GUEST COLUMN: Keep the Door Open

Real estate may not be for everyone, but don't close the door even if you choose never to open a lockbox again. Consider a referral business if you decide to take a break from real estate.

Kenyatta Jones-Arietta
Kenyatta Jones-Arietta

According to the National Association of Realtors, more than 60,000 Realtors left the profession in the first half of 2023. We can expect the number will more than double by the ball drop into 2024. Yes, real estate is not for everyone and has become more challenging to navigate with all of the changes within our industry and fewer homes to sell.

If you gave the business your all and decided that it’s just not for you, I commend you for giving it a shot. The fact that you ventured to try something new is huge. However, I caution you—while you may decide to explore other career possibilities, don’t completely close the door on real estate. You may choose to never open a lockbox again, but you gave 75+ hours of your life to a business that you will never get back. Isn’t the coveted license you received worth holding on to?

I was 19 when I got my real estate license for the first time. I pounded the pavement of the concrete jungle we call New York City, doing apartment rentals for a small brokerage owned by the Sunday night DJ at the club I worked at on the weekends. Robert Douglas of RJ Douglas Realty got me my first Big Apple apartment and was my first real estate broker.

Real estate requires a level of patience and dedication that I hadn’t yet developed as a young adult. Short-sighted, I thought it more financially beneficially to just stick with my night gig. I mean, do you know what you could make in tips at clubs in the city in those days? I wasn’t ready for real estate.

Fast-forward 10 years: I was living in Rockland County, unhappily commuting down to the city for work when my husband said, “You know, I always thought if you weren’t doing interior design, you’d be a great real estate agent.” That was now almost 20 years ago. I didn’t last two years in real estate the first time around and here I sit, almost 20 years in, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the launch of my own real estate brokerage. Who knew?

Though I am a firm believer that everything happens the way it’s supposed to, every once in a while, I find myself wondering what would have happened had I stayed in real estate that first time around. As we don’t have crystal balls, there’s just no way to know, and besides, how much fun would that be?

If you decide to take a break from real estate, I advise you to leave the door ajar and park your license in referral mode. You won’t be able to show houses, but you can still make money referring buyers and sellers to real estate agents who do, including agents out of state.

As a referral agent, you will need to keep up with your state’s continuing education requirements, and any new or revised laws that affect the industry. You will also want to make connections with real estate licensees everywhere. You never know when someone you know will be looking to move into any given area. Referring just may be the answer you’ve been waiting for, however, referrals are best when you know and have some connection with the person you are referring to.

Where can you meet different agents? There are online groups like Facebook’s Lab Coat Agents: Referrals, which is great for finding agents in other states. I cross-reference the Facebook profiles with the ratings and reviews from platforms, such as and Zillow, before I connect the agents with the potential clients. Ask your broker about the referral procedures in your office before engaging with anyone. Your brokerage may have a referral network with other offices they may prefer you reach out to first.

Aside from exploring online, I like networking at conferences like the NAR’s Annual REALTOR Conference & Expo, Inman Connect and/or The Real Deal Forums. The attendees of these events are actively seeking industry knowledge and agent connections. Those are the people you will want to know and refer to. Attending national events is not only a good way to connect with new people, but also a fun way to travel and explore new places with the added benefit of write-offs; however, be sure to speak with your accountant to see what expenses qualify.

I have enjoyed sharing with you the past 12 months and hope you found value within my column. Thank you for following along and I am looking forward to sticking the key in the door of real estate in 2024.

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