Real Estate Agents

REAL ESTATE AGENTS assist in the process of buying and selling real estate for their clients. Working through a broker, agents perform an essential service for both the buyer and seller by providing for the orderly transfer of property.

Real Estate Agents must perform several tasks to complete transactions. They help buyers find the appropriate property that meets their needs and financial resources. They obtain property listings and make preliminary estimates to determine the selling price of the property. To anticipate prospective buyers' questions, agents must be thoroughly familiar with the physical condition, features, and special characteristics of the property as well as the availability of transportation, schools, and shopping. Once a buyer is found, Real Estate Agents prepare a purchase agreement. They may refer clients to lawyers and tax consultants to resolve legal and tax issues that may arise in sales transactions. Agents work with title or escrow companies, lenders, home inspectors, and pest control operators until the transaction is completed.

Real Estate Agents may specialize in selling apartment buildings, residential, recreational, commercial, industrial, or farm property. Particularly in the commercial field, they also become involved in leasing arrangements. Whatever the specialty, agents must have knowledge of all aspects unique to that type of property.

Agents use personal computers routinely to identify properties that match customers' specifications, and to obtain lists of potential properties. A few real estate brokerage firms now use a computerized loan processing system -- real estate application contract transmission (REACT). This system allows agents to qualify the buyer electronically and approve a mortgage within an hour, pending verification of data provided and an appraisal. By using this computerized system, agents expect to significantly reduce the time usually required to sell homes to qualified buyers.


Real Estate Agents spend part of their working day in pleasant, well-lighted brokers' offices, but most of their time is spent outside the office, as they use their own car to transport prospective buyers to see property, put up "for sale" signs on property sites, contact leads, and visit new property listings. Brokers may establish a sales office on-site at a new development, often in the garage or another room of a model home.

Many brokers feature Sunday afternoon "open house" to encourage potential buyer visits to available property. This practice creates some risk of personal safety to agents working alone in an unlocked house.

While most property sales leads come from traditional sources, some brokers in metropolitan areas now advertise listings on local television and radio stations. These productions, usually billed as "home shows", are aired weekends.


The following information is from the California Projection of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division.

Estimated number of workers in 1990 9,930
Estimated number of workers in 2005 12,760
Projected Growth 1990-2005 29%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005 2,620

(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)

The growth-rate for this occupation is projected to be on a par with all other occupations during the next ten years. Job prospects for agents are expected to improve through increased residential sales and income- investment properties, especially apartment houses, single-to four-unit dwellings, and commercial buildings.


Real Estate Agents are usually paid on a straight commission basis determined by agreement between the broker and the agent. Earnings will vary widely among agents because of the geographic area in which they work
and the amount of time and energy put into the job. Beginning agents with good sales ability can expect to earn from $10,000 to $50,000 and above, per year. Experienced agents can expect to earn between $20,000 and $150,000;
even higher earnings are possible in some coastal areas and in labor markets with a strong potential for new industry and jobs. However, income is never consistent and must be budgeted to allow for wide variations in time and amount of earnings. Agents' reputation for integrity and service will be the key determining factor in their success.

Normal work-weeks are 40 to 48 hours. A few agents work on a part-time basis while they learn the business, or to provide a second income source. Fringe benefits are relatively meager since most agents are independent
contractors. Vacations are usually not compensated and are normally taken during slack periods.

There is no set pattern for hours of work or number of working days per week. Agents can expect to work on weekends and evenings to accommodate the diverse needs of their customers.


Real Estate Agents must be licensed by the California Department of Real Estate. All applicants for the license must be at least 18 years old and must pass an examination administered by the California Department of Real
Estate. There is also an educational requirement for a real estate license, which consists of a college-level course in real estate principles plus two additional courses approved by the Department of Real Estate.
(Typically, these courses are in general accounting or economics.)
Applicants who have completed only the real estate principles coursework may qualify for a provisional license through the examination process, but must complete the other two courses within 18 months of license issuance.

An examination fee of $30 is charged, and the cost for licensing and fingerprinting is $202. The license is renewable every four years at a cost of $170.

The areas covered by the examination are: knowledge of English, arithmetical computation common to real estate practices, real estate and business transactions, and the obligations and ethics of real estate transactions. To prepare for the sales agent license examination, candidates may take real estate courses in community colleges and private real estate schools. There are now Board approved correspondence courses,
some featuring video taped training sessions. These programs are especially helpful to new agents who must complete course requirements while working hours that may conflict with traditional classroom training. Many brokers now express a preference for agents whose background includes some college. Many employers have classroom and continuing in-house training for both beginning and experienced agents.

Skills ranked high by surveyed brokers are: effective verbal and written communication, professional telephone and in-person sales technique, ability to read and follow instructions, ability to read forms quickly and prepare/arrange sales contracts, ability to work independently, and a knowledge of sales techniques. Skills ranked moderately high are: familiarity with property lease negotiations, knowledge of residential sales processes, familiarity with conventional and government loans, knowledge of escrow and title functions, knowledge of business math, and knowledge of basic computer operations.


Becoming a real estate broker is the typical career path for Real Estate Agents. Many of them join the National Association of Realtors as associate members. Agents may also advance to the positions of sales, training, operations, and office manager.

Some Real Estate Agents advance to real estate appraiser positions by taking the required course work offered at many community colleges and universities.


Real Estate Agents may establish contact with brokers prior to the examination to gain visibility in the industry. Often positions will be available when candidates obtain their license. Real estate brokers advertise openings in newspapers and circulate job listings through other broker agencies. They frequently list jobs with schools that give real estate training.


National Association of Realtors
4301 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 329-8200

California Department of Real Estate
2201 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 227-0931


Right-of-Way Agents No. 226
Real Estate Appraisers No. 228
Title Officer-Title Searchers No. 277


DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1)
Superintendent, Sales 250.157.010
Building Consultant 250.357-010
Leasing Agent, Residence 250.357-014
Sales Agent, Real Estate 250.357-018

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics)
System Sales Agents--Real Estate 430080

Source: State of California, Employment Development Department,
Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
(916) 262-2162.

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