Is Real Estate a Good Career? a Laid Off, Houston Anchor Closed $28 Million As a New Realtor

  • Lily Jang became a real-estate agent in 2017 after working mostly as a broadcast-news anchor.
  • She got into real estate because she’d had bad experiences with agents and wanted flexible hours.
  • To stand out to her clients, she offers social-media promotion, home staging and TV placement.

Before she was a successful real-estate agent closing on nearly $28 million in deals in 2022, Lily Jang was a news anchor for KHOU-TV in Houston.

She never would’ve left the broadcasting world, she told Insider, had the TV station not gone through a management change and subsequent layoffs.

“You always know in the back of your head this could happen: New management comes in, and they’re going to clean house, and you could be a casualty — and that’s exactly what happened to me,” she said.

The blow was especially difficult for her because one of the main reasons she moved to Houston was to take care of her aging parents, especially her father, who has Parkinson’s disease. Unlike other broadcasters who could pick up and move to another city for a job, Jang needed to stay and take care of his family.

“That was the most devastating time in my life. Anyone else would’ve springboarded to Chicago, New York, LA, or Miami, but I couldn’t,” Jang, who had worked in other states before moving to Texas, said. “I sat in a corner and cried for two weeks, but I said to myself, ‘I’m going to have to pivot. I have to figure this out.'”

And figure it out she did — by the end of her first year at Keller Williams, she’d closed $8 million in real-estate transactions and surpassed her salary as a news anchor. In 2021, four years after she got her start, she made nearly $900,000 in gross earnings.

“I took my profession as a news anchor, my marketing skills, and leveraged everything I had and who I was, and I used that in real estate,” Jang said. “I built my journalism career on relationships, communication, and integrity, and I parlayed all that into my new career pretty seamlessly.”

Here’s how she built a business that’s thriving through social media and organic marketing.

Making the pivot

Jang’s interest in real estate was spurred by her experiences shopping for homes.

“I had bought and sold homes in the past, and I knew how little my Realtor did for me,” Jang said. “I was like, ‘I can do this better than you, and you’re not even advocating for me.'”

Another benefit, she added, was the opportunity to be her own boss and set her own work hours.

In 2017, after spending roughly a month doing a six-part online course with the Champions School of Real Estate, Jang announced her career change on Facebook and immediately started receiving messages from old high-school friends and colleagues asking whether she would take on theirs listings. Three months later, she had three houses in her portfolio — two of which were luxury homes priced at more than $750,000.

Jang worked 80-hour weeks for the first six months.

“I remember crying at the end of several weeks from pure exhaustion,” she said. “I knew that my company was solely dependent on me finding a way to market myself differently and on a bigger platform when there were tens of thousands of other realtors out there.”

Today, Jang has found a better work-life balance and has outsourced several aspects of her business, including hiring a transaction coordinator to handle paperwork and a full-time licensed assistant to assist in various tasks.

Using social media and TV to attract clients

Jang said her unique approach to selling helped her build a business entirely from referrals and organic searches from sellers, buyers, investors, renters, and fellow real-estate agents. For her customers, Jang provides videos, home staging, and Instagram exposure on her account, which has 35,000 followers.

“I’ve never made a single cold call, and I’ve never knocked on any door. My business is 70% referrals from day one and 30% social media,” she said. “My TV background gave me an organic platform of people who felt they knew me, trusted me, and wanted to work with me.”

On social media, Jang walks through many of the beautiful, glossy features of a home but also points to educational content that prospective buyers would want to pay attention to, like ceilings that have had previous repair work, wall corners that give clues to the condition of a home’s foundation, and other things that indicate the structural integrity of a home.

Jang also shares on social media what she does off the clock, like her overseas travel and fine dining. She said this is underrated among real-estate agents, especially when they want to work with luxury clients, many of whom likely want input on great restaurants and travel destinations.

“It shows people all the layers of who I am, how I travel, what my hobbies are, and what real estate looks like in other parts of the world,” she said. “People work with people they like and feel most connected to.”

Jang has also been able to use her broadcasting background to her advantage, first with a local segment called “Lily’s List” on KPRC, then, after that was canceled because of Hurricane Harvey, a 30-minute real-estate show called “House 2 Home with Lily Jang,” where she features home listings as well as interviews with lenders, builders, interior designers, and other real-estate professionals.

Jang’s connections and experience in the broadcasting world helped her link up with Jerry Martin, the now retired general manager of KPRC. He brainstormed various real-estate-show ideas with Jang before landing on the concept for “Lily’s List” after Jang showed him a video sample of what she had in mind.

“I believe I closed three transactions in the short six months we were on the air,” she said. “‘Lily’s List’ was just as important as social media for me in reaching potential clients.”

Selling homes in the current market

While fluctuating interest rates and slowing demand might make other real-estate agents nervous, Jang isn’t too concerned about the change of pace. She said that although inventory is low, she’s still seeing multiple offers on homes with key features, such as great neighborhoods and the right price point. Jang’s advice to those buying in Houston is to always purchase a home zoned to reputable, well-rated schools.

As for her confidence in how she’ll perform in a tighter, more-competitive market, Jang said she’s glad to turn a page on the wildness that 2021 and early 2022 brought. She said there was an influx of “tens of thousands of new” real-estate agents who benefited from historically low interest rates, which made real-estate transactions quicker, easier, and more profitable, but now times are much tougher.

“When the market shifts like this and normalizes, there’s a systemic exodus of agents because not all agents are making sales they’re used to in order to make a living,” she said. “The realtors who have benefited from a robust market are now not producing as much.

“They have dues to pay without closings, so our market has normalized and new agents who got into the game during the surge of record home sales didn’t necessarily need creative marketing skills, business planning, and putting in the work and hustle to generate sales, and many have to turn to a salaried job with more security.”

Jang said she believes the real-estate agents who will succeed are the ones who are fully invested and integrated in the field, as opposed to those without a “pulse on the market every single day.”