A Super Simple Guide to Working in Real Estate


Location, location, location! That’s what they say is the key to selling real estate. But is that really all there is to being successful in the real estate business?

Well, apparently not. Recent years have shown that real estate is a volatile industry, with the bubble on the market constantly growing, threatening to pop, or straight up bursting altogether. Because it can be tough to sell a house or office, agents sometimes have to get creative in order to appeal to prospective buyers.

Like say, hiring people as props.

Many hopeful reports show that the housing and commercial markets may be on the road to recovery. Is now the time for you to start a career in real estate?

Real estate is property consisting of land, its buildings, and its natural resources. While location does play a big part in successful transactions, there are also a number of other things that you need to know before jumping into a career in real estate.

One obvious reason to test the real estate waters is that it has tons of perks! A typical day on the job includes:

  • Not sitting at a desk
  • Showing properties
  • Traveling to see those up for sale
  • Meeting with potential clients
  • Making your own schedule

At the same time, real estate jobs are demanding in the sense that you will probably:

  • Work more than 40 hours a week
  • Hold long and irregular hours
  • Frequently attend networking and community events
  • Work weekends

So, there you have the pros and cons, but let’s back up just a little bit and talk about the basics of the business.

There are two main types of real estate—residential and commercial. Residential real estate refers to properties where people live, such as houses, apartments, and condos. As indicated by its name, commercial real estate refers to buildings where business (AKA commerce) happens, like office buildings, stores, and cafés.

Within real estate, there are four common positions: Brokers, Sales Agents, Appraisers, and Assessors.

Most people who are just starting out in real estate are probably sales agents. As is common in sales, a lot of a sales agents’ earnings come from commission, which varies depending on the property they sell.

Both brokers and sales agents are involved with helping people buy, sell, and rent out their properties.

The big difference between sales agents and brokers is that sales agents must work with a broker. They do so on a contractual basis. Brokers, on the other hand, manage their own businesses while also selling real estate owned by others. Their duties stretch beyond the work of the sales agents that they manage to include managing properties. It takes a number of years of experience as a sales agent to qualify for certification as a broker.

When it comes to selling real estate, it’s all about your skills and characteristics. In order to be a good sales agent or broker, you must hone a number of soft skills, including business, interpersonal, organizational, and problem-solving skills. These will come in handy in your day-to-day life, as some of your tasks will include:

  • Reaching out to prospective clients and interacting enthusiastically
  • Self-management, planning, organizing, and advertising
  • Mediating negotiations between sellers and buyers

Now it’s time to talk money.

Ever wonder how a house on the market gets its asking price? Appraisers and Assessors specialize in valuing a property and the land that it sits on. Some of the things that factor into a building’s price are unique characteristics, history, age, and similarity to nearby properties.

Whereas appraisers usually work on one property at a time, assessors work for local entities and use large-scale appraisal techniques to value entire neighborhoods at once.

Most people in real estate are self-employed or work in brokerage and leasing offices. The size of these offices can range from just a handful of agents to a hundred.

The cool thing about real estate is that you don’t need to have a specific background in order to enter the industry. The non-negotiables, however are:

  • A License. Much like a lawyer or doctor, real estate agents must pass an exam in order to practice legally. Keep in mind that this license is non-transferable between states. A brokerage license can usually be obtained after working one to three years as a licensed sales agent. Brokers, like doctors, must take classes to keep up with changes in the industry dynamics and renew their license every two to four years.
  • Must be 18 years or older. In some states, agents much be at least 19. Check with your local certification office to be sure. Find an office near you by doing a quick Google search of your state’s Department of Real Estate.
  • A high school education or higher. A high school degree or the equivalent is required to be a sales agent. You will have a competitive edge if you have a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as finance, business administration, economics, law, marketing, or accounting. Appraisers and assessors are typically required to have at least an associate’s degree. However, a bachelor’s degree will be the uniform requirement by January of 2015.

Homework time! Just like any other job, the true key to working in real estate is practice, practice, practice! Start a side-project where you can work on your sales or business chops. You can also shadow an agent or broker, or set up an informational interview to gain more insight about the business before trying something high-stakes like real estate.

Check out this post about informational interviews to guide you.


One Response to “A Super Simple Guide to Working in Real Estate”

  1. 6 Tips for Kicking Off Your Real Estate Career - AfterCollege

    […] Homework time! Interested in working in real estate? Check out our post about Joyce Nakamura and her experience in the field. Also, consider starting out as something other than a real estate agent. Learn all of the behind the scenes information so that you can make an educated transition into sales. Check out this post where we explore some of the career opportunities in the field. […]


Tell us what you think: