One of the most appealing aspects of working as a real estate agent is that each day is different. Agents meet new people, see new places, and respond to the changing needs of buyers and sellers—which often means shifting gears at the last minute.

While there's no typical day for a real estate agent, there are a number of tasks most agents do on a regular basis. Here's what a day in the life of a real estate agent might look like.

Key Takeaways

  • Real estate agents are licensed to help people to buy, to sell, and to rent homes and other properties.
  • Each day is spent on active, income-producing work, as well as the administrative paperwork the job entails.
  • A typical day might involve spending time at the office, meeting with clients, staging and showing homes, and scheduling appraisals and inspections.
  • Other tasks include generating leads, researching, marketing, and accompanying clients to property closings.

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agents help people buy, sell, and rent homes, land, and other properties. There's no national real estate license, so agents must meet their state's licensing requirements.

While the requirements vary by state, all aspiring agents must take a pre-licensing course from an accredited real estate school, take (and pass) their state exam, activate their license, and join a real estate brokerage.

That last part is important. Agents must work for and under the umbrella of a licensed broker, who ensures all of the agents in the office comply with real estate laws and regulations.

Some agents eventually become brokers, which involves additional educational and experience requirements. Brokers typically have more responsibilities, and they can work independently and hire agents to work for them.

What Is a Realtor?

Many people use the terms Realtor, real estate agent, and broker interchangeably, but they differ. Agents and brokers hold different licenses, and only brokers can work independently.

Still, both agents and brokers can use the title Realtor, but they must be active members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to do so. The biggest distinction between a Realtor and an agent or broker is that Realtors are members of NAR and subscribe to the NAR's strict Code of Ethics.

Real Estate Agent Administrative Duties

So what does a typical day look like for a real estate agent?

Agents are tasked with a multitude of daily duties and responsibilities, from lead generation and marketing, to open houses and property closings. Still, many agents start their days catching up on administrative tasks, so they might:

  • Respond to texts, emails, and phone calls
  • Process real estate documents, agreements, and lease records
  • Coordinate appointments, showings, open houses, and meetings
  • Create and distribute flyers, newsletters, listings, and other promotional materials
  • Create budgets for monthly, quarterly, and annual operations
  • Develop marketing plans for listings
  • Update client databases
  • Research listings to develop comparative market analysis (CMA) reports
  • Update websites and social media profiles 

Because administrative duties can be very time-consuming, many agents hire an assistant to handle these day-to-day tasks. This allows the agent to leverage their time more effectively and to ultimately be more productive.

Real Estate Lead Generation

Without buyers and sellers, there would be no transactions—and no commissions. Finding clients is central to an agent's success.

One way to build contacts is through a real estate sphere of influence (SOI) strategy that focuses on generating leads through the people the agent already knows. That can include family, friends, neighbors, classmates, business associates, and social contacts.

Most people sell, buy, or rent property at some point in their lives—which means every person an agent meets is a potential client. A real estate agent's day often includes meeting with lots of people, giving out business cards, and keeping track of contact information for a growing network. And after that first contact is made, agents follow up with periodic phone calls, emails, snail mail or text messages to keep their name fresh in the minds of their potential clients.

Working With Real Estate Sellers

Afternoons are often spent working directly with (or on behalf of) clients—and helping them navigate what is typically a pretty complex process.

"Clients are often making their most important financial decision to date," says Todd Kaderabek, a residential broker associate with Beverly-Hanks & Associates Realtors in Asheville, N.C. "Buying a home is a big investment. Selling a home is a milestone investment opportunity. It's important that there be no surprises after closing." 

Of course, real estate agents typically represent one side of the real estate transaction—working with either sellers or buyers. Seller's agents (aka listing agents) help clients find ready and willing buyers for their properties. On any given day, a seller's agent might:

  • Meet with potential clients
  • Set listing prices
  • Prepare listing presentations
  • Take digital photographs of properties
  • Market property listings (including entering them into the local MLS)
  • Make suggestions for property updates
  • Stage homes so they show at their best
  • Host open houses
  • Vet potential buyers
  • Negotiate various aspects of the sale

Working With Real Estate Buyers

Agents who work with buyers find properties that match their clients' requirements and price range. On a typical day, a buyer's agent might:

  • Comb through the local MLS to find appropriate properties
  • Scout houses online and in person
  • Share information with clients about the local area and housing market
  • Send listings to potential buyers
  • Show properties
  • Ensure clients are preapproved for a mortgage
  • Submit bids and negotiate on the buyer's behalf
  • Set up home appraisals and inspections
  • Guide clients through the contracts, agreements, and other documents
  • Accompany clients to inspections, loan meetings, closings, and other activities where their presence is either required or requested

Working with buyers often involves more time because of the sheer number of options in the local real estate market.

"It's especially time consuming on the buyer side," says Kaderabek. "We have various strategies to narrow criteria for buyers, which is honestly more helpful for buyers than it is for us. Focus is key. You're not going to find the perfect house. Let's find that 95% house. Managing FOMO [fear of missing out] is also a challenge. There's always another house out there."

Meetings and Tours

Because real estate agents work for designated brokers, they typically operate out of an office with other real estate agents and brokers. Regular office meetings allow agents to share their new listings, update other agents on price changes, and discuss buyers' needs—all of which can help agents line up buyers and sellers.

Some agents participate in MLS tours to view a number of new listings each week or each month. This can help agents narrow the search for a buyer since they have seen the properties firsthand and can share detailed information with buyers.

Likewise, an MLS tour can be beneficial to agents who are working with sellers. After seeing the competition, it may be easier to determine a good listing price for the seller's property.

Continuing Education, Certifications, and Designations

Real estate agents must be licensed in the state where they do business, and they are required to earn continuing education credits in order to maintain active license status.

Most agents also pursue real estate certifications and designations to improve their credentials and marketability. Although earning and maintaining a license, certification, or designation isn't part of an agent's daily schedule, it can be part of an overall plan for improve skills, proficiency, knowledge, and marketability.

Real Estate During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the U.S. residential real estate market during the spring of 2020. According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Because of health concerns, stay-at-home orders, and economic uncertainty, many metro areas experienced a noticeable drop in house sales."

During April and May of 2020, home sales dropped to their lowest levels since the financial crisis that began in 2007. However, home sales had rebounded by summer, with many areas experiencing a surprising boom.

Through it all, real estate agents (like everyone else) have had to adapt to ever-changing conditions.

"COVID initially shut us down, so that was a big change," says Kaderabek. "The industry lobbied to have [real estate agents] declared essential workers, and we remain grateful for that effort. Both buyers and sellers sign a declaration stating if they've traveled outside the area or have been in contact with people with symptoms. We install sanitation stations in our listings, everyone wears masks, and gloves are now optional but provided. All that said, we had the biggest year in the history of the company—and that's coming off a record 2019."

The Bottom Line

Real estate agents balance their time between administrative duties and income-producing activities. In general, agents can expect on any given day to spend time at the office, meet with clients, show homes, and negotiate on the behalf of clients.

Still, most agents have a long and varied list of daily duties and responsibilities that can change with little or no notice. As a result, there may be no such thing as a typical day in the life of a real estate agent—an aspect of the job many agents find attractive.

For Kaderabek, it's all about working with clients. "Most rewarding is seeing buyers in their new home—no question. Also, sellers beaming when they're handed a check at closing. Making people happy is what drives this business."