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Goodbye Marcus & Millichap


It would be easy to say that, after a few short months working at Marcus & Millichap as a commercial real estate agent, that throwing in the towel so early in the game would be a striking failure.

It is, in fact, with some chagrin that I write this post.  But I promised to be open and share my real life ups and downs here, so consider this article in keeping with that theme.

Just to bring you up to speed, since I wrote NO POSTS the WHOLE TIME I was with the firm, here’s what’s been happening.

What It’s Like To Be a New Commercial Real Estate Agent

I started working (no salary, 100% commission) on September 4.  I put my baby in day care, where he was the First In (7AM) and Last Out (6 PM) every day.  I would get up at 5:30 in the morning, commute into work for an hour, work from 8 – 6, and arrive home at 7 PM to feed my baby while my husband made dinner and then pack lunches and put the baby to sleep, succumbing to the sand man myself at around 9:30 PM.

After attending a new-agent training week in California, the days were very intense and involved about 5 hours of cold calling a day.  This level of cold calling was projected to lead to about 2-4 deals completed in the first 12 months on the job.  Since most new agents do their first deals with a mentor (50% commission split) and have to pay their broker (Marcus & Millichap) 50% of the commission, you can see that a 6% fee on a $1 Million building sale would only result in a $7,500 check to the new agent.  That means my projected income for the first year would have been about $15,000 – $30,000.  Of course, things would presumably improve after that, but there is about a 3-year ramp up in this line of work.

I knew all that going in, for the most part, although it was certainly not featured in the interview.

The main challenge with the position was the time commitment.  I had the sense that real estate agents were able to "set their own hours."  To a certain extent that’s true.  But, like many entrepreneurial ventures, when you’re your own boss, it’s often the schedule that takes control, rather than you.  The work hours expected to meet the sales goals at this firm were my real objection to continuing on there.

Big Time Commitment Needed To Ramp up When You Become a New Commercial Real Estate Agent

The aggressive cold calling schedule didn’t allow much time for all the things I thought being a broker was about – visiting clients, getting to know the buildings in the area, selling property, etc.  There seemed to be an expectation of a lot of additional work (late nights and weekends) in order to meet the company’s productivity goals.

I’m not saying it’s a bad job.  :)  At a different point in my career (right out of school, no family to support, except perhaps a spouse or parents supporting me…) this might have been a fantastic fit.  And I’m sure it gets easier as you get more experience.

While I was there, I learned a lot about the firm, and I think they’re a great agency.  In fact, if you do consider selling a piece of commercial real estate, let me know, I am now in a position to tell you a lot of things to keep an eye out for.

All I’m saying is, it’s not the right job for me, at this time in my life.  I need to be able to smile at my baby (without breaking into tears from guilt, exhaustion and disappointment) and have a conversation with my husband in order to stay sane.


Lessons Learned:

  1. It is not worth it to me to work 12 hours a day out of the house and away from my 6-month old baby at a job I do not enjoy and saps my energy.
  2. I got into the business to help people and deliver services and expertise.  It seems that only about 10% of the job involves service fulfillment.  The other 90% involves hunting people down and cold-calling (Harassing them?  It seems like some people in my farm area were getting calls from agents 3 times/week!) in an attempt to provide value and hopefully create a relationship that will lead to being hired at some point down the road.
  3. My communication skills are better used in teaching/educating/ and communicating with people rather than SELLING people.  I do believe I can "sell" in the right environment – e.g. by working with people who are interested in working with me – however, I am not good at "pushing water uphill" or "selling ice to Eskimos."  I thrive on relationship-building when it goes "both ways" and is not antagonistic.
  4. It’s always a good idea to talk to people who are in the business and find out what they are like (personality-wise), what they think of the job, and what they think led to their success. 

    I found that, of the experienced agents in the field, I could relate to and connect with very few of them.  That was very unusual for me, because I consider myself a friendly person and I really enjoy meeting with new people and forging new relationships. 

    At first I thought the old hands in the office were just aloof because they were busy and/or I was new.  Now, I think that the position just appeals to people with a certain amount of emotional distance because it can be so emotionally draining to constantly hunt for prospects and face rejection.

    I always thought people in sales were friendly, but seeing them in their natural environment, behind-the-scenes, that was certainly not my impression in this case.  (There were a few exceptions, some nice guys that I had lunch with and a lot of the new people seemed friendlier.)  Now I think sales people are just tough.  They have to be thick-skinned and not overly concerned with what other people think, in order to survive in their chosen careers.  It’s not just about "helping people," which had been my impression before.


All told, it has been a very emotional and draining couple of months.  I decided, with the support of my husband, that I did not want to make it an emotional and draining couple of years. 

I’m not sure what I will choose to focus on next, but I am fortunate to have people around me to help me remember the positive… "Don’t label yourself as a quitter or a failure, Emily.  Chalk this up as a success in finding something that is NOT a fit for you, and deciding that quickly, giving you more time to pursue your passions."

It’s good to have that kind of support when going through these types of changes.

If you have any questions about becoming a commercial real estate agent, I am now in a much better position to answer them. :)  I’ve already gotten some emails in that vein based on my prior post. 

Let me know how I can help!


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About Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate investor and licensed real estate agent living in Seattle, Washington. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with an Economics degree from UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Tarheels!) her focus has been on building business for cash flow and investing in real estate for wealth. If you have questions about real estate investing, personal finance, or would like some flat-rate, affordable advice on one of these topics. Please fill in the Contact form.