Real Estate Agent
Agents and brokers
Real estate agents and brokers are closely related, but they are different types of professionals. Brokers are independent businesspeople who sell real estate and rent managed properties for a fee. Brokers also arrange for meetings between buyers and sellers. They manage their own offices, advertise properties and handle other business matters.
Real estate agents are independent sales employees who provide their services to licensed brokers on a contract basis. In return, the broker pays the agent a portion of the commission earned from property sold through the firm by the agent. Today, relatively few agents are salaried by a brokerage or realty firm; instead, they derive their income solely from commissions.
Not just residential
Real estate agents can also work in commercial real estate, helping companies buy or lease space to house their business operations. Commercial real estate agents work with businesses to makes sure that the space in question--whether a temporary downtown office, a boutique storefront in a trendy neighborhood or a manufacturing facility in a sprawling office park--fits the business' needs and wants.
A huge amount of legwork goes into a real estate agent or broker's day. They meet with clients--often multiple times--to show different properties. They must also tailor their sales approach to each individual client; the pitch must fit the client as closely as the property the agent is showing. For example, a young family in search of its first home has different expectations than an owner of a rapidly-expanding business looking for larger office space.
Since they always need properties to sell, brokers spend a large portion of their time obtaining listings. When listing different properties for sale, agents and brokers compare each to similar properties previously sold in that area to determine a competitive market price. Agents and brokers also direct their clients to mortgage loan brokers and negotiate prices between buyer and seller.
Many real estate agents and brokers work an average eight-hour day, but one in four work 50 hours or more (including evenings and weekends) to suit their clients' schedules. Because they work on commission, their salaries are commensurate with the amount of time they spend showing properties, meeting with prospective clients, analyzing properties for sale and inspecting properties for appraisal.
Most real estate firms are relatively small, but some large firms like Century 21 have thousands of real estate agents operating out of many branch offices. Individual brokers often have franchise agreements with national or regional real estate organizations. Under these arrangements, the broker pays a fee in exchange for the privilege of using the more widely known name of the parent organization.
The best place to start is a bachelor's degree. After that, real estate agents and brokers must obtain state licenses to sell and rent properties. This often entails 30 to 90 hours of classroom instruction for agents, and 60 to 90 hours of formal instruction plus one to three years experience selling real estate for a broker's license. Most states require that licenses be renewed every one to two years.
Beginners often apply for jobs locally, since familiarity with a neighborhood is an asset--agents need to know such things as local zoning and tax laws when advising clients. Many local real estate associations sponsor courses covering the fundamentals and legal aspects of the field. As for sales skills, large brokerage firms offer formal training programs for both beginners and experienced agents.
Advancement opportunities for agents generally take the form of higher commission rates and an increase in the number and size of sales. This occurs as agents gain expertise and contacts, and become more efficient in closing a greater number of transactions.
Experienced agents can also advance in many large firms to managerial positions. And those who have received their broker's licenses (different from a sales license) can open their own offices. Also, agents, brokers and appraisers who gain general experience in real estate and a thorough knowledge of business conditions and property values in their localities may enter mortgage financing or real estate investment counseling.
While the majority of agents and brokers work with residential properties, there is also a small number who work in specialty areas, such as commercial, agricultural and industrial real estate.
Although it is a demanding profession, real estate offers the freedom that "no other career could offer" in terms of work hours. The pay and the hours depend on the agent's motivation and skills. There are not many who are "driving expensive foreign cars," however. And one respondent feels that "those who do don't have much of a life." In order to last as an agent or broker, one must be willing to "accept rejection and understand that it is not a personal reflection." The work varies from day to day and "no transaction is the same." As one real estate agent puts it, "sometimes you feel as though you are working in the ER, and other [times] you feel you are working at a playground." Building a client base is a slow process and an "emotional roller-coaster" at times.
However, agents feel most gratified when they see a family "totally happy with their new home." A few respondents advise that anyone going into the field should have at least two to three months' savings, since it "takes a while to get paid." Finding a job in the field once you pass the real estate sales exam, however, is hardly difficult. One contact notes: "You don't have to worry about finding a company--they find you."
Flexible hours; You get out what you put into it
Long hours; High rate of rejection; Burst housing bubble
Aggressive; Friendly; Optimistic; Persistent; Trustworthy; Tactful
Sensitive; Introverted; Not self-motivated
Average about 45 per week
Median salary for real estate agents, including commission: $39,760; Median salary for brokers, including commission: $60,790
Bachelor's degree; Passing score on real estate licensing exam