Is Real Estate a Good Career?
Table of Contents
- What Being a Real Estate Agent Is Like
- Benefits of Being a Real Estate Agent
- How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?
- Pros and Cons of Being a Real Estate Agent
- Pro: The Work Is Fulfilling
- Con: The Job Can Be Stressful
- Pro: Opportunity for Career Mobility
- Con: The Job Depends on the Market
- Pro: You Have Unlimited Income Potential
- Con: The First Year Can Be Difficult
- Pro: You Get to Set Your Own Hours
- Con: You Get to Set Your Own Hours
- Pro: Real Estate Scholarships Help New Agents Start Their Careers
- Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Real Estate Agent?
What Being a Real Estate Agent Is Like
Real estate agents help people to buy or sell property. As professionals, they have the training and expertise to guide clients through every step of the process, from searching out available properties to closing on the contract and delivering the keys to the new property owners. For many people, buying or selling property is the biggest transaction they do, so a qualified professional can be an important asset. The agent serves as the primary point of contact for most steps of the process.
A real estate agent's day might involve a variety of activities, including:
- Creating a schedule for the day or week
- Following up on leads for new clients, composing communications to potential clients
- Responding to existing client concerns
- Contacting other agents to schedule showings
- Arranging meetings related to a current purchase or sale contract
- Preparing documentation for a contract
- Meeting with clients to talk through various steps of the process
- Showing properties
Planning out a real estate agent's schedule can be somewhat difficult since agents get a lot of leeway to determine how they run their businesses. As a general rule, agents who work full-time will often work seven to nine hours each day, with a couple of days off each week. Those days and times depend largely on the clientele the agent is trying to work with. For example, many full-time agents work a typical week, like 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Others might start work in the early afternoon and continue into the evenings to accommodate the needs of clients who can't attend showings or meetings earlier. Plenty of agents work weekends because they can find clients more easily that way. It's also common for agents to work a few long days balanced by shorter days throughout the week.
Benefits of Being a Real Estate Agent
Becoming a real estate agent is a highly rewarding career move, and there are a variety of possible benefits of the decision. Most real estate agents form an agreement with a brokerage, especially at first. Within the brokerage, they have a great degree of freedom to determine how best to run their businesses. People who find that working a traditional job with a boss may notice many things about the job that they would change, and as the boss, they have that freedom. If they would prefer to work from home or work outside at a park, they can do that. Since agents are an important part of the real estate industry everywhere in the country, agents can use their experience as a springboard to relocate to other areas.
Ultimately, real estate agents get what they put into their work, with a higher degree of control over their working environment, investment, and results. Agents do not need a four-year degree to get a license, so becoming an agent often costs much less to start than other careers. With a license, agents can decide how they want to work and how far they want to go.
How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?
Real estate agents make an annual income close to the national average, although there can be a fair amount of variability in the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that real estate agent income was about $49,000 per year in 2020. This isn't too far from the national average of $56,000 for all occupations in the same year. For people who are more interested in the range of possible incomes, the number of hours worked serves as the biggest determiner. Agents who work 20 hours or less per week could earn half as much, while agents who put in 60 or more hours per week might bring in twice as much. Similarly, experienced agents with 5 or more years of work in the field may earn much more than agents in their first year.
Agents may get paid through a regular wage through their real estate brokers, with additional payments related to commissions. Agents work under brokers, who accept the commission after a home sale is complete. The brokerage usually splits the income with agents, although that split may not necessarily be 50/50.
Pros and Cons of Being a Real Estate Agent
Like any other field, there are many benefits and possible concerns about becoming a real estate agent. It is easy for people to focus on the pros and forget that there can be serious cons. People who are thinking of going into real estate ought to consider each one carefully before choosing. The advantages provide a lot of flexibility in terms of hours and income. The disadvantages can create a lot of stress, particularly when the real estate market is volatile.
Pro: The Work Is Fulfilling
For many agents, their delight when they help someone buy the home of their dreams or have a great selling experience on an existing home makes the job worthwhile. Working as a real estate agent involves a lot of interaction with the public, so agents get to meet people from all walks of life. They often work with people during a time of excitement and potential. Even though the role can be fast-paced and a little hectic, it often has a wonderful conclusion that benefits everyone involved.
