Young mother with child working from home office

How Real Estate Agents Can Find A Work-Life Balance

Emma Tomsich5-minute read
PUBLISHED: September 01, 2021


As a real estate agent, how many times have you been told how lucky you are to have a flexible schedule? How many times has that statement made you want to scream?

It’s hard to understand the demands of the industry when you’re outside looking in. But real estate agents are very familiar with the pressures the job puts on their schedules and their families.

A big part of being an agent is working with clients. And since clients typically have 9 – 5 jobs, much of your work happens in the off hours, usually during the evening and on weekends.

In the last year and a half, COVID-19 has put an even greater strain on real estate agents and their schedules. Many real estate agents have found more flexibility while working from home during the pandemic. But others have struggled with getting in the routine of a schedule that combines a hybrid of remote and office work. Ultimately, working from home has caused real estate agents to feel more burned out than ever before. And as many workers start going back into the office, it’s important for real estate agents to return ready and refreshed.

Some real estate pros have learned to block out their schedules for quick breaks to take a walk around the block or relax and listen to a podcast, while others have established a strict logoff time at the end of the day. While these sound like simple solutions to overworking, they’re not always as easy as they seem.

And the fast-paced nature of the industry only adds fuel to the fire. “When the market is hot and homes sell at a fast pace, an agent has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” says Karen Parnes, broker and owner of NextHome Your Way. “If you’re not one of the first to show a property, your client may lose it."

Along with meeting the needs of your clients, other tasks come with the job. For example, you need to respond to emails and phone calls, manage your social media, file real estate documents, research listings, prospect for new clients and network within the industry. With so much on your plate, it’s easy to see why your “flexible” schedule has very little room for other things in your life. But if you don’t make room for those other things and find some balance, your personal and professional life will suffer.

Why Work-Life Balance Is Important

“When work takes up the vast majority of my waking hours, my personal relationships suffer, as does my own personal well-being,” says Melanie Hartmann, owner and CEO of Creo Home Solutions. She isn’t alone. Without a work-life balance, you experience more stress and anxiety (typically taken out on loved ones), miss important events and milestones and often trade in time to take on healthy habits for time to take on more work.

When you achieve a better work-life balance, you can enjoy such benefits as improved sleep, stronger relationships, personal growth, better physical and emotional health and more enjoyment in life. It can also improve your work.

It may seem counterintuitive that doing less work each day would make you more successful, but taking time away from work can actually increase your engagement, boost productivity, improve customer service and decrease the number of sick days you take.

Tips For Achieving Work-Life Balance

Looking for ways to become more balanced? Our experts weighed in on what they’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – throughout the years. 

Prioritize Your Time

Each day, make a list of your must-do’s, should-do’s and would-like-to-do’s so you know what actually requires your time and attention. Don’t just list out your tasks, carve out time to complete them and schedule that time as you would a meeting. Putting tasks on your schedule along with meetings and events keeps you from putting them off until later in the day when you should be taking a break. It also helps keep you from forgetting them altogether. “If something’s not on your schedule, it’s very easy to be swept up in the hustle and bustle of the real estate industry,” warns Hartmann.

Schedule your administrative tasks between the hours of 9 – 5, when clients are at work and can’t talk. This could include writing real estate listing descriptions, creating a marketing plan or doing comparative market analyses.

It may seem silly, but you’ll also need to schedule in family time and your time and stick to those commitments. “Treat it as you would an appointment with a client,” suggests Parnes. This tactic almost forces you to take some personal time. It also gets you through the hard times.

“Scheduling time for myself and for my [loved ones] helps with the guilt on days I have to work longer hours than I’d like,” says Hartmann. “If I know I have a scheduled quality time with those who are most important to me, I find that it’s much easier to focus on my work when I’m working and focus on my family during family time.” 

Set Boundaries And Make Them Known

It can be tempting to spend your days and nights on the phone with clients and not take any days off – but that can lead to burnout.

It’s important to set boundaries – and enforce them. That could look like one day a week that you don’t work at all or not answering your phone after a certain time.

It can be hard to set boundaries with clients who are purchasing a home. They’re in the process of a major financial decision and a potential shift in life and it can be an emotional time. When you create your set of boundaries, it’s important to share them with your clients at the beginning of your working relationship. From the very start, your clients should know what your working hours are, any upcoming vacation days you have, the best way to reach you and how quickly you’ll respond.

Know When To Get Some Help

“The times I had the best work-life balance was when I had a partner,” says Parnes. “She would work on Saturdays and I would work on Sundays. Our clients were aware of her as part of my introduction, and they knew that they could always call her on a Sunday if I was off and hers could call me on a Saturday. They always had someone to talk to and address their needs."

If you don’t want to build a team by adding partners, maybe start with an assistant or coordinator to take care of your schedule and handle the more administrative, tedious work. Of course, there is a right and wrong time to hire someone. When you’re just starting out and building your business, you may not have the funding to do so. If you’re in the thick of the home buying season and can’t add additional tasks (like recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training), you may want to hold off until your schedule is lighter. As Parnes says, “the right time to hire someone is not when you’re stressed and don’t have time to train.” The point of hiring someone is to take work off your plate, not add more to it.

Go Easy On Yourself

No matter how hard you try, there will be times when your work-life balance is out of whack. And that’s OK. “Accept that some days you will work more than you prefer,” says Hartmann. Knowing that it’s going to happen every now and then will take away the stress and guilt when it inevitably does. Just remember that you can try again the next day or week. It’s important to keep some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

Most importantly, create enough balance that you are taking care of your physical and mental well-being. Remember that your health directly impacts your work’s purpose – helping others change their lives.

Final Advice

The journey to establishing a healthy work-life balance can take time, so don’t expect it to fall into place right away. Be patient with the process and expect some trial and error. Once you’re able to figure out what works for you and your life, it will all be worth it! For more insider tips and helpful information, check out our agent relations page and real estate agent resource center. If you have any tips for achieving and maintaining work-life balance, share them in the comments below.

Emma Tomsich

Emma Tomsich is a student at Marquette University studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations. She has a passion for writing, and hopes to one day own her own business. In her free time, Emma likes to travel, shop, run and drink coffee.