The following is an excerpt from the new edition of the firsttuesday Career Manual, a best practices guide to help new real estate licensees establish their personal brands and boost income.

Instead of focusing solely on a marketable persona, agents looking to get ahead need to take a look at cold, hard facts. What tangible personal achievements do they have on their records? What proof of real estate savvy can they present for their clients to see? It all begins with the agent’s power base — a multifaceted tool an agent uses to improve their income. An agent first needs to understand what their power base is before they can wield its influence.

What is a power base?

An agent’s power base is the sum of the agent’s assessable achievements, including:

  • education;
  • civic engagement;
  • longevity — familial roots and name recognition;
  • wealth; and
  • notable personal accomplishments.

The purpose of the power base is to:

  • expand their client base and industry network;
  • develop greater earnings and increased professional opportunities; and
  • maintain ownership of durable real estate and financial holdings, alone or with others (syndication).

Assets and net worth

Assets may be any of several possessions or investments, including:

  • a home and furnishings;
  • a car;
  • real estate ownership interests;
  • trust deed notes;
  • business ownership interests; and
  • other possessions of value.

Assets give the impression of wealth and financial savvy. For example, an agent who drives a new luxury sedan to meet a client gives an impression of greater wealth than an agent who arrives in a rusted pickup truck.

Part of wise asset accumulation involves whether assets are liquid or illiquid. Liquid assets, such as trust deed notes and bonds, are easily converted into cash in the event of a personal financial emergency.

Illiquid assets, however, are more difficult to convert. For example, the equity an owner holds in their home or other real estate is an illiquid asset, requiring months to convert to cash through a sale or equity financing. Accumulation of liquid assets gives agents and brokers a form of safeguard against a business failure in the event of a market downturn.

When the real estate business falters due to a changing economy of declining sales volume, an agent will be able to cash in their liquid assets to create a financial cushion until the market regains its footing. Agents also need to evaluate their net worth. An agent’s net worth is the sum of the value of their assets less the agent’s total debts. An agent uses a balance sheet to tally their liquid and illiquid assets, debts and financial obligations. [See RPI Form 209-3]

An agent who appears more successful to their colleagues more easily garners respect and admiration based soundly in their personal achievements. The agent further uses the respect they receive in the workplace to enhance their career and income, such as by negotiating higher fee splits.


Education nurtures an agent’s practical experience. An agent’s experience in transaction negotiations (“street smarts”) is as valuable as studied knowledge. However, the amount and type of formal education an agent possesses causes prospective clients to begin bonding with the agent — before the prospective client can observe the agent’s expertise in action.

Become a well-educated expert

First, an agent needs to narrow down their specialty. An agent may specialize in one or more of the innumerable niches which exist in the real estate industry, including:

  • specific types of improved property;
  • a group of buyers, like first-time homebuyers;
  • green homes or smart homes;
  • property management or commercial leasing;
  • consumer or business mortgage originations;
  • subdivisions and conversions; and
  • residential or commercial income properties.

To be classified as an expert, the agent needs to constantly expand their technical knowledge of their chosen niche and groom that knowledge with the wisdom of experience. Agents can enroll in courses to enhance their real estate knowledge. For example, agents can take courses on:

  • specialty real estate transactions;
  • business management;
  • accounting and recordkeeping;
  • various languages and cultures (particularly useful for multi-lingual regions);
  • marketing; or
  • agency, business and contracts.

These additional skills make an agent more effective in all their daily activities and more appealing to clients and colleagues alike.

Agents looking to expand their knowledge need to seek out:

  • seminars and lectures;
  • other real estate professionals willing to bring insight and advice to discussions; and
  • training sessions focused on particular skills.

General knowledge and leveraged education

Agents need to keep up-to-date with economic conditions which drive and give direction to markets in their area. Agents also need to regularly check for new laws, zoning for construction, financing programs and other news affecting real estate transactions and their business.

Even if the agent has yet to make any notable financial strides, education is frequently associated with wealth. When an agent can use experience in addition to factual information to answer questions, clients perceive the agent as a seasoned, well-informed professional who likely earns a respectable living — a perception upheld by the agent’s degrees and certificates of investment in education. This perception causes more clients to willingly retain the agent, increasing the agent’s productivity and income.

