Successful real estate agents live all around us. They send us postcards with their photos on them when they sell homes in our neighborhoods. They chat with us at town functions, handing us business cards in case we ever decide to sell our homes or know someone who is. They are social, friendly folk who are not shy about promoting themselves or their business. Does this sound like a career you would like to try?
Real estate sales is a great career with a lot of potential for the right people. The National Association of Realtors puts the median annual income for full-time real estate agents at $55,000, with some agents earning as much as $100,000 in a year. Real estate agents have flexibility in their work schedules and do not get stuck behind desks all day. If you decide to become a real estate agent, you will be your own boss and your earning potential is in your own hands. It is a popular second career for many people in midlife who bring the confidence and experience of their previous jobs into the field.
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But every great career has a downside. Some people spend time and money to get their real estate licenses only to find that the job is not what they thought it would be. Before you decide to throw your hat into the real estate ring, take an honest look at some of the pros and cons of a career in real estate.
Pros: Getting started in real estate is a straightforward process. The prelicensing education course and licensing requirements can be completed in matter of a few weeks to a few months, depending on your state’s regulations. Although a college education is a plus, it is not a necessity. Once you have your license in hand, it is easy to find a broker to work with.
Cons: Students must invest their own money in the real estate education and licensing process. The real estate licensing exam is difficult, and it may have to be taken more than once at the student’s expense.
Being Your Own Boss
Pros: As an independent contractor, you have control over your own business. With a can-do attitude and a solid work ethic, there is a high ceiling on the amount of income you can earn. You will have the ability to grow your real estate business to a level that suits you. The success of your business will be in your own hands.
Cons: As an independent contractor, you take on all the expenses of running your business. The brokerage you work with will provide you with many resources, but it is up to you to budget your office and technology fees, manage your marketing, build your client list, and pay your dues and taxes. Many new agents fail to realize the amount of work and expense that goes into being a successful real estate agent.
[Starting a new career? Read 3 Keys to a Successful Transition.]
Your Earning Potential
Pros: Real estate agents are not limited by yearly salaries or hourly wages. The amount of money you make is directly related to the amount of time and effort you are willing to put into your real estate business. There are many possibilities for you to grow your business. Additional education and real estate designations are available to help you expand into new markets, such as commercial, land, or rental realty. You can also grow your income by becoming a broker and signing up real estate agents to work with you.
Cons: It can take some time to get your business off the ground and close your first sale. New real estate agents should be prepared to go without a paycheck for several months. Depending on market conditions, real estate can be a feast-or-famine business with paychecks coming at irregular intervals.
Working on a Flexible Schedule
Pros: Real estate is not a 9 to 5 business. While you need to be available to meet your clients’ needs, you will have some leeway as to how you organize your time. If you need to be available for non-work appointments and events, you can arrange your schedule accordingly, and you don’t have to ask permission for vacations.
Cons: While you are in charge of your own schedule, if you cannot meet your clients when they need you, they may find another real estate agent who can. Your clients will often need you to work on evenings and weekends, and perhaps on some holidays. You don’t get paid for the time you take off.
Managing an Emotional Business
Pros: It feels wonderful to help people buy a house they love or to get your clients a great price on the home they are selling. Buying a new home is the largest purchase most people will ever make, and your clients are depending on you to make the process go as smoothly as possible. There is a lot of satisfaction to be had from negotiating successful real estate deals, and happy clients are your best marketers.
Cons: Buying and selling homes is stressful for your clients. Things don’t always go as planned and deals sometimes fall through. Helping parties come to the terms of a sale often hinges on factors you have little or no control over, such as mortgage rates, appraisals, and home inspections. You need to be a hand-holder, a negotiator, and a shoulder to cry on for a lot of stressed-out people. Unhappy clients can spread the word just as fast as happy ones can.
[Hear from a real agent: Becoming a Real Estate Agent: Lisa’s Story]
Taking an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of real estate in light of your own personality, strengths, and weaknesses is the best way to answer the question “Is real estate the right career for me?” If you are a self-motivated, hard-working, honest person who enjoys negotiating and networking, then a career in real estate can be very rewarding.