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What Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents Do About this section

Real estate brokers and sales agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients find a home that meets their needs.

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.

Duties

Real estate brokers and sales agents typically do the following:

  • Solicit potential clients to buy, sell, and rent properties
  • Advise clients on prices, mortgages, market conditions, and related information
  • Compare properties to determine a competitive market price
  • Generate lists of properties for sale, including details such as location and features
  • Promote properties through advertisements, open houses, and listing services
  • Take prospective buyers or renters to see properties
  • Present purchase offers to sellers for consideration
  • Mediate negotiations between buyer and seller
  • Ensure that all terms of purchase contracts are met
  • Prepare documents, such as loyalty contracts, purchase agreements, and deeds

Because of the complexity of buying or selling a residential or commercial property, people often seek help from real estate brokers and sales agents.

Most real estate brokers and sales agents sell residential property. Others sell commercial property, and a small number sell industrial, agricultural, or other types of real estate.

Brokers and agents can represent either the buyer or the seller in a transaction. Buyers’ brokers and agents meet with clients to understand what they are looking for in a property and how much they can afford. Sellers’ brokers and agents meet with clients to help them decide how much to ask for and to convince them that the agent or broker can find them a qualified buyer.

Real estate brokers and sales agents must be knowledgeable about the real estate market in their area. To match properties to clients’ needs, they should be familiar with local communities, including knowing the crime information and the proximity to schools and shopping. Brokers and agents also must stay current on financing options; government programs; types of available mortgages; and real estate, zoning, and fair housing laws.

The following are examples of types of real estate brokers and sales agents:

Real estate brokers are licensed to manage their own businesses. As independent businesspeople, brokers often sell real estate owned by others. In addition to helping clients buy and sell properties, they may help rent or manage properties for a fee. Many operate a real estate office, handling business details and overseeing the work of sales agents.

Real estate sales agents must work with a broker. Sales agents often work for brokers on a contract basis, earning a portion of the commission from each property they sell.

Work Environment About this section

Real estate brokers and sales agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents show properties to prospective buyers.

Real estate brokers held about 123,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of real estate brokers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 59%
Real estate and rental and leasing 38

Real estate sales agents held about 438,900 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of real estate sales agents were as follows:

Self-employed workers 58%
Real estate and rental and leasing 34
Construction 3

Workplace size for real estate brokers and sales agents can range from a one-person business to a large firm with numerous branch offices. Many brokers have franchise agreements with national or regional real estate companies. Under this arrangement, the broker pays a fee to be affiliated with a widely known real estate organization.

Some real estate brokers and sales agents work in a typical office environment, while others work out of their homes. In both cases, real estate workers spend much of their time away from their desks, showing properties to customers, traveling to see properties for sale, and meeting with prospective clients.

Work Schedules

Many real estate brokers and sales agents work more than 40 hours per week. They often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients’ schedules. Many brokers and sales agents spend a significant amount of time networking and attending community events to meet potential clients. Although they frequently work irregular hours, many can set their own schedules.

Some brokers and sales agents work part time and may combine their real estate activities with other careers.

How to Become a Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent About this section

Real estate brokers and sales agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents often find new clients through referrals.

Real estate brokers and sales agents typically must complete a number of real estate courses and pass a licensing exam.

Education

Real estate brokers and sales agents must complete some real estate courses to be eligible for licensure. Although most brokers and agents must take state-accredited prelicensing courses to become licensed, some states may waive this requirement if the candidate has taken college courses in real estate.

As the real estate market becomes more competitive and complex, some employers are preferring to hire candidates with a college degree. Some community colleges, colleges, and universities offer courses in real estate. Some offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in real estate, and many others offer certificate programs. Courses in finance, business administration, economics, and law also can be useful.

Brokers intending to open their own company often take business courses, such as marketing and accounting.

In addition to offering prelicensing courses, many real estate associations have courses and professional development programs for both beginners and experienced agents. These courses cover a variety of topics, such as real estate fundamentals, real estate law, and mortgage financing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most have similar basic requirements:

Candidates must:

  • be 18 years old
  • complete a number of real estate courses
  • pass an exam

Some states have additional requirements, such as passing a background check. Licenses typically are not transferable among states. However, some states have reciprocity agreements in that they will accept some requirements used to get a license in another state (such as course hours).

