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Is Real Estate The Right Career For You? Thoughts on the industry, from a veteran agent.

Man thinking while looking out at the lakeReal estate is important.

Whether it’s a house, a cabin in the mountains, a piece of family land, or a favorite oceanside escape, where we are at any time has great significance. Real estate’s locale, boundaries, and geographical terrain shape cultures and determine livelihoods. Ultimately, real estate is the center of our lives. It’s where we gather, where we raise our kids, and where we laugh, cry, recover, and rejuvenate. It’s about home.


The Role Of A Real Estate Agent Is Vital

As real estate agents, you and I have the distinct and vital role of guiding people through the transfer of one of the most important pieces of their lives. However, this mantle is often overlooked or is expressed as a platitude. And frankly, the dismissiveness hurts our industry. We sometimes forget how important a role we play in society. People joke about real estate agents—tainting the lens through which our profession is viewed—but we minimize the profession’s consequence, too. After we sell a few dozen (or a few hundred) houses, homes are itemized as sales, people into scribbles in an address book, and purpose rusts into the hopeless pursuit of “more” leads, units, and income. Reducing our role to mere tactics, statistics, paperwork, transactions, and dollars not only commoditizes the individuals we’re trusted to guide, but it commoditizes our lives, too.

But the role of an agent is vital. Moreover, our career provides unique advantages and opportunities. One simply has to look at other jobs to really appreciate—even fall in love with (again)—what real estate has to offer.


A Look At The American Work Culture

Our culture certainly aggrandizes “more,” but its pursuit is a fool’s errand. Worse, it comes at great expense to everyone. The culture we’ve produced pushes people to breaking points with little or no balance. Only ten percent of the population of the United States takes a full two weeks off per year. Most take far less time. If you look at other first-world countries with roughly the same standard of living as the United States, you’ll find that employer paid vacation is mandatory. In fact, it’s common for all employees living in Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, and even Great Britain to receive twenty to twenty-five days of paid vacation time per year. If you add national holidays, the number of paid days off can eclipse forty. In sharp contrast, the United States is the only country among its peers to not mandate paid vacation of any kind. The average American has just nine days of vacation a year.

Does nine days of vacation sound like a good life to you? Likely not. Yet there are, quite literally, millions of people leading lives of quiet desperation, working long and hard hours in jobs they despise, all in hopes of being able to do what they really want to do…“someday.” Unfortunately, that someday rarely comes.


Don’t Fall Victim To “Life Deferment”

Little time off is a symptom of a larger problem. Wrongly, life is treated by so many as a pilgrimage, with some “reward” at the end. Success, we are taught, waits for us at the finish line.

But that is a hoax, a terrible hoax. Life is a musical thing. You’re supposed to sing, strum, and dance while the music is being played.

“Life deferment” isn’t a real estate industry problem—it’s a overarching cultural disaster. Instead of seeking an equilibrium with our economic system, we push to work harder, sell more, outsource, downsize, and increase profits (by any means). “More, bigger, faster” is the ethos since the Industrial Revolution. And for what? So we can mortgage our lives, our time with our children, and our passions for the idea that when we retire we can enjoy them?

Consider this question: Do you want to live your life like a mortgagor, with so little spent on what’s principal? Or, ignoring the real estate simile, do you want to work and work, making a 160-hour (minimum) payment each and every month, with so little time and energy spent on your passions? The mortgagor and the owner have very different philosophies. Some examples:

The Mortgagor

The Owner

Hopes to retire someday. Schedules periodic miniretirements, restorative vacations, and frequent breaks to explore, learn, and grow.
Aims to make lots of money. Earns enough money to fund an ideal lifestyle and pursue lifelong dreams.
Acquires more and more. Does more with less and avoids clutter.
Spends gobs of money on full-page, egocentric ads. Builds meaningful, ongoing relationships with people and communities.

The bottom line is that if you don’t design your life, someone will do it for you, and you may not like their notions and priorities.

Design Your Own Life

Chances are you chose real estate largely because you want to design your own life. You appreciate that we’re here for a short time, and if anyone is to dictate how you’re going to live, it sure as hell better be you.

Real estate is different from other careers. You’re in control. You can shape your own destiny. In real estate, you can build an ideal lifestyle, balancing work, joy, and more than two weeks of vacation. If approached with the right attitude, philosophy, and habits, you can create the time, space, and flexibility to fuel a life that others, even lawyers, doctors, and corporate executives would drool over.

But you have to be all in.

Dave Crumby

Dave is the Chairman of Firepoint / Realvolve, a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) platform built expressly for real estate agents. Dave began his real estate career as an agent in 1996. Dave authored in 2013 the book titled 'REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate’ that has since become a best seller. The book features Dave's experience and the wisdom of other successful real estate leaders, such as the CEOs of Zillow, Trulia, Better Homes and Gardens, and many others.


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