Con: The Job Can Be Stressful
Of course, being a real estate agent isn't all about smiling faces and bounteous commissions. In the early years, agents have to work much harder to secure contracts with clients, especially in areas with tons of competition. They might have to invest a lot of their own money to get started, for marketing, and to work toward their first commissions. Sometimes, even the best investment of time and effort ends up in rejection. Agents who aren't prepared for this struggle might quit because they don't know if it will get better.
Pro: Opportunity for Career Mobility
Although real estate agents typically work through a brokerage, they are still running their own businesses and determining their career plans. In the beginning, agents might be working toward a higher number of commissions or the ability to transition from working part-time to full-time. With more experience and a history of success, agents may gain negotiating power with brokerages. From there, the sky is the limit. Successful agents can use their knowledge of the area to expand their careers into other parts of the real estate industry.
Con: The Job Depends on the Market
Although there is a lot of potential for high income as a real estate agent, the heat of the market definitely affects it. In a market where there is much more housing inventory than interested buyers, agents have to work harder for each sale. Additionally, sales come less frequently. In a hot market, agents might have a much easier time, but they may also have more competition from other agents. Agents often have to prepare for lulls in income throughout the year, especially during low-selling seasons.
Pro: You Have Unlimited Income Potential
Unlike a job with a set salary, real estate agents have virtually unlimited income potential. Since they set their own hours and can work as much as they want, agents can have an unlimited number of possible commissions. Agents usually earn a percentage of the sale as a commission, whether they are the selling or buying agent. In regions with high home prices, the commission is correspondingly higher. For example, a 3% commission on a million-dollar home is $30,000 for a single sale. Agents would split that with the broker, but they could then go on to earn more in other commissions.
Con: The First Year Can Be Difficult
Real estate agents can have a difficult time, especially in the first year. Without the experience necessary to balance expenses with income, many agents end up spending more on things like advertising without getting the new clients who provide the opportunity to earn commissions. In a competitive area with a lot of experienced agents, new agents might find themselves shut out of the more lucrative opportunities. Searching for a good brokerage and finding a reliable mentor may help smooth out many of these bumps since that support can create an easier path to success.
Pro: You Get to Set Your Own Hours
People with a lot of commitments or a busy family life may prefer to set their own hours, which is a definite perk of becoming a real estate agent. Many full-time jobs require workers to stick to a particular schedule that doesn't always mesh with someone who prefers to work outside those hours or days. Agents get to set their own schedules, which means that they can take advantage of weekends and evenings. They can also free up days to spend with family and friends, a crucial advantage for parents in particular.
Con: You Get to Set Your Own Hours
A real estate agent getting to set their own hours can also be a source of problems in the job. Although any business owner can set their own hours, they still have to be open when clients are looking for services. Otherwise, they will not be able to make as much money. Agents who only work weekends or off-hours are less likely to bring in a full-time income. Additionally, the idea that agents set their hours can be alienating to future clients. Clients want to know that their agents will be available.
Pro: Real Estate Scholarships Help New Agents Start Their Careers
Becoming a real estate agent often involves a fair number of upfront costs, so a real estate scholarship can help. New agents may have to spend some of their own funds to set up a business after getting their licenses, which can be more difficult if they have debt from preparation courses. With a scholarship, they can invest in courses that will give them the knowledge they need to qualify for a license. This scholarship allows students to take self-paced courses throughout the year or even request reimbursement for courses they have already taken.
Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Real Estate Agent?
Although becoming a real estate agent is a great decision for many people, it may not be the right choice for everyone. Agents tend to do well if they like engaging with people and aren't set back by occasional rejections. The best agents have specific qualities, including:
- Warm, inviting personality
- Ideal listening skills
- Excellent communication knowledge and etiquette
- Good work ethic
- Willingness to learn
Just as there are characteristics that set the best real estate agents apart, some situations might indicate that someone may not be an ideal candidate for the job. People who have a hard time speaking regularly with people they do not know, particularly when making phone calls or other direct communications, may struggle to build relationships with clients or help them through the transaction. Those who lose motivation after rejection might find it harder to find success during and after the first year. If the possibility of unpredictable income or a stressful month is a deal-breaker, people may want to choose another career instead.
Becoming a real estate agent might be the best career decision that people can make, but it depends on their personal qualities and the goals they have for their future. Real estate agents can make a lot of money, particularly if they put in the time and effort. On the other hand, being a real estate agent can be exceptionally hard work with occasional obstacles. Lots of people thrive in this kind of working environment, but others could struggle. By evaluating this information, people can decide if the career makes sense for them to pursue.