The Fun, Freedom and Challenges of Life as a Real Estate Agent

By Ciprian Morariu Published: January 22, 2019

Working in real estate could be your ticket to freedom and success. You get to decide when you work and who you work for. You earn commissions with every property deal you close that go straight into your pocket. Real estate agents are independent and they can make big pay checks.

Real estate agents are in demand. With 5.5 million existing homes sold every year, and a further 600,000 new construction builds sold in 2017, there’s plenty of room for new real estate agents every year. The number of real estate agents is expected to grow 6 percent over the decade from 2016 to 2026, matching average growth in other occupations.

Realtor challenges.

The Pay Check in Real Estate

If you’ve looked into the median income for real estate agents, you might wonder if it’s as lucrative as people say. The total median income for all real estate agents is $44,000 – a good salary, but not astronomical. One thing to keep in mind is how many real estate agents work part-time. It pays to look into the average income of realtors instead, as they represent a more professionalized, full-time segment of all real estate agents.

The median income of a full-time real estate agent was $54,000 in 2012. Realtors who work 60 hours a week or more make a median income of $87,000 a year, and 21% of realtors earn more than $100,000. This is an industry where hard work and expertise pay off.

That’s also a national median. In states like New York, California, and Texas, the amount of money you can earn is much higher. The mean salary of real estate agents in New York City is well over $100,000.

What’s the difference between real estate agents and realtors?

When you compare the median incomes of realtors vs. real estate agents, you quickly see that realtors earn significantly more money than real estate agents. Why is that and what’s the difference?

A real estate agent is anyone who has taken online real estate license training and passed their state exam. It’s easy to become a real estate agent and start practicing, whether you’re building your own business or just saving money when you buy your own home.

It’s fairly common for people to earn their real estate licenses just so that they can work for friends and family, save themselves money, or work part-time as real estate agents while they stay at home raising kids. That’s one of the reasons why the median income for real estate agents can seem low; it’s dragged down by a high number of part-timers.

If you want the freedom of working part-time while you hold another job or raise a family, real estate is a great option. But if you’re looking forward to building a business and earning a great pay check, success in real estate is sure to deliver.

As a full-time real estate agent, you’re better off looking at a realtor’s median income. Realtors are real estate agents who belong to the National Association of Realtors, meaning they follow a professional code of ethics and belong to a local board. Becoming a realtor is a professional designation that communicates to your clients that you’re a serious, full-time professional. Many homeowners and home buyers prefer to go with a realtor.

Real Estate Agents Enjoy Freedom

Even real estate agents who work in a brokerage office are independent. Working for yourself can take self-discipline. No one will be breathing down your neck to get the job done except for you – and your clients.

You get to decide your own schedule. If you want to earn a higher salary by putting in longer hours and taking on more clients, you see the results directly. If you’re happy with your work load and you want to spend more time with your family or taking time for yourself to go on vacation, that’s up to you. No one else controls your schedule or tells you when you can take time off.

The other benefit of being your own boss is that you are the driving force behind your income. Working for someone else means that putting in the extra effort to bring in more money benefits someone else. You might get a raise or a performance bonus, but that money goes into someone else’s pocket first. When you earn more money for your own business, you’re earning more money for yourself.

You’re also creating your own job security. Anytime you work for another company, your job depends on their success. A bad year could mean layoffs and, through no fault of your own, you could find yourself unemployed.

Becoming an entrepreneur is by no means risk-free. The responsibility of earning every dollar you make by finding clients and closing deals is a big one. But if you’re successful, there’s no one who could ever fire you. It’s also up to you to diversify your skills. As a real estate agent, you could become more versatile by gaining experience in property management, real estate investing, appraisal, and other skills that could help you pivot if you need alternative revenue streams.

You as a realtor.

Real Estate Is a Fun Profession

Did you always dread the prospect of working an office job when you were young? Do you still dread getting up every morning and heading into the office to go through the same routine, day-in and day-out?

A day in the life of a real estate agent always has something new in store. You may have an office through a broker, independently, or in your home, but you might be surprised how little time you spend there. It’s good to have a home base where you can work on marketing materials and meet clients if you have to, but you’re going to be spending a lot more time meeting clients out in the world, showing properties, running open houses, and more.