Naturally, an agent whose clients respect and desire their guidance in a real estate transaction generates greater negotiation power with their colleagues. They are also better able to prove their financial worth to other brokers and agents, and to select the best brokerage situations available. Further, agents can:

  • start and operate their own brokerage;
  • adjust their business practices to accommodate current economic conditions; or
  • work their way into management and ownership at larger brokerages.

Civic engagement

Civic engagement is participation in activities which benefit a community as a whole. Agents can work these community benefits to their advantage. Public perception is fundamental to an agent’s ability to generate business with new clients, who may not learn about or favor the agent when they are not involved in local activities. A positive perception of the agent based on their contribution to the community also encourages past clients to refer family and friends to the agent.

Participation in the real estate community

Agents who get involved in local activities earn respect from others, which builds their reputation and further improves their business relationships. Agents can start small by volunteering to mentor new agents in their office. One-on-one mentorships foster beneficial relationships the agent can count on to generate professional references.

Additionally, employing brokers who offer mentorships and personal training opportunities are likely to garner greater admiration and dedication from the agents they hire. Agents who are well trained share their mentorship experience with other agents who see these benefits as good reason to work for the office. With more competent agents, everyone’s income grows.

Your participation in civic groups and local government commissions which are dedicated to local real estate matters will garnish your role and shape your attitude as a leader in the community. Fundamentally, these affiliations enhance your knowledge of local issues important to most clients.

Your choice of a local governmental agency to work with needs to play on your strengths. For example, agents who specialize in residential rentals use their expertise as reason to participate in a local rent control board or related zoning commission.

You need to consider involvement in:

  • planning committees;
  • city council meetings,
  • county assessment appeals board; and
  • other governmental agency activities open to a role by members of the public.

Expanding participation exposes new clientele

Agents also need to engage in local organizations unrelated to government. These include social clubs, civic groups, committees and other organizations which will likely broaden your reach to new groups of clientele.

For example, an agent seeking to expand or improve their client base needs to consider:

  • trade organizations, such as a local builder’s association, escrow officer’s association or apartment owner’s association;
  • local cultural committees;
  • a Board of Trustees at a local educational institution, like a community college;
  • the historic preservation review board;
  • the Chamber of Commerce;
  • local marketing groups; and
  • other similar public groups and associations.

Connecting with a group based on a common interest or activity exposes you to an entirely new community of people for you to harvest leads, generate referrals, and present conversation opportunities – called networking. An agent’s membership or involvement signals to others in the local community that the agent is like-minded or “one of their own.” This perception builds an affinity which increases the likelihood community members will trust you based solely on your affiliation.

However, you need to beware: politically engaged groups, clubs, and organizations promote a volatile, short-term and often polarizing impact on individuals of different persuasions and beliefs. Instead of investing your time in political organizations, consider joining in a universally respected activity to build enduring ties with others, no matter the emotional shifts their external politics might have on their attitude about others.

While an agent’s civic and local agency participation is a critical factor in the public perception they establish, your primary need is to first dedicate adequate time to your real estate business. You must keep it productive and profitable to remain financially viable.

Residential longevity garners clients

The influence of familial ties built up over time in a community is known as residential longevity.

An agent or broker with residential longevity capitalizes on local recognition of their familial name.

An agent’s relationship to a well-known family name synonymous with respectability and success in a community generates an almost automatic esteem and affinity for the agent.

The agent’s personal ties

To begin using familial ties to benefit your business, you need to ask yourself: What is the first thought people have when they hear my name?

An agent’s goal of building upon their family’s residential longevity is to secure space for themselves in the mind of a potential client for a positive reaction whenever they hear or see the agent’s name.

An agent has a good chance of using their name as a springboard to success when they reside and work in a community where their personal affiliation with others is strong. Name recognition attaches to an agent when they set roots in a community — whether it is built on their family’s past and present connections to the community or the agent is new to the community and must start fresh, acting on their own to establish name recognition, branding themselves for the future.

An agent or broker with a sturdy legacy in a community establishes a reputation of belonging and familiarity often encourages clients to work with them based solely on an affinity bias.

An affinity bias manifests in a variety of forms, depending on how the agent takes advantage of their name recognition. The agent may choose to start marketing their name with a particular niche or expertise providing services in demand by those most likely to be familiar with the agent’s name – joining associations with attorneys, medical doctors, accountants, and other professional service providers.

