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Working for Century 21 as a Real Estate Agent

From janitor to translator, Paul has had many jobs in his lifetime. Real estate agent, laborer, and security guard have been interesting.

Real Estate for Sale


Real Estate Agents

Million-dollar real estate agents fascinated me years ago. It was mind-boggling that a middle person engaged in the buying and selling of houses could earn so much money. With that in mind, I decided to try my luck as a realtor in the 1990s. This article is a recollection of the frustrations and trials and tribulations of working as a part-time Century 21 real estate agent in 1994.

Middle Persons in The Buying And Selling of Houses

The average person doesn't have enough knowledge or experience to jump through all of the hoops in the buying and selling of real estate or real property such as houses and land. For this reason, trained middle persons exist to assist buyers and sellers to make real estate transactions. These middle-person players consist primarily of real estate agents, realtors, and real estate brokers. Let's look at each one.

1. Real Estate Agents

A real estate agent is a licensed person who functions as an intermediary between sellers and buyers of real estate. He or she tries to find sellers who want to market their homes or land and also attempts to identify buyers for real estate. Also, a real estate agent will assist homeowners to rent out their houses and handle the ensuing rental or property management.

2. Realtors

Realtors are real estate agents who are members of the U.S. National Association of Realtors (NAR.) As dues-paying members of the NAR, realtors must adhere to a code of ethics, ethical work habits, and consumer protection.

3. Real Estate Brokers

Real estate brokers are experienced real estate agents who have passed a more advanced state real estate test so that they might own, manage, and operate their brokerage. Real estate brokers have administrative responsibility for a group of real estate agents who work for them.

Real Estate Agent


Why I Became a Real Estate Agent and Worked for Century 21

Why I Became a Real Estate Agent

When living in Maryland, I often saw fliers in the mail from real estate agents who were advertising their listed properties for sale. Some identified themselves as million-dollar agents, meaning the total value of the houses they had sold was at least one million dollars. Working with commissions as high as seven percent, many agents put a pretty penny in their pockets. I thought that if these agents could make money selling houses, why couldn't I?

My ex-wife also encouraged me to first get my feet wet in the real estate business as a part-time agent while I had a full-time job. After retirement, I could devote as much time as I wanted to this endeavor. Furthermore, by being a licensed real estate agent, I could save money by avoiding the commissions which I would have to pay for selling a home and purchasing another.

Why Work for Century 21

Over the years, I had a lot of business dealings with Century 21. Century 21 is a real estate franchise that was founded in 1971. It has over 8,000 independently owned and operated offices around the world.

I purchased my first house through a Century 21 office, and this same office found me a renter and handled my rental property management when I worked overseas for one year. I also had a personal relationship with the broker and head of this office in the community of Maryland where I lived. Don supported my plans to become a real estate agent, and he said that his office would give me the necessary training so I could pass the state real estate licensing exam. In return, I agreed to work solely as one of Don's agents.

Preparing for Work as a Real Estate Agent

At the end of September 1993, I received notice that Don's Century 21 office was starting a beginning real estate course for anyone interested in getting licensed as an agent and then working at his brokerage office. It was a 60-hour course that met 6:30-9:30 P.M. on Mondays and Wednesdays over 10 weeks. The instructor was a senior licensed real estate agent working for Don, and I had 7-8 classmates from different walks of life.

In preparation for the Maryland state real estate agent licensing exam, we had a textbook and learned topics in real estate law and practice. Some of the topics we learned included: licensing laws and regulations; laws of an agency; deeds and legal issues; contracts of sales and leases; real estate finance; land use regulations; valuation process and pricing properties; human rights and fair housing; property insurance; and taxes and assessments.

After completing the course, preparations were made to take the state licensing exam in December. I remember the test being multiple choice in nature and consisting of 50 questions. The test was taken on a computer, and I received immediate notice that I had passed the test with flying colors.

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The next step was applying for the salesperson license and paying a one-year licensing fee. Within two weeks of submitting my application, I had my license in hand and was prepared to begin the long anticipated work of being a real estate agent.

Working for Century 21 as a Real Estate Agent

1. Daily Office Routine

Due to a schedule of working full time, I only was able to do real estate work in the evenings and on the weekends. It was a late Monday afternoon at the beginning of January when I reported for work at Don's Century 21 office for the first time. Working hours would be from 5:00 until 9:00 Monday through Friday and on either Saturday or Sunday from 9:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M.

After being assigned a desk with a telephone, I quickly learned that a real estate agent is chiefly a salesperson working on a commission that is split between the agent and his or her broker boss. Commissions ranging from 3-7 percent of the sales price are received whenever your clients buy houses or sell them. There is no pay or benefits for any of the other work you do in or outside of the office with clients.

My primary duty in the office included answering the phone, and then either directing the calls to other agents or answering questions about the listings of all houses handled by Don's office. On a few rare occasions, it involved working with a potential new client who was interested in either listing a house for sale or purchasing one. Another duty was to meet walk-in clients and either list their houses for sale or assist first-time buyers to find houses for sale. When I wasn't answering the phone or meeting walk-in clients, I was expected to do cold calling. Cold calling was a form of telemarketing in which I would go through a telephone book and call people at random. After introducing myself as a Century 21 agent, I would ask people whether they were interested in either selling or buying a house through Century 21 services.

