Not many jobs include walking up historic steps into a centuries-old fixer upper and soaking in the sea breeze as you walk the perimeter of a 10-acre piece of oceanfront land, but being a real estate agent can mean that you get to do both–in the same day. The life of a real estate agent is never boring, with every day bringing you to new places.
If you think that a career as a real estate agent sounds exciting and interesting, it’s time to learn more about what these important professionals do and where to start. If you enjoy finding clients’ their dream home and making your own work schedule, being a real estate agent might be the perfect fit for you.
The Duties of a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent represents clients during the home buying or selling process, acting both as an expert they can turn to for information and their advocate in the negotiation process. Becoming a real estate agent means beginning a career that brings professional challenges, a flexible work schedule, and income that is matched to your work level and goals.
What Is a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent is a state-licensed professional who acts on behalf of a client during a real estate transaction. Real estate agents can represent home buyers or home sellers. Most work within one region or the local area, spending a lot of time getting to know the neighborhoods and housing market very well to provide this expertise to clients.
The duties of a real estate agent include:
- Find new clients looking to buy, sell, or rent a home
- Make recommendations to clients on purchase price and contracts
- Find for sale properties to show interested buyer clients
- Market for sale properties on behalf of seller clients
- Manage purchase negotiations between home buyers and sellers
- Prepare purchase documents and contracts
- Market themselves to new clients and the community
Real estate agents can specialize in residential real estate (homes people live in), investment properties (homes people rent to others), commercial real estate (businesses), or even land sales and development. The property sale process is often the same. You can develop specialized knowledge and experience as an agent focused on one of these areas.
Some states refer to the real estate agent license as a real estate sales agent, salesperson, associate broker, or provisional broker. Most states require that a real estate agent be sponsored by a fully licensed real estate broker, the business owner, or supervisor.
Real Estate Agents Working with Buyers
When working on behalf of a home buyer, the real estate agent is called the buyer’s agent. In this role, the agent looks for homes currently on the market that meet the buyer’s needs and budget, arranges for home tours, and draws up purchase offers when directed by the buyers.
A buyer’s agent can spend a lot of time looking for homes that meet the buyer’s criteria doing market research. This can include finding a house with the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, in the desired neighborhood, and within the target budget. When the agent finds a home the buyer would like, they often try to arrange an in-person tour.
Real Estate Agents Working with Sellers
A real estate agent working with a home seller helps price the home for sale, market the home, and arrange tours of the property and open houses for potential buyers. The seller’s agent will also help the client review any purchase offers and draw up a sales contract. Great seller’s agents know a lot about the housing market and are able to make recommendations on sales price and timeline.
A seller’s agent is expected to be a marketing expert to get the for sale home out to as many potential interested buyers as possible. This includes listing the home on online real estate property databases, such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), conducting open houses, and arranging tours. A real estate agent with a strong professional presence will often be more successful in marketing homes for sale.
Real Estate Agents Working with Renters
Some real estate agents work to find homes for renters or to manage rental properties as a property manager. The process is often similar to home sales, with time spent looking for homes for rent, arranging tours and open houses, and preparing rental agreements. Property management can require long hours to respond to tenant calls, arrange for repairs, and communicate with landlords.
Property management can require separate licensing in some states. A real estate agent’s skills, knowledge, and experience can make this a satisfying path for those interested in working with renters and landlords.
Networking for Real Estate Agents
Professional networking is a big part of a real estate agent’s job, especially for those who want to be top agents in their area. Networking and marketing brings in new clients, makes marketing homes smoother, and builds trust in an agent’s professional reputation.
Networking for real estate agents can include:
- Joining a professional organization, such as the National Association of Realtors® (NAR)
- Following up on referrals for new clients
- Attending real estate conferences and events
- Creating an online and social media presence
- Volunteering in the community
Top Skills for Real Estate Agents
Being a real estate agent is a very flexible career path, but there are a few skills that many top real estate agents have and develop.
People person: A successful real estate agent loves working with people: buyers, sellers, renters, landlords, and others involved in the home buying process, such as lenders and title attorneys. Because so much of a real estate agent’s success comes from their ability to market themselves to potential clients, enjoying working with clients is an important part of their job.
Strong work ethic: A lot of a real estate agent’s success comes from their motivation and work ethic. While you will be supervised by a real estate broker, your income is dependent on your own ability to find clients, represent them, and generate new business.
