By Heino Molls

After all these years I have concluded there aren’t a lot of things related to the real estate profession that are set in stone. There never have been. Things change in this business and they can change rapidly. Only a few things have not changed in over 30 years. Here is one.

To be a good real estate agent is not exactly rocket science but it sure would help if you were a rocket scientist. For example, a homeowner might buy a super expensive furnace filter with thick ripples to prevent even a tiny smidgen of potential bacteria from entering the household because he saw it on a TV commercial. A good agent might gently advise the homeowner that a filter as thick as that can make the furnace work so hard that it may not function properly and break down. A standard filter, which is also cheaper, may be just as effective and keep the furnace running smoothly. Not rocket science but an awareness most people don’t carry.



Being a good agent is not something that is acquired after many years of scholastic study and it is not something that demands great physical strength. For example, it probably would be helpful to be a psychologist in real estate but even a person with that kind of formal education may not be able to extend the kind of empathy needed to console a person leaving their home after 40 years of raising a family and leaving the only community they have ever known. Not psychology but an ability most people would never have.

A good agent does not have to be a chartered accountant but they can, for example, present what is real to a person who is in Fantasyland about the value of their home. They can do so without damaging the ego of the person wanting to list their $500,000 home for a million dollars. Not just accounting skills but rather those of presentation, logic and plain-speaking explanation. Again, an ability most people don’t have.

During any given day a good real estate agent will be expected to review property and provide an accurate assessment of its value. A good agent will spend time on promotion by analyzing the potential, studying the possibilities, choosing the best venues and executing a marketing plan that will be effective and smart. This is an ability most people think they have but few really do.

If you are good at this business, you must also be good when it comes to administration, the rules and especially the politics.

It is no secret that a smaller number of agents do the most business. That means the majority of real estate agents in Canada are not making as much money as this special minority. We can argue over the numbers and percentages until the cows come home. Some say 20 per cent of real estate agents are doing 80 per cent of the business, some say it is more like 40 per cent are doing 60 per cent and some even suggest 10 per cent are doing 90 per cent.

For me, it is not an anomaly. It reflects the fact that the skill set of a good real estate agent is not something everyone can develop. It is why so many do not last. Many try to become as successful as those they see driving luxury cars, wearing luxury suits and living luxurious life styles. Everyone wants that, everybody wants to be that. But not everybody can.

One of the many wise people in our real estate business community told me that the great attraction of this business is that one can still enter it with a relatively small investment and they can realize a large return. But when you enter this business you must bring wisdom. You must be smart. You must choose the right franchise to align yourself with, you must approach your profession with reasoned thought and you must apply skill, empathy and above all, awareness to your craft. It is only then that you might be part of the minority who makes the most money. It is a great aspiration and it is a great dream to have.

Heino Molls has been the Publisher of REM, Real Estate Magazine (formerly Real Estate Marketing), since 1989. Previous to REM, he worked as an executive at the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), and at the Toronto Star. Contact Heino by email or call 416-425-3504 x2.

  • Sheila Barr

    You must choose the right COMPANY to align yourself with – which may be an independent!

  • Marty Douglas

    Hi Heino – outstanding article I will share with our sales team. As I approach the horizon of my real estate career, fortunate enough to observe outstanding practitioners, I have seen repeated examples of that old expression “The harder I work, the luckier I get!” The very best in our business do make it look easy and that is the trap newbies often fall into. But the best in our business know and share their secrets because, if real estate success was “easy” they would be replaceable. They know how hard they work and challenge peers to do the same. Few can. Best wishes,

  • Brian Martindale

    Excellent article Heino. Well thought out and well stated. There is nothing like a good dose of wisdom based upon reflection of one’s long-held experience within the business—as it has existed to date—to set the record straight.
    No, most cannot become successful, professional Realtors, for the reasons that you laid bare. Yes, most will fail at the trough, for the reasons that you laid bare. And to think that the public is used on a daily basis as the communal guinea pig for the try-out artists, this reality all the while being sanctioned by the powers-that-be dues collectors for whom the money-ball pyramid is fueled..
    Your correct reasoning also sheds light on the reality that most Realtors cannot be trusted to equitably/ethically conduct dual agency, because on any given day most Realtors are failures-in-waiting for whom the necessary qualities needed for success as laid bare within your editorial do not exist, but most important…they desperately need that double commission.
    It’s time for a quantum change within the real estate sales culture. Hopefully within the next few years we can point to the individual successes of the vast majority of Realtors, provided that there will be then far fewer Realtors operating in the field in the first place who can actually afford to be there in the first place. Quality over quantity; that’s the ticket.