Real estate salespeople and other licensees who are required to work for and under the umbrella of a designated broker are often referred to as real estate agents. In legal language, the term "agent" refers to the strictly defined relationship between a real estate salesperson and the buyers and sellers with whom they conduct business.
An agent is an individual who is authorized and consents to represent the interests of another person. As an agent, you act to assist people with the process of buying, selling, and renting land, homes, and other properties.
- Real estate agents help people buy, sell, and rent land and properties.
- Real estate agents spend time on active, income-producing work and extensive administrative paperwork.
- Successful real estate agents must win new clients by being personable, professional, and knowledgeable communicators.
- Successful agents use technology platforms to expand their marketing reach and knowledge base and gather relevant data.
What Real Estate Agents Do
Real estate agents must meet licensing requirements and having a comprehensive understanding of pertinent real estate laws. Once they are able to work, they also have a long list of responsibilities. These agents typically do the following:
- Advise clients on mortgages, market conditions, and pricing
- Advise sellers on how they can make their homes more attractive to buyers
- Compare properties to determine fair and competitive market prices
- Generate lists of appropriate properties for buyers based on their price range and needs
- Guide buyers and sellers through the transaction
- Manage lists of contacts
- Mediate negotiations between buyers and sellers
- Prepare and submit all required paperwork, including various contracts
- Present all purchase offers to sellers for consideration
- Promote properties through advertising, listing services (such as MLS), and open houses
- Show properties to prospective buyers
- Solicit potential clients to buy, sell, and rent properties
- Stay current with real estate laws and trends
- Work nights and weekends to accommodate clients' needs
Let us look at a few considerations that will help you fulfill your responsibilities while advancing your career as a real estate agent.
Expand Your Sphere of Influence
One way to build contacts and generate leads is through a real estate sphere of influence (SOI) business model. This networking strategy focuses on generating real estate leads via the people you already know, including your family, friends, classmates, business associates, sports team members, and even service providers (e.g., your doctor and hairstylist).
The best way to keep track of all the names and contact information is in one place. This could be a spreadsheet program (say, Excel), your email contacts database, or commercial software.
Once you have established your SOI database, it is easy to add contacts as you meet people: at community events, through mutual acquaintances, or through other means. The more people you have on your list, the larger your SOI, and the better your chances for a referral. Plan on sending out a "new agent" announcement—via mail, phone, email, text, or any combination tailored to each type of contact: when you begin your career, as well as periodic updates and shout-outs to keep your SOI thinking about you and your real estate services.
Develop a Professional Image
Developing and maintaining a professional presence is vital to your success as a real estate agent. Your image is projected through your:
- Appearance: Maintain a professional appearance through tidy and professional clothing, hair, accessories, and makeup. Many real estate agents will stick with business casual clothing, but no matter what you choose, it should be appropriate for your office and the local market. Avoid perfume or cologne and revealing or unprofessional clothing.
- Face-to-face meetings: Use good eye contact and positive body language. Strive to be attentive, engaging, and courteous.
- Marketing and advertising materials: Create promotional materials using quality photos and accurate, compelling text, which should be free of grammatical and spelling mistakes.
- Phone calls: Whenever you communicate with clients or potential clients, you should be articulate, engaging, and courteous.
- Web presence: Create a carefully thought-through website and engaging social media. Both should be free of grammatical errors and typos.
- Written communications: Make strategic use of well-written letters, emails, and texts to maintain contact with your network.
It is important to note that any presence you have on the Internet—whether professional or personal—lasts forever and can easily find its way to your potential clients. Therefore, it is judicious to work toward a professional image in and out of your real estate career.
Use Tools and Technology
Utilizing tools and technology goes hand in hand with developing a professional image. Today's agents can use a number of tools to help organize and promote their real estate businesses.
Keeping track of your clients is a must. You can go basic with a spreadsheet program or an email database program such as the one in Outlook, or you can invest in database software designed specifically for real estate professionals. Commercial products offer a number of useful features, including automated contact synchronization with your smartphone. No matter how you keep track of your contacts, keep the list current: update, add, and delete contacts as appropriate.
Consider setting up your own domain name and website. While this may seem daunting, building a professional-looking website is now easier than ever. Large corporations may spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on developing and maintaining their websites, but you can do it for a very reasonable amount.
A website provides you with a landing page to direct your existing and potential clients while creating a professional, searchable web presence. You can also make websites for individual properties to promote your listings and keep your sellers happy. Additionally, you can take advantage of social media by linking to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles (and any other social media platforms).
Marketing software for real estate agents can help you manage your marketing efforts. These packages typically include templates for business cards, door hangers, postcards, property flyers, brochures, email campaigns, and animated home tours—all to help you efficiently reach out to existing and potential clients.
Several software applications (apps for short) for iOS- and Android-based devices are available to help you stay connected while out of the office. The Open Home Pro, for example, allows you to run an open house on your iPad, follow up with leads, create listing pages, and export collected data to Excel or other software.
How Long Does It Take To Become a Real Estate Agent?
How long it takes to become a real estate agent will depend on the state in which you live. Each state has different licensing requirements. In Virginia, for example, you must complete 60 hours of approved coursework (or 180 to become a real estate broker). You may also need to spend additional time training with the brokerage or agency you work with.
How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?
The average wage for a real estate agent is $48,340 per year. However, the top 10% of agents earn over $100,000 per year.
How Are Real Estate Commissions Paid?
How much a real estate agent makes depends on how much a property sells for. In most cases, real estate agents are paid through a listing agreement. This is signed by the listing agent and the property seller. Once the sale is complete, the listing agent shares part of the commission with the buyer's agent.
The Bottom Line
Working as a real estate agent has its challenges: you don't get paid unless you sell, you can work long hours and still have no paycheck, and you have to adapt to changing market conditions. That said, it can be a rewarding career, both financially and professionally. Calling on your sphere of influence, projecting a professional image, and using today's real estate tools and technology can help you build a successful career in real estate.