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A Day in the Life of a Real Estate Agent/Broker

Buying or selling a house or apartment is one of the biggest decisions of a person’s life, and real estate agents and brokers help people negotiate what can be a confusing process. Though both are often called real estate agents, agents and brokers have different roles. The broker has more administrative responsibility. There is usually one broker per estate, but often many agents are working with clients who are interested in the property. When someone wants to sell or rent his property he usually calls a real estate agent. A large chunk of the agent’s day may be spent on the phone obtaining listings for her agency. The agent also arranges to advertise the properties she is showing, and may visit each property before it is shown to clients. She needs to know about everything from floor plans to heating systems to cesspools-she’s a matchmaker, and she’s got to know both sides of the equation. It’s also important for an agent to be familiar with the neighborhoods she works in, so she can counsel her clients about a property’s fair market value. A good real estate agent is informed about things like schools, tax rates, and public transportation systems, and should be aware of going mortgage rates. A real estate agent must manage delicate price negotiations when an interested buyer and seller hook up. “Negotiating skills are not just important but critical for real estate agents,” as one respondent put it. The agent also coordinates the “closing” when a property is sold, which means the actual signing of papers and transfer of a property’s title. Networking is a big part of the job-most real estate agents develop a group of attorneys, mortgage lenders, and contractors to whom they refer their clients. Finally, a real estate agent should be able to discern and be sensitive to a client’s needs during what may be an uncertain time. In order to be available when their clients have free time, real estate agents work many evenings and weekends. An experienced agent will sometimes avoid some of the weekend hours by having an “open house” and drafting a new agent to go and answer potential buyers’ questions. Commercial real estate agents’ jobs involve more research on market trends and an even more detailed attention to the needs of buyers. Since they work longer on each deal, commercial agents and brokers make fewer sales than residential agents but receive higher commissions.

Paying Your Dues

About the only things real estate agents have in common in terms of preparation are high school diplomas and communication skills. More and more people are entering the field with college degrees, however, and some colleges even offer courses in real estate. These may be helpful, as would other business courses, but most of the learning takes place after you’ve entered the field. In fact many real estate agents come to the field from other, unrelated careers, attracted by the flexible hours or the potential for part-time work. Before you can use the title “Realtor” or become a member of the National Association of Realtors you must have a real estate license. Every state requires that a broker or agent undergo a series of examinations and log some experience before she is granted this license. Many real estate boards offer preparatory classes. Once you have the license, it’s usually renewed yearly without your having to repeat the tests. But each state has its own test, so if you want to work in a different state you’ve got to pass their exam.

Present and Future

In 1908, the agency known as the National Association of Realtors was started, and has continued to strive for high ethical standards in business and tax advantages for home buyers and sellers. The nomadic trend in American life and our ever-expanding population make real estate a business that grows at higher than average rates. The downside is that the market is always under the influence of economic fluctuations, and the biggest complaint Realtors have is the resulting lack of stability for their incomes. Real estate agents cannot expect steady income since their pay is based on commissions, which differ greatly with time.

Quality of Life


The beginning of the agent’s career is spent on the phone and looking at and showing properties with hopes of finding buyers and sellers. This is a difficult time for agents, as they have not yet established reputations. They rely on the name of their firms to attract clients. There is lots of variety in the daily routine, but these beginners must be prepared for a period of long hours and no commissions as they learn the ropes. As one first-year agent told us, “I made literally zero dollars for seven months, but then suddenly had four sales in a row and made enough for the rest of the year.”


Many agents have developed a reputation by this time and are rewarded with referrals and repeat clients. Some agents will still experience frustration with low sales and meager paychecks, however, accounting for the high turnover rate in the field.


By this time most agents have advanced to the highest levels of their firms, often working with blue-chip properties. Many now have assistants to help with legwork. But the plateau reached at this point often prompts agents to strike out independently and start their own firms, though the task of getting established can be arduous.