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Throughout the pandemic, the real estate industry has remained robust, with established agents and brokers easily busting their pre-coronavirus sales records and raking in more money than ever before.
So, it’s no surprise more than 80,000 Americans tried their hand at real estate in 2020, with a similar number in 2021 hoping to capture some of the success they’ve seen on social media or one of the many TV shows that reveal what’s possible with the right mix of passion, know-how and grit.
For Sacramento-based House Real Estate agent Jessica LaMar, the leap into real estate was years in the making. Although she loved her career as a store business manager for Lululemon, changes in LaMar’s personal life and a growing desire to follow her entrepreneurial goals pushed her to say goodbye to corporate America and start over as a rookie sales agent with Tim Collom Realtor Group.
“I got my degree in business management and entrepreneurship, so I kind of always knew that I wanted to have my own business venture,” she said. “I just didn’t know exactly what that would look like until I was blessed to meet Tim [Collom] and join his real estate team.”
Below, revisit LaMar’s first year as an agent through the prism of some of the most remarkable numbers of her rookie year.
Number of decisions before she took a leap of faith: 1
Before becoming a real estate agent, LaMar and her husband, Matt, considered building a small portfolio of investment properties to build long-term wealth for their growing family. As the consummate researcher of the two, LaMar dug deep into the ins and outs of scouting listings, financing purchases and managing properties.
“I had been interested in investment properties for just like our long-term financial growth as a family,” she explained. “I mean, [real estate investing] was very new to me, so I said, ‘Okay, How can I learn about that industry? How can I get established in it?”
LaMar reached out to Sacramento broker Tim Collom, who moonlights as an award-winning artist and Lululemon brand collaborator, for advice about real estate — a connection that would prove to be useful when LaMar realized corporate America was no longer for her.
“I reached out to Tim and he actually offered me a job based on our previous experience with each other,” she said. “It ended up just being the perfect fit where I was like, ‘Wow, I actually really love being on the sales side of this industry.’ It just happened really organically.”
Although LaMar and her husband were excited to start a new chapter in real estate, some family members questioned the aspiring real estate agent’s sudden leap of faith, especially as an established professional with a young family.
“To be totally honest, my decision was definitely met with mixed reviews. My husband was super supportive and he said, ‘That will be the perfect thing,’” she said. “But then my mother-in-law was like, ‘I don’t know how you’re gonna do that with a family and everything.’”
Instead of rethinking her decision or getting defensive, LaMar pointed to the thousands of headlines explaining the real estate industry’s hot streak, even as the pandemic brought other industries to their knees.
“After I explained everything, they were kind of like, ‘Oh, that makes sense,’” she said with a laugh. “Like, everything’s on fire right now. Why not just jump in while it’s hot? But, I’m not someone that’s going to worry too much about negative opinions.”
“I push past that if there’s something I really want to do, and I wanted to do real estate,” she added.
Number of months of intense studying: 2
After saying goodbye to Lululemon, LaMar had to clear the first hurdle of her new career: passing California’s real estate licensing test.
“I actually did practice tests every day for two months,” she said. “Because I knew I really wanted to do this, I wanted to make sure I could pass on the first try, and so I put all my effort into doing all those practice tests and learning as much as I could.”
LaMar said she enjoyed learning about tenant occupancy the most, thanks to her longstanding interest in investing. “That was a really natural thing for me just to be curious about,” she explained. However, learning the history of real estate in California was an unexpected thorn in her side, as she struggled to memorize dozens of dates.
“I think the hardest thing for me just was learning the history of real estate,” she said with a tinge of lingering exasperation. “There are so many dates!”
LaMar’s dedication paid off with her passing the licensing exam on the first try. However, she said she quickly realized a greater challenge still laid ahead when it came to learning how to apply what she studied.
“I’m just really thankful to have a great support system with our team,” she said. “I am still learning. There are different rules and laws and ins and outs to writing offers. It’s a continuous learning process because every circumstance is so different from one another.”
Number of home tours before her big break: 3
To build her clientele, LaMar spent much of her first months helping host open houses. As she did with her real estate licensing test, LaMar spent hours studying every detail about the listings and recalling her sales skills to connect with potential buyers.
“My first open house was in Elmhurst, a little neighborhood in Sacramento. I just studied the detail about the property and the listing before going into it,” she said. “When it came down to it, it was just a matter of connecting with the people that came in the door, and honestly, that’s what I focused on a bit more than even knowing all those details.”
“That really paid off because I did actually get one of my first clients through that open house,” she added.
LaMar was ecstatic to find her first clients, a couple looking for the perfect home for their family of three. The process went quickly, she said, with the family only seeing three homes before making an offer and winning — with no other buyers making a bid.
“We actually only had to look at three [homes] before we found one that was a good fit for them, and it was pretty seamless from there because they were actually the only offer,” she said. “I got pretty lucky.”
Number of questions posed by second client: ‘1 million’
Although LaMar got “pretty lucky” with her first sale, her next one was much more challenging.
“I met another family at an open house in Fair Oaks and they were actually not thinking about buying, but they walked into the open house, just kind of curious,” she said. “Then after talking it turned into, like, ‘Oh, maybe we do want to do this.’”
