Careers: What Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Agent? Part 3

What is it really like to be a real estate agent, and what does it take to become one? We interviewed six Redfin Agents to find out why they chose real estate as a career and how they came to work at Redfin. Yesterday we profiled Arielle Sklavos, who joined Redfin right after college. Today you’ll hear from Risa Bell, who had a few different careers before getting her real estate license and working at Redfin.

We’ll post a new Redfin Agent profile each day this week. If you’re looking for more agent info, be sure to check our entire series of real estate agent profiles and don’t hesitate to investigate open real estate jobs at Redfin.

Risa Bell – Team LeadRisa Bell

Risa taught piano and did direct marketing for more than a decade before joining Redfin. She is currently a Team Lead in Boston.

What did you do before you joined Redfin?

I was in Julliard’s Prep Division, but opted not to go to Juilliard for college. I entered college at 16 and studied music. When I got out of college I started my own private practice teaching piano. I also taught at music schools and was an assistant teacher at Juilliard. Later I worked for a small direct marketing agency in New York. I did direct mail programs for many high-profile clients for about five years. Then I moved to Boston and started my own direct response business.

What made you want to pursue your real estate license, and what was the process like?

I started doing marketing for another real estate agency. I learned a lot from observing my team lead there, and was encouraged to get my license. I did a two-day weekend course to get it. I had had some real estate training at the agency, so it wasn’t totally foreign, and I passed the test the first time.

After I got my license, I started doing active real estate transactions at the other agency. People say they go to college and never use that knowledge again because they switch careers, but that’s just the way of the world. I would never have thought I’d get into real estate when I graduated college.

How did you hear about Redfin, and why did you decide to apply?

I didn’t love the traditional real estate world, and liked how Redfin did things, especially the way that Redfin interacts with clients. I liked that Redfin allows the client to be empowered by the process. After I joined Redfin, I convinced my husband to join as well!

Do you worry about the market going up and down?

The great thing about Redfin is that you don’t have to prospect for clients, so you can focus on the current business.

What’s the best part of your job?

I enjoy working with clients and using the skills I’ve gained throughout the years. When I was working in marketing in New York, I was in account sales, which required me to cultivate relationships with current clients to keep and grow the business, and that’s kind of how I view Redfin. Redfin brings in the leads, but I have to take them to the finish line. It’s a different kind of sales.

What skills do you think are important to be successful as a real estate agent?

It’s important to be very people-oriented. You need to be sympathetic and really listen to what clients say, and then translate that into something that’s right for them. You need to have patience; clients often change their mind, and you just have to roll with the punches. Above all you need to be a problem-solver. Things are going to change, and rather than being a part of the problem, you need to find a solution.

What would you tell people who are thinking about becoming an agent?

When I first entered the real estate world, I was able to define what my skills were and how they could be applied to real estate. That’s the real key. Everyone can learn the different parts of what happens in a real estate deal, but you have to ask yourself, do you have the personality and skills that can work in that world? People who are thinking about getting into it should talk to other real estate agents and get a feel for “day in the life of.” Learn by observation; go out with an agent and see what happens in the real estate world A day in the life of a Redfin agent is very different than a day in the life of a traditional agent.

People who want to get into real estate also have to understand that it’s very hard work, and there are always unexpected turns. It’s not something you can do just because you think it’s a good fit, but it’s a wonderful challenge if you’re willing to take it. It is important to find balance in your life and do other things outside of work.

At Redfin our motto is “keep it weird.” What’s something “weird” about you?

I do amateur competitive ballroom dancing…with my husband as my partner! We have done competitions in New Orleans, Chicago, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. I can also play piano music, playing the right hand part with my left hand and the left hand part with my right hand! I don’t perform it that way; I just do it for coordination practice.

To get in touch with Risa or read her reviews from Redfin clients, check out her profile page on