November 3rd - 2011

Handling stress in the field of real estate

Experiencing stressStiff competition, erratic hours, and an uncertain income are just a few of the reasons that a career in real estate can be stressful.

Experiencing stressStiff competition, erratic hours, and an uncertain income are just a few of the reasons that a career in real estate can be stressful.

In fact, real estate professionals ranked among the top ten most stressful jobs in two recent surveys. Not far behind police officers and commercial pilots, real estate placed seventh on a list of stressful jobs in Business Insider magazine. Similarly, it came in tenth, just behind stock brokers and emergency medical technicians in the CareerCast 2011 ranking of 200 professions, landing on its top ten list for the second consecutive year.

Work environment, competitiveness, and job risk were among the factors examined in the two lists, published in The Planner magazine’s May edition. The article notes that stress is directly related to responsibility, high work expectations, and control.

“Real estate agents work erratic hours, often times on nights and weekends. The field is highly competitive, and selling a home is not easy,” it states.

Stressful jobs are everywhere, and the simple realization that you are in control of your life is the foundation of stress management, the magazine notes. “Managing stress is all about taking charge: of your thoughts, emotions, schedule, environment and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.”

Two seasoned REALTORS® say that they’ve learned to manage stress through a variety of methods. They have been able to focus on the job’s more rewarding aspects by using some simple practices.
“In this field, we’re always out of work and always looking for the next buyer or seller,” says Terry Butts of Toronto, a 25-year veteran of real estate. “That can be extremely stressful. We also experience slow markets and sales slumps – especially in summer.” 

A positive outlook, daily planning and a consistent work ethic help to counter stress, says Butts. “I always maintain a great attitude about business,” he says. “If you don’t believe you’re going to get business, you won’t get much.”

Dealing with difficult clients can be a common stressor, according to Roy Singh, a real estate broker from Waterloo. When you’ve done everything within your control and a home simply does not sell, you face tremendous stress, he says. “The reason a home doesn’t sell is usually because it’s either overpriced or in bad condition,” says Singh. “Unfortunately, the REALTOR® then gets blamed for the lack of action, while the sellers often refuse to believe that their attitude may be part of the problem.”

Singh has learned over his 20-year career that it is important to work only with people who want to work with him. This attitude can greatly help to reduce stress in the real estate profession, he says. “Many people in the field fool themselves into thinking that they’re very busy with all kinds of potential business, when in fact they waste a lot of time on people who simply won’t work with them. You must either get a commitment from the clients or go find someone else who appreciates you and will commit to you. Otherwise, you’ll be disappointed over and over again and waste a lot of time.”

When Singh first heard about this approach, he was new to the field and did not understand it. “Now I realize that it’s better to work with those who say yes, thank those who say no, and -- if someone says maybe, I consider that a no and move on to find someone who’ll say yes.”

The long and unusual hours in real estate can take a toll on personal life, says Butts. “At the beginning of my career, I was a workaholic, and that’s why I’m divorced today.” After a quarter century in the field, he says he is better at balancing work and life. “Now I’m not afraid to tell clients that I have a family, and most people understand. I also make time for myself to relieve stress. I try to get away from work for a few hours by playing hockey or working on my own house.”

Success in real estate doesn’t mean neglecting your own life, says Singh. His time management system involves blocking off important personal time in his schedule, just as one would with business appointments. “In 20 years I can count on one hand the times I’ve missed a Friday night date with my wife, a Sunday family dinner, my son's hockey game or my daughter’s recital.” When clients ask you to meet when you already have a personal commitment, Singh advises you to tell them you have a conflicting appointment and schedule the meeting at another time convenient to both of you.

Being good at what you do and managing your time effectively are two important keys to relieve stress, according to both REALTORS®. And despite the stress of the field, both say that real estate can be rewarding. “We’re paid to solve problems,” says Singh. “People who can handle only small problems receive small paycheques, but people who can handle big problems receive big paycheques.”

The Business Insider ranking of the 10 Most Stressful Jobs in America can be found at The CareerCast 2011 Jobs Rated report can be viewed at by clicking on Jobs Rated in the top menu bar and scrolling down to The 10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2011.

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