Clear communication: A real estate agent must be able to communicate effectively between home buyers and sellers. This begins with understanding the client’s goals, communicating their needs through offers, and making sure that they have their questions answered through the home buying or selling process.
Attention to detail: Real estate math is not very complicated, but it must be accurate and precise to make sure that all offers and contracts are correct. A real estate agent who can pay attention to these details will be appreciated by their clients.
Tech savvy: Today’s real estate agent needs to be able to navigate online databases, market themselves through a website or social media, and use document preparation software. Fortunately, many real estate professional development organizations hold seminars to help real estate agents learn and master these skills.
A Day in the Life of a Real Estate Agent
Every day can be different for a real estate agent. Many agents love the exciting and ever-changing aspect of their work. Here are a couple of examples of a real estate agent’s day.
John: An Experienced Real Estate Agent with a Strong Network
John has been a real estate agent for many years. He has a strong presence in his local Association of Realtors® and is often recommended to families moving to the area. John does not need to spend a lot of his time networking and marketing himself to get new business, but works hard to maintain his professional reputation as a top real estate agent.
- 8:00 am – 9:00 am: Check email, return phone calls, and catch up with current office tasks and work
- 9:00 am – 11:00 am: Preview new home listings online, making a list of potential homes for a buyer client he is representing
- 11:00 am – 12:30 pm: Lunch and go to the gym. Say hello to a former client at the gym and get the information for his friend who will be moving to the area
- 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Meet a client at an open house. Walk them through the home for sale, pointing out special features and telling them about the neighborhood. The client loves the home and wants to put in an offer
- 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Draw up the purchase offer back at the office and send it to the seller’s agent
- 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm: Run errands, check email, and spend time with family
- 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Meet a client at their home to make recommendations on staging and discuss the sales price and timeline that they would like
- 5:30 pm: Final email check and done for the day
Sandy: A New Real Estate Agent Intent on Making Her Mark
Sandy is a new real estate agent. She is working on actively growing her real estate business in the local area. She spends a lot of her time growing her own skills, building her network, and marketing herself to potential clients.
- 8:00 am – 9:00 am: Check email, return phone calls, and talk to her broker about upcoming career opportunities and tasks
- 9:00 am – 10:00 am: Attend an online social media marketing seminar put on by the National Association of Realtors®
- 10:00 am – 11:30 am: Post on social media and follow up with clients looking for a real estate agent through an online lead generation service
- 11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Meet a potential new client at a local coffee shop to introduce yourself and talk about working together
- 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch and check email
- 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Research potential listings and neighborhoods to generate a list of potential homes to buy for new client
- 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Send follow up emails to professional contacts and potential clients
- 4:00 pm – 7:30 pm: Personal time with family and friends
- 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm: Attend a meeting of local real estate professionals organization
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Much Does a Real Estate Agent Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a real estate sales agent makes an average of $48,930. Most real estate agents are paid on commission. This means that they receive a small percentage of the overall home purchase price for every property sale in which they represent either the buyer or seller.
Keep in mind that the real estate industry is very location-dependent. In general, home prices in high cost-of-living cities are much higher than in low cost-of-living rural areas. Real estate sales can also vary by time of year, with the majority of purchases being done during the summer months and slowing down during the winter holiday season.
How Do I Become a Real Estate Agent?
- Complete real estate pre-licensing education classes
- Complete the real estate license application
- Get fingerprinted and complete a background check
- Pass the real estate agent exam
- Affiliate with a real estate broker
- Application review and license
Getting your real estate license can take between two to six months. You should spend time studying during your pre-licensing classes and leading up to your exam to become an expert on real estate sales.
How Do I Pass the Real Estate Exam?
Study and preparation are key for passing the real estate exam. A few ways to make the most of your studying are:
- Take practice exams
- Review your pre-licensing education notes and handouts
- Shadow a real estate agent or professional
- Work with other aspiring real estate agents to study
- Take an exam prep course
As you get closer to the real estate exam, an exam prep course can be especially beneficial. Courses range from an intensive weekend session to multiple weeks of focused studying. Consider your other time commitments and knowledge going into the exam, then choose the course that best fits your needs.
Do Real Estate Agents Get Days Off?
Flexibility is one of the best parts about being a real estate agent. While agents do put in hours outside of a traditional workday (often to meet with clients who do work traditional work hours), they can also take days or even weeks off to spend time with family, go on vacation, or pursue other interests. As long as they are not in the middle of a real estate sale, they can ramp their work up or down as needed.
Information on this page has been gathered by a multitude of sources and was most recently updated on February 2021.
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