The freedom to set your own hours and earn a living by selling ideas about homemaking can make real estate a tempting job option for moms.
However, while it is possible to contribute to household bills with money earned from a sale or lease here and there, establishing a full-time career as a broker requires the same effort as any industry: starting from the proverbial bottom, putting in grueling hours and painstakingly working your way up to success. In other words, while many successful brokers are also moms, it’s still a tough field to break into if you already have kids, broker-moms in Manhattan say.
The median annual income for brokers in New York City is $70,000, according to PayScale. However, since real estate agents work off commission, the money they earn is largely determined by their transaction volume.
From a distance, the skills needed to raise children and sell property appear largely the same. It involves a lot of multi-tasking, putting others first and being reachable at all hours of the day and night.
What mom isn’t juggling phone calls with offspring clinging to her hips, tote bags dangling from her shoulders and the family dog’s leash in-hand, while walking down a crowded avenue?
“I’m almost a life-management consultant,” explained Holly Parker, a top agent at Douglas Elliman.
But calls from stressed-out clients demanding technical explanations on property tax law at 10 p.m., or during birthday parties, can cause moms to miss crucial family moments.
“I’m caretaker by nature. I love taking care of people, and that’s why this has been the job for me,”
The knowledge she gained from building a home for her 4 ½-year-old twins makes it easy to understand many of her clients’ needs, Parker added.
“There are things that I can add that I think are really critical to family life,” she said. For example, “this would make a great playroom. Where’s the garage? Where’s the park? Where are you going to walk your dog? Where are they going to go to school?”
But while she has raked in more than $7 billion in sales, that’s from putting in two decades of work before she had kids, and employing a well-oiled team of seven.
The rental and sales broker said building her brand and expertise from scratch now, as a mother, would be nearly impossible.
“Be careful, moms jumping into this thinking that it’s easy money. There’s no such thing world,” she said. “It’s so stressful when a client is angry at you. It ruins holidays, it ruins vacations.”
Caroline Bass, who works in sales and rentals with Corcoran, agreed that the time and effort needed to establish her career would be particularly grueling for a parent, especially with young children.
Bass, who has an 18-month-old daughter and another due in March, got into the field at age 22.
Her lifestyle involves taking her baby in a carrier to showings with kid-friendly clients, and popping in at home for quick kisses between meetings. She doles out tasks to her team of five employees to have time to take her daughter to classes, and designates Saturdays as “family day” – her one full day off per week.
“If I was just starting out, I think it would be insanely difficult to trying to balance having a baby and starting a business from the ground up,” admitted Bass, who said she worked seven nights a week for several years earlier in her career. “I built my business and my referrals and my team up so much [before having kids] that it affords me the luxury of being able to dictate my schedule.”
If you do want to get started in real estate as a parent, broker-moms recommend joining a team and working under an already successful agent.
Mother of two Shannon Alai, a sales and rental broker with Citi Habitats, has a squad of two full-timers and one part-time.
She finds being a mom to be a key networking tool as an agent. Alai meets other parents through her kids’ school and playgroups and is on-hand to help when they want new homes.
While launching a solo real estate operation part-time may not be financially worth the effort for most people, if a compassionate agent sees potential, they’ll welcome you into the fold and work around your needs as a mother, Alai said. Flexibility is key for parents, from any boss in every line of work.
“You can always make money, but you’ll never get those beginning years back with your kids,” Alai concluded.