The Short List: Bruce Ailion’s Tips for Career Longevity in Real Estate

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Bruce Ailion is the associate broker of RE/MAX Town and Country in Woodstock

Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we talked with Bruce Ailion, the associate broker of RE/MAX Town and Country in Woodstock, for his tips on career longevity in real estate.

There is a continuing interest in what creates career longevity in the real estate business; here there are several transition points:

6. That first year, if you cannot make enough money to be able to afford to stay in the business long enough to be competent 80-90 percent, don’t.

5. The next two to five years, can you find an area of practice you enjoy and can be successful in? As I tell people, I’ve lost 1,500 pounds over the years, and have never been on a diet that didn’t work – just never one I could stay on. Every agent needs to find a system that consistently works for them.

4. With the first market shift – the “Who Moved My Cheese?” stage – you’ll find that whatever you were successful doing to generate an income no longer works. Did you see it coming, were you prepared, and if not, now what? Survival requires adapting to the new market reality.

3. When you reach the mature stage, you see changes coming; you prepare and adapt, using the Wayne Gretzky style of skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it is. I go to the NAR, Franchise Brand, CRS and other national conferences, and follow 10 to 15 trade publications and magazines. One year, there may be two people offering short sale programs; the next year, five people; and the following year, 15. You want to get in when there are two and get out when there are 15.

The same goes for investors, REO, new homes and condos – you want to get in to the market when it is young, a rising tide that lifts all ships. You want to get out when the completion has saturated the market. Many agents followed a past customer listing and buyer strategy, which was fairly consistent for several cycles, but in this past downturn, that strategy laid an egg, and many long-time top producers were bankrupted.

2. Everyone who has been in the business more than 10 years has battle scars from not changing with the market and staying with a strategy that wasn’t working too long. When you are not getting good results, the Dr. Phil question – “How’s that been working for you?” – needs to be asked. When you determine you are riding a dead horse, the first thing you need to do is get off. The key to longevity is knowing where the market is headed, being there in the early stages and recognizing when the market has peaked – and then moving to a different spot while there is room in that segment.

1. In my case, I have worked new homes, investors, REOs, first-time buyers and commercial markets. Making the transition often required giving up what had been a very successful practice to focus on the new, coming market. Today, we are focusing on developing programs for Millennial buyers, recruiting non-traditional real estate agents, planning crowdfunded flips and focusing on commercial investment markets. In all those areas, we did no business in 2013, and little in 2014. We do 5 percent of the REO business we did in the late 2000s, 5 percent of the short sales and maybe 25 percent of the investor business we did in 2010-2013.

My strategy for longevity has been following the market’s sweet spot. The only constant I have found in the real estate business is change.


Bruce Ailion is the associate broker of RE/MAX Town and Country in Woodstock, where he leads a top team of sales associates at one of metro Atlanta’s largest real estate brokerages. With more than 4,500 closed transactions and 35 years experience (including 22 years specializing in distressed real estate assets over a wide range of property types), Bruce has been recognized as a market leader.

  • Craig Levine says:

    Great read……it’s not the same business it has been over the last 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. Every 5 years we have had to adjust our business model and approach to obtaining new clientele. One business strategy that has always worked for us, though, is staying at the forefront of technology marketing and implementation.