Real estate sales agents are independent salespeople who provide their services to to real estate brokers on a contract basis. They help facilitate the buying and selling of real estate, and act as intermediaries in price negotiations between buyers and sellers. Brokers pay sales agents a portion of the commission earned from the agent’s sale. Agents may also help arrange financing from a lender for the buyer, assume responsibility for closing the sale, supervise real estate agents, manage their own office, advertise properties, or even sell insurance or practice law. Because they need to have properties to sell, they spend a large amount of time finding and obtaining agreements from owners to sell their property, known as listings. Most sell residential property, while a small number specialize in commercial, industrial, agricultural, or other categories. Once a sales contract is signed by the buyer and seller, the agent must ensure that all the special terms in the contract are met before the closing date.
Real estate sales agents must be honest, mature, tactful, trustworthy, and enthusiastic toward their job. They must be able to motivate and persuade customers. They need to be well organized, detail oriented, and have a great memory of names, faces, and business details. Employers look for candidates who have a pleasant personality and a neat appearance.
In 2002, real estate sales agents had median annual earnings of $30,930. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $5,480, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $83,780. A majority of these earnings came from commissions on sales, which vary according to the type of property sold, and are usually divided among several agents and brokers.
Training and Education
Prospective real estate sales agents must obtain a license in every State and the District of Columbia. In order to obtain a license, they must be a high school graduate, at least 18 years old, and pass a written test. The test, which is more comprehensive for brokers than for sales agents, covers basic real estate transactions and laws affecting the sale of property. Candidates for licenses must also complete 30 to 90 hours of classroom instruction. Today, a larger number of real estate sales agents are college graduates who have studied real estate, finance, business administration, statistics, economics, law, and English. Junior colleges may also offer an associate degree in real estate.
Many companies, especially larger ones, provide formal training programs for both entry-level and experienced employees. As agents advance, they earn higher commissions on sales, and may eventually advance to sales manager or general manager positions. Very experienced agents who have a strong knowledge of business conditions and property values may enter mortgage financing or real estate investment counseling. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, real estate sales agents held about 308,000 jobs. 60% were self-employed, and many combined their real estate career with another career by working part-time in real estate.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of real estate sales agents is expected to increase more slowly than the average. Information technology will continue to increase the productivity of brokers, limiting job growth. The Internet now allows buyers to search for properties on their own. However, most buyers and sellers will still depend on agents to coordinate the details of the actual sale. And the growing general population’s housing needs will continue to generate demand for these jobs. The occupation is relatively easy to enter, due to the flexible working conditions, the high interest in, and knowledge of, local real estate markets that potential employees usually have. Competition will remain keen, though, for new agents trying to obtain listings and close sales.