15 Mistakes to Avoid During Your First Year in Real Estate

A guide to navigating your way to success as a new real estate agent

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Are you starting a career in real estate? This is an exciting time and you’re well on your way to living the life you’ve dreamed for yourself. But, it can also be daunting because you don’t know what to expect.

We’ve all seen incredible profiles of millionaire agents on social media and beyond. These rags to riches reels may have even motivated you to become an agent in the first place. However, social media highlights don’t always tell the whole story. Yes, the promise of a flexible and lucrative career is thrilling, but your success in real estate will come down to three things: Your perseverance, your hustle, and your ability to avoid common pitfalls.

The first year will likely be filled with challenges that can test even the most enthusiastic rookie. But if you keep persevering, you are likely to find success.

Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that new agents make so that you can look out for and avoid them.

Mistake #1: Failing to Set a Budget

Jumping into a real estate career is thrilling, but let’s get to business and talk about budgeting.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget that income in real estate can ebb and flow. This is especially true in your first year when you’re just finding your footing. Not having a solid budget can lead to some real financial headaches during slower months or when unexpected costs pop up, like marketing your listings or renewing your license.

So what’s the move? Start with crafting a budget that covers all the essentials. This includes fixed costs like brokerage fees and living expenses, plus variable ones like advertising and client meetings. Don’t forget to tuck away some cash into a rainy day fund. This will give you the peace of mind to focus on what you do best, which is selling homes and helping your clients.

Mistake #2: Having Unrealistic Expectations About Money

A lot of agents get into real estate thinking that they’ve hit a quick path to big bucks. The truth? It takes serious hustle and time to build a solid business.

When you start, it’s less about instant gratification and more about planting seeds. Networking, learning the local market, and building your reputation are all part of the groundwork that doesn’t pay off overnight but is crucial for long-term success.

Patience and persistence are your best friends in this game. The effort you put in now lays the foundation for the commissions you’ll earn down the road.

Mistake #3: Not Focusing on the People You’re Helping

It’s easy to get caught up in chasing the next sale or making a name for yourself. However, the heart of real estate isn’t transactions, it’s the people you work with. Successful agents know that putting clients’ interests first isn’t just good ethics, it’s good business.

When you genuinely focus on understanding and meeting your clients’ needs, you build trust and relationships that lead to repeat business and referrals. So, make it a point to listen more than you speak, be your client’s advocate, and remember that your success grows with their satisfaction.

Mistake #4: Not Networking

Think of networking as the lifeline of your real estate career. It’s not about handing out business cards at events, it’s about building genuine relationships with other agents, potential clients, and members of your community. These connections can lead to client referrals, partnerships, and insider insights that you can’t get anywhere else. Make it a point to attend local real estate events, join community groups, and stay active on professional platforms like LinkedIn. The stronger your network, the more robust your business will be.

Mistake #5: Neglecting Online Marketing

Today, if you’re not online, you’re invisible. A strong online presence is crucial to capture the attention of today’s tech-savvy home buyers and sellers. This means having a user-friendly website, active social media profiles, and utilizing digital marketing strategies like email newsletters and online ads. Your online presence is your digital handshake, and it needs to be strong and confident. Update your followers regularly with news that they’re most interested in. Also, respond to questions or comments quickly so that you can show your followers that you care about them.

Tired of reading? Check out our YouTube short on the top 3 mistakes you should avoid making to ensure your first year as a real estate salesperson.

Mistake #6: Not Finding a Mentor

Being in real estate without a mentor is like trying to find your way in a new city without a map. Experienced mentors offer invaluable guidance, from navigating complicated transactions to understanding market dynamics and client management. They can provide feedback, help you avoid common pitfalls, and accelerate your learning process. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Reach out to seasoned professionals in your brokerage or industry networks to offer help, and they may be willing to share their knowledge in return.


Mistake #7: Skipping Market Research

Ignoring market research is one of the biggest missteps you can make as a new real estate agent. This isn’t just about keeping tabs on house prices. It’s about understanding the ebbs and flows of your local area—what’s driving demand, which neighborhoods are hot or not, and what the future might hold. This knowledge will directly impact your ability to advise clients on when to buy or sell and at what price.

To master your market, consider attending local zoning and planning meetings, following local economic developments, and regularly reviewing sales and pricing trends. This proactive approach not only boosts your credibility but also sharpens your competitive edge.

