Real estate markets across the country are on fire! Here in Ottawa, the market pre-COVID was already a strong sellers’ market. Then after the first lockdown was lifted, it was as if rocket fuel was poured on.

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In such a strong sellers’ market, the positives are brisk sales, huge bidding wars and record prices for sellers. A negative side effect is agent burnout.

Every agent I’ve talked to over the past few months is flirting with burnout or is burned out and doesn’t even know it. One Realtor commented, “We’re all maxed out!”

Realtors have zero days off in this market right now. The sales process is unbelievably fast-paced. A house hits the market and you have zero to five days on average to get everything lined up before it’s sold. Showings, comparables, second showings, pre-inspection, status reviewed, financing confirmed, offer, hope…lose out…repeat.

No time off, no support, no life.

A quick Google search on “symptoms of burnout” include:

  • Anxiety
  • Detachment
  • Feeling listless
  • Low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of creativity
  • Fatigue
  • Negative attitudes towards one’s coworkers or job
  • Low commitment to the role
  • Loss of purpose
  • Quickness to anger
  • Cynicism
  • Emotional numbness
  • Frustration

Any of those relate to you?

Many Realtors are going through emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.

The cost of burnout is too high…it can take months to recover. It can literally cost agents tens of thousands in commissions. It affects your business. You avoid tasks, phone calls, emails and texts. You avoid clients and leads and just stop caring. It all just becomes too much and you’d rather turn it all off.

Burnout affects your home life too, which in the long run is so much more important.

The relationship with your partner, your kids and families gets significantly strained. You feel more depression, anxiety, anger, apathy and/or guilt about your situation. This is what you bring into the home night after night. And if you aren’t a self-aware person, you won’t be able to tell your family why you’re not yourself. Your family is left wondering:

  • Where did my spouse go?
  • Where did my dad / mom go?
  • We don’t recognize this person.

I suffered from burnout last year. Technically, 2020 was a “success” from every metric the industry celebrates, which is gross income. But I never want to go through that again. I’d have gladly given away tens of thousands in income to get my life back.

One day last fall, while home and sitting on my couch, my wife told me she didn’t recognize me anymore, that I was a shell of myself. I completely broke down right there. Everything came to the surface and we had to have a very difficult, honest conversation about it. My burnout was incredibly hard on her and my kids. With her support, we came up with some solutions to help and move forward with. That was the start of being a good husband again, being a good dad again and being myself again.

If you are feeling burned out, here are some strategies that I personally found very helpful:

Time off:

Do whatever it takes to get a few days off. Find a synergy partner or colleague to trade “days off” with. Figure out the payment structure and make it happen. It’s tough but so needed right now.

Unplug:

My personal favourite. Completely unplugged from real estate, clients, phone calls, emails, texts, everything. Go away for a few nights to recharge and get clarity on these inner issues.

Prioritize self care:

It may seem cliché but do things that are just for you each day. Doesn’t matter what or how small/big, give yourself permission to put yourself first. You’re worth it, I promise.

Shift expectations:

We put huge pressure on ourselves to always be at the top of our game, always pushing for more, always grinding it out. We strive to hit new industry award levels or to be everything to everyone (super agent, super dad, super mom, super friend). Let go of these expectations, shift your perspective to be okay with less. Accept where you are at without blame, self-judgment or criticism. Give yourself permission to stop striving / grinding “to have it all” and start focusing on getting your life back.

I wrote this article because I want to reach out to my fellow colleagues who might be suffering from burnout or are close to it and don’t know where to turn for help. Maybe they weren’t even aware of it until reading this. It is not something many talk about but yet it is so important. I want you to know it’s okay to ask for help, okay to need help and you’re not a failure for being burned out or struggling financially through this market. You’re not alone and it will get better. I promise.

I encourage anyone who might be suffering from burnout to take some much needed time off, talk to someone, anyone. Don’t wait, the cost is too high.

Let people down, put yourself first.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I think the hardest part about being a new agent…Everyone just sees that you’re new…not that you’re not getting the *practical* guidance and support you need since you can’t train as you would pre-covid. “Maybe being a Realtor isn’t for you” “I can tell the way a newbie stresses if they’ll be successful in this industry or not” (none said to me, but I’ve heard it from our seasoned realtors).

    That plus the fact that we too are working out butts off trying to get our first listing/accepted offer…and all of the long constant hours that entails…we are feeling burnt out too….check on your new Realtor colleagues.

    It is not a kind environment right now.

    • Is this not an ideal time for the owner broker or broker of record to step up to the plate. Of course some are and have been, but it always seems most do not, even in regular times; the ones known as rent collectors for 700 agents and more. Many agent contracts might need to be rewritten to figure out how all the accumulated backed up fees will get paid, or not. He needs to keep the lights on at the bricks and mortar offices.

      When I was first licenced 40 years ago, offices were bullpen setups; each office not more than 26 agents permitted. (That was for a reason: stats proved an office could be productive.)