2. My First Listing

Agents were recognized and rewarded for the number of sales listings they could secure for the broker. These were recorded on a big blackboard in the office with the address of the property, listed sales price, and the name of the agent who had gotten a signed exclusive right contract to sell with a homeowner. After a buyer was found for the listing, and a date set for the closing and transfer of ownership, this information was also duly recorded on the board.

In Don's office, I was working with 10-15 other agents who were competing with me for listings. Most of the agents were engaged in real estate full-time, and they had been working with Don for many years. They all had built up a network of contacts and completely understood the housing market around our office area.

Despite my inexperience and handicaps at the job, I was finally able to proudly list my first house for sale four months after I started. It turned out to be a listing that none of the other agents wanted. A young man had walked into the office one Saturday morning and told me that he needed to sell his townhome because he was going through a divorce. I gladly agreed to take the listing because it was my first as an agent. The young man accompanied me to his house, and at that time I found out why no one else wanted it. It was located in a bad neighborhood of Baltimore County and a long way from Don's office. While I was going through the house and taking pictures for the listing, I learned from the tenants of the house that the basement walls leaked and that other repairs were necessary. After placing a for-sale sign in the small front yard, it became obvious that the tenants would not be very interested in letting prospective buyers in for a showing. Needless to say, the house never sold while I had it listed.

3. Working with Buyers My frustration in getting buyers for listings was just as great as my trials and tribulations in getting listings. After six months at work, I was finally able to get a young walk-in couple interested and qualified for purchasing a home listing which I had pulled up from the Multiple Listings Services (MLS) computerized listing of all houses for sale. It was a Friday or Saturday evening when the young couple informed me that they were very serious about signing a purchase agreement for a listed house in the vicinity of Don's office. After informing the seller that I had found a buyer for his home, I accompanied the prospective buyers over to the seller's house with great hopes of returning to the office with a signed purchase agreement and deposit money from the buyers. With great disappointment, the deal fell apart at the last moment while all of the other agents were attending Don's party.

4. Finally Success

I was finally able to earn a commission through a referral of a buyer to a Century 21 office in another state. One of my full-time work colleagues was transferring from Maryland to Hawaii and wanted to purchase a home there. Harry knew I was working for Century 21 and that I could refer him to another Century 21 office in Hawaii to assist in house-hunting. I was successful in doing this, and a few months later Harry purchased a house in Hawaii through a Century 21 agent. Finally, I was awarded a commission for the referral which I had to share with Don. The check for $500.00 is still framed as evidence of my only success story as a real estate agent.

Century 21 Realtor Calling Card

Realtor Calling Card and Picture are from 1994.

Realtor Calling Card and Picture are from 1994.

New Real Estate Agent Tips

Lessons Learned as a Realtor

My part-time work as a realtor ended in September of 1994 shortly after I received a commission from Harry's referral. I was frustrated, sick, and tired of the disappointments and trials and tribulations of being a part-time real estate agent. Also, I realized that I was not cut out to be a realtor for the following reasons:

1. Unsuitable Personality

It was hard for me as a shy person to be outgoing as a sales agent. I hated cold calling, and even worse, walking around my neighborhood, beating on doors, and soliciting Century 21's real estate services.

2. No Gift of Gab

As a shy introvert, I didn't have the gift of gab where I could engage anyone in a conversation on any topic. It seemed that so many of the successful agents just loved talking to people. If I had been a smooth talker, I probably would have had more success.

3. No Networking

Having essentially no network of relatives, friends, neighbors, or fellow agents, it was almost impossible to find leads on people interested in buying or selling a property.

4. Not Daring Enough

There is a saying: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. All of the successful agents at Don's Century 21 office were very aggressive in their marketing techniques. They were the ones who had the most listings and found the most buyers for listings. A passive approach to real estate did not help me at all.

During my brief time as a realtor, I learned that the field of real estate was very interesting, challenging, and frustrating. I found out that it is not a job for everyone as evidenced by my personal experiences. However, for an outgoing, smooth-talking individual with networking and negotiating skills, real estate can turn out to be a lucrative career.

Hardest Part of Being a Realtor

Working for Century 21

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 23, 2020:

Thank you very much for your comments, Elizabeth. If I come back to the United States and decide to settle in Tennessee, I will look up.

Elizabeth Leanza from Franklin TN on May 23, 2020:

It was nice to read about your journey in the wild world of real estate. I have been in the business for 3 years and really identify with a lot of what you said it really all comes down to marketing! I wish you the greatest success in all of your future endeavors.

Elizabeth Leanza, Realty One Group - Realtor

600A Frazier Dr ste 123,

Franklin TN,37067


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 03, 2019:

I am pleased you liked my article.

PropertyePortal on November 03, 2019:

Nice article. The rent of Dubai properties is some what decreased due to over supply in market according to latest reports. I came across some affordable properties on

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 09, 2016:

&MikeWoods , Excuse my long delay in replying to your comment. Since 2007 I have been living in Thailand. I taught English from 2007-21014, and am now retired in the city of Udonthani in the Northeast.