These are just some of the things you’ll be responsible for as a real estate agent:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss what they’re looking for, preparing listing presentations, staging the home and taking photos, and accompanying clients on inspections or meetings with a loan officer.
  • Taking MLS tours of new listings to help you connect new properties with buyers, or to help you determine a good listing price after checking out the competition.
  • Staging and running open houses. It can be a lot of work getting a home ready for an open house, especially if you’re not working with a professional stager. Clients want to know you’re putting in the work for them. Plus, open houses are a golden opportunity for meeting new clients and generating leads.
  • Finding leads and keeping up with them. Everyone you meet is now a potential client. Any time you’re not spending on the next deal should be spent on your marketing efforts to find new clients and keep up with contacts.
  • Keeping up with continuing education and new certifications. Some continuing education is required by the state for you to renew your license. You can check out online real estate continuing education for courses offered by RealEstateU. There may also be other courses you want to pursue or that are offered by your broker, such as sales training or real estate analysis.

Challenges of Working as a Real Estate Agent

There are challenges to working as a real estate agent too. You’re going to have to work a lot to make it as a full-time real estate agent, especially in the early years. Many new real estate agents struggle in their first year. They don’t have any connections or leads and they’re still figuring out how it all works.

One way to survive the early years is working part-time. You may want to hold on to your current job or find work as a property manager, real estate office secretary, appraisal, mortgage loan officer, or another real estate-related field that will help you learn and make connections.

Some of the other challenges of working as a real estate include:

#1 Lead Generation – This is a challenge you’re always going to have. It takes personal networking skills, social media savvy, and technological and marketing know-how to master the art of lead generation. As you grow your business, invest in a better website, SEO marketing, and blogging to bring leads to you.

#2 Finding Time to Improve Your Business – Whether it’s your marketing materials or just taking the time to step back and analyze your progress, every real estate agent struggles to find the time to give their business the care it needs to expand and succeed. Working with clients and selling properties are your top priorities, but don’t forget to take extra time to plan for your future success.

#3 Competing with other Real Estate Agents – There’s always going to be competition. You may even be tempted to go down the path of reducing your commission to earn more business. Don’t cave into the pressure of selling yourself short. Instead, you need a marketing plan that makes it clear why you’re worth every penny of your going rate.

Chess pieces.

Who becomes a real estate agent?

One of the best parts of becoming a real estate agent is how easy it can be, especially with online real estate license training courses from RealEstateU. Your real estate license is the only qualification you need to start working as a real estate agent. It’s also a popular choice for a career change. If you’ve already gone to college and started working, giving up your pay check and going back to school is a major commitment. You probably already have tens of thousands of dollars in debt and you’re not keen on adding to it.

According to the National Association Realtors, the highest form of formal education realtors have is remarkably varied:

  • 8% of realtors were high school graduates with no higher education
  • 30% had some college
  • 30% had earned a Bachelor’s degree
  • 13% had an associate degree
  • 13% had a Graduate degree or higher
  • 6% had some graduate school

Whether you’re switching from a current career or straight from school, becoming a real estate agent is a low-cost, low-risk way to earn new qualifications and streamline your professionalization.

How do you become a real estate agent?

Does working for yourself in a fun, challenging career sound like the kind of career change you’re excited to make? Becoming a real estate agent is easy. The place to start is with RealEstateU. Our online real estate license courses were designed by real estate professionals. Available as engaging and beautifully-designed video or audio courses alongside a 200-page PDF that will help you study for the state exam these courses can be taken at your own pace. You can take them anywhere from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

We offer online real estate license training courses in New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia at a low cost. Requirements differ slightly in each state. For example, there is a 75 hour online real estate course in New York, whereas California requires 3 separate 45-hour courses. Each state offers a different real estate license exam and may have unique passing grades. One of the great things about taking courses with RealEstateU is that we offer plenty of help and resources for navigating the application process, from scheduling your exam to finding a broker.

Real estate is a promising and rewarding career. It comes with challenges, such as getting your business off the ground and maintaining the self-discipline to make sure everything gets done on time. However, it’s also a fun career that always brings new challenges to the table and helps you constantly learn new things. You can enjoy the freedom of being your own boss and profiting from your own successes.