Real Estate Sales Agents
Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||162,560|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.3%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||12,760|
- Agents must obtain a license after attending schools offering real estate courses while brokers must complete a few additional hours of education.
- Real estate agents and brokers must have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
- Although many complete some college coursework, usually in business, to supplement their education, it is not necessary.
- State requirements vary, so check local educational requirements through the National Association of Realtors' website.
Shows a brief overview of a real estate agent career. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a real estate agent, your typical day begins early with an overview of the real estate in your area. Success as an agent depends on thorough knowledge of your region's prices, so you'll check the MLS site and read over the latest reports to see any movement. You'll also skim the news to find any information that may affect real estate prices or practices in the near future.
If your first showing of the day isn't until later, you may focus on preparing a listing presentation for prospective sellers. Many sellers come to you, but sometimes you'll need to compete with other agents for the opportunity to represent a seller. When preparing your listing presentation, you'll gather tax records and prepare a comparative market analysis (CMA) to refine the price. You may spend some time thinking of the questions you'll ask the seller. The more you know about the seller's time frame and needs, the better you're able to suit those needs.
Depending on your schedule, you may have an hour or two free to prepare for your first home showing of the day. A big part of your job is showing properties. Although buyers never see the preparation you do for a successful showing, you put in hours on your presentation. You'll gather the necessary home inspection documents, photos and maintenance information provided by the seller.
When it's time for the showing, you'll arrive well before the buyers so that you can do any last-minute staging of the property. Home staging, the practice of making a house look appealing to buyers, is essential to securing a good price. You've already worked with the home's current owners to create a welcoming environment, but shortly before the showing, you might open the curtains or set out a bowl of potpourri. By the time you welcome potential buyers, you've already become familiar with the property and can answer their questions.
After returning to the office, you start the buyer qualification process. Qualifying buyers means going through the financial information they provide and assessing their ability to afford the property. Buyers who have already spoken to a lender and obtained pre-qualification are good prospects, but that's only the first step; you may also arrange interviews with buyers to find the best match for your seller's needs.
If you're a real estate sales agent and not a broker, you'll spend some part of your day with a broker who can conduct the sale for you. Brokers and agents are similar, but they are not quite the same; only a broker can finalize a sale. Many sales agents start by working for a broker and eventually become brokers themselves.
Certifications and Licensing
All real estate agents and brokers must be licensed. Many must also undergo a background check although this requirement varies from state to state. After taking state-accredited classes in the field, agents must take a test to receive their license. After working as an agent for a number of years set by their state, a realtor becomes eligible to test as a real estate broker. College coursework can also make a candidate eligible to be a broker.
Full-time versus part-time:
Real estate agents can set their own hours to some extent. Many are part-time workers, but others put in 60-hour work weeks as a full-time job. They frequently work evenings and weekends to accommodate sellers' and buyers' hours. However, they also enjoy greater flexibility in their schedules than most office workers and can schedule their showings to permit more free time in their days.
Agents may work in a real estate office with other agents, but the majority are self-employed. Some work from home; others pool with other agents to rent office space, giving them a place to meet with sellers and buyers.
- National Association of Realtors – As the largest professional organization in the United States, the National Association of Realtors provides real estate sales agents and brokers with a code of ethics and offers them greater political clout as a group. For prospective sales agents, the site is a bounty of advice, tips, online education and legal information.
- CCIM Institute – Affiliated with the NAR, the CCIM Institute provides education and direction for sales agents who specialize in commercial properties. The initials are short for Certified Commercial Investment Member, and the site offers an extensive course for prospective commercial sales agents. The sections on resources and education are especially useful to new agents seeking direction.
- Council of Residential Specialists – This professional organization focuses exclusively on residential sales. With online classes, webinars and self-study programs, the site gives guidance to sales agents who choose to specialize in residential properties. Click on the community tab to find member blogs and get an inside look at what residential sales agents do.
- Multiple Listing Service – Real estate agents rely on this website to provide timely information about available properties and prices. It also features local real estate news for agents and brokers. Anyone going into the real estate market should become familiar with this valuable site.