Mistake #8: Underestimating the Workload

New real estate agents often don’t grasp the non-stop nature of the job. The truth is that real estate demands a lot more than just showing homes. You’re essentially running your own business, which is exciting, but it also means dealing with marketing, client relations, continuing education, and unexpected crises.

Long hours are the norm in real estate. Maintaining a work-life balance can be tough, especially in the beginning. The key is to build your stamina and commitment without burning out. Set clear goals so you know which direction you’re headed in. Set boundaries so that you don’t overcommit yourself. And schedule downtime so that you protect yourself from burning the candle at both ends. These are all essential strategies to sustain your energy and keep your passion for the job alive.

Mistake #9: Poor Time Management

Effective time management is more than just organizing your day. It’s about prioritizing tasks that add value. You must learn to delegate or outsource tasks that cost too much of your time for the value that it provides.

For example, while personal interaction with clients is irreplaceable, tasks like data entry or scheduling can be automated or handled by support staff. Your time may be better spent focusing on clients than doing business operations, such as creating and scheduling social media posts. It may be better to hire someone else to do those things while you focus on the higher-value tasks that will ultimately fund your business operations.

Learning to distinguish between urgent and important tasks is also crucial. Use tools like priority lists or the Eisenhower Box method to categorize and tackle tasks efficiently. Also, regularly assess your routines and adjust your schedule. This will allow you to minimize the amount of time you waste.

Mistake #10: Failing to Follow Up

Follow-up is where many new real estate agents drop the ball. Whether it’s returning calls and emails promptly, keeping in touch after a showing, or simply sending a thank-you note, timely follow-up is crucial. Neglecting this can make leads and clients feel undervalued. This sets off a chain reaction that leads to missed opportunities and even damaging long-term relationships.

To maintain consistent communication and show your clients they are always top of mind, implement a system to track interactions and reminders.

Mistake #11: Not Setting Realistic Goals

It’s great to be ambitious, and it's important to be ambitious in real estate to set yourself up for longterm success, but setting goals that are unreachable is a recipe for disappointment. Realistic, clearly defined goals are essential because they give you a target you can reasonably aim for. The more defined, the better, because this allows you to measure your progress effectively. Start with small, achievable objectives, like increasing your leads by a certain percentage or closing a set number of deals within a timeframe. As you grow more comfortable and capable, expand your goals accordingly. This approach keeps you motivated and grounded at the same time.

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Mistake #12: Overpromising and Under-Delivering

It’s tempting to make big promises to win over clients, but overcommitting can backfire. If you promise the moon but deliver less, clients will likely feel let down and might share their negative experiences with others. No doubt, this will damage your reputation. Instead, focus on setting honest, clear expectations from the get-go. Being transparent about what you can deliver not only builds trust but also positions you as a reliable and ethical professional in your clients’ eyes.

Mistake #13: Ignoring Client Needs

In real estate, your focus should always be on what the client wants and needs. Sometimes, agents get so caught up in closing a deal that they fail to listen actively to their clients. This oversight can lead to mismatched property showings and unsatisfied clients. Make a serious effort to listen more than you talk. Ask probing questions to fully understand your clients’ preferences and concerns, and then tailor your services to meet those needs precisely. Happy clients are more likely to return and refer others. This type of word-of-mouth is essential for building your business.

Mistake #14: Not Specializing

When you try to be everything to everyone, you often end up stretching yourself too thin.

Specializing in a particular type of real estate can set you apart from the crowd. Whether you specialize in luxury homes, historic properties, condos, or investment properties, you can operate and become an expert in a niche that suits your skills and passion. Specialization not only helps you target your marketing efforts more effectively but also allows you to build a stronger, more focused knowledge base that can attract clients looking for your specific expertise.

Mistake #15: Not Being on a Real Estate Schedule

Transitioning from a structured 9-to-5 job to a flexible yet unpredictable real estate career can be a shock to the system. Being your own boss means being disciplined from the get-go. You must manage your time wisely. This includes setting goals and being prepared to juggle multiple tasks efficiently. Use tools like digital calendars and project management software to keep track of deadlines and appointments.

Good time management is about prioritizing your tasks in a way that moves your business forward without burning you out.

Final Thoughts

Starting a career in real estate is exciting but full of challenges. While the success stories are inspiring, remember that this career demands hard work, smart planning, and a strong understanding of the market and your clients.

Learn from the common mistakes we’ve outlined above so that you can build a solid career foundation. Keep these insights in mind as you grow in your role. Stay committed, be proactive, and always prioritize your clients' needs. Here's to building a successful and fulfilling career in real estate.

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