Interview with a Real Estate Agent (Part 1)

In my November post about planning a new career I mentioned that conducting an informational interview with someone already in the career you're considering is a great way to get the "inside scoop" on what that career is really like.

Today I'm sharing my interviews with two of CBA's successful, longtime agents, Jim Baucom and Joe Norton of our Winston-Salem office. Our interviews were conducted virtually via email, which is also an option for all of you career-planners out there. If you prefer face-to-face, but an in-person meeting isn't practical, invite your interviewee to a virtual meeting online!

Introducing our agents:

Jim Baucom was licensed in 1989 and has been with Coldwell Banker for over 25 years. He has numerous professional designations including the Certified Residential Specialist. A native of North Carolina, he is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, as well as the N.C. Realtor Institute. Active in community and church, he delivers solid service in a professional and friendly manner. Over the years Jim has listed and sold in most all areas surrounding Winston Salem in all price ranges.

Joe Norton is a North Carolina native, and a long time resident that knows the Triad area. Before becoming a Real Estate agent, he put in 30 yrs. experience with Wells Fargo Financial helping clients achieve financial goals. He is a member of the local, state & national Board of Realtors, and a multi-million dollar producer with a variety of specialties including custom homes, executive homes, first-time buyers, historic homes, luxury homes, new construction, and relocation.

Advantage School: How did you make your decision to start a career in Real Estate?

Joe: When I retired from Wells Fargo Financial at 55 years old I was too young not to do something. I like to help others, and during my career I helped my clients achieve their financial goals and my team members achieve their career goals. Real Estate was a way for me to continue to help others, this time in buying their perfect home or selling their home.

Jim: I was in the finance industry, made construction loans, knew builders, and had always had an interest in construction. I was growing tired of a typical 8-5 job. On top of that I am a people person, can work with most anyone.

Advantage School: What types of people tend to excel in Real Estate, and why?

Jim: There are all types of Realtors, and no one way to be the best. High Pressure agents, high advertising budgets, high visibility people. You can buy as much advertising and exposure as you want; that is all fine, but that is not me. I mainly market to people I know, at least on a limited basis. I've sent out a Christmas calendar for many years. A simple calendar, with a personal picture of me, often family oriented. I have people that expect it each year. I give a thank you gift, generally a picture book where I can write a note, plus maybe a meal gift certificate, even a half-gallon of Scotch one time. It's always personal.

Joe: Those who like to help others achieve their goals. Those who are outgoing. Those who have a "get things done" attitude.

Advantage School: What would you tell someone considering a career in Real Estate?

Joe: Be prepared early from a financial standpoint. Those who have the ability to withstand the first few months financially while they build their business are the ones who prosper in the long term.

Jim: You are truly your own boss. That is not something to take lightly. You are not reporting to anyone, not required to do anything . . . in the end it is up to the individual. You pay for insurance, your car, your retirement, etc. That must be factored into your income. You may well pay for additional real estate education, advertising, marketing. Ideally you are in it for the long haul. Not that everyone should stay with one company for almost 30 years like I have, but stability is important.

Advantage School: What's something you've discovered only after being in the industry for a while?

Joe: That real estate sales are just like any other business, with ebbs and flows. One has to always hope for the best but prepare for the worst by having a rainy day fund when the well gets dry.

Jim: I recall very early in my career a friend from church listed his house with another agent. That was fine, I was very new. You can't do business in every field with everyone you know. But after 6 months the house had not sold and they asked my advice. I told them it was overpriced. I listed that house, sold them a new construction, then over the years did a transaction for his mother, then their daughter. In other words, three generations!

When I first started out I did a lot of phone duty (a lot of managers call it "opportunity time" -- guess that does sound nicer!). My first transaction, after several months of zero income, was a buyer from phone duty. And here is the really good part: after several years I listed that house for sale. Listed it, and sold them a new construction, and then several years after that, listed that. Four transactions from one phone call.

Advantage School: What advice would you give a new agent just starting out?

Joe: Know what you're getting into from a financial perspective. Being in business for oneself is not for the faint of heart, and having the financial resources to withstand the beginning is of utmost importance.

Also, don't hesitate to take all the education offered by your company, and never be afraid to ask for help with a transaction!

Jim: Get additional training. In the first couple of years I earned the GRI and CRS. Made good longtime friends, received some good education, and added to my credibility. That additional credibility helped with getting relocation business. I have some good friends, and they've referred good business. Nothing more enjoyable than to get a call out of the blue, saying so-and-so gave them my name.

Be available. Some Realtors will say no business after 5:00 or so; that's fine, their business model, you can do as you please. But my model is simple: I answer the phone whenever. Granted I work 7 days a week, but not really full time. I may well be in front of the TV and on the computer at the same time, or I may take a business call on the beach. And with new technology, working from anywhere is easier than ever. My motto: Call Jim, you get Jim.

Control expenses. A zillion companies will try to sell everything. The old saying is, "I know half my advertising works, I just don't know which half!" Today you can do a lot with the Web and social media.

Lastly, know your market area. Winston-Salem has so much to offer. I used to do a lot of area tours; UNC School of the Arts, Old Salem, sports, colleges and universities; the list goes on and on.

Advantage School: Gentlemen, thank you for your time and your insights. Any parting comments?

Jim: This is a good career. It can be enjoyable and rewarding. Lewis Hubbard told me when I was a fairly new agent, and I had had an easy transaction, "Jim the harder you work, the luckier you get!"

Joe: I agree with Jim. This is a good career that allows one to help others and in doing so reap the rewards. And the rewards are not just monetary, even though they are important. While we are self employed, we do not work for ourselves, we work for our clients. And the more one helps others achieve success in their endeavors and wants, the more success one will have, on both a personal and monetary level.


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