MikeWoods from Indianapolis, Indiana on December 09, 2015:

Paul, it has been about 3 years since you first posted your experience in the real estate business. What are you doing now?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 19, 2015:

Connie, thank you very much for your great comment. I was doing real estate part-time and I didn't have a mentor when I started. It would have been nice, but it was dog eat dog in my office. Maybe with a mentor and more perseverance I would have made it go.

Connie Smith from Tampa Bay, Florida on August 18, 2015:

Sorry it didn't work out for you, Paul. I've been a Century 21 agent for my whole career. It can be a frustrating job at times. However, I find it to be rewarding both financially and personally. Every agent has their own way of looking at what they do. Maybe it is because I am a bit of a homebody myself when I can be, but I get great personal satisfaction out of finding someone the perfect house for them -- most especially when it is a young couple's first home. I took advantage of great training and had a wonderful mentor who made me look like an experienced agent during my first three transactions. I've stayed with Century 21 due to the name recognition in a tourist town and because I love having a variety of duties and being out and about in Tampa Bay.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 06, 2013:


Thanks for reading and commenting on this hub. I have found that being successful on Hubpages is just as difficult as making it in real estate. In a way, it's harder, because you have to create a good product before marketing it. Thanks for the votes and sharing this hub.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 06, 2013:

Interesting read, Paul and you summarize the reasons for not making it good as a real estate agent well. Those who make it good are essentially outgoing and have gift of the gab, two qualities a salesman has to have in plenty.

Voted up, interesting and sharing.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 26, 2013:


Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about my real estate experiences, and I appreciate your kind assessment of my experience.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 06, 2013:


Thank you very much for your in-depth comments about salespersons. In the final analysis, that's what a real estate agent really is. Based on knowledge of my own temperament, I never should have tried real estate. I did it only at the urging of my wife at the time who thought it would be a good field to get into after retirement. A person has to be cut out to do sales work. From what I learned, you can't be too honest to be successful. Thanks for voting this article up.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 06, 2013:


Thanks for reading and commenting on this hub. You are absolutely correct in saying that real estate agents have no love of sellers. They especially dislike the home owners who sell and market their homes without the aid of an agent. They call these people FSBOs - For Sale By Owner. My nine months of working with Century 21 was one big headache. Thanks for voting up and sharing this article.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on April 06, 2013:

Drawing my background in the field of human resources management, during which I hired salespeople for various types of sales jobs, I believe it requires a certain temperament to be successful at sales without experiencing undue stress. Even when cold calling isn't necessary, the introverted person often dreads responding to buying objections, no matter how well-trained he or she is, including at role play. This can create a level of stress that is harmful to health.

During periods of bleak economy, people often take jobs for which they aren't temperamentally suited (such as sales) and suffer for it with heightened stress and dissatisfaction with their work. It's helpful, before accepting any job, to take a test administered by school counselors and some employment services that evaluates the types of work one is most likely to perform with success, enjoyment and satisfaction.

Life is too short to spend so many hours of it working at a job for which you're not suited and don't like...right?

Voted Up++


moonlake from America on April 06, 2013:

I enjoyed your interesting story of becoming a real estate agent. I have no love of real estate agents or buyers as I'm sure they have no love of sellers. We have had some bad experiences.You can see what I have to say on one of my hubs. Voted up and shared.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 21, 2012:

Vibrant Views,

Thank you very much for your comments. You know, I have found that marketing my hubs here on hubpages is very similar to marketing houses. Hopefully, I have learned from my mistakes as a realtor.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 19, 2012:

Bill, Thanks again for reading one of my hubs and the favorable comment.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on April 19, 2012:

Paul, this is a fascinating look into the Real Estate business. As a salesman most of my life, I had toyed with the thought of this endeavor, but after reading your article, I am glad I never gave it a try. I relate to what you said. My working career was mostly in sales and entertainment. I worked in radio & as a party DJ in the 60s and 70s, and sales from the 70s on. Like you I am basically introverted, but I discovered early on that when you are on the job, it's like a play. You have to play the part. So when I am selling, I am actually playing the part of a salesman. It sounds weird but it works. That said, I would not have had the heart to take on the role of a real estate salesman. Too complicated. Too much work.

Thanks again for an informative read.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 17, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment. I haven't read Burdett's novels yet, but I will in the future.

Jim Higgins from Eugene, Oregon on April 17, 2012:

As a longtime veteran of the title insurance business, I met many real estate agents over the years. Most of them were service oriented outgoing people with the best interests of their clients in mind.

I am still considering getting an Oregon real estate license if the market impoves. Up and interesting.

By the way, I assume you may have read John Burdett's novels about Bangkok? I'm a fan.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 09, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting on my article, MsDora. For sure, the fearless agents are the successful ones as in any walk of life.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 09, 2012:

Thanks for answering many of the questions I have often wondered about the real estate business. I know a few people who become licensed and then won't even talk about it. Now I understand. It's not easy, and not for everyone. Congratulations to the fearless, successful ones!

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