The American workforce is changing as more and more people discover the benefits of working outside a traditional 9-5 office. Real estate professionals have enjoyed the independence and financial gains that come from a self-managed career for years. Starting a career in real estate can be a great way to take control of your life and your career.
Have a Flexible Schedule
Real estate salespersons (sometimes called agents) and brokers set their own hours. Having control of their schedule is one of the main catalysts for professionals making the switch from a corporate job or starting a new career after time out of the workforce. If you have children or family obligations, the ability to work around school functions and doctors’ appointments is priceless. Having control over your schedule means you can make time for a lunch date with a friend or arrange to be home when the plumber can stop by. As there are no minimum hours or set schedules, a real estate career can also coexist with pursuing higher education or as a side-hustle to an existing career.
In a real estate career, you can work as much or as little to get the job done and earn the income that you want to earn. There is day-to-day flexibility as well. Are you a night owl? You can start and end your days later. Prefer to rise before the sun? Early birds can put in the majority of their work in the morning. Hours per week, daily schedule, when and how much vacation to take, and your workload distribution throughout the year are all up to you. No two real estate salespersons have the same schedule – even if those two agents work similar total hours and earn similar incomes.
Real estate agents are entrepreneurs. While real estate agents must work under a real estate broker in most locations, salespersons are business owners – typically as sole proprietors. As a business owner, you get to set your own schedule, decide which clients to work with, and have control over how and when you work. Many brokerages offer marketing and lead generation resources to their agents but you can decide how to utilize those tools within your business plan. Business growth is up to you – your rate of growth is limited only by how much work you want to put in.
A career in real estate is perfect for individuals who work well with minimal oversight of their day-to-day operations. While some time in the office is necessary to complete paperwork, execute your marketing plan, and follow up on leads, your day as a real estate salesperson will include plenty of time out of the office. The work of a real estate salesperson includes meeting clients and other salespersons at properties and travel time between locations.
Every day is different so you won’t experience the boredom that accompanies many 9-5 jobs. Many corporate workers complain they don’t see the sun during the week (particularly during the winter) as their job requires them to be parked indoors at a desk 8-10 hours a day. Real estate salespersons get to enjoy time outside as they view and show properties, meet with clients, and set a schedule that fits into their life.
Unlimited Income Potential & Competitive Salaries
Perhaps the biggest advantage to a career in real estate is that salespersons are not limited by hourly wages. Unlike corporate jobs, there are no salary caps or set time period that you must work before getting a raise. Working on commission, a real estate agent’s income is limited only by the number of sales he or she makes. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate agents make an average of $58,710 per year.
Of course, this is just an average and a variety of factors will determine how much an individual agent makes. Unsurprisingly, average income increases with the number of hours per week you put in. Agents working part-time typically earn less than those investing more than 40 hours a week into their career. More experienced agents, who have established networks to generate leads and may be able to market their listings more effectively, often earn more. Average property prices in your local market will also affect your total earnings. Your commission on a $500,000 property is 5x higher than on a $100,000 property – even if you put in the same time and effort to sell it.
Agents who work in higher price markets and put in extra work can make more than the national average – often much more. In areas where the average home price is around $1 million, the agent can walk away with $25,000-30,000 (2.5-3% commission) from a single sale.
Finding a higher paying niche can also lead to a more substantial income. Luxury properties, commercial real estate, and relocations are all higher earning specialties. When considering a niche to specialize in, keep in mind both the average sales price of properties in your niche and how often you can realistically sell those properties in your target market.
Choosing the right brokerage to work for can also influence your earnings. In many locations, real estate agents must work under a licensed broker. Find a broker that offers a commission split you can live with and consider other factors like market share, support and lead generation offered, and general culture.
Real Estate is a Satisfying, Social Career
If you enjoy networking and making new social connections, you will enjoy the social-focused life of a real estate salesperson. When your career is dependent on your social network, attending community events, networking with colleagues, and constantly meeting new people is part of the job. Buyers who have a good experience with their real estate agent are likely to work with that agent in the future and to recommend that agent to family and friends. Being involved in your local community becomes an asset to your career as well as your personal life.
Through showings, you will explore new sections of your city or town. It can be fun to view beautiful properties and see the variety that exists in your area. You will likely begin to learn the best coffee shops, restaurants, shops, and service providers in each area of your local market.
As a real estate agent, you get to make people’s dreams come true. Imagine the satisfaction of helping a young couple find the perfect starter home to raise their family in or helping an entrepreneur secure just the right storefront to expand their bakery. Buying a home or property is a big life moment for most of your clients and you will get to share in their joy as you guide them through the intricacies of the process. You are helping your clients find the place their memories will be made and many agents take great joy in that knowledge. When you help a client sell a property for the best possible price, you are helping them maximize their capital for their next adventure in life, such as buying a more suitable home, funding retirement, or starting a business.
In Demand Work with Room for Growth
A career in real estate is fast-paced and demanding. You will need to stay on top of the latest market trends and laws and regulations. Continuing education courses, networking, and marketing will be a constant part of your professional life. Many real estate agents find that working on commission provides them with the incentive to work hard – there’s no income when you do not put in the effort and you can see the fruits of hard work in more frequent and higher commissions as you grow your career. The rush and excitement of selling each property motivates you to work harder and make your career even more lucrative.
Real estate is a secure career over the long term. The real estate market goes up and down but the need to buy and sell property always exists. People need homes to live in and businesses need places to operate. As lifestyles change and business trends emerge, the type of properties and features that are in demand will shift but the need for property is a constant. Hardworking real estate agents are well poised to survive an economic downturn as they still have the opportunity to earn commissions even when other sectors are slow.
A real estate boom in your local market can even insulate the local economy from the negative impacts of a recession. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic downturn in the United States, home prices in NYC suburbs rose significantly and the number of signed contracts skyrocketed as buyers from the city scooped up listings, often well above asking price. Higher home values can help residents who do not plan to sell in many cases. For example, borrowers carrying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) may be able to cancel their PMI if their loan-to-value ratio is now less than 80 percent with their new home value.
Real estate careers offer plenty of room for growth. Additional time, education, and networking can help you grow your income year over year. After gaining some experience, you may consider becoming a real estate broker. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a real estate broker is $75,910 – significantly higher than a real estate salesperson. Brokers can work independently and can hire real estate salespersons to work under them. As a broker, you earn commission not only on your own sales but also a percentage of the sales of the real estate salespersons working under you. Rules to get your real estate broker’s license vary from state to state but most require additional education and experience to sit the exam.
How to Get Started
If a career in real estate seems like a good fit for you, you will want to investigate the exact requirements of your state. For example, to qualify for a real estate license in New York, you will need to complete a 75-hour salesperson qualifying education course in real estate approved by the Secretary of State and pass the state-administered real estate exam to receive licensure. After earning your real estate license, you can then find a brokerage to work for and begin your new career. Whether you are looking for a side-hustle or a full-blown career change, there are few industries as rewarding, customizable, and potentially lucrative as a real estate career.