To obtain a broker’s license, individuals generally need 1 to 3 years of experience as a licensed sales agent. They also must take additional formal training courses. In some states, a bachelor’s degree may be substituted in place of some experience or training requirements.

State licenses typically must be renewed every 2 to 4 years. In most states, brokers and agents must complete continuing education courses to renew their license. To verify exact licensing requirements, prospective brokers and agents should contact the real estate licensing commission of the state in which they wish to work.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

To get a broker’s license in most states, real estate brokers must have experience working as a licensed real estate sales agent. Requirements vary by state, but most require 1 to 3 years of experience.

Training

Real estate sales agents improve their skills through practice and repetition. Training varies depending on the real estate company. Some provide formal training, while others allow their agents to enter the field immediately after obtaining their license. In some states, agents must be sponsored by a broker while they are working to get their license.

Because of the sales environment and the complexity of real estate deals, new agents may observe and work closely with more senior agents. Larger real estate companies may provide formal classroom training for new agents as a way to gain knowledge and experience, while others provide training to employees studying for their real estate licensing exam.

Advancement

Sales agents who earn their broker’s license may open their own offices.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Because most brokers are self-employed, they must manage every aspect of their business. This task includes reaching out to prospective clients, handling their finances, and advertising their services.

Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for real estate brokers and sales agents, because they spend much of their time interacting with clients and customers. To attract and keep clients, they must be pleasant, enthusiastic, and trustworthy.

Organizational skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be able to work independently, managing their own time and organizing, planning, and prioritizing their work.

Problem-solving skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents need to be able to quickly (sometimes immediately) address concerns clients or potential customers may have with a property. They also mediate negotiations between seller and buyer.

Pay About this section

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Median annual wages, May 2021

Real estate brokers

$62,010

Real estate brokers and sales agents

$48,770

Real estate sales agents

$48,340

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Other sales and related workers

$36,590

 

The median annual wage for real estate brokers was $62,010 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $176,080.

The median annual wage for real estate sales agents was $48,340 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,170.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for real estate brokers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Real estate and rental and leasing $61,890

In May 2021, the median annual wages for real estate sales agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction $48,270
Real estate and rental and leasing 47,530

Brokers and sales agents earn most of their income from commissions on sales. The commission varies by the type of property and its value. Commissions often are divided among the buying agent, selling agent, brokers, and firms.

An agent’s income often depends on economic conditions, the agent’s individual motivation, and the types of property available. Income usually increases as agents become better and more experienced at sales. Earnings can be irregular, especially for beginners, and agents sometimes go weeks or months without a sale. Some agents become active in community organizations and local real estate organizations to broaden their contacts and increase their sales.

Many real estate brokers and sales agents work more than 40 hours per week. They often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients’ schedules. Many brokers and sales agents spend a significant amount of time networking and attending community events to meet potential clients. Although they frequently work irregular hours, many can set their own schedules.

Some brokers and sales agents work part time and may combine their real estate activities with other careers.

Job Outlook About this section

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Real estate brokers

6%

Total, all occupations

5%

Real estate brokers and sales agents

5%

Real estate sales agents

5%

Other sales and related workers

1%

 

Overall employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 54,800 openings for real estate brokers and sales agents are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

There will be a continued demand for real estate brokers and sales agents because people turn to these workers when looking for a new home, relocating, or purchasing property for a business, among other reasons. Employment is projected to grow along with the real estate market.

Tighter credit regulations and increasing real estate prices may force some people to continue renting as opposed to entering the housing market, which may result in fewer new jobs for real estate brokers and sales agents.

The real estate market is highly sensitive to fluctuations in the economy, and projected employment of real estate brokers and agents varies accordingly. In periods of economic growth or stability, employment should grow to accommodate people looking to buy homes and commercial or retail space. Alternatively, during periods of declining economic activity or rising interest rates, the amount of work for brokers and agents often slows and employment may decline.

Employment projections data for real estate brokers and sales agents, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Real estate brokers and sales agents

41-9020 562,100 592,200 5 30,100 Get data

Real estate brokers

41-9021 123,100 130,200 6 7,100 Get data

Real estate sales agents

41-9022 438,900 462,000 5 23,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

Information on licensing requirements for real estate brokers and sales agents is available from most local real estate organizations and from the state real estate commission or board.

For more information about opportunities in real estate, visit

National Association of Real Estate Brokers

National Association of Realtors

O*NET

Real Estate Brokers

Real Estate Sales Agents

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