If you’ve made the decision to pursue a career selling commercial real estate, no matter what stage of your career, you may be thinking, now what? How do you break into a field where most of the people working have been doing it for twenty some years?
While breaking into commercial real estate can be tricky, here are some places the start.
Before you break into the industry, you need to have the right credentials. If you’re interested in becoming a commercial real estate broker, you need to work your way up. One to three years of experience as an agent is required to get your broker license, so acquiring your real estate sales license as an agent is the first step you should take. While a college degree in real estate isn’t required, it may help move the process along, and some of the requirements may be waived if you have taken some college courses already.
Throughout your training as an agent, focus on learning the basics of the business such as zoning and tax laws, how to evaluate a business, and how to choose a location.
But there’s more to the industry than credentials. Once you’re licensed as an agent, the real work begins.
Network, Network, Network
Throughout your career, your network will be where you find leads, get introductions, get tips, and build partnerships. It is important to start building your network as soon as you decide on a career in a commercial real estate.
Without connections to the right people, you will face difficulty when it comes to finding the owners of a listing or staying up to date on the newest listings. Your network is where you will hear about new properties, sometimes (hopefully) even before they get listed. There are also fewer people looking for commercial real estate compared to residential properties, and unless you have a robust pipeline, deals will be hard to come by.
To build your network, team up with an experienced commercial broker in your market. Shadow them, Meet the same people they meet. Go to networking events and introduce yourself, and what you do, to every single person you meet.
It’s that simple and that hard. The things you need to know will not just be learned in some class, but out in the field. Some of your first jobs will probably be working for those in Senior positions while marketing yourself at the same time. You may have the opportunity to manage a small property while you learn the ropes, but it could also take a few years before you are taken seriously. Working with experienced brokers at a respectable firm is the best way to get the experience you will need, and being a part of deals is the best way to get your name out there.
The only way to get the experience you need is to put in the work.
Do Your Math (Literally)
It’s all about the numbers in commercial real estate. While you need to be a social, charismatic person who networks and make contacts, you also need to be smart with numbers. They can make or break a deal and your ability to know those numbers can affect your reputation.
Numbers can also affect whether or not you even want to be in commercial real estate. It can take a year for some people to start earning an income when they first break into the industry. Can you afford to go that long without a paycheck? Crunch the numbers and then decide.
If you are starting right out of college, keep in mind, the majority of the industry are Baby Boomers (average age, 57). When you walk into a room, it’s quite possible you will be the youngest one there. When you network, chances are, it will be those who have been in the industry longer than you’ve been alive. It will take guts to walk into a room of people older than you and try to prove you’re experienced enough to do the job.
It’s also an industry of cold calls and visits. While technology is changing the way we interact, in the CRE industry, face-to-face communication is still very much alive. You will need to walk into buildings where you don’t have an appointment, introduce yourself to people you’ve never met, and pick up the phone ready to sell yourself.
Making a career change or starting one a commercial real estate agent can be done with the right steps and some determination, but then nearly all careers today require the same effort. For more information about the commercial real estate industry, download our free guide featured below. One of our seasoned experts in the field, Jim Olsen, shares his insight and advice.