Buyers and sellers of homes contract with real estate brokers and sales agents because of their extensive knowledge of the local real estate market. For buyers, brokers and agents know many characteristics of the neighborhoods in their market areas and are able to recommend homes that are within the budgets of their clients. For sellers, brokers and agents are able to set the selling price of a property based on comparable sales and recommend sales techniques.
A successful real estate transaction is complex and often is the largest single investment people will make in their lives. Brokers and agents serve as guides through the process of listings, viewing properties, open houses, escrow payments, inspections and final closings.
A majority of real estate brokers and sales agents sell homes and condominiums. Others work in larger firms that specialize in agricultural, commercial or industrial property.
Most real estate brokers and sales agents work on commissions earned from homes they sell or help a buyer purchase. These commissions usually are shared between two or more agents.
The amount of real estate activity in a local community has the biggest impact on the wages of brokers and agents. All real estate markets are subject to fluctuating economic conditions both locally and nationally.
New employees face competition from established brokers and agents for listings and buyers. Experienced real estate professionals often earn more than those new to the occupation, although motivation and hard work can increase the earnings of new brokers and agents.
The median annual wage for brokers in 2009 was $55,740, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest paid brokers were those who managed real estate offices and half of the brokers earned between $35,090 and $93,300.*
For sales agents, the median annual wage was $40,100 and half of the agents earned between $27,370 and $63,510. The highest paid agents also were those who worked in real estate offices, a change from a year earlier when those who worked in new residential construction received the highest wages.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement to become a real estate sales agent, although more agencies want their brokers and agents to be college graduates due to the increasing complexity of transactions. All brokers and agents must be licensed by the states where they work and complete required classroom training.
Real estate courses are offered by many universities and community colleges. State and local real estate associations also offer courses covering the most important aspects of real estate. Some agencies sponsor mandatory training programs for both new employees and experienced agents.
Brokers and agents also can benefit by taking related courses in business, economics or law.
Job Descriptions and Outlook
Real estate brokers and sales agents perform a variety of duties throughout the process of selling a property or helping a buyer with a purchase. They must study property descriptions, research tax records and find develop sales comparisons. They arrange for title searches to establish ownership.
They meet with buyers and sellers to find out how much they can spend on a home or their expected sales price. They market a home through advertising, hosting open houses, preparing Internet listings and distributing post cards or leaflets. They must handle price negotiations and other issues between buyers and sellers.
Brokers manage real estate offices or work for larger firms. Sales agents must work for a broker and often are required to work evenings or weekends when their clients are available. Many real estate agencies are very small and some are one-person operations.
Job opportunities for real estate brokers and sales agents are expected to rise 14 percent through 2018, better than most occupations, because the young adult population is increasing and they are expected to form families and buy homes. There were 48,380 brokers and 151,500 sales agents in May 2009.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
All real estate brokers and sales agents must pass written examinations to become licensed by the state where they work. The examinations, which include questions about real estate law and transactions, are more extensive for brokers than for agents. Agents must complete 30 to 90 hours of classroom instruction and brokers need 60 to 90 hours of classroom training in most states. Licenses must be renewed every one or two years.
Brokers must have one year to three years of experience in real estate sales to apply for a license, although some states waive that requirement if the applicant has a bachelor’s degree in real estate.
Agents and brokers also can receive additional training to become a Certified Real Estate Agent (CRA) or Certified Real Estate Broker (CRB), which may help improve their status with clients.
The National Association of Realtors is the primary national organization for real estate brokers and sales agents. The association offers real estate educational courses, provides research to its members and lobbies on behalf of the industry. The association is affiliated with local associations in all states and many communities.
Other organizations include the National Association of Independent Real Estate Brokers, the National Association of Certified Real Estate Agents and the Christian Real Estate Agents Association.
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