After finding the perfect property, LaMar’s clients were ready to make an offer — except it was contingent on them selling their current home. With the market moving so fast, LaMar admitted she was worried about losing out on the property to other buyers with non-contingency offers.
“Obviously, contingencies can be a much more complicated process, by just making sure the timelines line up and everybody remains happy in the process of it,” she explained. “My client was super eager, super detail-oriented, and I was asked a million questions all the time.”
LaMar said there were times she felt flustered, but she was ultimately thankful to encounter a more exacting client early on.
“He made me make sure I double-checked what I knew, and really make sure I was giving him the correct information,” she said. “When I didn’t know something or messed up, I just acknowledged it and made sure I gave him the correct information. It was definitely challenging, but in a very good [way.]”
Deadline to get it all done: 24 hours
When it comes to her schedule, LaMar said she’s adopted a “freeform” approach where she focuses on simply completing her high-priority tasks for any given day — whether that means waking up early to check on escrow or staying up to take late-night phone calls from clients.
“A lot of people need a lot of structure in a day. I’m more freeform. I look at my checklist and focus on priorities,” she said. “If I have a house in escrow, like that’s going to be more of my focus — helping my current client work through that.”
“Then everything else after that is more like email and getting calls done,” she added. “Then during afternoons I usually plan showings for my clients and I do open houses on the weekends. That’s kind of the bare bones of the structure of my days.”
LaMar said new agents will have to figure out what schedule works best for them, but whatever they do, they must be consistent.
“I feel like I’m still figuring that out,” she said regarding making time for other tasks, such as being active on social media and making cold calls. “The one thing that will have the biggest impact is just being consistent. Show up for people on a regular basis and just be consistent with the presence of ‘Hey, I’m in real estate. I’m here if you need me or have any questions about what’s going on in the market.”
Minutes she allows ‘Cocomelon’ to occupy toddler: 30
Like many, LaMar’s home doubles as a workspace with her taking phone calls, sending emails and attending video meetings as her precocious two-year-old plays in the background. Although her husband often keeps their toddler preoccupied, there are times where LaMar must balance being an attentive mom and real estate agent.
“The transition has probably been hardest on my husband. He’s seen me walking around the yard at 8 pm at night on a call for an hour trying to work through something,” she said. “We have a toddler, so I’m very thankful that I have him around. But when he’s not around and if she’s not in daycare, it’s like sometimes I have to throw on ‘Cocomelon’ and say, ‘Watch this for 30 minutes while I touch base with my clients.’”
LaMar said she’s still navigating a work-life balance, and making time for her hobbies, which include creating art.
“You just kind of make it work with your family’s environment and just do the best you can,” she said. “If I have my daughter and she’s in the background, generally everyone’s really understanding about that.”
She added, “As for my own hobbies, it’s just a matter of making time for them and making sure that time is allocated in my day. I’m not going to show up the best for my clients if I haven’t taken care of myself too.”
2021 sales volume: $2.9 million
Despite some challenges, LaMar sailed through her first year with $2.9 million in sales — a figure she hopes to double by the end of 2022. “My goal for 2022 is to double my sales and double my client base, and that might be a little bit tricky because our circumstances are a little bit different,” she said. “I’m actually pregnant with our second baby so that’s thrown a curveball, but I’m still very determined to make that happen.”
LaMar said she’s leaning on her mentor Tina Suter to help her become more agile and create a step-by-step plan to reach $6 million in sales volume this year. Although she’s still working on the specifics of that plan, LaMar said she’s focusing on doing more of what works, cutting out what doesn’t, and challenging herself to try new marketing methods.
“My main mentor Tina Suter has been by my side through the entire time,” she said. “I can text her or give her a call any time of day if I have a question or I’m writing an offer. So I’m really lucky to have her at my fingertips, just to give me guidance.”
Keys for first-year success: 4
As she heads into year two, LaMar said there are four main keys to success: being fearless, continuing your education, avoiding the comparison trap and using criticism to fuel improvement.
“The first thing you have to grasp and master is being fearless because you have to be the one talking to people and asking for their business. And they’re gonna say no, a lot,” she said. “But it builds resilience. Know if somebody tells you no, it’s okay. Maybe the next person will say yes.”
Along with embracing “no’s,” LaMar said it’s important to avoid comparing yourself to other new or more established agents who seem to be having better luck than you.
“Don’t compare yourself to where other agents are at,” she said. “I think this can be easy to do when you see how much business someone is getting,” she said. “It can get a little bit daunting to see where someone else is at, but don’t worry. Just focus on how you can grow yourself and your business.”
Lastly, LaMar said new agents must master handling criticism and objections, which come a dime a dozen as clients and others question your skills and knowledge.
“Try not to take criticism personally because a lot of times people just aren’t sure about you,” she said. “Ask them, ‘What do you need from me to prove that I can do this for you?’ I think if you come from a place of being really curious and wanting to get better, people are really receptive to that.”
Number of years she’s planned into the future: 10
With a successful rookie year in the books, LaMar said she has her sights on becoming one of the top 10 agents in her market.
“I want to be in the top 10 real estate agents in Sacramento, and that is definitely going to be a goal of mine, especially five to 10 years out,” she said.
“It’s weird thinking that far ahead,” she concluded, “but I feel like that’s a lot of time to be able to grow and establish myself in the industry.”
Email Marian McPherson