Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties.
What they do
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.
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.
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.
How to become a Real Estate Broker and/or Sales Agent
Real estate brokers and sales agents typically must complete a number of real estate courses and pass a licensing exam.
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 pre-licensing 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 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 pre-licensing 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.
All real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most have similar basic requirements:
- 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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for real estate brokers was $59,720 in May 2019. 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 $23,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $178,720.
The median annual wage for real estate sales agents was $48,930 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,800.
Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
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.
Similar Job Titles
Real Estate Broker:
Broker, Broker Assistant, Broker Associate, Designated Broker, Managing Broker, Real Estate Associate, Real Estate Broker, Real Estate Sales Associate, Realtor, Supervising Broker
Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Salesperson, Realtor, Realtor Associate, Sales Agent
Real Estate Broker:
Property, Real Estate and Community Association Manager; Assessor; Loan Officer; Advertising Sales Agent; Real Estate Agent
Administrative Services Manager, Assessor, Loan Officer, Advertising Sales Agent, Real Estate Broker
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- CCIM Institute
- Council of Residential Specialists
- National Association of Realtors
- Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council
- Women's Council of REALTORS®
Magazines and Publications
Whether they represent the people who want to buy property or those who have property to sell, real estate brokers and sales agents help clients find the property they’re looking for, and complete successful transactions. Most agents and brokers work with either homes or business properties. They show properties to customers, travel to see properties for sale, and meet with potential clients. They also present purchase offers, and manage negotiations between buyers and sellers. Agents and brokers invest a lot of time looking for clients, and for property to sell. Real estate sales agents must work for brokers, who are licensed and own their own businesses. Agents earn a commission from the sales they make. Many brokers operate a real estate office, handling business details and overseeing the work of sales agents. Many real estate sales agents and brokers work over 40 hours per week including evenings and weekends. Some work part time and set their own hours, combining real estate activities with other careers. Licensure is required for all brokers and agents, along with state-accredited coursework. In most states, a broker’s license requires from one to three years’ experience as a licensed real estate sales agent. Some employers prefer candidates who have a college degree with courses in real estate, business, finance, law and economics.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org