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Real Estate Broker: 5 Unexpected Things to Know | Kori Marin, Fox Marin Blog

An Insider Look at Becoming a Real Estate Broker

Did you know? There are more than 50,000 registered real estate agents with the Toronto Real Estate Board? In fact, there are more real estate agents in Toronto than any other board in the world. Isn’t that crazy to think about? There are more agents in Toronto than there are in Tokyo, New York, London, Sydney or San Francisco, woah! That is a huge number of people running around thinking (or expecting) real life to be like HGTV.

Doesn’t it seem like everyone and their brother in now a real estate broker? Your bartender, your florist and your Uber driver? Every time I walk into Starbucks, I see some poor soul studying for their Ontario Real Estate Association Exams. My response? And, I want to tell them, “you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into”! No, seriously, you have no idea.

Now, don’t get me wrong! I love my job – and, I love our team and company. But, admittedly, I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I got down and dirty in the trenches. I learned what being a Toronto Real Estate broker is really like! So, for all those young and old bucks out there hoping to become the next Ryan Serhant…here’s my list of the 5 insider things I didn’t expect about becoming a real estate broker.


1. It costs to run a business?!

I wasn’t totally naive before becoming a licensed agent. I purchased and sold real estate and had a small portfolio of condo holdings that I worked damn hard to acquire. This was all before I even considered working in the business full-time. Even with a formal education, corporate work and a ton of life experience, nothing really prepared me for the cost of running a business. Yes, somehow, this thought never crossed my mind. And no, I didn’t expect to become a millionaire starting as an agent, but I also didn’t anticipate the expenses to be incredibly high. This realization rocked both my emotional well-being and credit line in year one.

So, depending on the brokerage you join, the first year starting up comes with huge splits payable to your office. In my case, that equated to 40% of all my gross commissions. Eeek. And, when you’re only doing rentals and small deals to start, this is HUGE. More than this, I was tied to a policy that didn’t allow a payout on any pre-construction deals until the building was sold out, built, and registered – that’s three to four years of waiting for a paycheque!

More than this, no one prepares you for all the real estate fees – TREB, CREA and the Real Estate Council of Ontario. This adds up to a pretty penny (around $4,000.00), which isn’t exactly pocket change when you’re just starting out. Not to mention, that three letter word nobody likes: CRA. Doesn’t it seem like the timing of receiving those brown paper envelopes, always comes on rainy days when you have absolutely no wine in the house? True fact, the CRA loves real estate agents. You’re looking at a solid 30% cut, making your gross earnings seem like less than minimum wage. On top of this, factor in start-up costs – technology, website, business cards, open house signs and that car you need to drive around the city all day! Needless to say, it’s smart to have a reserve fund set up to manage cash flow, start-up costs and that whole “inconsistency of a paycheque” thing!


2. What an emotional rollercoaster.

Before getting my license as a real estate broker, I came from working as a National Account Manager for big retail pharmacy brands – Shoppers Drug Mart, CVS, Rite Aid, and Target, to name a few. So, it wasn’t exactly a chop liver job. In fact, pay was fantastic and came with great perks, including an expense account, travel rewards, free phone, benefits and paid vacation. However, I left my cushy job to work for myself because my ambitions went beyond moving up the corporate ladder. Instead, I chose to use my skill set and experience working in real estate – a growing industry fuelled by technology. It was almost a start-up kind of vibe, which I was excited for. Beyond this, the thought of working for myself, in one of the best markets worldwide, and while building a brand became more and more appealing.

But, something crept into this plan that I didn’t anticipate: emotions. I’m not talking about a little stress here and there – it was mega anxiety that hit me like a ton of bricks. Think about it this way, your clients are trusting you with their money. For most, it’s their largest financial asset. And for me? I did not want to screw that up. People kept telling me that I was taking the business too personally! Hell, yes I was. This is a BIG DEAL. We’re talking about life savings. It’s my job (in fact, my fiduciary duty) to look out for their best interests. With certainty, this wasn’t something I could have ever predict about the business. As a real estate broker now, over time and with more experience and instincts, I manage these emotions in a way that still allows me to care (just as much and more) and approach personally. We’re not trading widgets – these are peoples’ homes, so I hope you damn care (and cry a little too).


3. A look at the ‘other’ side.

This one is hard to wrap my head around, but it’s the truth! The real estate agent representing the other side of the deal can make it or break it. For example, when selling a property, we’ll come across a buyer agent who doesn’t exactly know what they’re doing. This can make things very difficult and sometimes downright impossible. Ego, arrogance, poor and lack of communication, terrible paperwork, ridiculous requests, verbal threats, lack of common sense etc., can get in the way of focusing on structuring a deal. And, the part that gets my goat? These agents actually have clients trusting them to look after their best interest! Because we only control 50% of the deal, it can be hard to manage expectations. In fact, can be extremely infuriating. However, when you’re fortunate to have a professional representing the other side, it’s amazing how fun negotiating can actually be! When working with a strong other half, the experience is a night and day difference. So much that I wish it was more of an everyday experience than not!


4. Writer’s block – the struggle is so real.

Yeah, this one is a shocker (and still is, to be honest). No one tells you in “realtor school” that you’re going to become a part-time creative writer. And really, it’s not just some content – I write a lot of copy, all of which has to be unique and original. It isn’t always an easy task when you’re not in an inspired head space. Writer’s block is a thing, and let me tell you, the struggle is so real. 

In the real estate business, writing is a big component! Copy is required for real estate listings, feature sheets, website content, blog articles, social media posts, press releases, buyer and sellers guides, listing and buyer presentations, business proposals, bios…and the list goes on. I mean, has become the number one site I visit! Truth be told, when becoming a real estate broker, I never visualized myself hustling to meet a copy deadline – was I ever wrong about that one! And, the copy thing won’t be slowing down anytime soon.


5. How do you feel about solitary confinement?

Lastly, my final “aha” moment about the unexpected realities of becoming a Toronto real estate broker? Being alone. People always told me to get into the business because I’m “good with people”. Well, to be honest, you’re not with people as often as you think. In fact, having been in a corporate environment and then making the transition into the real estate business, it’s actually lonely. Say goodbye to those long-winded office meetings and gossip sessions! Leaving a corporate culture and moving on to your own thing – it’s a very quiet place. And, it’s a little hard to get used to!

As a real estate broker, you spend a lot of time driving to showings, waiting in condominium lobbies for late clients, empty parking lots searching for lockboxes, and late nights huddled around a laptop typing up an offer with a glass of wine in hand. Your clients end up being your new “work friends” and when the transaction wraps up…we often miss them. Yes, it’s true, it’s a sad feeling that we don’t text daily about the newest listing in South Riverdale or the recent sale price of house on Markham. So, when you notice that I’m stalking you on Instagram, you’ll know why! It’s funny, having to get used to working alone. That said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Plus, we have a rockin’ team of awesome people that are always available to bounce ideas off of, brainstorm solutions or to just laugh about a wild scenario!


But, the best part of being a real estate broker?

My favourite thing about being in this business? I’m inspired to get better at what I do each and every day. This responsibility is not for the faint of heart – it truly requires tenacity, creativity, intelligence and some serious hustle. It’s not about pretty properties, glamorous outfits and Instagram selfies – it’s about looking out for your clients and their best interests. And, when you look after your people, the business really, truly looks after itself.


This article is written by Kori Marin, Managing Partner and Broker at Fox Marin Associates. With a passion for Scandinavian design and all-things-Toronto, Kori brings her own brand of charismatic energy, creative integrity, and expertise to her work.