      Not shown the back office work area when being hired. THAT was a shock! No personal file cabinets allowed. There was a phone at a 30″ desk with a small shelf big enough for the MLS catalog and tear-sheets. The area was surrounded by white boards and a board to show the top ten agents each month.
      Meant to be a motivator.

      There was a closing room where duty agents played cards, an admin desk area with receptionist who typed all offers using an agent prepped cheat sheet for clause choices.

      A Monday or Tuesday “mandatory” in-group meeting was the extent of training. A year later the Corp head office closed the branch as locally franchises were appearing where at least a hundred agents could have a private small office.

      And mtg rates had gone from 18 to 21 percent. Houses were selling like crazy. Investors were buying whole townhouse complexes where owners had put their keys in the door at renewal time and walked away.

      The govt put five new appliances in, painted, added new carpet and the houses sold for 25-35k. By the dozen. Six copies of each offer, using carbon paper; three copies to each office.

      And then there was the urea formaldehyde “upgrades” paid for with govt grants. A few years later govt grants to remove it, and houses still sold.

      Everything old is new again. What will the govt do this time around? Will anyone help agents not to lose their own homes and even their cars… none needed to do zoom business. But not everyone knows how to do such paperless zoom business?

      Carolyne L 🍁

      • Carolyne:

        I believe I started in the business right around when you did (circa 1980).

        I loved the 50/50 office/salesperson commission splits. No monthly fee on my part. The broker often gave leads to those who could/would pull deals together. I received my fair share, and I made them count, both for the brokerage, and for my clients…not to mention my bank account. More money for the brokerage. More money for those who could. Less money for those who couldn’t. Simple. I was lucky; I didn’t need money coming in on a regular basis. In other words, I could afford to be in the business in the first place. I suffered no stress whatsoever. Took time off whenever I felt the need…or just felt lazy. Most were not so lucky. Failures fell by the wayside rather quickly, unlike today, when they hang in there until their last drops of blood, sweat…and most important, funds, dry up.

        The only times I felt burned out were when I was doing too many deals at once (six during my second month). But I understand the burnout factor these days, when one might put in eighty-hour weeks and get nowhere for months, as far as making any money is concerned. I don’t envy Realtors these days. I don’t know if I would survive under current operating conditions. It was so much easier back then…at least as far as I was concerned.

        Brokers would regularly fire failures back then. Now they encourage them to keep on failing, all the while collecting those monthly fees. Stress was short lived in 1980. Now it lives on, an on, and on.

        My advice for newbies who are stressed out/burned out: Pack it in before you pack it in psychologically. It’s not worth the grief, heartache and financial cost. Real estate sales is definitely not for everybody. Only a select few thrive. Many just survive, hoping for the big hit. The select few of whom I speak are naturally gifted with a resolute attitude and a firm focus on what will be. They know who they are and what they bring to the table. None of these four attributes can be taught. Either one is a natural, or one is not. Most wannabes are not. Thus, the stress/burnout syndrome lives on. It is not fixable. Burnout, when earned due to making too many deals at once, is something that ‘can’ be controlled. But it can’t be controlled for the opposite problem. Strategies to deal with no-income burnout are simply exercises in futility that delay the inevitable, in my opinion. Stick-to-it’dness is admirable…for the select few who ultimately make it, but it can be a devastating psychological blow for those who don’t…being the many.

        My advice? Don’t go into real estate sales with unrealistic fantasies of making it big, like some do. Don’t become a gambler. Give it your best shot for a stipulated time period. No sales? Move on. Use the time as experience in another venture. So-called failures are nothing more than learning experiences. Learn from it and become better at something else. Failing at real estate sales is not the end of the world. It might just be the beginning of success at the next opportunity, because there will always be another opportunity. One just has to be able to recognize it when it presents itself. Been here, done than…multiple times.

  2. So very true, great article. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. Most important for us all to make appointments with our family, reach out to family and friends. Our profession can be very rewarding but it also is very demanding. Especially so in these Covid-19 times. Learn to say no.

  3. I completely agree! I was very close to not renewing my license this month because of these issues. I decided (well, clients begging me not to quit made me decide) to renew and I am starting some personal/business coaching. I think this will help.

  4. In addition to doing an awful lot more paperwork that was created, there are untold number of new programs to learn and constant training seminars to keep up with all the recently created new rules and regulations. That is a job in itself.

  5. This is so true !
    We are working so hard and not making money necessarily
    We have to keep picking ourselves and our clients up.
    The public has no idea either
    They think we’re all making a killing
    Little do they know
    Thanks for acknowledging this

  6. Thank you. I do concur with the feeling of burnout and overwhelm, and think also that the concerns around escalating pandemic fears and applicable strategies are definitely playing into it.

  7. Great article Jimmy. I can attest to checking several of the signs of burnout and its only April! I’ve had the “burnout conversation” with many colleagues lately. We are all feeling the overwhelm. This is a serious conversation and worth having with friend/colleagues/family and with ourselves. Thank you for sharing.

    • Very serious. I’m hoping brokerages might start acknowledging it and maybe a trickle down from there . Thanks for reading 👍

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