Mary O’Connor
Why I hate being a Realtor and Why I am


City of Chicago / View from Van Buren & Wells

As a default career, I ended up getting a real estate license in 1990. Coming from a nonacademic family I was discouraged from going to college as a young adult. The decision makers in my young life assumed a “man” would take care of me so an education was not required. The culture of the south side Chicago Irish Catholic demographic, where I grew up, was tightknit and most of the girls did get married and seem to be living happily after. That did not happen with me. Most of my adult life has been a financial struggle because I am a Realtor. For awhile it was fun; I worked downtown Chicago and sales were brisk. Also, I had second jobs over the years which supplemented lean times. Then things began to change, there was a major housing bust and the business basically stopped. At that time, I was working toward a bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University. I took the long path by taking one to four classes a year. In retrospective, it was the best part of my life. Working toward a big doable goal is rewarding and fun. The downside: I was 54 when I graduated.

So, I remain a Realtor. Why do I hate it? Well, I am basically stuck. Now, at the age of 63 there are not many employers willing to even consider me for a position. My passion of environmental studies and agricultural soil health doesn’t lend itself to a wide job market. And when I do spot an opportunity the employer “casts a wide net” and then people much more qualified than I get the job. As soon as I hear they are “casting a wide net” I know I am out.

Over the years I have come to hate my job. First, there is no income. A major concern for any single working woman. Don’t get me wrong, there can be an income, but many working hours servicing the needs of clients often leads to zero money because circumstances occur that do not produce a closing. Second, no employer provided insurance. My monthly insurance payment is currently $575 and only covers the basics. A midyear trip to the doctor can cost $400 easily. A trip to the dermatologist — $650. Third, the client doesn’t care about you. They have absolutely no problem having you do all kinds of things for them, personal and otherwise, then fire you; no paycheck on that one. The impression many people get about realtors is their paychecks are large when then do get them. Somewhat true. But, none of that money has gone to taxes, retirement, insurance, savings, etc. The Realtor not only needs to pay thousands of dollars for annual licensing, continuing education and business insurance, they need to make sure to take 50% of a paycheck and allocate it to the slots indicated above. If money management is not a learned tool you very quickly fall behind and can stay there for decades. Even if you are an expert money manager, paychecks can be so spread apart that by the time one comes in it’s all about catching up.

Oftentimes I have what I call “the perfect client”. These are people who respect the services I provide, and I am grateful for them. But other times the customer / client can be so cruel and self-righteous. I cannot count the number of times I have been abused verbally, taken advantage of like I am a slave and then asked for part of my paycheck. Why would I give my customer part of my paycheck? I know of no other industry where your paycheck is negotiable. Yes, you can negotiate a fee upfront, but right before a closing someone in the transaction decides they want some of the realtor’s paycheck or “they won’t close”. Ok, now I am stuck! I desperately need that commission check. If they walk I have nothing, so being the weak link, I am, I give in. It is so very debilitating. Then the pain starts; instead of walking out of closing room fulfilled that I did a great service to my client, I feel completely taken advantage of. But the client is happy! They can tell their friends how they got their realtor to hand over some cash. The cycle of dread continues.

I keep my eyes and ears open for other possibilities and even set a goal to be out of this industry by the end of 2020. Well, at least partly out of it! Getting caught in the real estate rabbit hole is easy, getting out is not. At 63 years of age, I cannot just walk away. Because I didn’t quite pick up on the money management part of this industry, and have had no support, I am buried in debt. Leaving this industry is challenging. It is the only way I know of where I can dive back in, suck up and maybe stand up for myself a little more to bring about more of those “perfect clients”.

Photo taken on dream trip trying to escape real estate.

As a default career, I ended up getting a real estate license in 1990. Coming from a nonacademic family I was discouraged from going to college as a young adult. The decision makers in my young life assumed a “man” would take care of me so an education was not required. The culture of the south side Chicago Irish Catholic demographic, where I grew up, was tightknit and most of the girls did get married and seem to be living happily after. That did not happen with me. Most of my adult life has been a financial struggle because I am a Realtor. For awhile it was fun; I worked downtown Chicago and sales were brisk. Also, I had second jobs over the years which supplemented lean times. Then things began to change, there was a major housing bust and the business basically stopped. At that time, I was working toward a bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University. I took the long path by taking one to four classes a year. In retrospective, it was the best part of my life. Working toward a big doable goal is rewarding and fun. The downside: I was 54 when I graduated.

So, I remain a Realtor. Why do I hate it? Well, I am basically stuck. Now, at the age of 63 there are not many employers willing to even consider me for a position. My passion of environmental studies and agricultural soil health doesn’t lend itself to a wide job market. And when I do spot an opportunity the employer “casts a wide net” and then people much more qualified than I get the job. As soon as I hear they are “casting a wide net” I know I am out.

Over the years I have come to hate my job. First, there is no income. A major concern for any single working woman. Don’t get me wrong, there can be an income, but many working hours servicing the needs of clients often leads to zero money because circumstances occur that do not produce a closing. Second, no employer provided insurance. My monthly insurance payment is currently $575 and only covers the basics. A midyear trip to the doctor can cost $400 easily. A trip to the dermatologist — $650. Third, the client doesn’t care about you. They have absolutely no problem having you do all kinds of things for them, personal and otherwise, then fire you; no paycheck on that one. The impression many people get about realtors is their paychecks are large when then do get them. Somewhat true. But, none of that money has gone to taxes, retirement, insurance, savings, etc. The Realtor not only needs to pay thousands of dollars for annual licensing, continuing education and business insurance, they need to make sure to take 50% of a paycheck and allocate it to the slots indicated above. If money management is not a learned tool you very quickly fall behind and can stay there for decades. Even if you are an expert money manager, paychecks can be so spread apart that by the time one comes in it’s all about catching up.

Oftentimes I have what I call “the perfect client”. These are people who respect the services I provide, and I am grateful for them. But other times the customer / client can be so cruel and self-righteous. I cannot count the number of times I have been abused verbally, taken advantage of like I am a slave and then asked for part of my paycheck. Why would I give my customer part of my paycheck? I know of no other industry where your paycheck is negotiable. Yes, you can negotiate a fee upfront, but right before a closing someone in the transaction decides they want some of the realtor’s paycheck or “they won’t close”. Ok, now I am stuck! I desperately need that commission check. If they walk I have nothing, so being the weak link, I am, I give in. It is so very debilitating. Then the pain starts; instead of walking out of closing room fulfilled that I did a great service to my client, I feel completely taken advantage of. But the client is happy! They can tell their friends how they got their realtor to hand over some cash. The cycle of dread continues.

I keep my eyes and ears open for other possibilities and even set a goal to be out of this industry by the end of 2020. Well, at least partly out of it! Getting caught in the real estate rabbit hole is easy, getting out is not. At 63 years of age, I cannot just walk away. Because I didn’t quite pick up on the money management part of this industry, and have had no support, I am buried in debt. Leaving this industry is challenging. It is the only way I know of where I can dive back in, suck up and maybe stand up for myself a little more to bring about more of those “perfect clients”.



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