Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to increase by 11% between 2019 and 2022 – about as fast as the average for all occupations. By 2022, there are estimated to be about 380,300 sales agents and 88,300 brokers working in the industry.
Many people think being a successful broker or sales agent is easy. Part of this misconception is because it’s a relatively easy field to enter. Although you need a license to work as either a broker or sales agent – and licensing requirements vary by state – it’s very possible to take the required classes, sit for the exam and start working in under two months.
- Working as a real estate sales agent or broker can be a fulfilling and financially rewarding career, but it’s not easy.
- Consider what a career in real estate is really like: drumming up business on a daily basis, promoting yourself, keeping track of leads, providing exceptional customer service to a wide variety of clients.
- Most realtors are paid on a commission-only basis, so there is the potential of working for days, weeks or even months without a paycheck.
$54,424. The median income for a realtor in the U.S. in 2018, according to Payscale.com
Being a sales agent or broker requires handling a heavy load of administrative detail. Legal documents must be accurate, events must be coordinated for multiple listings. On any given day, you might have to:
- Complete, submit and file real estate documents, agreements and lease records
- Organize appointments, showings, open houses and meetings
- Create and distribute flyers, newsletters, and other promotional materials
- Develop and maintain paper and electronic filing systems for records, correspondence, and other material
- Create monthly, quarterly and annual budgets
- Develop marketing plans for listings
- Create and build on client databases
- Research active, pending and sold listings and draft comparative market analysis (CMA) reports
- Respond to texts, emails, and phone calls
- Update websites and social media profiles
Finding clients is central to your success as a sales agent or broker: After all, without buyers and sellers, there would be no transactions and, therefore, no commissions. A common way to build contacts and generate leads is through a real estate sphere of influence (SOI) strategy that focuses on generating leads through people you already know, including family, friends, neighbors, classmates, business associates, and other social contacts.
Working With Clients
Whether you are working with buyers or sellers, you will typically spend part of each day working directly with clients – and it won’t always be during business hours. As seller’s agent, for example, you may spend time preparing a listing presentation, taking digital photographs of a client’s property and staging the home so it shows well. As a buyer’s agent, you may spend time combing through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to find suitable listings, printing or emailing the listings to the potential buyers, and showing the property to interested buyers. You may also accompany clients to inspections, meetings with loan officers, closings, and other activities where your presence is either required or requested.
Uneven Income Stream
Most sales agents and brokers make money through commissions, usually as a percentage of the selling price of the property, or, less frequently, as a flat fee. In general, commissions are paid only if and when you settle a transaction. Ultimately, this means that you could work hard for days, weeks or even months without taking home any money at all.
- Listing agent – the agent who took the listing from a seller
- Listing broker – the broker for whom the listing agent works
- Buyer’s agent – the agent who represents the buyer
- Buyer’s agent’s broker – the broker for whom the buyer’s agent works
The brokers then split the commissions with their sales agents – say 60% for the sales agent and 40% to the broker – so each sales agent receives $3,600 ($6,000 X 0.06), and each broker keeps $2,400 ($6,000 X 0.04). The final commission breakdown would be:
- Listing agent – $3,600
- Listing broker – $2,400
- Buyer’s agent – $3,600
- Buyer’s agent’s broker – $2,400
The Bottom Line
Working as a real estate sales agent or broker can be a fulfilling and financially rewarding career, but it’s not easy. Consider what a career in real estate is really like: drumming up business on a daily basis, promoting yourself, keeping track of leads, providing exceptional customer service to a wide variety of clients (some of whom may be very easy to work with; others, less so), and the potential of working for days, weeks or even months without a paycheck.