, post-War days. I still can’t eat them.

    And farmers’ markets are still a joy where you can see and feel the fresh “dirt” soil on the veggies.

    I rarely buy anything in a box or a can. I just can’t. I shop the outside aisles of the stores. It’s called “conditioning,” not unlike subliminal advertising. It’s what learned and have never entertained giving it up.

    Your article is timely. And real.

    Carolyne ?


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