For most people, a house is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. And although the prospect of a new home can be incredibly exciting, it can also be incredibly disconcerting, especially as new homeowners anticipate parting with a huge chunk of change. Good real estate agents ease that transition into home-ownership. “It’s so much more than sales,” says Jason Townsend, managing broker of Capital Community Properties, a small team doing business under the brokerage of Keller Williams in the District of Columbia. “As opposed to selling stocks or insurance, there’s an emotional side to real estate that can be very rewarding.”
Successful real estate agents should enjoy both the relational (or clients services) aspect of the job, as well as the business and financial aspects. Real estate agents buy, sell or rent properties on behalf of their clients. They must have a deep knowledge of the market and of the communities in their area, so they can advise their clients on matters ranging from how to accurately price their homes to when is the right moment to make the plunge and buy a new one.
Agents also guide buyers toward the homes that best fit their needs by generating a list of properties for sale, accompanying the client to see the properties and negotiating an offer with the seller. The terms real estate agent and real estate broker are often used interchangeably. The main difference between the two is that brokers are licensed to manage their own businesses, while agents are not. Agents may work under brokers, but their jobs are similar – both help clients sell as well as buy homes. And though it’s possible to buy or sell a home without using a professional, an agent can make the process a lot easier.
Growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11.1 percent job growth for real estate sales agents between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as average. During that time period, an additional 38,000 jobs will open up. Couple these projections with a fairly low unemployment rate and the promise of increased home sales as the economy continues to improve following the downturn, and the outlook for real estate agents is quite solid.
Salary: According to the BLS, real estate agents earned a median salary of $39,800 in 2013. The best-paid earned about $98,090, while the lowest-paid earned approximately $21,240. The highest earners worked in the metropolitan areas of Lake County, Illinois; New York City; and Ocean City, New Jersey. Salary Range 75th Percentile.
Training: The qualifications for becoming a real estate agent are few. You must be 18 years or older with a high school diploma, and you must have a state-specific real estate license, which you’d acquire by taking and passing an exam. Established brokers looking to hire junior agents will also look favorably on college degrees in finance, business administration, statistics, economics or even law. The National Association of Realtors also sponsors courses that touch on the basic financial and legal aspects of real estate.
But education isn’t the only deciding factor: Social skills, good judgment and enthusiasm are key and among the traits that brokers look for in applicants. Reviews and Advice Townsend recommends starting out with an experienced broker. “Come alongside an established broker, leveraging their leads and their infrastructure,” Townsend says. “The first component is lead generating. If you don’t have anyone to serve, it’s a moot point.” Real estate agents should also play up their people skills, their business acumen and their passion for the profession – and the community, in which they hope to work. Experienced brokers will also appreciate seeing job applicants taking advantage of continuing education opportunities, for instance the NAR’s extensive library (free for members), as well as classes at different realty associations.