So You Want to Play in the Game? How Do I Get In?


New York City is regarded by many as the fiercest and most competitive place to do business in the country.  As the saying goes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. I believe this to be true, and I want to offer up a few tips for new agents who are either just starting out or looking to burst onto the New York City real estate scene.

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Every year, thousands of new potential agents come knocking on the doors of firms that specialize in residential rentals and sales or commercial sales and leasing.  Many are successful, but many more end up washing out of the business. The turnover rate at most firms is usually very high for newer agents in their first year. Sometimes it’s due to a firm’s training program or lack of mentors; other times it’s the platform or management.

Often it can be as simple as a company not really caring whom it hires and simply throwing warm bodies in seats to fill the place up. If I was interviewing with a company today, I would ask what its success rate on hiring and training new agents is. How many stay after one year? How many make it and stay after three years? What’s the mentorship that it offers? What type of training program is provided?

Don’t be afraid to push for exact numbers or specific details; those successful firms that are properly hiring, training and developing their people will tell you exactly what their success rate is and what your probability will be in working with them. I would be concerned if the interviewer doesn’t give you a straight answer or avoids any facts. Always ask if you can speak to an experienced agent and a new hire in his or her first year to hear from the horse’s mouth what the company and culture are really like.

Successful new agents usually fall into two categories. First are those new sales or leasing agents who have a family in the business. They come fresh to the game with all sorts of built-in advantages, i.e. referrals, and a different level of understanding, since they have been around the business their whole lives.

For those of us, like myself, who don’t fall into the first category, we rely on someone to show us how to do it. Most people are at least willing to learn if there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, if someone doesn’t show you how to find it, you can keep chasing that rainbow for a very long time. Without someone showing you the way, you’ll always have great stories about the deal you almost sealed but somehow just couldn’t close.

But who wants that? I’d rather have the story and the closing! The key here is mentorship. You have to put yourself in a position to learn and grow from a senior broker willing to help with your journey into your business. This is easier said than done.

Often there is no one to mentor you, or there are those who will take you under their wing, but they want to take a pound of flesh and control you for a long period of time. I often hear of lopsided agreements in which senior agents took advantage of an unsuspecting junior agent who was willing to sign anything just for a shot in the game, and then once the junior agent wised up, the relationship ended abruptly in an unpleasant manner.

It is a mistake for a manager and a senior agent to practice this or allow it to happen. To think that they can treat new agents like this is also extremely shortsighted. If someone is talented and passionate about the real estate business, and he or she can enter into a mentorship relationship that is mutually beneficial, everyone wins.

As a new agent looking to enter the NYC market, don’t settle on the first opportunity that presents itself; make sure you look around, meet with all the firms in that respective niche and look to enter a mentorship with a successful agent who is respected by his or her peers and has a track record of developing people, not chewing them up and spitting them out.  Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, and remember this is YOUR business.

This will significantly increase your probability of success and allow you to enjoy a long and successful career in real estate in the best city in the world!