A Real Estate Career



One of the most complex and significant financial events in peoples’ lives is the purchase or sale of a home or investment property. Because of this complexity and significance, people typically seek the help of real estate agents when buying or selling real estate.

Real estate sales agents need to have a thorough knowledge of the real estate market in their communities. They should know which neighborhoods will best fit clients’ needs and budgets. They are familiar with local zoning and tax laws and know where to obtain financing. Agents and brokers also act as intermediaries in price negotiations between buyers and sellers.

Agents spend a significant amount of time looking for properties to sell. They obtain listings—agreements by owners to place properties for sale with the company. When listing a property for sale, agents and brokers compare the listed property with similar properties that recently sold, in order to determine a competitive market price for the property. Following the sale of the property, both the agent who sold it and the agent who obtained the listing receive a portion of the commission. Thus, agents who sell a property that they themselves have listed can increase their commission.

Agents may meet several times with prospective buyers to discuss and visit available properties. Agents identify and emphasize the most pertinent selling points. To a young family looking for a house, for example, they may emphasize the convenient floor plan, the area’s low crime rate, and the proximity to schools and shopping. To a potential investor, they may point out the tax advantages of owning a rental property and the ease of finding a renter. If bargaining over price becomes necessary, agents must follow their client’s instructions carefully and may have to present counteroffers to get the best possible price.

Once the buyer and seller have signed a contract, the real estate broker or agent must make sure that all special terms of the contract are met before the closing date. The agent must make sure that any legally mandated or agreed-upon inspections, such as termite and radon inspections, take place. In addition, if the seller agrees to any repairs, the broker or agent ensures they are made. Increasingly, brokers and agents are handling environmental problems as well, by making sure that the properties they sell meet environmental regulations. For example, they may be responsible for dealing with lead paint on the walls. Loan officers, attorneys, or other people handle many details, but the agent must ensure that they are carried out.

Advances in technology and the ability to retrieve data about properties via the Internet allow many real estate agents to work out of their homes instead of real estate offices. Even with this convenience, agents spend much of their time away from their desks—showing properties to customers, analyzing properties for sale, meeting with prospective clients, or researching the real estate market.

Agents often work more than a standard 40-hour week. They usually work evenings and weekends and are usually on call to respond to the needs of clients. Although the hours are long and frequently irregular, most agents and brokers have the freedom to determine their own schedule. They can arrange their work so that they have time off when they want it. Business usually is slower during the winter season.

In every State, real estate agents must be licensed. Prospective agents must be high school graduates, be at least 18 years old, and pass a written test. A large number of agents have some college training. College courses in real estate, finance, business administration, statistics, economics, law, and English are helpful. More than 1,000 universities, colleges, and community colleges offer courses in real estate. Most offer an associate or bachelor’s degree in real estate; some offer graduate degrees. Many local real estate associations that are members of the National Association of Realtors sponsor courses covering the fundamentals and legal aspects of the field. Advanced courses in mortgage financing, property development and management, and other subjects also are available.

Our company offers formal training programs for both beginners and experienced agents.

As agents gain knowledge and expertise, they become more efficient in closing a greater number of transactions and increase their earnings. In our firm, experienced agents can advance to sales manager or general manager.

Well-trained, ambitious people who enjoy selling—particularly those with extensive social and business connections in their communities will have the best chance for success.

Summary Points:
  • Real estate agents often work evenings and weekends and usually are on call to suit the needs of clients.
  • A license is required.
  • Although gaining a job may be relatively easy, beginning workers face competition from well-established, more experienced agents.