There are millions of active real estate licenses in the United States, demonstrating that many professionals have found rewarding and lucrative careers in this field. If you’re highly motivated with a knack for sales and building strong client relationships, helping people find a new home could be your calling. Here’s everything you should know if you’re considering a real estate role, from getting your license to what a typical workweek looks like.
Here’s a look at what it takes – and what you should know – to become a real estate agent.
Though the business licenses for real estate agents and brokers differ, you must meet the same basic requirements:
Here are additional important considerations to understand:
Although many people use the terms “real estate agent” and “Realtor” interchangeably, they’re not the same. Realtors are agents with special licensure binding them to certain ethical behavior guidelines and specific legal practices.
Because of the popularity of this career, many colleges and universities offer courses and certificate programs in real estate. Some institutions even have associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in real estate. You can also take online courses from anywhere at any time through platforms like Colibri Real Estate and 360training.
Most U.S. states require broker and agent licenses to be renewed every two to four years. Many states also require real estate professionals to attend continuing education classes throughout their careers. For a comprehensive list of the requirements for sales agents and brokers by state, visit the National Association of Realtors website.
Once you’ve obtained your real estate license, you’ll likely fare best if you start your career as part of a brokerage firm. Though you could theoretically start your own real estate business right away, this might not be a career risk worth taking – at least initially.
Here’s why working with a real estate firm at the beginning of your career (at least) can help:
Those pursuing a real estate career typically become licensed as a broker or sales agent. The two jobs have similar responsibilities. However, brokers typically have more industry experience and are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses.
Sales agents must work with a broker, and many agents become brokers after gaining several years of experience and obtaining a broker’s license. As mentioned above, the term “Realtor” identifies a real estate agent who is a member of the NAR.
Job demands are broad for these individuals. People hire real estate professionals because buying, selling, and renting personal properties and commercial real estate is nuanced and time-consuming. Brokers and agents can ensure no part of the process is overlooked.
Here’s a general breakdown of what real estate professionals do:
Because trends and laws in the real estate industry are continually changing, many states require brokers and agents to participate in ongoing educational and professional development programs to maintain their licenses.
More than half of all real estate brokers are self-employed independent contractors, while others work for real estate firms. Sales agents – who must work for brokers – typically find employment with a brokerage, leasing office, or other real estate establishment. Because of the vast differences in real estate markets in various areas, workplaces can range from one-person businesses to large firms with numerous branch offices.
Here’s what you need to know about where real estate agents work:
Brokers and agents earn most of their direct compensation through commissions on sales. Commission rates depend on the type and value of the property sold.
Real estate incomes depend on your work area, industry experience and motivation to sell. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median pay earned by real estate brokers was $62,010 annually as of 2021. Sales agents earned $48,340 on average in that same year.
As the housing market experiences fluctuations in home prices and demand, real estate agents must adapt to remain successful. Real estate jobs tend to remain secure even during periods of economic hardship, but brokers’ and sales agents’ overall income may decrease. If housing prices have dropped or fewer people want to buy, real estate agents take home less commission.
That doesn’t mean that earning the same income during a recession is impossible; it just might require some extra effort. For instance, you might be able to gain additional clients through increased marketing efforts. This could also be a good time to study and refresh your knowledge of market trends and client needs. The key to maintaining your real estate business during any period is to stay driven and be willing to learn.
If you’re a self-starter with a competitive mindset, real estate just might be the right career path for you. However, it takes time and effort to grow your business as you learn the landscape. And even if you work best independently, it might make sense to get your feet wet as part of a real estate firm. However you decide to navigate your real estate career, the most important part is being ready to adapt and staying hungry for marketplace knowledge.
Natalie Hamingson contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.