You can also seek out employment at a brokerage company with strong resonance in the community to raise their own esteem locally. The further the broker’s name reaches into the local population, the greater weight their name will carry on your resume and in contacts with clients.

Familial ties as client connections

Another way agents may use residential longevity to benefit their real estate business is to establish connections with clients to whom community is an

obvious priority. These households might include:

  • first-time homebuyers looking to start their own family;
  • families with children seeking more space or greater social stature; and
  • retired couples wanting to live near their extended family.

The same logic applies for attracting real estate investors as clients. Longtime members of the community know about the agent’s residential longevity and the stability of the family name, which attracts them to the agent when in need of real estate services.

The agent may also leverage the dominance of their name recognition into:

  • higher fee splits when employed by a broker;
  • better opportunities at a brokerage company; or
  • starting or expanding their brokerage office.

Personal achievements display conscientiousness

Personal achievements are tangible evidence of what an agent has accomplished so far in life. Accomplishments speak to an agent’s tenacity, abilities and recognition. Lifelong achievements set the agent apart from their competition without the need to promote the value of their services to a prospective client. The client understands who you are by your trail of achievements.

An agent’s personal achievements may include:

  • awards, acknowledgements and recognition for having done well;
  • unusual skills and extracurricular activities;
  • career advancement, such as upgrading from sales agent to broker;
  • presentations before professional groups
  • higher and additional education;
  • government-issued licenses and endorsement; and
  • ownership in a brokerage office.

Achievement through career advancement

Perhaps the most obvious and straightforward way you can showcase their achievement is through professional advancement. Careers in real estate may begin from positions as minor as an unlicensed administrative assistant for a provider of real estate services – property management, a runner for a team, even a finder locating buyers and owners. However, when you as an assistant invest the time, effort, and expense to get a sales agent license and eventually a broker license, you demonstrate talent and persistence. A career progression advertises professional success and commitment, a magnet for new clients.

Additionally, an agent may choose to compound their license with additional licenses and endorsements, such as:

  • mortgage loan origination (MLO);
  • notary commission;
  • contracting and insurance licensing; and
  • corporate brokerage, as the responsible officer.

Awards which influence your clientele

Your personal achievement as an agent also come through meeting professional milestones, like hitting production goals and receiving awards. Awards are most often given through the agent’s brokerage company or trade groups, and might include:

  • top-producing agent;
  • top-producing office;
  • dollar thresholds (“Over $15 million sold!”); and
  • regional, state, national or worldwide accolades.

An agent or broker uses awards to enhance their reputation when marketing themselves. Awards often have symbolic logos the agent includes on their

business cards and other marketing materials. Clients recognize these special emblems and phrases like “Top Producer” or “#1,” and are instantly more inclined to choose a professionally recognized agent for their needs.

Additionally, you display awards and other acknowledgements in your office space. This includes plaques, certificates, trophies, and other symbols of the awards you have received. Clients and colleagues who meet you in your office will see your personal achievements displayed in a professional setting, enhancing their perception of your professional success.

Awards, authority, and your power base

Agents continue to expand their power base by adding extracurricular skills and activities to their professional accomplishments. An agent with additional achievements unrelated to real estate shows clients their diversity of involvement and capability. For example, agents may showcase:

  • skills in speaking and understanding other languages;
  • teamwork skills attained through sports, the arts or other organized activities;
  • licenses and achievements unrelated to real estate, such as a pilot’s license; and
  • intellectual or physical accomplishments, such as musical/theatrical performances or marathon athletics.

Just when you think you have reached the pinnacle of success, it’s time to start again as though you are just beginning.

As your business and income grow as an agent, so do you professional needs: expanding office space, hiring assistants, increasing marketing efforts, etc. The more effort you invest, the more success you will have — when set out in a detailed plan to cultivate a solid, expansive power base.

firsttuesday’s California Realtipedia

Realtipedia is firsttuesday’s 17-volume library of e-books. Firsttuesday books are California-specific and written in plain language, with legal code and case citations and form references to assist in fine-tuning your real estate activities.

All firsttuesday books are written, edited and published by our in-house staff of writers and researchers – exclusively for use in California.